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Monday, October 21, 2013

Valkyrie - The How

Of course Jester beat me to the punch on this one. He'd no sooner gotten home from EVE Vegas than he posted about the upgraded Valkyrie experience. You can read his excellent write-up here. He is right on the money with everything stated. The only thing I will add is this little gem that popped out of my news alerts last night as I was waiting form my late night flight home.
Eve: Valkyrie -- The Future Of Immersive Virtual Reality Gaming Experience - by Michael Venables for Forbes Magazine
Mr. Venables states that SigurĂ°ur Gunnarsson, "points out that the biggest challenges are figuring out the configuration of the user interface, and figuring out the core game play." (Emphasis mine.) To me, core game play is synonymous with the 'wrapper' Jester wrote about - or the 'how' as I like to call it. Since Jester already covered the 'wow,' I'd like to throw a few ideas out on the 'how.'

No matter how you slice it, this game cannot be a stand alone product. I know there are a lot of gamers out there who resent the always connected requirements leveled by most of the game companies these days. I sympathize in certain situations, because games like SimCity or Civilization, when not played in multiplayer mode, should just work regardless of Internet connectivity.

That said, Valkyrie is not one of these types of games. This is a space dogfight game. NPC AI will not make this a compelling game even for the one or two hours Jester wrote about. It will be appealing for exactly as long as the 3-D wow factor lasts - 5 minutes. Okay, it will actually vary from person to person, but for me, I was done with the wow after my first 3-minute session with the hardware on. After that, it was about the dogfight! For the dogfight to be compelling, there must be humans flying the other fighters.

The simplest PvP implementation that I personally would find appealing is the kill board. Pilots would compete for "bragging rights" based on a publicly accessible database of victories and losses. In addition, there could be special achievements  for maneuvers successfully flown, fighters mastered, weapons utilized, etc. The list of possible achievements is limited only by the imagination of the developers. Pilots who do exceptionally well would see their faces blastered on billboards at every gate in New Eden and on the live feed in the Captain's Quarters. Now there's real New Eden fame!

And there would always be room for expansion. Take fighter types for instance. Currently there are only two in the simulation: Minmatar Einherji and Amarr Templar. But, EVE Online has many more types of fighter craft, as well as bombers. More could always be added. As the various factions develop them, perhaps pilots would have to master those new craft by achieving preset goals. This could also double as player tutorial. These achievements do not have to necessarily entail combat. The navigation and general flight graduation ceremony could be a no holds barred race through space, or some such PvE scenario. Not everything done in these single pilot ships has to be combat oriented. However, everything should lead the pilot to the PvP aspects of the game - in true EVE Online fashion.

One thing that would be crucial to this TOPGUN (and I mean the Navy program, not the movie) approach would be a social environment in which to exercise it. CCP Pokethulhu alluded in his talk at EVE Vegas that CCP would not keep the door in our Captain's Quarters locked forever. Valkyrie could give that reveal a more urgent need. It would help answer the question of how CCP could fit Valkyrie into the EVE Online universe as it stands today.

One way I think that could be done is to call the piloted fighter program a test by the various factions to see if capsuleer pilots can handle the fighters better than a drone AI. Can even a capsuleer clone, as heavily enhanced as it is, withstand the sheer physics of that dogfight? This test program would be implemented at faction navy bases throughout known space. Capsuleers would become test pilots by walking through that now locked door. Once that happens, their achievements would not only be visible in the database, but would be worn as medals and ribbons on their uniform for all to see.

And think of the tournaments that could be aired on CCP's Twitch channel. The casual viewer may not understand what's happening in Alliance Tournament, but everyone understands Top Gun (this is the movie reference.) Imagine a future where the best Valkyrie pilots are professional gamers earning a living flying EVE Online fighters...

These few start-up ideas are just a beginning. From what I heard and saw at EVE Vegas, there is a strong desire to integrate Valkyrie into the PvP capsuleers already conduct. Just as Dust mercenaries have a role in New Edin politics, so will those capsuleers who elect to become fighter pilots.

