CCP Newcastle's executive producer talks about the origins of the studio's first VR title and what the tech can bring to games

Interview: Eve: Valkyrie and the VR frontier

Of all the experiences possible with VR, a dogfighting game is one of the most startling.

Eve: Valkyrie is the first VR title from CCP Games, the developer behind Eve Online and Dust 514. Owen O’Brien, executive producer at CCP Newcastle, tells Develop about Valkyrie’s origins, the challenges of making a virutal reality game and ponders what the tech can bring to games in the long run.

Why did you decide to develop Eve Valkyrie specifically for VR, rather than adding VR support to a standard PC version?
Valkyrie began its life as Eve-VR – a tech demo made by some Eve developers in their spare time. So from the very outset it was a VR game. There was no standard PC version to add VR support to.

How did this affect the overall development of the game? What did you have to do differently that you wouldn’t when designing a game for monitors?
There are a lot of challenges in developing for VR. The most obvious one is the UI. Designs and best practices established over years in 2D simply do not work in VR. You have to start again and we are learning all the time about what works and what does not.

The game is focused on dogfighting. Are there other experiences from the Eve universe that would be suited for VR? Could we see a VR version of Dust 514 for example?
It would be great to see a VR version of Dust 514, but I think there are inherent challenges in making an FPS in VR. A big advantage that we have in Valkyrie is that you are seated in a cockpit, so your real-world position is very similar to your in game position. This helps hugely with orientation and reducing simulation sickness. In an FPS where you are running and gunning, it can get very disorientating very quickly. I’m sure these issues will be solved but until they do I think FPSes will be challenging in VR.

What role did Oculus play in the development of the game?
We have had a very close working relationship with Oculus from the start of Eve-VR and they provide a lot of support on the tech side.

Has Sony contributed since Valkyrie has been ported to Morpheus as well? If so, how?
We have worked closely with Sony since Dust 514 and again we get a lot of technical support from them to help us develop for these new and exciting platforms.

Space simulation seems to be a popular genre among the early VR demos? Why is this the best genre to show off virtual reality to consumers?
In my opinion a space dogfighting game is ideally suited to VR. There are a number of reasons for this. As I mentioned above one is that you are seated in the game as well as in the real world – this along with having the fixed reference of a cockpit around you really helps to ground you in the world and reduces simulation sickness. It also really helps with the sense of immersion.

Secondly being in space, as opposed to say a jet fighter sim, really helps. There is no concept of up or down to make you disoriented, no concept of gravity to add complexity and possible be less forgiving and no hard deck to smash into. Finally the sci-fi setting gives us the freedom to design UI that really works in VR without it feels contrived.

Is there anything you’re not quite able to accomplish with VR for Eve that you hope to be able to as the technology evolves?
The technology is advancing so quickly that new possibilities are opening up to us all the time. So It don’t think it’s a case of us feeling we have not accomplished something. It’s more a sense that we are entering a completely new era and we are only starting to scratch the surface of what is possible.

Where do you see VR going in the future? Will it become as abundant as smartphones, as people have suggested?
The technology is incredible. Anyone who is lucky enough to try it says so. How quickly it takes off and where it goes is really hard to say and is going to be determined by a lot of external and commercial factors that I have no control over. Right now I’m just very excited to be at the forefront of this wave and we intend to stay there.

Want to get involved in our VR special all this week? Have something to say about virtual reality and what it means for developers? Email to find out how you can take part.

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