We go hands-on with EVE VR, CCP's space-dogfighting sim
It's not every day that I get to try something as special as this. Announced today at EVE Fanfest, as part of a special EVE keynote in front of thousands of fans, CCP gave us a glimpse of another window into the universe of New Eden.
Named internally as EVE VR, the independent Icelandic studio has put together a dogfighting-style space combat sim, featuring intense multiplayer battles across a cluttered asteroid field. Fighters are launched from two opposing factional ships, ensuring a constant flow of action with little downtime.
Created by a small team of developers in only seven weeks, EVE VR was built with the Unity multi-platform engine using art assets taken from EVE Online. The project started in '20% time', an initiative by CCP that frees developers to spend one-fifth of their working week on something that interests them. The result is something completely unexpected; even if this never becomes a full-fledged game in its own right, the experience it delivers is phenomenal.
This was the first time I'd tried out the Oculus VR, leaving me completely unprepared for what was about to unfold. With the incredibly light headset strapped to my head, a pair of enclosed headphones pumping the sounds of combat and a controller in my hands, I was ready to enter the cold dark of space.
The 3D effect was initially very subtle; it wasn't until I looked around the cockpit that the illusion emerged. I never expected the Rift to be so accurate at mapping my head movements, or for the experience to be so immersive. And this was before I even left the sanctuary of the mothership, staring down the barrel of a launch tube.
Suddenly I rushed out into the void, a field of asteroids slowly rolling in front of me. Tentatively, I punched the afterburner, my craft lurching forward and hungrily devouring space as rotating boulders zipped by. I was almost terrified to look around, just in case I carelessly ate asteroid.
Red reticules popped up in front of me, luring me toward my prey. I pumped the fighter's laser, risking giving myself away but giving me the chance to do some damaged while I closed the distance. Once I was near enough the missile lock lit up, tracking my target by facing it with the headset, rather than steering the spacecraft. The trigger released, my missiles were away, pummeling the enemy.
Suddenly the cockpit was filled with red light and sirens; one of his flight wing had managed to sneak behind me. I looked over my shoulders to see if I could spot him and work out a way to evade his lock. Too late - his missiles were streaming toward me. I slammed on the afterburner, hoping I had enough charge in the tank to put a nearby asteroid between us. It was going to be tight, but grinned to myself as I saw the rockets slam into the rotating rock.
The dogfight continued for a short but intense battle, my three wingmates doing our best to blast our teammates out of the sky. Outside of VR, a small audience followed the ebb and flow of battle on a spectator screen that surveyed the battlefield.
It ended all too quickly, but the result didn't matter - I'd experienced something truly incredible. The headset removed I gingerly stood up, literally struck dumb as I tried to process what I'd just played. This was the games from my childhood, titles uttered with reverence such as X-Wing and Wing Commander, pushed through the filter of half-remembered science fiction dreamscapes and shaped into something I could truly immerse myself in.
EVE VR currently runs on PC, with a wired gamepad providing the controls. As one of the first titles of its type using the Oculus Rift VR headset, it's an incredible achievement, both for the small team that put the game together, and for CCP in nurturing the universe of New Eden that makes such games possible. The developer prides itself on creating windows into their worlds, and even though I've only had a glimpse, it's one I can't wait to peer through again.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer, Senior Contributing Editor