What do you get if you combine Eve Online with the Oculus Rift? A loud enough whoop to knock the roof off this year's FanFest in Reykjavik, followed by the kind of queues God himself has never seen to have a go. I'm actually writing this in advance of the announcement, but I'm quietly confident. One of the most beautiful space games ever. Virtual reality. 1500 people who travelled to Iceland to celebrate Eve Online. There will be whooping.
Luckily, I had a chance to play it earlier on, and can confirm that it's worth it. Should the opportunity to play it present itself, snap it up. If you're at FanFest and thinking you'll skip the queue for some reason, go stand in it right now. Really. Impossibly long or not, you will bitterly regret if it you don't, possibly to the extent of enlisting the girl at the tattoo booth downstairs to ink on a permanent mark of shame. But why make two mistakes at one event?
To be clear though, this isn't actually Eve Online VR, but a Unity powered, 3x3 dogfighting game using some of its assets and put together by CCP employees as a side-project. It's called EVR. It's not a finished game. The official CCP line is that no decisions have been made about its future - whether it gets the resources to become an actual Oculus Rift game/Eve spin-off, is just brought out this time next year as a FanFest tradition, or is never played again. A game only lasts three minutes, most of it spent staring and going "Oooh..." and trying not to make any unfortunate faces for unseen people to cruelly shoot with their camera-phones. This was my first time with an Oculus Rift, and while the experience was naturally a bit blurry and unkind to my glasses-wearing, astigmatic eyes, it was still hugely impressive.
You start in a hangar, with a full cockpit to glance round at and in my case a gratifyingly slim figure to glance down at. Then you're shot into space; that familiar Eve space that mocks the idea of space being a big expanse of black nothing in favour of being so beautiful and immersive that I spent most of my time forgetting to have the actual dogfight. That's my excuse for my pitiful score at least, and I'm sticking with it.
While I've not used an Oculus Rift though, this wasn't my first go with a VR helmet - I remember the old Virtuality ones from the 90s, when crashing immediately in VTOL was worth a quid of any parent's money. This was far prettier, due to things like 'textures' and 'a decent frame rate' and 'an actual game'. Flying past giant spaceships was obviously impressive, as were the lasers and missiles streaking through the sky. The most impressive part though was the simple feeling of, well, space. The illusion of an actual endless void in which you could float forever/until a developer decided you were taking the piss was something special. If Eve Online does ever get Oculus Rift support, there'd be worse uses for it than just floating intangible and undisturbed through scenery and epic battles.
Of course, that would cause a few metagame issues, especially for spying. That's nothing though compared to at least one potential exploit in the game. Something the team realised while developing it was that as much as being able to glance around is a tactical asset, in practice most people just stared forwards the entire time. To shake things up, they tweaked the targeting system to be based on head movement. Technically, you hold down a button and get a second missile reticule aimed by tilting and holding a gaze on enemy ships. What it actually feels like is unleashing the power of hell with the power of your mind! It is a good feeling.
Except. You put Eve Online players in there, and how long is it going to be before someone spots the potential here. An enemy sees you. You feel them twisting their view to lock on. You slam on the brakes just fast enough. They spin in surprise, reeling round with a hideous sounding "snap!" And there you go. One broken neck, and one player down. Impossible? Only physically. And with one more day of FanFest to go, we shall see. We shall see.