Developed by CCP Games. Published by CCP Games. Released 2014. PC and PS4.
At last year’s Fanfest, CCP’s annual fan focused event in Iceland, a small team of developers at CCP had a little demo to show off to the press and fans. The team had taken a keen interest in the then-almost-brand-new Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and, using a stipend of time available to work on independent projects and a healthy dose of their free time, they created a little dogfighting VR simulator. The initial demo was titled simply EVE-VR, but to say that it showed promise would be a serious understatement.
Even in this early stage, which was thrown together in only a few months, EVE-VR managed to capture that feeling of flying around in a space dogfight perfectly. It was lightning in the bottle for anyone that grew up playing games like Wing Commander or X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, people like yours truly. The real secret sauce was how they leveraged the VR headset with gameplay mechanics. For instance, not only could you look around the cockpit, but where you were looking was also tied to locking on to enemy fighters with your missiles. You could be flying in one direction and firing missiles out at targets perpendicular to that, letting you swoop and dive with complex maneuvers all while keeping your enemy in your sights.
While the team knew they made something they enjoyed playing, they weren’t prepared for the massive response that EVE-VR got at Fanfest, and then again at E3. The fans loved it, the press was gushing over it, and the one question on everyone’s mind was: “When was this going to become a full game?” Well it wasn’t a huge surprise when it was later announced that EVE-VR would be expanded into a full game, EVE: Valkyrie.
Over the past year since the initial demo, the team behind EVE: Valkyrie has been diligently working to expand on the game or, borrowing a Pinocchio analogy, “turning it into a real boy”. The small team moved from CCP’s headquarters in Iceland to a studio branch in Newcastle, England. CCP Newcastle had previously been supporting Dust 514, but now the 20-30 odd developers there we tasked with turning EVE-VR into a full-fledged title.
During this time, a number of game mechanics, modes and systems were prototyped and tested. While the core concept of an immersive dogfight was solid, the game needed to be fleshed out with additional depth. One of the first steps was to transition the game from the Unity game engine to Unreal 4. Unity was useful for the rapid development of the demo, but the now-larger team had more combined experiences with the more robust Unreal 4 engine. The version we played at Fanfest this year was the first time the Unreal version was being shown to the general public. The new engine and more development time were really noticeable in the graphics, which were obviously sharper and crisper than than last year’s demo.
In order to add more depth to the game, the team detailed their plans for roles and progression. Roles are broken down to fighter, heavy and support. The fighter was the only role available in what was being shown off this year, and it’s an quick, agile vessel armed with cannons and missiles. While we didn’t get to see or hear much about the heavy or support, some of the differences will be how the various roles handle environments. The heavy, for instance, is better shielded and won’t have its instruments scrambled for flying through zones that mess with electronics. You can probably make some assumptions about how heavy and support work in the game, but one of the goals is to ensure that the roles feel and play differently, and to avoid having them all play like variations of the fighter.
Each role will have its own weapons and special abilities but, in addition to that, there will be a steady stream of progression and upgrades to unlock. Players will be able to upgrade their ship, pilot, and ground crew, in addition to adding cosmetic customization like decals and skins. The major ship upgrades that were explained were load-outs. A load-out is an unlocked template that modifies the basic structure of the role. The developers stressed that these are meant to push different play styles and weren’t strict upgrades. A Strike Fighter keeps the same configuration as the normal fighter, but it trades missile capacity for increased damage and more speed, letting it in theory be a better dogfighter.
The story and background of EVE: Valkyrie was also being fleshed out during this time. Building on the existing EVE Universe lore of clones and transferring of consciousness, Valkyrie pilots are aces whose minds are captured at the moment of their death and moved to a new body, making them essentially immortal. The Valkyries are led by Ran Kavik, voiced by none other than Katee Sackhoff, and whose backstory is going to be further looked at in the comic series published by Dark Horse. Just hearing Starbuck barking out orders before you’re launched into the void adds a nice little touch the experience. The developers mentioned that getting the perfect voice was very important though since you’re dialed into more of the stimuli with a VR headset and headphones on.
EVE: Valkyrie is shaping up to be a system seller in its demographic, and both Oculus and Sony are taking notice. While there are only a limited number of the improved Development Kit 2 (DK2) Oculus headsets available, a handful were on hand in order to show off the latest version of EVE: Valkyrie. In addition to various visual upgrades, the DK2’s defining feature is the inclusion of IR lights and sensors that track not only your heads rotation but also its position. This means you can lean in to see objects up close. Sony was also on hand with their Morpheus headset, and it was recently announced that EVE: Valkyrie would be available on that hardware for the PS4 as well.
Whether you’re an old school flight simulator junkie or are excited by the notion of affordable VR technology, EVE: Valkyrie should have your attention.