Interview: EVE: Valkyrie Payment Model and Oculus Rift for EVE Online? (Part 4 of 4)

How will CCP Games deliver their visceral Virtual Reality combat game? How will we pay? Is Oculus Rift support being considered for EVE Online? Read on for answers...

[This is Part Four of our full transcription of Crossing Zebras’ audio interview with Jon “CCP Unifex” Lander, temporary Executive Producer of EVE: Valkyrie. Part One can be found here.]

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Xander: You mentioned earlier E-VR had this amazing reception from the gaming community at large. So you had the EVE sites, The MittaniDotCom, Crossing Zebras for example, all waxing lyrical about it, but then you had the wider community at large, the PC Gamer, the Eurogamer, IGN, all these people massively supportive of what was a tech demo in E-VR.

I can only imagine that Oculus were delighted about the reception that it received. Did they give you any incentives to develop E-VR into a full title?

CCP Unifex: No, none at all. I mean, they helped us out with kit. You know, they don’t have a huge number of their HD devkits right now and they gave us eight of them to use on the booth at GamesCom. We got kit from them. There’s a good symbiotic relationship. It’s one based on I think mutual respect and the fact that we both enjoy doing cool stuff and we like working together.

They’re not throwing a bajillion dollars at us to make this. We’re making this because we see it as a game which needs to be made on a platform right now which is kind of the darling of the industry. This is very much an easy partnership to be going along.

Xander: Okay, you’re not going to answer this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. However small a team there is working on this, there is a non-zero cost to developing this game, in terms of manpower, money, resources – all essentially it’s the same thing – and obviously Valkyrie is going to have to generate revenue one way or the other.

Are there any thoughts as to how you’re going to do that? Microtransactions? Subscriptions? A one-off cost for the game? How are you planning on getting the money back from Valkyrie?

CCP Unifex: We’re not talking about it right now.

Xander: [laughs]

CCP Unifex: We’ve got a lot of plans, we’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to place. But I want to very much learn from some of the expectation management problems we’ve had in the past.

Xander: [laughs]

CCP Unifex: It’s early days. You’re right, we are a grown-up business. We’ve got to consider all of those things and we are doing so. We’re not ready yet to let people know what the secrets are.

Xander: Okay, you touched on this one earlier: one of the things I liked about my very short time on the E-VR demo was how pick-up-and-playable it was. I felt like, within seconds I was playing the game. I mean, it wasn’t a particularly deep experience I would say, but it was very, very intuitive. I got it immediately; I couldn’t see my pad, but I knew exactly what I was doing. It was very arcade-y, it almost reminded me of Call of Duty or something like that, as opposed to DUST as an FPS. It’s much simpler, much more streamlined. And this is something I hugely support, I personally was a big fan of the … “twitchiness” is the word you used… the arcade-like experience.

Is this something you’re going to maintain or are you going to shift more toward the deeper, skill-tree type experience we’ve seen with DUST and EVE? Where in the spectrum is this game going to go?

CCP Unifex: I think that part of playing the game – being very, very short – fits this kind of experience very well. So I think that, whichever route that we go down, the ability to install this game and press “fight” and you’re in that experience, you go to your controller and you’re “okay, yep, got it, got it” and you’re playing and enjoying it within seconds I think is, like you say, is a critical thing. That’s something we’re very mindful of keeping. So whatever it is that we do, that ability to get straight into the action, we have to maintain.

We actually do a play-test every day, just of the latest build and the things that are going on and really the anything that is slowing me down from getting my headset on and being ready to roll, better be delivering bags of value, otherwise… y’know, we don’t want it to be four minutes from installing, to go through all these various different things and then be able to play a game. We don’t want that ever to be the case if you don’t want it to be.

So I think that’s very much one of the good learnings that we’ve made out of all of our tech which is – try and keep the learning cliff to a minimum. We all now how complex it can be to even scratch the surface on EVE and it’s very hard to fix that retroactively – you’ve got to do a lot of work. And don’t confuse people, just give them an experience which, like you say, is intuitive and you can just pick up and play.

If we can maintain that and deliver that to people, then all the other stuff is just cream on top.

Xander: Obviously there’s a balance to be met there though. As amazing as that three minute experience was, without there being some kind of depth there, you will eventually get bored of that.

Where does the depth potentially come from without diluting that arcade, twitch experience?

CCP Unifex: I was playtesting some of it today, and it was awesome. I can’t wait for you to find out.

