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Eyes-on with Oculus Rift's 'Crystal Cove' VR prototype and first launch game

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 14, 2014
EVE: Valkyrie is the first exclusive launch title for the Oculus Rift headset, and the improvements in the latest Rift prototype make it far more immersive than before.

Red Leader standing by
The art assets and the Rift itself have upgraded since the last time I saw the game, making Valkyrie even more impressive. It provides an experience that's closer than I'd ever imagined to my longtime dream of spaceflight.

With position tracking engaged, Valkyrie takes full advantage of its newfound visual fidelity. The game opens as it did back at E3: I'm strapped in the cockpit of a small and nimble fighter craft, awaiting launch. Last time, my Valkyrie "Oh wow!" moment came when the CCP representative told me to look down: I saw my digitally-represented body sitting in the chair, hands tight around the controls.

This time, "Look down" is replaced by "Lean forward." The cockpit has a dashboard, including some small, operations-related text. From my reclined position the text is miniscule—way too small for even my 20/20 vision to read. Yet leaning forward now brings the text into sharp relief.

It's a small change. In fact, the motion feels so natural that it's hard even to recall that the original Rift dev kit does not have this feature.

But this is just what Oculus needs: The Rift needs to react to users' inclinations as naturally as possible, both to increase player immersion and (more pragmatically) to minimize the possibility of motion-sickness. Crystal Cove is a major step forward, provided the camera's focal length can be reined in.

All-hallowed EVE
As for EVE: Valkyrie, it plays much the same as it did when I saw it at E3—that is to say, like an excellent arcade dog fighter.

Press right trigger for rapid laser-fire, or look at an enemy and pull the left trigger to lock on and release missiles. It's intuitive. Even more intuitive, now, since Crystal Cove allows me to lean around the cockpit as that enemy fighter flies past, giving me just a bit more time to lock on missiles or track its movements.

CCP is reticent about its plans for EVE: Valkyrie as far as its ties to the larger world of EVE Online is concerned. "We're really just focused on the core game mode, the aspiration of being a jet fighter pilot in a futuristic space setting. We learned from the DUST experience, leading with it makes it too much the focus and it's easy to act on later," said CCP's CEO Hilmar Pétursson.

"We'd rather be inspired by what people want to see happen rather than focus on it too much now," he continued. "We bite on to something and then it goes on forever, as per EVE. It's definitely going to be something that expands over time. It's going to go in some unforeseen ways, just as EVE has done."

I can't wait to see what the future of EVE: Valkyrie and Oculus Rift holds. Or should I say I can't wait to live it?


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