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For CCP, virtual reality is EVE's next frontier

CCP's goal is "to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life," and by working closely with Oculus and Sony to shape the future of VR, says exec David Reid, it can get there.

Christian Nutt

April 10, 2014

5 Min Read

CCP has a reputation, with EVE Online, for building a universe that sucks players in. In fact, the company's stated goal has long been "to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life." Now CCP is supporting both Sony and Oculus directly, incorporating the companies' VR platforms in a bid to bring its virtual worlds closer to real-life. EVE Valkyrie seemed a surprise, when it was first unveiled. What's an MMO company doing creating a VR space shooter? But if you think about it for just a moment, it makes sense. Its developers, and its players, are the kind who take the plunge deep into uncharted waters. When you take into account the free-to-play shooter Dust 514, it's a good reminder that the EVE universe has already expanded once -- and yet stayed whole, as Dust hooks into the same Tranquility server that powers the PC MMO. Valkyrie, then, must be a part of this universe, too? "This is absolutely the plan," says David Reid, the company's chief marketing officer. "All of the games that we make for the EVE universe ultimately will connect into the Tranquility universe, and fit in the same sandbox." But it's early days for saying how this will work with Valkyrie, as the team is tackling the challenges of making a VR game first: "It would be easy to make a game like Valkyrie and not get the VR part of it quite right, so we're focusing on that first and the connection second," Reid says.

The challenge of making VR a success

"Now that virtual reality is actually coming into its own and getting to a place where it's going to be consumer-friendly, we see the ability for the EVE universe to become even that much bigger. As people get more serious about VR, we want to be there to support them," Reid says. That doesn't just mean consumers. CCP is working closely with both Oculus -- which is co-publishing Valkyrie on PC as a Rift exclusive for that platform, and Sony -- as the console version of the game will come to the PlayStation 4 and its Project Morpheus headset.

"We certainly want to be there to support all of the folks that are working on this."

"The VR challenge is a huge one, and now, to see well-backed, prominent companies in the space, it only bodes very well for this to continue to get some heat," says Reid. "And we certainly want to be there to support all of the folks that are working on this." Developers need to embrace the technologies they care about, he suggests. "Not all great technical innovations become successful products and businesses. We have to work closely with our partners to make sure that the platforms and hardware are moving in a way that great gaming experiences will flourish."

A long-term view

Will VR be a success? "We fundamentally believe this is going to happen," says Reid. But the developer isn't assuming it'll happen overnight. CCP's perspective is informed, he says, by the way its MMO grew -- unlike many, which launch big and then gradually fade away, EVE first captured a small audience, which has steadily grown as the game has evolved. "Maybe at some level our time horizons of how we think about this are different than other companies," says Reid. "We look at VR in a very similar way. It doesn't have to be this giant, breakout, all-consuming thing in 2015 for us to feel like we are successful and for our business to be a success." For its part, Oculus' new owner, Facebook, sees VR as a long-term initiative. "We feel really good about the prospects here," says Reid. Working with Sony and Oculus is not a one-way street -- it's about sending info back and forth between the developer and its partners, says Reid. CCP has a particularly close relationship with Sony, as Dust 514 was a collaboration in exploring how online services and free-to-play could work on the PlayStation 3. When it comes to Morpheus and Valkyrie, says Reid, the two parties are in "close contact on the tiniest of details."

"These discussions are happening all the time on the engineer level in a way that they typically don't, on the development side of things."

"These discussions are happening all the time on the engineer level in a way that they typically don't, on the development side of things," says Reid. This applies to both Oculus and Sony: "What exactly is possible? Is this good enough?"

Keeping up with the pace of change

The reason for this, Reid says, is that "you have to have great content to have a great platform but neither of those grow in silos alone." Reid sees that the massive evolution the game industry has gone through in the last years means that companies must work together to weather the changes. "There's a pace [of change] that is different than we've seen in previous years," says Reid. "For the last 30 to 35 years... I don't want to say it was easy to build great games, but the business was pretty simple. The collision of multiple technologies and business ideas has really accelerated [industry change]," he says. That creates "a bit of a different relationship" between the developers and the platform holders, he says. "I don't think it's just CCP," he notes. There are still big decisions to be made on Valkyrie -- notably, its business model is still up in the air, likely contingent on a greater understanding of how it fits into the EVE universe. "We have some pretty clear thoughts on where this is going, and it's not something we can get into deep detail yet," says Reid. "One of the big lessons of what we're seeing in the industry now is that you have to think really carefully about your business model in parallel with thinking about your design. We're working through in parallel," he says.

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