Riding Valkyrie

Just a quick one for today. I ducked into the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for most of the day on Friday, did some things for work, and then got in line at the Intel booth to see EVE Valkyrie. Thanks to CCP Manifest, I was able to take it for a test drive at E3 in June, and thought it was amazing then. Since that time I suspected the software had evolved, and as someone who follows the progress of Oculus as well, I knew that the hardware had been bumped to the 1080P high-def version.

Sadly, it was not the new Crystal Cove prototype, and the CCP guys informed me that the demo being shown was actually the Gamescom build from August, and thus a long way behind where they are today, but about 2 months more up to date than the E3 build. So sadly, I don’t have any truly new scoop if you’ve seen the Gamescom footage. But I can offer a handful of thoughts for those of you following the progress of Valkyrie.

Proof CCP Masheen was hard at work at CES.

Proof CCP Masheen was hard at work at CES.

CCP Masheen was pretty tired I suspect – he was pleasant but understandably brief (although it did bring him a smile when I passed along a high five from CCP Fozzie and CCP Guard via Twitter). I waited in line for about 45 minutes. The woman managing the line said that it was usually closer to 2 hours, and he was the only CCP guy there for four solid days. Friday afternoons at CES are usually very low traffic, half or more of the people attending have gone home. That the line was this long on Friday afternoon is just crazy. I think poor Masheen was spending more time taking pictures of people playing (“Hey, can you use my phone and take a picture of me?”) than he was managing the game.

One major update since I saw it at E3 was the “spectator cam”. This is what is on the screen behind Masheen both in the screencap above and in the video linked above. This interface is the perfect “arena” companion – something that EVE desperately needs itself. The way I think about it is sort of like the cam in CounterStrike after you die that allows you to follow a player around and see what they’re doing.

One of the Templar pilots pulls an Immelman

One of the Templar pilots pulls an Immelman

A hail of missile fire

A hail of missile fire

In game, the biggest difference is that things are so incredibly much clearer than they were at E3. The high-def Oculus is an order of magnitude better than the original dev kits. At E3 I could tell that there was a HUD with controls, gauges, etc. At CES I was able to make out every detail of this, including the pilot’s menu at launch. CCP also put a little Easter egg here that I’ve never seen mentioned – because when you first play it the last thing you’re doing is an exhaustive review of the graphics – you’re taking in the launch tube, the hardware, the controls, getting ready to launch … well, I had done that before, so instead I read the pilot’s menu. Last entry, after important things like the heat, shields, engines, etc.? “Catering” Yes, friends, the Amarr Templar comes complete with its own catering menu (get it?)!

What I re-learned is that I am incredibly bad at Xbox controllers, and thus incredibly bad at Valkyrie. I desperately need my flight stick to play this game. This time around I also made much better use of my yaw controls. At E3, I was mostly accelerating/braking and rolling. This gives good basic guidance but is hard to have fine control. Yawing, on the other hand, gives much better control of the fighter. Yawing unfortunately had a much more painful motion sickness impact on me than any other maneuver. I had none from normal flight or rolls, but the yaw I felt. Hopefully once Crystal Cove is in place with its reduced latency that will also go away (since framerate response times are specifically what it is said to improve).

I also had some problems with the missile firing control this time, which I didn’t have at E3 – not sure if it was me, my controller or the software. Probably me.

You could also tell that it is making definite strides toward becoming a game – at the end now it pops a score screen for the two races. Yeah, you knew there was probably an Amarr Victor joke in here somewhere.

Amarr Victor1

Amarr Victor!

On the whole, it was a much more impressive visual and gameplay experience compared to E3. I also learned from an unrelated little bird (not Masheen or anyone at the Intel booth) that Oculus is planning a presence at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year. Maybe CCP will go? If not, probably the next time to try it will be Fanfest.

With luck, those who go to one of these two events will have a chance to try a 2014 build with the Crystal Cove hardware.

I’ll be trying to get back to E3 this year for my third flight. CCP Manifest, save me an appointment.

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