This past week has been a cause for celebration in the virtual reality (VR) industry. Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have now hit their first anniversary, and many launch day developers have been doing the same. One of the biggest titles to arrive in the past year was CCP Games’ Eve: Valkyrie, and VRFocus caught up with some of the team to discuss everything that’s happened.
As most VRFocus readers should know, Eve: Valkyrie is a cross-platform sci-fi multiplayer set in the darkest reaches of space. It was a launch day title for Oculus Rift before heading to PlayStation VR and HTC Vive later on the same year. But CCP Games didn’t stop there releasing mobile titles Gunjack, Gunjack 2: End of Shift and its currently creating Sparc.
Being the global developer it is, VRFocus spoke with Ryan Geddes, Senior Brand Director across CCP’s VR titles, based out of CCP’s Newcastle studio; Morgan Godat, Executive Producer on Sparc, based at CCP’s Atlanta studio and Michael Lee, Senior Brand Manager for CCP’s mobile VR games, based out of CCP’s Shanghai studio to find out more about the last year and the studio’s future plans.
VR has become a big part of CCP with the launch of EVE: Valkyrie, Gunjack & Gunjack 2, and now the Sparc Was this growth organic or part of a long reaching plan?
Ryan Geddes: A lot of people don’t realize it, but some of the first CCP employees and founders were part of an earlier virtual reality movement in the late 1990s that was particularly active in Iceland. As VRFocus readers are no doubt aware, hardware limitations in ye olde ancient times prevented the medium from taking off like it has today. So VR has been this sort of dormant superpower within the company for quite some time now. When the technology finally caught up with our latent ambition, we were spiritually poised to capitalize on the moment.
That said, I would say our approach to VR development has been one of practical ambition. We began with EVE: Valkyrie and carefully watched the market develop. Our close relationship with market-making companies like Oculus, PlayStation, Google, and others has allowed us to anticipate trends and really understand what VR customers need. Our next VR title, Sparc, is a direct result of early virtual reality R&D efforts into full-body VR at a time when that hardware didn’t even exist yet. Our CCP Atlanta team were literally duct taping computers together and just basically freaking everyone out in VR for months before a game surfaced.
EVE: Valkyrie was a major standout title for the Oculus Rift launch. Now that its landed on three platforms what’s the community response been like?
Ryan Geddes: The Valkyrie community is incredible. They have responded to the game really well, and they push us to make the game better. We’ve released four major updates to the game so far, the latest being Wormholes, which introduced basically a whole new way to play the game. We do that because we want to make sure our community of pilots continues to have the best time possible in VR, and there’s more on the way.
How has the community responded to the cross-platform multiplayer in EVE: Valkyrie?
Ryan Geddes: Cross-platform VR play was our goal from the very beginning of development. We believed in the medium, and we always knew it would be a multiplatform play. So it was absolutely part of our strategy to chase that from the very beginning. We were the first in the world to pioneer cross-platform multiplayer in VR for EVE: Valkyrie, which was released as part of our Joint Strike update on October 7, 2016. We couldn’t have done that without beginning development with that functionality in mind. And the response from the community has been great. From my point of view, connecting people is almost always better. It’s a bigger pool to play in, and it makes everyone feel like they are part of something larger.
There’s been four major updates for EVE: Valkyrie thus far, how do you plan to expand the videogame further?
Ryan Geddes: I don’t have any specific announcements to make on that today, but I can say we will be sharing some news on that soon. Expect some info about our next free update in the weeks to come. In general, we are working on ways to expand the experience in as many ways as possible. That includes new maps, modes, gameplay features and improvements to the current game. We’ll be hosting a roundtable with Valkyrie pilots at our annual EVE: Fanfest celebration in Iceland next month where we’ll be asking our community for their feedback on how we prioritize those things. Also, we will drink schnapps. So much schnapps.
Sparc pushes the competitive edge within the sporting genre, what inspired this direction?
Morgan Godat: Since our early prototypes, we’ve been inspired by the technology’s capacity to immerse the player in a virtual space and to bring them together with other people. The ability to read another player’s intent through their physical motion and posture is impressive and opens up interesting avenues of design only possible in VR.
How has Sparc been tailored to suit gamers of all fitness levels?
Morgan Godat: We’ve designed Sparc around a few core verbs – block/deflect, throw and dodge – which we interweave with one another as the player learns the game. This allows players to increase the physicality of their play at their own pace. We’ve also tried to design a game where the level of action is driven by the players. As one player picks up the pace or pushes an advantage, the other player will feel the pressure to match or exceed that.
In terms of mobile VR will there be further Gunjack’s or can we expect something else?
Michael Lee: We currently have some very exciting mobile VR projects in the pipeline but are not ready to publicly discuss them at this time. Stay tuned!
With the anniversary of Oculus Rift’s launch how would you describe the first consumer year of VR, highs and lows?
Ryan Geddes: It’s been a wild ride. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been a part of this first wave of VR adoption, and we’re excited to be working on what comes next. It’s been a great year for CCP and for VR in general. We were pleasantly surprised at the volume of EVE: Valkyrie sales that we saw at retail, for example. Partnering with Sony to publish EVE: Valkyrie on PlayStation VR on disc turned out to be one of our smartest moves. And teaming up with Oculus to include EVE: Valkyrie in the Rift pre-order bundle helped set us up well for future success. I think everyone in the VR community would love for there to be an affordable, powerful VR headset in every living room. We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet, and CCP certainly didn’t expect that to happen in 2017. The magic and power of VR is undeniable, and it’s here to stay.
Where would you like to see VR head in the next 12 months?
Ryan Geddes: Our friends and partners in the hardware and platform worlds are working very hard to move the tech forward, and it’s simply incredible to watch the momentum. In November 2015 we had one consumer VR platform, the Samsung Gear VR. Fast forward less than a year and a half later, and we have Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Google Daydream, and more on the horizon. All these companies will revise and iterate on their hardware and software, and more players will enter the game. To see the market expand and grow like this is exciting, and the entire VR community benefits from that. Personally, I am most interested in seeing developers of all stripes innovate on the VR user experience. Hardware innovation is important and it will carry on unabated. But the thing I am watching most closely is the way users feel when they put on a headset and begin interacting. VR is the most intimate and vulnerable medium ever conceived. We need to make sure we’re taking care of people in there.