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Monday, March 10, 2014

My Heart Skipped a Few Beats

There is a nice thread going over on the EVE Forums. It's titled Valkyrie demo feedback and was started by Cyrillian Voth.  It's worth a read. There are some good suggestions there, and I found myself nodding to practically every one of them.

The initial post wasn't the one the made my heart skip several beats though. It was the the responses from CCP Karuck. I have to quote them.

All our show demos so far have been exactly that, an experience tailored to get a fun introduction in a very short time. We've only really shown two prototype builds of the game so far.. the Fanfest one (which we also took to E3) and the Gamescom one (which we've been showing lately, with a few updates).

The actual game we're making (which is now in pre-production) will have a lot more depth and does touch on many of the things you mention, so we're looking forward to showing that to you all :)

The other points you make, about being more aware of what is happening etc. are all things we are working hard on getting right. Quite a few of those will be shown to players very soon, so stay tuned!

The next poster commented that the term pre-production was confusing to him. So CCP Karuck clarified.

Hah don't worry, and no this isn't a planning stage :) Our game is a bit unconventional since we've had a working demo since before it became an official game. But you really didn't think that what we've been showing on trade shows is the actual final game did you? ;) Stay tuned, we have some exciting stuff to reveal in the next few months.

And a little further down he gave out more details.

There will be joystick support, no worries :) We have quite a few at the office, including the Saitek X-52 HOTAS setup.

(An X-52 HOTAS did he say?  N I C E. Adds it to Mabrick's wish list.)

So taken all together, here's what I take it all to mean. They are well into developing a more rounded game than is evident in the demo. That even though they are calling it pre-production, the game is unconventional because the demo has already taken care of much core production code. Things are proceeding so well, they will have something substantial to show everyone at Fanfest, which happens in "the next  few months." If I was a betting man, I'd wager we'll all see the first late alpha or early beta unveiling of the game itself. Those who will be in Reykjavik are some very lucky EVE Online players. They will have the first opportunity to try their hands at it. I already envy them. I'll have to wait until EVE Vegas. :-(

When it is revealed, I'll be curious to see if it is more like Wing Commander or League of Legends. Will pilots be flying as part of a military organization in an ongoing war filled with tactical and strategic objectives with the history and lore of the EVE Universe behind it, or will it be match play like Alliance Tournament with equal teams going after each other with a simpler objective in mind? I personally would favor the Wing Commander approach. However, that would be harder to implement.

Setting up a game similar to League of Legends would be simpler. And I have to admit, in today's gaming environment and from what I've seen of the demo, I'd have to say a League of Legends approach would be the safer bet. Instead of champions, players would pick a fighter to use that could have various statistics that are "tweakable." The more you fly, the more models you'd have access to. Balancing will be critical to this approach. No fighter can be seen as being inherently superior to any other. It should all come down to how well you fly it and how well your team works together. This would lend itself well to tournament broadcasts and that would be an excellent marketing opportunity for CCP. Of course, if you follow this option to its logical conclusion you will have a free to play game with microtransactions built in to more quickly gain access to various fighter models. Teams might have to pay for things like custom unit insignias.

But back to the Wing Commander style game. There is a model out there for how that could work. Look to games like Assassin's Creed IV for how to implement such a thing. There would be a "limited" multiplayer mode that would allow for the dogfights. But they would be in the context of a greater community of many such "cells." Lets call them squadrons. :-) Each squadron could be hosted on an individual carrier in the greater fleet. CCP could inject community goals into this system that would bind capsuleers from the various races together in a common purpose. The goal could be something like, "destroy 10,000 Caldari fighters in 24 hours." If all the Gallente Valkyrie pilots together manage to do that, they would get a reward. Eventually such a community system might be integrated into EVE Online itself - into the Factional Warfare system for example. The reward given these Gallente fighter pilots could mean the difference between winning or losing a system. This sort of thing could also be applied to a revamped sovereignty warfare system. Things these squadrons accomplish in concert would in that way affect the persistent EVE Universe - without actually having to be in it. Now, if you really did want to bring them into it, someone would have to provide a carrier in EVE Online for them to fly from, and if it were destroyed... now wouldn't that be something?

Fly Careful


  1. Heh, well my heart skipped several beats when I saw my name at the top of your blog post. Nice to meet you!

    Reading between the lines of what the devs let slip in conversation, it sounded like they were going for something closer to the LoL option for release. When I asked him about "what matches mean", Duchess remarked that Team Fortress and Counter Strike are fun games without having any story linking one fight to the next, and that while he had loads of ideas for how to develop that side of the game, they were post-release projects. I think he used the phrase "five-year plan". CCP Mashine seemed to confirm that impression later when he said "we've learned our lesson from DUST: get the gameplay right first, and worry about integration with EVE later."

    I ended up feeling that they weren't wrong about this. I remember being saddened by the review of DUST in Edge magazine: the idea of linking to EVE is amazing and unique, but it's just not enough to make it good if the gameplay is uninspiring, 4/10. All the devs were talking about iterating on the interface and the moment-to-moment interaction with the game; it seemed clear that that's what they're (pre)occupied with at the moment. The newer Rift prototypes (unlike the ones in the demo) have full head translation tracking, so they're experimenting with UI elements that require you to put your head in position; Duchess talked about lining up to use sights for some aiming functions, and also mentioned Mr Spock's ship scanner from the original Star Trek, while Mashine discussed the organisation of the cockpit interface in terms of things you check every second, every five seconds, and so on. CCP Karuck's comments on the thread reassure me that making the gameplay tactically interesting and complex will be the next step. Much as I love strategy, all of these things will be more fundamental to the success of the game, and hard to fix later if they're flawed at release.

    Mashine hinted that the release date is already set; they've already announced it for 2014 so I'm guessing it will be final quarter. At that point I expect to see complex tactical play within a single match, with grand strategy reserved for a later expansion. Whether that will resemble your Wing Commander idea or something different, we'll just have to wait and see.

  2. Thank you for the insight! It's nice to hear from someone who was actually there talking with the devs. It actually fits with where I think they are going. Though I'd love to see EVE Online integration, they have to create a hit first and tournaments are all the rage these days. Hell, I'd love to fly in that sort of tournament myself, so I'm not even disappointed! *LOL*


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