An extremely tough day at work yesterday was brightened by two events. The first was a prize. I won something! I never win anything so it was with some delight that I came a surprising second in The Ancient Gaming Noobs "Show Me The Planets" contest. Head over there to see my entry. I'll add the three I sent to this site at some later point.
I was a bit behind on my blog reading and found out about the competition late on so it was a scramble to compile three screenshots. The one that came second I took when I was but a week old Space Noob, on Day 8 I think. Now I'm sliding towards two years in the game and am, thankfully, still a complete Space Noob. The other entries in the competition are great and TAGN keeps a regular stream of interesting shots from our most gorgeous galaxy over at http://evepics.wordpress.com/
The second event that got me through the day had been planned for. CCP were in good old London town, hanging round the usual EVE meetup pub near Tower Hill and packing a rack of EVE Valkyrie demos. I've been keeping my eye on Oculus Rift progress in general and Valkyrie in particular. As has my pal, Alec, at work who, while not an EVE player as such, is regularly bombarded with tales of EVE. So at exactly 5pm we leapt up, abandoned several data loading processes and dashed out of the office heading for Tower Hill. We aimed to be there early, ahead of the inevitable queue.
When we got there the pub already had a fair sized contingent of fellow space nerds and there were eight or nine people already queued up in front of three chairs set next to glowing blue PC cases. We grabbed a beer and fell into the line which soon doubled in length. A few minutes later and we were ready for our first three minute match.
I was wary because the game is played using a console controller and not only have I not used on in about five years, I also suck at playing video games. I enjoy them, as you can tell, but inevitably I'm terrible at them. I attempted to memorise what I was told about the controls and so came away knowing only where the accelerator was and a vague idea about missiles. I sat down and put the Oculus over my head. Reality as I knew it vanished.
The headset is light. So light in fact that you ignore it. I'd dreaded some kind of weight that would drag my head forward but you could wear this thing as easily as a pair of swimming googles.
I found myself in a red lit hangar, surrounded by basic displays and the frame of a cockpit. I looked around. It was SEAMLESS. There was no lag, no perceptible lack of synchronicity at all. I forgot I was wearing the headset after a few seconds. I could have cheerfully sat there and looked around amazed had I not been so aware of an imminent launch.
It says something about the seamlessness of the experience that within ten seconds I'd looked down to double check where the buttons were on my controller and was amazed to find some other persons legs there. There was no sign of the controller. I'd become immersed in the experience in the space of a few seconds.
Suddenly there was a burst of movement and I was shot from the carrier into space. This was followed the quickest three minutes of my life as I struggled to gain some sense of what was happening and how to effect it. Halfway through I realised that the autocannons were rubbish and, with my flying skills, unlikely to hit anything. I kept my thumb jammed on the accelerator which was probably a bad idea.
I only had a loose sense of how fast I was travelling and where I was. This is likely more due to the nature of the experience than the game itself. There's almost an element of sensory overload to it as you are thrust into combat right away and with time limited there wasn't any option to orientate myself and calmly evaluate anything.
I did realised how the missile system worked after a couple of minutes. It's all about where you are looking. I spent the rest of the game flying while looking all over the place, getting locks on enemy ships and releasing missiles. It became instantly natural to track enemies in space, even following them as they vanished behind you and became obscured by the back of the cockpit. There was no sensation of neck ache afterwards. You are just moving your head and there is little added weight on it. I'd get more neck ache from using a couple of screens on my home PC.
In short, a stunning experience. I must have one. It's the future. I managed to queue up again later in the evening and get another three minutes and somehow do worse than the first time while feeling that I did better. It'll take some mastering, as you'd imagine suddenly being a high octane combat pilot would.
While normally I set my monetary input in games to around £1 an hour, I would cheerfully fork over ten times that, maybe more, for just the Oculus and Valkyrie. That's only one game. There are going to be other games with Oculus Rift support. I will have one. We discussed the danger of being early adopters but in the end, pardon my French, fuck that. I'm going to have to wait too long as it is. Buy It and Fly It is now my mantra.
The rest of the evening was the usual EVE meetup brilliance, running into old friends and new, finally meeting some people in the real that I'd talked to virtually. EVE has a great community, in game and out, and CCP Games looks after us. I had free beer. Free beer. On top of Valkyrie. They also raffled off an entire table sized pile of EVE related stuff. What a day. Added to this I was somewhat overwhelmed by CCP Guard's admiration for my custom designed Space Noob Tshirt (quick Space Noob, to Cafe Press!). I also got to watch my friend Alec steal the show somewhat by being pictured attempting to play Valkyrie with a horses head on. You can see the pictures from the evening here http://evevalkyrie.org/eve-valkyrie-london.html.
I'm off to revisit the gorgeousness that is EVE, break out of my now two month long hibernation and also contemplate dragging all my shit halfway across the universe to help HERO destabilise Curse. As if Russians didn't have enough to worry about at the moment.
EVE Track of the Day
Ride of the Valkyries - Richard Wagner
I have two pictures that sum up an awesome night (second one follows this) pic.twitter.com/VdPTYVU769
— Chris Smith (@Gamedesigndiary) March 8, 2014