This time last year I was a firm believer that VR was a passing fad that would die down in time just like 3D did for televisions. It’s cool to talk about and think about, but it’s too expensive, a hassle to use properly, and not as great once you take it home. Since then though, I’ve experienced such a wide range of fascinating new technologies that are being utilized for VR and, more importantly, enjoyed them immensely. As a result, I can gladly claim that I was absolutely wrong about VR and EVE: Valkyrie is the perfect example.
Part of the problem for me was that most games merely adopted VR as an additional input or control method. Or, at worst, would simply allow you to view the game with a VR headset without any actual interaction. Tacking on new features to games that were designed with a different vision in mind does not a good and complete game make.
But with more recent examples such as EVE: Valkyrie, we are finally starting to see developers embrace VR as a platform and develop new ideas from the ground up utilizing new technological advancements. “We don’t have to make any compromises, since it’s a game built specifically for VR,” said Andy Robinson, Artist and Narrative Designer for EVE: Valkyrie. “We’ve created the game just as we want and added as many features as we can – all of the things we wanted to see and play in VR. Make them, try them, if they don’t work, then get rid of them.”
When I sat down to try EVE: Valkyrie, it was also my first time using the Project Morpheus headset. All of my past experiences with VR have been through the Oculus Rift, but I can honestly say that I think the Morpheus is vastly superior. The unit itself is more comfortable and adjustable, which prevents it from feeling too tight or cramped. And since I need to wear my glasses while I play, the comfort and room provided withing the part that covers my eyes is borderline necessary.
After the PS4 controller was in my hand, things started to feel more natural. I moved my head around and could see the cockpit. The glass was all around me so I could look directly above and see outside, or all around my sides. I looked down and saw my character’s hands gripping the joysticks of the control panel. Then the countdown started. Once it hit zero and my ship blasted off down the runway, the noise and lights were exhilarating. And then, silence.
Reaching the vacuum of space was jarring at first, but I quickly got my bearings and blasted off towards the dogfight that awaited me. My ship was equipped with two weapons: the standard gatling on the R2 button and a lock-on missile on the L2 button. My gatling fired directly towards the center of my screen, so wherever I was pointing my ship is where my shots were directed.
However, while shooting and flying and steering all around in space, I could still move my head as well. It’s like having a third analog stick. “Conventional shooter ideas may not work because of the 3D space,” said Andrew Willans, Lead Game Designer on EVE: Valkyrie. “Normally, you may lose sight of your enemy when they turn down a hallway while you’re chasing them, but in Valkyrie, since you’re in space, you can always move and look and pivot and change direction to reorient yourself to keep people within your field of vision.”
When I held L2 and literally used my head to look at an enemy ship and hold it in my line of sight, my missiles would achieve a lock. Letting go of L2 launched a series of missiles for serious damage that often resulted in a kill. This introduces an interesting dynamic in that I can fire while flying after one ship, then follow the trail of another with my head and eyes to take it out with missiles. They even explained that there’s another ship that uses a head-tracking lock-on system like that as their primary weapon. Understandably, that’s designed for much more skilled pilots than myself.
One of the most surprising aspects of EVE: Valkyrie is just how comfortable it feels after only a few short moments. “We conduct a lot of internal and external testing,” said Willans. “We sync up to have battles so that we can tick things off that work and figure out what doesn’t. But it’s all scalable and once we get players into a big PvP environment it’s no longer a question of how to balance the AI, it’s about who is the most like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.”
EVE: Valkyrie has managed to make me feel more excited than any other VR game before it. It’s not a typically first-person shooter, it’s not a slowly paced adventure game, and it’s not a funky (although often interesting) experimental game that utilizes the features of VR. Instead, this is a game that’s being built from the ground up to take full advantage of what the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus can really do.
I didn’t quite feel like Tom Cruise in Top Gun during my session, but give me a few more rounds with the game and I’ll quickly enter the danger zone. This is clearly a game made with immense passion and dedication, which is the most important aspect for any team. “We’re making not only the game that we want to play, but also the game that our community wants to play as well,” Robinson said.
EVE: Valkyrie is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release to coincide with the launch of the Morpheus and Rift. Have you tried EVE:Valkyrie? What about other VR games? Let us know your thoughts down in the comment below!