Show Us Your Brains… Mmmm, Brains
That’s right pilots, we want to crack open your brainiums and take a good hard look at the grey matter contained therein, so we can see what makes
Hello Vive pilots! Enjoying your experience so far? Now that some of you are well and truly initiated into the ranks of the Valkyrie we figured it’s the perfect time to bring you up to speed on how we got here. Who better to give you the skinny on the subject than Andy Willans, Lead Game Designer on EVE: Valkyrie. We caught up with him directly after the launch to tell us a bit about how EVE: Valkyrie was designed to rock your HTC Vive world.
Andy, the launch of EVE: Valkyrie on HTC Vive seems to have gone pretty smoothly. What’s been happening behind the scenes to ensure such an effortless rollout?
I don’t think I’d ever call any launch effortless, but from an end user’s perspective I’m glad it appears that way. Behind the scenes there’s been lots of work fine-tuning resolutions, adding achievements via Steam integration, and basically intensively testing the build in cross-platform play to ensure all the features and gameplay are running smoothly.
Have there been any challenges specific to bringing Valkyrie to Vive?
The biggest challenge has been one of production and resource planning rather than anything specifically technical. We are a relatively small development team (under 40) and running Valkyrie as a ‘game-as-a-service’ means that we are constantly apportioning our teams (and expertise) between maintaining and fine-tuning the game through regular patches, and adding to its features and content with game updates. As such, we have to carefully juggle any releases to ensure that everything we do is polished to the highest level. Aside from just playtesting the three main platforms together for gameplay parity we also have to check that any platform-specific items are being displayed correctly in all possible scenarios.
Tell us a bit about implementing crossplay, first for PSVR then Vive. Did the work on PSVR make the Vive implementation any easier?
It was always part of our development roadmap, so thankfully we had considered and designed for many of the platform-specific features such as Trophies, Parties, and Party Chat. In many ways Sony made things easier by having an established OS with a variety of well-implemented features for us to plug into. This meant that we could focus on optimizing the game and its content, rather than creating a new feature which served the same purpose.
Our main goal throughout development was to provide complete parity between the versions. This is essential for any competitive game that aims for true crossplay gaming. As such, we really hammered the internal playtests hard, focusing on all combinations of inputs (Xbox One Controller Vs PlayStation DualShock 4 Vs HOTAS etc) and ensuring deadzones and calibrations were as closely matched as possible. I think the experience with PSVR definitely helped with VIVE. We adopted the same regular playtests with players split between different platforms randomly entering battles and giving feedback on their experience. It also helped to have a clearly defined and coded set of PSN Trophies, as these gave us a great head start in supporting Achievements via Steam.
Given that Valkyrie is fast becoming a vehicle for tournament play, are there any plans to introduce native voice comms to the Rift and Vive versions of the game?
It’s a hot topic, and one which we come back to regularly. At present there are some fantastic and well-polished 3rd party solutions readily available to our PC audience. I think the real challenge here is to improve our social features so that players can take more control over the community in general: arranging squads, forming clans/clubs, offering assistance or guidance to newer players and so on. This is something we are looking at very closely right now.
What are the control options for Valkyrie on Vive and is there any unique functionality for the Vive’s wireless controllers?
We are recommending the use of a gamepad or HOTAS flight stick for the best enjoyment of Valkyrie, but note that a gamepad is required in addition to a HOTAS joystick. Over the past year we have experimented with, and playtested, a number of different key mapping options based on motion controllers. While some versions provided an exotic method of input, none succeeded in matching the intuitive immediacy of a gamepad or flight stick. We are not ruling out motion control support in the future, but right now we have to complement the strengths of our game. Valkyrie was always designed to be played in a seated position, controls in hand, with strong mechanics that encourage players to use the movement of their heads (rather than hands) to take full advantage of our VR combat.
So that’s it, we are fully up and running on Rift, PSVR and Vive so all that remains is to get out there and begin blowing one another to pieces… in the nicest possible way. You will find, as countless pilots have before you, that the Valkyrie community is one of the friendliest and most inclusive groups of gamers out there.
See you soon Rookies!