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How Eve: Valkyrie went from ‘sideshow’ to the star of CCP Games's lineup

Eve: Valkyrie

Above: CCP recognized early on that space combat is a perfect fit for the Oculus Rift.

Image Credit: CCP Games

Eve: Valkyrie had one hell of a year.

The multiplayer-only space combat game (which only works with the virtual reality headsets Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus) grew from a side project with a small team to a full-fledged game with an entire studio working on it. While the massively multiplayer Eve Online and its thriving community is still developer CCP Games’s bread and butter, Eve: Valkyrie is quickly eclipsing its older brother in terms of visibility, at least at video game trade shows.

At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Valkyrie was the star of CCP’s second-floor room, where huge TVs showed Valkyrie’s gameplay, and wall-sized art prominently placed one of its characters next to figures from Eve Online and the free-to-play shooter Dust 514.

It’s amazing to see how much Eve: Valkyrie has changed since the last time I saw it at E3 2013, when it was still a prototype known as Eve-VR. User experience designer Ian Shiels has been working on the game since the beginning, so I spoke with him about Valkyrie’s dramatic growth in the past year and how it seemed to take a different shape at every industry event it appeared in.

Let’s start with April 2013.

Eve: Valkyrie's original team

Above: The original Eve-VR team.

Image Credit: CCP Games

Eve Fanfest 2013

CCP Games was one of the many financial backers of Oculus VR’s crowdfunding campaign for the Rift in 2012, and after receiving the first dev kits, a small group of developers (pictured above) started tinkering with it. They all had other jobs within CCP, so they worked on a demo during their own time (CCP employees can spend 20 percent of their work time on side projects). This eventually became Eve-VR.

CCP decided to unveil Eve-VR during its keynote address at Eve Fanfest, a convention for hardcore Eve fans. Thousands flock to Reykjavík, Iceland every year for detailed game panels, tournaments, concerts, and an infamous pub crawl. In 2013, they were the first batch of gamers to play Eve-VR outside of the studio.

Here’s the first Eve-VR trailer CCP made for its presentation.

E3 2013

Fresh off the enthusiastic response at Fanfest, CCP Games brought Eve-VR — which was just seven weeks old — to E3 in June 2013. After playing the demo for the first time, I interviewed senior programmer Sigurdur Gunnarsson about their exciting prototype, and he told me that they were still trying to figure out what to do with it. He was optimistic about its chances of being a part of Eve’s “second decade,” a term CCP uses to describe its years-long plan for new developments in the Eve universe.

Shiels reiterated that feeling.

“It was very much something that we brought to E3 because we wanted to show it to people,” he said. “There was no master plan. There was no intention to make Valkyrie. The E3 audience can take a bit of credit for their enthusiasm, which then inspired CCP to really look at it and think about, ‘What can we do with this? How far can we take it?’”

Around this time, CCP learned of Sony’s entry into the VR market with Morpheus, months before the video game giant revealed it at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. The positive response from the show floor and hearing about Morpheus convinced the company’s top brass to turn Eve-VR into a full game.

“They really saw it for themselves at E3 last year. From then on, they were keen. … Of course, we had to do our due diligence to make a convincing business plan,” said Shiels. “Things like knowledge of the Morpheus really helped because we could see that VR games could actually be really big. And VR feels like it’s really snowballing in quality and improvements and also just people’s awareness that VR is coming and available.”

Eve-VR

Above: An early screenshot of Eve-VR.

Image Credit: CCP Games

Gamescom 2013

In August 2013, at the annual Gamescom consumer show in Cologne, Germany, CCP Games said it was turning Eve-VR into a real game, ditching the old name for Eve: Valkyrie. It also announced that its Newcastle, U.K. studio — which formed in 2009 and had most recently worked on Dust 514 — would handle development. Five members from the original Eve-VR team in Reykjavík moved to Newcastle as a part of the transition.

Eve: Valkyrie was playable on the show floor, and it supported the new HD version of the Rift. This was the new trailer.