EVE: Valkyrie Interview with Chris Smith

Valkyrie's Lead Designer discusses roles, Ran and a ZAM scoop on Fanfest 2015!

"My concentration is on making the best goddamn VR game I can!"

As Lead Game Designer, Chris Smith is spearheading the direction of EVE: Valkyrie. Continuing our coverage of Fanfest 2014, I sat down with him and got another look inside Valkyrie's development by CCP Games.

A few things to keep an eye on:

  • Smith references Halo 1, Team Fortress 2, Gears of War and Mario Kart
  • There's an interesting discussion on roles and cockpit vision
  • We get a second cryptic, but very revealing, answer on Rán's lore
  • Near the end, we get an exclusive scoop about Fanfest 2015!

Thanks for chatting, Chris! To start, could you get into what you do day-to-day?

I'm Christopher Smith, the Lead Designer on Valkyrie, and day-to-day I do as much as I can!

What has it been like developing for VR, since it's such a new medium?

It's funny, 'cause I've been in the industry a long time. I was originally in 2D. Then of course 3D comes along, and all the rules you learned in 2D...you carried some of them across, but then you had to learn a whole new bunch. And now, VR isn't just 3D with a new screen. It's the same difference, in my head, as 2D to 3D (from 3D to VR). With that comes all the things I get to take, but then of course I don't know a bunch of stuff! There are no peers, there's no one around to look at, so...you ask how it is to work on it? It's totally terrifying, amazingly exciting, and to me it's the challenge of a lifetime.

I hadn't thought of it that way, the shift from 2D to 3D – that's very interesting.

I'll give you the example: the camera. I've worked on a Splinter Cell game, and the camera system on that is a nightmare! There are things like the safe camera, and having the camera shift when you turn, and having the camera coming closer...I don't have to do any of that, and I LOVE IT! 'Cause cameras are a goddamn nightmare.

But on the flipside, now I have to deal with nausea, claustrophobia, annoyance. There's a science which is almost as crazy as the camera system, but then you also open up new design possibilities. There's a huge depth of change.

Is Valkyrie going to be playable without a VR headset?

I get asked that a lot. At the office, we can play in 2D, but a lot of stuff doesn't work (like the HUD). I play on 2D occasionally...if someone's stolen my headset. We're not developing a "2D" game and making it work on VR – and that's a key point. Some games out there on VR are 2D and they make it VR – we are a VR game.

So, there are no plans for a 2D side. If the business makes sense, great! But to me, if VR sells the way it should, I think this should be like Halo on the Xbox. To me, I want Valkyrie to be the Halo for VR. And if it's gonna be that, it needs to be everything it can be (on VR).

Is there going to be any singleplayer in Valkyrie?

The main focus we want is...we want to get this core experience of being a fighter pilot in an intense combat scenario right. And that means not being distracted by a co-op mode; a campaign mode; a connection to EVE Online. All those can happen!...if we get that core right. Halo 1 was so rock-solid, but it wasn't feature-rich.  It was the first really good first-person console shooter. And that's what it did! It did it better than anyone else, and it did it superbly.

The transition we've gone through from last year to this year is: the demo was great, but would it have been great at the 1,000th play? We don't know, but we want to make sure it is! If we can do that with the core, we can have: our three different roles, our modes, our maps, the loadouts, and the combinations that that creates.

I've played TF2 a million times, and I never get bored, because...it doesn't have a lot of features, but what it has is about the gameplay. And that goes back to CCP's heritage. It's about players discovering moments in gameplay, rather than us dictating "here's a few things you can do" and you get bored of it.

So, your question about "Will we ever go co-op or campaign?", it's been discussed, of course. I'm gonna consider those later when, as a team, we've released a game that we believe has such an important core that we can expand. If we expand too early and get too greedy with our features, we could be quite poor at our core...and we don't want to do that. This is the right way to do it, in my opinion.

So where does progression and replayability come in for Valkyrie?

We haven't really talked about the "sticky" system, what keeps you coming back. I don't think we're announcing all of that now. You are going to be rewarded for play. That reward is going to be able to be used, to allow you to open up new options.

We are CCP, we're not pay-to-win. It's more about every new thing you unlock and buy in-game. Everything on-offer, you can get just by playing the game. All those things, they'll be something that you use to get to something else. There will be a reason, and the sticky system / metagame is very important to us. We need peacocking, we need the ability to change your style, we need the ability to experience the game in new ways and have that goal to go for. That's a shell of what we've already planned.

What has your partnership with Oculus been like as a co-publisher?

Great! Great. There's 17 DK2's in the world, they've brought 9 to us to show the game – that should speak volumes. I've spent a bunch of time with guys from the team. They've been in the office, they supply us with kits. We get the first kits that have the welds on them! They support us, and we love them for that. There's nothing there but love and respect!

To get it out of the way: does the Facebook purchase affect anything?

All it does is validate the hardware. We're in the major leagues now. Someone just spent...I don't even know how much it was! *I tell Chris the amount* When that number comes up for something that isn't even out yet, wow. Sony's in the game, Facebook's in the game...that's great for us! We're a VR game, so we support anyone trying to put VR out there— and especially Oculus and Sony, they're our partners.

> Tracking, Details, Roles and Rán's Mystery

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