Interview: EVE: Valkyrie’s Executive Producer on the Beginnings of the Virtual Reality Revolution

EVE: Valkyrie's Executive Producer talks Oculus Rift and internet spaceship dogfights.

EVE: Valkyrie's Executive Producer talks Oculus Rift and internet spaceship dogfights.

EVE: Valkyrie looks to be the killer app for Oculus Rift. The space dogfighting tech demo was first unveiled as E-VR at EVE Fanfest in April this year and has since gone on to literally turn heads at E3 and Gamescom.

Despite the growing excitement around EVE: Valkyrie, details are light in these early development stages. Earlier this week, leading EVE podcaster Xander Phoena caught up with EVE’s former Executive Producer Jon “CCP Unifex” Lander for a forty minute interview to separate fact from rumour and find out what CCP Games really have in mind for their rough diamond.

The audio interview can be heard on Crossing Zebras, but some of the sound quality is less than clear at CCP Unifex’s end so, for your convenience, Xander permitted me to transcribe and reproduce the entire interview here.

Come back in 24 hours and I’ll have something more abridged for your enjoyment, but in the meantime, here are all 6,500 words for you to explore.

Buried within are the some tasty nuggets of clarification about what the future holds for EVE: Valkyrie, CCP Unifex and the overall strategy of CCP Games.

CCP Unifex & Xander Phoena on EVE: Valkyrie

Xander: Welcome back to Crossing Zebras, I am Xander Phoena. As those of you who listen to the podcast know, one of the most exciting things I was able to take part in at Fanfest was the E-VR demo. It completely blew me away. Totally unexpected, came from nowhere and was one of the highlights of an amazing Fanfest.

Valkyrie was confirmed as being a full title for CCP last week and I immediately jumped on the blower to CCP Manifest – who is CCP’s PR and social media guy – and said “look, I really want to sit down with whoever is available and whoever is behind Valkyrie at the moment and talk to them, get some information from them about this really exciting project and he pointed me to none other than CCP Unifex who joins me now. Thanks very much for coming on this show Unifex.

CCP Unifex: Good to be here again.

Xander: Thank you, thank you. It doesn’t seem that long ago since we sat down and talked.

CCP Unifex: No, it was just after Fanfest I think, so a lot has happened in a very short period of time.

Xander:  Indeed, indeed. So let’s crack on. This isn’t directly connected to Valkyrie as such, but can you tell me how the summit went? The CSM summit has just finished and I think the guys flew back on Saturday. How did that go from your end?

CCP Unifex: As far as I know, it went really, really well. It’s actually the first one in a while where I haven’t been in every session or fully involved. I saw the guys around, they seemed to be okay. They didn’t have their pitchforks and torches out so it’s always good not to see that.

I did a couple of sessions with them late on Friday and everybody seemed to be making good noises in a really productive summit. Had some good dinners, some good conversations. It was good actually. It felt really, really professional, really productive and it was good to see old faces and meet lots of new ones.

Xander:  Yeah, Mister CSM himself, Trebor [Daehdoow] who has attended many of these summits said it was the most professional one and the best one he’s attended so far. So if he thought it was good, I guess that’s a good thing. If any man would know it would be Trebor.

CCP Unifex: Absolutely, yeah I think we’ve seen a steady, building crescendo over the years. You know, we’ve really managed to evolve the CSMs – it’s a very effective body now and it certainly knows it’s role, it knows how to influence, it knows when to stick its foot down.

There’s a similar evolution that’s happening on the CCP side, where it was just really good this year just seeing the dev teams really craving the input the CSM were able to give them and the input they were able to crowdsource from the community. I think everybody has found their feet, we’re in a really good place going forward with that. It’s just good to see the CSM being super productive.

Xander:  Awesome. Okay, so let’s talk Valkyrie. Can you clarify your exact position in the Valkyrie project at the moment.

CCP Unifex: Right now I’m the Executive Producer for it, which means [I’m] the guy who in effect runs the business and overall everything reports into and is responsible for moving the product along. But it’s a temporary role. We’ve got some announcements in terms of… what the handover plan and all of that is and who’ll take over, which’ll come in the future. Right now I’m… it was very much a sort of follow on from the EVE Online Executive Producer role.

I mean I remember back in… oh, when was it? About a month before Fanfest when the guys originally came to me and [CCP Chief Marketing Officer] David Reid  and said, “Hey can we try this stuff out please?” and we had a look at it and were kind of blown away in a similar way that you were when you played it at Fanfest.

Xander:  Yeah.

U: They sort of said, “Do you think it’d be alright if we showed it at Fanfest?” We sort of looked at each other, swore quite a lot and said, “Yes of course it’ll be fine.”

Xander:  [Laughs]

CCP Unifex: And then we took it to Fanfest and really from there I helped the guys really just evangelise it within CCP. It was very much a grassroots effort that the guys did and I thought it was super cool so I just kept on pushing it and putting the things that they were doing in front of people and just sort of offering them any sort of advice and guidance that they wanted.

At that point it was very much just the guys doing this as a labour of love. As we looked forward we though E3 was coming up, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone. Why don’t we take a look at building on the free PR – it sounds awful but, yeah – how do we continue to build the noise around CCP and EVE and DUST by taking what was then E-VR to E3.

And also it was a good opportunity for some of the guys who’d worked on it to get a bit of a reward. It’s like: hey guys, we’ll pay for you to go to Los Angeles for a week and they worked pretty hard, don’t get me wrong, but they had a good time as well.

But at the back of my mind there was really this question of validation which was taking something like E-VR, putting it in front of the people who go to EVE Fanfest and seeing the reaction… is playing the home game. Y’know, I have to say I wasn’t that surprised by their reaction.

To take it to something like E3, then all of a sudden it’s the entire gaming world who’re looking at it and you get a very good sense of ‘are we actually on to something here or are we onto something which is… are we kidding ourselves.

We got what? IGN ‘Most Innovative in Show’, PC Gamer gave us ‘Best in Show’ which is like – I felt really sorry for people who’d been developing a game for four years with multi-million dollar marketing budgets and a tech demo comes and steals the show.

But that kind of reception that we got was full of the validation that we needed to really take it back into a huddle with CCP and say ‘you know what, there really is something here’.

There’s a latent need in the market place for a couple of things really, one of which is – VR is taking off, it’s now getting to a point where actually I think it’s a viable technology which fundamentally has the opportunity to transform how we do many different things.

Also there’s just this need for a first-person, dogfighting, visceral, close-to-the-metal, twitch kind of space combat game which has really been missing for ten, fifteen years.

I think you combine those two things and you get something that is very, very powerful.

So we went ahead and said, “okay, yep, we should do this” and basically started building up the team because, at that point, I was kind of freeing up in terms of what I was doing – I was beginning to look at the mobile side of things. But we don’t have a spare executive producer lying around at CCP, so I had no problems whatsoever just jumping into that one and helping get the team up and running and kicking off.

Next: CCP Games on Developing EVE: Valkyrie for the Oculus Rift


Jon “CCP Unifex” Lander Interview by Xander Phoena

About the author

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.