That will be a far more difficult proposition than this simple kill board and tournament based system I've outlined. Players have already shown a finicky nature when it comes to anything they perceive as "bad" for the sandbox. And I do foresee difficulties that could arise from Valkyrie integration with the sandbox. For instance, what if some very large alliance gained a substantial advantage over everyone else because CCP implemented Valkyrie in a way they were the only one's in a position to take advantage of? Those not in such a position would no doubt feel the balance of the game was decidedly tipped against them.

In conclusion, I agree with just about everyone else. Valkyrie has a very promising future. I also see a way in which it can fit into the EVE Online we all love. Whether it successfully becomes an integral part of the sandbox is a question orders of magnitude more difficult to answer. I know CCP will go carefully here, and I for one will be very interested to see what they develop. But until then, I can't wait to get back in the cockpit again!


  1. Just to be a lore pedant rather than to disagree with your substance, fighters are already piloted lorewise (with pilots even visible in the model) and they don't have room to retrofit capsules - but DUSTtech clones with some fancy air force neural hardware would work. Not sure if us eggers can be retrofitted with DUSTtech, I haven't read Templar One.

  2. I'm sorry, but I disagree with most of what you're saying. It takes Valkyrie too far too fast and when you do that you end up shooting yourself in the foot by overpromising. Look at where that got them with Dust.

    I think for Valkyrie to be successful it only needs to have a good single player campaign and well narrated story, with online PvP that isn't connected to Tranquility. Couple that with the new level of immersion you get from Oculus Rift and you'll have a new take on an old genre that people will beat down the doors for.

    Basically, I want a new Freespace 2 and I think that it would be a mistake to try to push it too far past that right away. Once that's successful, then do all the stuff you're talking about.

    -Baljos Arnjak

  3. r- Just to chime in, I have read Templar One, twice... and The Personality Transfer Tech is ALL implants. As far as I am concerned TurAmarth (my Main) has already has a black market set implanted as he HATES not being up on the bridge with his crew (yes, I am one of those lore freaks who believes you can fly a Titan solo...) so Lore wise, we're all good with Valkyrie and Empyreans.

    Baljos- Read more carefully... Mab is going for a slow balanced approach. Starting with basically an arena, or Thunderdome, idea that eventually leads to fuller integration. I personally want to see Valk have the best of both worlds... IE no limits. You can play solo off the grid as twere or solo but online in EVE with all attendant risks & rewards, or in fleet with your gooney kin pwning the shit out off all around you in hilarious suicide hijinks cause that's how ya'll roll...

    Three freakin cheers for IMMERSION!!!

  4. I think as a first step it would be reasonable to introduce it into the game as a "no influence" game. To attract as many players as possible it needs a very low paying barrier or maybe even F2P with some stuff to buy.
    Coupling it with an EVE subscription would most likely kill it before it even started.

    Integrating it in our universe many options are possible. It could be influencing EVE PvP but that would be a step far down the road.
    As a first stepping stone I would go with a tournament style game with leadership boards and "free" fightings between clans. Like Unreal Tournament you could just let this gladiators die over and over again just for our bloody entertainment. If Capsuleers decide to sponsor a group of Valkyrie Pilots they can have their corp logo printed on those ships.
    Free fighting grounds where you join just for fun and money is meaningless. Public leadership boards and maybe some betting system for us.
    Sponsored tournaments with entry fee where you need ISK from us capsuleers to get in.

    We blow up that many stuff for fun, we could use some stuff with less impact to bet on and support other communities.

  5. I don't think they should make the current set of fighters and bombers in game something that Valkyrie pilots could fly. But I think it could be cool in the future for there to be Valkyrie pilots you could hire to fly special fighter/bombers that they would control in real time in EVE. That way you don't have to balance the new fighters around the current ships and current cap pilots wouldn't need to recruit Valkyrie pilots to compete. Also they should be balance around a good Valkyrie pilot would be better than AI controlled drones but a bad pilot or Awoxed could screw your DPS.

  6. Crap... correction: (yes, I am one of those lore freaks who believes you CAN'T fly a Titan solo...)

  7. @ TurAmarth - I read through the post again and I don't think that's how it reads.

    "No matter how you slice it, this game cannot be a stand alone product." - I disagree with this as it implies that Valkyrie should be connected to EVE from the beginning. I think there is a place for online play at first but it should be the single player campaign that hooks people to the universe, then online play is where they expand to when they want greater challenges. This is a perfect opportunity for CCP to really tell the backstory of New Eden in a compelling way. It would give "I was there" a whole new meaning.

