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Hands on with EVE Valkyrie & Oculus Rift

EVE Online Screenshot - Eve Valkyrie

I sat down in a plastic chair, put on some bulky goggles, a pair of headphones, and grabbed a controller. What happened next actually blew my mind, and not in that hyperbolic, Upworthy-headline way.

I was in a space fighter ship, sitting in a launch bay, waiting for three other pilots to ready up. I looked around. I could see all the details inside the cockpit. My character’s legs and arms were more my own than I have ever felt in a game before. I could sense depth, and I could look around as easily as I could in real life. The actual showfloor of Indiecade East no longer existed.

Oculus Rift is seriously something special, if the numerous articles about it haven’t made that clear enough. I’d tried a demo of the Oculus with iRacing back at NYCC, but I wasn’t actually in control of the car. In this demo, I wasn’t just in control, I was piloting a fighter in space with full 3D movement. Seconds after launching out into space I was flipping upside down while looking anywhere I wanted. I’m surprised I stayed in my chair.

EVE Valkyrie

I’m also a bit disappointed, because I just now realized I could have looked behind me all along. The viewpoint of traditional games is so claustrophobic and limiting that the openness of Oculus Rift is hard to fully appreciate.

Still, the sense of depth and immersion must be experienced first-hand. I haven’t felt that sense of magic playing a game since wandering into arcades as a kid and playing some of the first polygonal 3D games -- way beyond what my SNES and Genesis could manage. That may have been the last time I played a VR game as well. It’s sad that it’s taken this long for the tech to become a home reality.

Not everything is perfect, though. The version of the Rift I used was not the latest and greatest. It sported 1080p visuals, but didn’t have the latest tech to reduce motion sickness. I didn’t get sick, but I  felt a palpable disconnect between visuals and my body that was a little dizzying. My other niggle was that, like the 3DS, the 3D on the Oculus has a bit of a sweet spot, so finding that spot and keeping it there was a little tricky at first. That said, the discomfort was worth the trouble.

Speaking with an Oculus representative at the show, he assured me that motion sickness issues are a priority. The very latest prototype of the Rift, the Crystal Cove prototype, was shown at CES this year and aims to fix that issue through better tracking.

EVE Valkyrie

As for EVE Valkyrie itself, the game was developed by a small team within CCP who had backed the Oculus Rift Kickstarter. What I played felt like a side project, despite how impressive and visually stunning it was. The demo offered basic flight controls, a rapid laser weapon, and homing missiles that used head tracking to lock on to targets. Beyond that, though, it was some basic dogfighting. What really surprised me was that I was playing with nothing but two analog sticks and the triggers/bumper buttons on a 360 controller.

There was something very prototype-y about the demo. It was certainly the best use of Oculus I’ve personally seen, but I also hope that the final game is a full fledged space sim and not a glorified space shooter demo.

Either way, I saw something amazing that I won’t soon forget. I've already started looking into pricing on an Oculus dev kit, but I know it would probably be best to wait on a consumer release. The last time I put a helmet on and entered a virtual world was almost two decades ago. It’s crazy to think I might finally have that in my home within the next couple of years.

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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