Oculus Rift HD tested
I saw a prototype of what was to be EVE Valkyrie at E3 this year. Along with Respawn's Titanfall, it was the talk of the show. CCP knew they had something special, so they created a full game from this demo.
Here at gamescom, CCP are showing a build so new that they just wrapped it up five days ago. Work started on what was to be Valkyrie in Reykjavik, but now they've moved to Newcastle, where a studio of 20 are working on it full time.
While exciting, what I saw at E3 was still rough around the edges, and running on standard definition Oculus Rift headsets. They've been working on it ever since, talking the experience and turning it up as far as they could. It's now running on Rift HD prototype sets, packed full of improvements.
CCP says that EVE Valkyrie was built to put the experience first. This means that intense space dogfighting is the focus. They've simplified the controls to get out of the way of the experience. The left analog stick controls your ship's pitch -- nose direction -- as well as roll. They didn't want players to have to switch between multiple controls. Yaw is set to shoulder buttons, lasers are on the right trigger, and a boost thruster is set to the A button.
Best of all your ship's functions, the missile control really shows off the Oculus Rift. Holding down the left trigger brings up a reticle; turning your head moves this reticle around to find a target. Simply look and hold, and then let go when the target is locked to send your missiles flying. It's as cool as it sounds.
Our demo was a three-on-three match against other international games media. We all started out by launching out of tubes into space, fired directly at each other. CCP recommended coming out with lasers blasting, and I did just that, but my left index finger was already on the trigger, looking for targets to pop up in space.
Look, lock, fire. Look, lock, fire, kill. The feeling of being able to aim and fire two different weapon types independently is challenging at first, but when you get the hang of it it feels fantastic.
You're but a little dot in space, open to fire from any direction, but you're also a powerhouse that can dish it out as well as any other. If you're like me, you'll work your thrusters empty trying to run away from missiles. Better players stood their ground. All had fun.
When someone locks a missile on your ship, a red warning light goes off in your cockpit. This is to prompt you to look down at a gauge on your ship's dash that shows you a graphical representation of your ship and the incoming missiles. Turn, boost, and do anything you can to out-steer and outrun them. It's not easy, but it feels great to get away and set up to return fire. It feels even better to take the attacker down.
For as fun as the dogfighting is, the immersive feeling the Oculus Rift gives really won me over. Looking around in your cockpit -- down to see your controls, left and right to see your ship's innards -- feels cozy at first, but looking off into space out of your ship's front window makes you feel small. Letting off the thrusters and kind of coasting gives you a real sense of weightlessness -- something you won't feel with even the most powerful game console on the best television.
What also won me over was how great EVE Valkyrie looked on one of the rare Oculus Rift HD prototype headsets. There's only about 50 of these in the world, and all were handmade, but CCP wanted to have the best to show off their work and improvements. The resolution is up to 1080p, from the 800p shown at E3. This gives the new build about double the pixel density of its predecessor.
The end result is greatly improved visuals. Seeing the space between pixels is no longer an issue. Space looks lovely, as does your ship's interior. Text now is easily readable. The E3 prototype was already great. This HD build is just that much more impressive. Imagine how great Valkyrie will look in about a year.
All of the the things happening in gaming right now are exciting -- indie games flourishing, new consoles launching, technology speeding ahead. But the Oculus Rift and the games being built for it really feel like the next generation of gaming.
Again, imagine where we'll be in a year for now. I can't wait.