Owen O'Brien, Executive Producer on Valkyrie, opened up at Fanfest 2014.
EVE: Valkyrie is the forerunner of gaming's next generation. Having played at Fanfest, the hype is real – but more on that later. I recently sat down with Owen O'Brien, Executive Producer on Valkyrie, and talked VR, UI, logos and beyond. O'Brien gives a light-hearted, insightful view inside Valkyrie's development. Two things to look out for:
- I received a bizarre answer about Oculus as a co-publisher
- I asked what's behind the mask of Rán – and the answer was very compelling
Welcome, Owen! To start, could you get into what you do day-to-day?
What I do day do day-to-day is an interesting question...*thinks*...I...herd cats! As the Executive Producer, I'm responsible for the whole project. I'm not a coder, I'm not a designer, I'm not an artist, I'm not an audio person, but I'm responsible to make sure they're all going in the same direction – that we're moving toward the same vision, the game is on time, a commercial success, and all that good stuff.
As a pioneer in VR, what has development been like?
It's been exciting! We're at the wild frontier here with VR. We're learning a lot of stuff from scratch, a lot of stuff we thought we knew we have to start again with. The technology underneath us is constantly evolving as well. The DK2 and the Morpheus that we have here today are so much better than the last generation, they're improving at an exponential rate. It's also impossible to predict how good they're going to be when they actually come out. There's nowhere else I'd rather be, at this studio making this game... because I get all the excitement of a startup indie – in terms of the size of the studio and the team, and there's a real sense of the camaraderie there. But equally, we get to work on something really cool and high-profile and we've got the backing and security of CCP.
What has been one of the toughest things about Valkyrie to "get right"?
*thinks* I would say the user interface. On a number of levels. First of all, just VR in general is challenging for that. Not challenging, just…things you thought worked don't work. *laughs* Or things that look great in 2D really don't look good in VR. That could be anything, down to font size or thickness of lines.
Also, just in terms of...we've been taught to look straight ahead ever since the TV was invented, and now you have to unlearn that a little bit... and even with UI you have to unlearn that a little bit. We found out if we give the player/pilot too much information so they never have to look around, y'know that's what we're finding. If everything's right in front of you, you never look around. "Well I can tell somebody's behind me 'cause my RADAR is telling me that," whereas if you strip away some of that, you have to look around.
With that in mind, how are you guys approaching the UI and the HUD?
I want people to realize their ship is damaged because, y'know, they look out the window and see the engine's on fire rather than a warning light. There's a certain degree of..."downteching", to a certain extent, so it's making it less high-tech to make it more immersive.
I think the reason (the HUD) was put in in the first place was that you didn't have 360° perception. So we've developed a lot of these UIs and HUDs to make up for the fact that we were dealing with a "2D game" – a 2D screen. Whereas now you don't need them anymore, because it's much more exciting to know there's somebody behind me because I can hear the bullets coming from behind me!
CCP often mentions the social elements of the EVE universe. What is CCP's vision for Valkyrie?
We do want to try and give the ability for all people in the EVE Universe to communicate with each other further down the line.
Are there any specific loadouts, skills, or roles you've experimented with? Fun stuff you've tried?
Yes, there are! That's probably a big focus of ours at the moment. There's a lot of stuff that we're finding that sounds like a great idea – until you try it! *laughs* "Oh, wouldn't it be cool if we had a rear-gunner, and we had two-man 'craft!" That sounds really cool, but it really doesn't work; the guy in gunner seat is basically going backwards, without any control, on a rollercoaster that doesn't have any rails! It's the fastest easiest way to make somebody sick. But it sounded like a great idea. One thing that makes people disoriented and nauseous very quickly in VR is when they're not in control of the movement.
If we weren't failing with half the stuff we're trying, then we're not trying hard enough. If everything we tried worked, then we're not pushing ourselves hard enough. I make a big thing to the team about that. "That didn't work...and that's okay!"