EVE Evolved: Merging Valkyrie with EVE Online

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Ever since its release in 2003, EVE Online has been bombarded with requests for direct flight controls and dogfighter-style gameplay. Most ships in EVE are huge lumbering hulks compared to real-world aircraft, more akin to large sea-faring ships than nimble jetfighters. Even tiny agile Interceptors can't be controlled directly, instead having the player issue commands to fly in a particular direction or move toward or orbit an object. As a result, combat in EVE has become much more heavily about the strategy of directing fleets of dozens or hundreds of ships than any kind of piloting skill or twitch control.

This year's EVE Fanfest gave players a glimpse into the world of immersive twitch combat with the announcement of a new dogfighting game set in the EVE Online universe. Originally starting out as an virtual reality experiment by a few developers in their spare time, EVE Valkyrie has now become a full game in its own right and an example of what's possible with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. It was always assumed that Valkyrie was an EVE game in name and theme only, but recently developers have revealed that they'd like it to tie into the actual EVE Online universe itself.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at recently revealed information on EVE Valkyrie and speculate on how it could be integrated into the EVE universe.

Game side imageRelease date and possible console exclusivity

First shown off at EVE Fanfest 2013, EVE Valkyrie was a tiny side-project that managed to gather massive interest from fans of the Oculus Rift. It went on to win several awards at E3 and attract large crowds at other trade shows. But despite this initial wave of interest, CCP has been a little reluctant to announce any solid plans for the title. The company recently refused to confirm that the game will launch on PC or that it'll wait for Oculus Rift's release, revealing only a vague launch window of 2014 on a yet-to-be-determined platform.

It's possible that CCP is just angling for a proposal from either Sony or Microsoft regarding launching first on either the XBox One or PS4. We know that the game currently runs on the PC, but the reluctance to confirm a PC release means console exclusivity may still be on the table. With upcoming sci-fi sandbox titles Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen stealing the spotlight recently and both games offering dogfighter-style combat on PC, CCP will have to make up its mind which platforms it'll release on soon.

Game side imageLinking Valkyrie with the EVE universe

It was always assumed that Valkyrie would be a standalone competitive multiplayer game that just happens to borrow some art assets from EVE Online, but that might not be the case. In a recent talk at the EVE Vegas convention, Chief Marketing Officer David Reid hinted that CCP is looking at ways to actually merge the game with the EVE Online universe and confirmed it in an interview on RPS. He compared EVE Online players in spaceships to an empire's navy and DUST 514 players to its ground troops, leaving EVE Valkyrie to potentially fill the role of the air force.

The idea of Valkyrie interacting with EVE is obviously intriguing, but we have to take care not to get carried away. It's pretty unlikely that you'll be dogfighting among actual EVE Online spaceships in realtime, as the load on the server caused by direct flight controls would be prohibitive. A simple alternative would be to have EVE Online, DUST 514 and EVE Valkyrie share the same character pool, allowing players of one game to jump into the others with the same personae.


Game side imageHow could the two games be integrated?

If Valkyrie is linked to EVE Online, it's likely to be a severely limited interaction much like the current link to DUST 514. Both games could easily share characters, player-run organisations, and economies, but the core gameplay would have to be separated, and both games should be able to function independently. That means Valkyrie battles will have to happen in places that normal EVE ships can't go, such as in the atmospheres of planets or inside massive structures. We could see fighters deployed as strike forces infiltrating space stations or flung toward strategic targets by magnetic acceleration gates.

Personally, I think the most effective way to release Valkyrie initially would be as a competitive online game with matchmaking, stat-tracking, and an e-sports component. This would make it more like a MOBA that shares its characterbase with EVE, and integration could be further enhanced over time. Playing the game could be incentivised by adding salvage components or loyalty point rewards for winning battles, along with a new loyalty point store to spend them in. Integration could be further improved by allowing a degree of customisation of your Valkyrie fighters, and then having the customisation items built in EVE Online itself.

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Most of the interest in Valkyrie so far is a result of its innovative use of the Oculus Rift, but it'll be years before the average gamer has a VR headset to play with. If Valkyrie is to succeed on its own merit as a dogfighter, it will need more than just fancy graphics and an EVE logo slapped on top. Integration with EVE would be a huge bonus if done right, but I think doing that justice would require a PC release.

If EVE players could launch matches from a training simulator station service, Valkyrie could then become a fun diversion while they're waiting for something interesting to happen in EVE. Rather than log off when there's nothing going on, players would be more inclined to stick around and play a few rounds of casual pew pew. While Valkyrie could become a great game in its own right and has a lot of potential for a console release, I think its real potential lies in making it an everyday part of playing EVE Online.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.