Xander: [laughs] Okay, but you’re currently…

CCP Unifex: …really teasing, but you know, I’m serious about this: we have a game in the early stages of development, I know everybody is super-keen to find out, “okay, tell me exactly what I’m doing. Tell me me how I do that and whatever…”

Right now we’re pulling a Game of Thrones together, we’re – you know, just the things that we’ve spoken about already, you can see some of the things which are very, very clear to us, about accessibility, that ease of use, that intuitiveness. Giving you that particular experience is important to us. When we’re ready and we’ve got all the other bits nicely polished up, we’ll come out and tell everybody, but until then I’m just going to annoy everybody by saying, “we’re not saying anything about that right now.”

But it was very, very cool in the playtest today.

Xander: Okay, so lets talk timeframes. You’re not going to give me specifics again, but are we going to have more firm details about Valkyrie before the end of this year.

I mean, are we looking for a launch next year? Is there going to be betas, that kind of stuff?

CCP Unifex: We’ll launch it next year. When we give out our next big tranche of properly detailed information will be A) when we’ve got it, it’s locked down, we’re not going to raise false expectations or dash any hopes. We’ll certainly be looking at, I would have thought, making some kind of announcement… [coyly] in the next few months.

Xander: [Laughs]

CCP Unifex: I’ll make it that for you.

Xander: [Still laughing] That’ll work for me.

CCP Unifex: 2014 is the date when people will be able to get their hands on and play this and get the game.

Xander: Final question, leaving aside Valkyrie for a minute, the next obvious question is Rift support for EVE Online?

CCP Unifex: Hahaha. Haven’t even thought about it. It’s um…

Xander: Really? You haven’t, I mean…

CCP Unifex: Well no, that’s not true. We thought about it and haven’t done very much more with it. It’s really interesting when you start looking at third person. VR is tough to do well and games which I thought would be absolutely, beautifully custom-made for it really struggled to have it retro-fitted on. There are a lot of very weird, low-level things which you just have to deal with when you’re dealing with VR which would require a significant amount of work for pretty much any existing game.

I can tell you one, I’ve spoken about this one on some interviews before. Your ship in EVE Valkyrie never stops. There’s an interesting thing when you start moving with a VR headset on – you can fool your eyes, but you can’t kid your inner ear. So if you go from stop to start, you know you push forward and you move your ship forward from a stationary position, your ear – your inner ear – isn’t picking up any acceleration so immediately what your eyes are seeing and your ears are picking up are out of sync and that’s when you get motion sickness.

This is why one of the big things that VR headsets are having to do is to reduce latency because if you go forward and there’s a lag there, things are out of sync there and your body very, very quickly starts making you feel very unwell. Just little things like that, so you wouldn’t ever be able to stop the ship in EVE.

There’s a bit were you come out of the Valkyrie launch tube where you do go from stationary to moving and you get this weird sense of like when you go over a hump-backed bridge or something…

Xander: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

CCP Unifex: That’s coming because the kit’s making you go from zero to very fast in that launch tube without you actually moving forward. And then, after that, you don’t get it because you don’t stop.

Xander: I heard a story from Fanfest about somebody who stood up while they had the headset on and looked down and their legs were sat down and felt very, very dizzy.

CCP Unifex: Yeah, I did that first time I put the headset on. The guy said “oh yeah, it’s ready”, I put it on, looked down, my legs were sat, I was stood up and had a weird body judder where you don’t know what you’re doing.

Yeah, it’s phenomenally powerful and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realise now, which is – with the fidelity of the screens that you’re getting you are actually able to feel a, – get a virtual world, feel that virtual reality.

And some things are just going to really struggle to do it, so EVE? Yeah, I mean it would be cool, of course it would be cool, it would be interesting. Is that in any way a priority given what we need to do on EVE Online? Nah. So I certainly wouldn’t go looking back.

Xander: CCP Unifex, you answered far more of my questions than I expected to. You dodged the key ones I expected you to as well, to be fair. We’ll hold out for some answers on that, I’m sure we’ll have you back on at some time in the future to talk about that. But I want to thank you very, very much – I know you’re a busy man – thank you very much for giving up 45 minutes of your time to come on the show and answer some of the community’s questions about Valkyrie.

CCP Unifex: It’s always a pleasure mate, thank you very much for letting me on. It’s good to talk.

Xander: We’re phenomenally excited. I speak for myself, but I think I speak for the whole community when I say we’re super excited for this project, so thank you very much for coming on.


Jon “CCP Unifex” Lander Interview by Xander Phoena

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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.