We are the Valkyrie

This entry is written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the Fanfest 2014 EVE Valkyrie keynote.

Fanfest2014I missed the first five minutes of the Valkyrie keynote as CCP completely surprised me by starting a keynote on time.  I have been to Fanfest five times in person and that never happens!  I was having dinner and talking to my wife, felt like I should step away from the monitor for at least a few minutes. 😉

I’m gathering Hilmar talked a bit about the EVE universe monument unveiled yesterday in Reykjavik.  I got back in time for a bit about the company being refocused solely on the EVE universe following the cancellation of World of Darkness.  Some people in the audience cheered at that, Hilmar looked uncomfortable.

I can sympathise, several dozen people very recently lost their jobs due to that and CCP have suffered a significant set back in their efforts to grow as a company.  Obviously EVE players are going to be mostly fixated on what CCP are doing for their game, but I don’t see it as a victory of any kind.  CCP lost millions of dollars on that venture.  And people lost their jobs.

It may be that the wounds are still fresh from the WoD defeat but Hilmar seemed a deflated during in his part of the presentation.  I have watched rather a lot of Hilmar presentations over the years and he is normally much more upbeat than this.

Moving on, Hilmar announced the latest PLEX innovation that is sure to redistribute some wealth in New Eden – PLEX for beer!  Fanfest attendees are able to redeem PLEX for tokens that they can spend on beer in the Harpa.  I love this plan and look forward to drunken space-rich layers draining their EVE wallet at an actual bar.

Wraith MkII fighter

Then we came to the main event, EVE Valkyrie itself.  It was revealed that the current team working on Valkyrie is twenty five people.  Not a vast number but reasonable and about triple the size of the team that the original EVR tech demo that started the whole thing.

The current effort on Valkyrie was described as ‘the Pinocchio Journey’ of turning Valkyrie into a real boy/game.  The ‘past’ was discussed about the EVR prototype and identifying strengths and weaknesses of it.  A strength was the missile lock on system (turn your head and look at target), a weakness was that missiles were overpowered.  Another issue raised was that  fighters felt too similar to each other so this is something they are trying to flesh out more.

The presentation promised three major announcements.  The first was pretty big.

ANNOUNCEMENT ONE: EVE Valkyrie will run in the Unreal4 engine!

That is certainly a big deal as it means Valkyrie will be running in a next-gen graphics engine.  This is good news as it needs to look gorgeous if it is going to compete with the likes of Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous.  It also makes sense as this is a flagship technology game for both the Occulus Rift and the Playstation 4 ‘Project Morpheus’.

It also would have been my guess for a licensed engine as I imagine it would be the simplest engine to port Dust514 over to if/when it graduates from the PS3, as Dust is currently running in Unreal3.  It makes sense to use the same common engine as it would mean that art assets could potentially be shared between them in the future.  By which I’m implying that CCP may some day (in the hazy future) want to implement some sort of shared social space with avatars walking about.

The talk went on to discuss the ship roles currently being worked on as fighter/heavy/support craft.  The support craft is intended to have more missile counter measures on board which can be used to as a screen for the other two classes.  This replaces a former concept for a ‘sniper’ class that didn’t play test well.

There will be a system of upgrades in the game where players can buy /earn upgrades for their ship/pilot/ground crew(!) and customisations, by which I assume they mean cosmetic vanity items like decals on your ship.  There were no details on any of this beyond that there will be a system for it.

The final gameplay element highlighted was the concept of ‘Turf’ –  meaning space terrain.  This was only lightly touched upon but concerned areas of a map containing things like wreckage, interior spaces, dust clouds that would interfere with sensors and of course open space.  The fighter class will be good in open space (room to move and use their speed), but poor in dust fields (more reduced radar range) while the support class will suffer less of a penalty in dust clouds but be more vilnerable when caught in the open.  All in all a simple enough concept the success of which will hinge on good level design.

Then we got a lore preview and a brief introduction to the Valkyries that the game’s namesake.  Valkyries are ace pilots snatched at moment of death to become immortal privateers by shady benefactors.  Those benefactors are indeed shady as they are the Guristas! I look forwards to the plot unfolding and expect the new tech behind this will come from Ghost sites in EVE’s lore.  It all makes sense as Dust514’s cloned mercenaries are also sponsored by the pirate factions and will presumably be an adaptation of that technology.

We are told that the Valkyries as a group once worked for the Guristas but for undisclosed reasons reasons rebelled and went independent.  From this emerges the game’s new mantra ‘We are the Valkyrie’.  Also that CCP clearly want to refer to Valkyrie players as Privateers in the same way EVE players are Capsuleers.  The leader and first ever Valkyrie is a woman named Ran Kavik.  Ran will be the ‘voice in your head’ and the voice of the game giving you objectives and I guess the tutorial.

ANNOUNCEMENT TWO: The voice of Ran Kavik is Katee Sackhoff, who played Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica!

Katie Sackhoff

That is a pretty good scoop on CCP’s part I think.  She has proven credentials in that kind of role and will be very good for marketing the game.  Definitely a thumbs-up from me on this one.

ANNOUNCEMENT THREE:  The live hands-on demo of Valkyrie at fanfest tomorrow will be on Occulus Dev Kit 2 headsets and on Sony’s Morpheus headset.  Also its in the Unreal4 build.

This….was anti-climatic.  It’s very nice for the attendees but it is a very limited impact piece of news.  In fact a large chunk of the whole keynote seemed to be about billing the fact there would be live demo’s tomorrow.  A fact we all knew some time ago!

Which pretty much sums up the whole keynote.  There was a surprising lack of actual details being revealed.  I wasn’t expecting to be told all of the things today, but I was expecting more to go on than this.  The reaction on twitter immediately after the presentation was much the same, everyone had been expecting to hear more from a fanfest keynote than which engine the game would use and who will be voice acting one character.  Aside from that all we really heard was some very vague design considerations.

I think it is abundantly clear that CCP won’t be shipping in 2014 as they so firmly declared last year.  I’m hoping that there is something more substantial to come from the closing CCP Presents keynote but I’m not putting money on it.  At this stage what little we have been shown I like, but the quantity on offer leaves much to be desired.  Enjoy the hands-on demo you lucky attendees, because that’s where this reveal is at.

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