EVE Online Fanfest: Fighter Dogfights on the Oculus Rift VR Headset

First-person fighter dogfighting on the Oculus Rift VR headset tops the teaser features showcase in the EVE Keynote at Fanfest 2013

In their EVE Keynote at Fanfest, CCP Games presented their roadmap for EVE Online‘s immediate future featuring an exploration theme designed to build on the mysteries of the EVE Universe.

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The forthcoming Odyssey expansion will feature a host of new features, including revisions for player-owned starbases, new exploration gameplay, some slick quality-of-life UI improvements and additional art polish.

But the item which left most of the attending fans breathless was the technology showcase of an fighter dogfighting demonstration utilising the Oculus Rift VR headset.

I had the chance to play it prior to the announcement and I was equal parts elated and nauseated. Donning the Oculus Rift VR headset and separate headphones required some assistance, but once it was on, I felt comfortable. Visually, I was taken aback. Even though the resolution wasn’t that great, it was a fantastic, completely immersive experience. I could see my own virtual limbs in the cockpit, look around in the launch tube and control my target reticule with the movement of my head.

Once I had been hurled out of the side of my base supercarrier, it was clear I was flying one of EVE’s fighter drones.  I used the controller to steer whilst being able to look around my environment. Never before had I been so connected and immersed in EVE’s virtual reality. I nearly fell of my chair trying to crane around to see the supercarrier disappear behind me.

But I wasn’t alone. A number of other journalists were also deploying from my carrier and a nearby enemy one. The dogfight began. Laser blasts streaked out of the darkness and salvoes of missiles streaked toward me.

I was in space, flying a spaceship. It was so very real. Then my stomach started reporting that it might be a little too real. This was equal parts rollercoaster ride and visceral sci-fi dogfighting. Having logged a few hours actual flying planes, I knew to clench my abdominal muscles and carry on.

I wasn’t very good; I got disoriented, lost and destroyed numerous times, but it was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see how other EVE fans respond to it when they test it out tomorrow. However, after tonight’s revelry, I suspect it may be a more productive experience than is entirely sanitary.

Set in the EVE universe, this was something that has been a dream for many players for a long time. Sadly, in their presentation, CCP omitted to make clear that this was built on the Unity engine using art assets for EVE. There is no clear roadmap for this to be included as part of actual gameplay in EVE Online or DUST 514.

After the presentation, I asked CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson if he thought this may be an expectation management concern or if EVE players could reasonably expect to see this demonstration become part of the EVE Universe.

Petursson identified that a previous similar promise of atmospheric flight had eventually been fulfilled in the form of DUST 514’s aerial vehicles, but he clarified that there is no specific plan presently and reiterated that it was a project created by CCP employees in their down time, so “we should not expect anything, we should prepare to be pleasantly surprised.”

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Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.