    He then goes on to talk about NPC AI being not good enough to be compelling for long. While this might be true, it's not the AI that makes a space sim compelling, it's the campaign and scripted events within that do that, especially if they're well narrated. Imagine actually witnessing the Amarr invasion of Pator, or The Battle of Vak'Atioth, or the Minmatar attack on CONCORD first hand! My God! LOL

    It sounds to me that Mabrick and I just want two different games. Also, HIP HIP! HOORAY! HIP HIP! HOORAY! HIP HIP! HOORAY!

    -Baljos Arnjak

    1. Let me clarify the standalone statement Baljos. I believe that this game is about real person versu real person. It is a PvP game. It would be a mistake IMO to cater to the PvE crowd in this instance. This game shines whether the pilots are AI driven or person driven. However, it is a fracking SUPERNOVA when there is another human in control of the ship you are trying to blow up. However, that does not mean it has to be connected to EVE Online. They could just as easily provide that sort of connectivity through Steam or their own client. It is true that I want to see this integrated into EVE Online, and CCP is talking about doing that. But my statement about it not being a standalone game means simply that people must fly against other people - not that it must be integrated into EVE Online. That is all I mean by that statement, though my general feeling that it should be part of EVE Online permeates the post. And as for all the things you would like... there is no reason why we can't have out cake and eat it too. CCP should choose to do all those things. ;-)

    2. Ok, thanks for straightening me out on the standalone stuff. I actually don't have a problem with having PvP included as long as it's not the only thing the game has to offer. I get bored with all pvp all the time, and a lot of other people do too.

      - Baljos

  8. @ Bal

    I think you are underestimating what you are actually asking for when you say you _only_ want a core single player experience.

    In terms of development the test pilot first steps mentioned are far simpler. Yes it requires a great deal of work to get the multi-player running, but CCP has both the hardware infrastructure and the experience running online games to make that work. Once that is done any work expanding the gameplay (like say allowing them to shoot hardpoints of larger ships) is something that will benefit both a further integration to eve and a compelling single player experience.

    On the other hand getting a compelling single player campaign created, to the extent that work warrant people buying the rift and software? Not really something CCP has the experience doing, and the design and development time required to get to the point where they could deliver is massive.

    Don't get me wrong I want the single player game too so I can understand your bias; I'm just not sure if that is a reasonable first step. That said I'm biased too since I have a rift devkit and want a version of valkerie getting to the public as soon as possible.


    1. I'm jealous of your Rift devkit as I'm a (newbie) game developer too!

      I think you misunderstand what I was saying though. I didn't mean to say that I ONLY want a single player campaign at the exclusion of online play, I meant to say that a single player campaign is essential to have if the game is to be successful as it is a crucial part of the space sim genre. We're all looking at this thing through EvE colored glasses and we shouldn't be.

      The problem of adding content after release is what we're seeing in Dust right now. People are getting bored of "all pvp all the time!" and are leaving precisely because there isn't the foundation of a good single player game underneath and the link to EvE isn't strong enough to facilitate emergent gameplay. I don't want that to happen to Valkyrie.


  9. Why not go the other way story wise: how are capsuleers selected? They are the reborn versions of very good fighter pilots.
    It would create instant ties betxeen eve and would create z need for a place where both need to mingle to learn from each other or to find lost relatives, memory,... .
    In any case it should have some form of single player maybe first as a tutorial and maybe later in a episodic way ading campaigns... . Maybe even from eve's past... . Imaging replaying the battle of asakai from a fighters perspective... .
    But i do agree that pvp should be the main focus, it will make dogfighting even more fun!

  10. I have a vision... actually, two:

    - Valkyrie fighters zipping around my Myrmidon, slowly eating away HP, challenged by my drones but largely immune to my guns due to their high transversal. If I had some Valkyrie pilots backing me up, I might have even have had a chance to survive this encounter...

    - I am IN my Myrmidon ON the bridge. I have a gorgeous view into space via large cockpit screens all around, ceiling- and even floor-side. All those spreadsheets and ship controls are displayed on monitors in my command console front, left and right of me.

    I wish I could propel myself ahead in time for seeing this come true...


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