It’s going to be quite a feat for any virtual reality projects to top my first experience. EVE-VR, the virtual reality space-combat sim from EVE Online/Dust 514 developer CCP, is something that really needs to be felt to appreciate.
As a first-timer on the Oculus Rift, or really any brand of virtual reality for that matter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, a friendly CCP representative was willing to be gentle with me.
“Is it too tight?” he asked while slipping the chubbier cousin of Geordi La Forge’s visor over my nervous, undoubtedly sweat-soaked dome.
“Um, no. I think it’s fine.” At the time, I had absolutely no idea how it was supposed to feel. My only frame of reference was comprised of second-hand reports from writers who knew someone, who worked for somebody, who had touched an Oculus Rift before. The device pinched the sides of my scalp and nose as it slid down. Maybe it was supposed to hurt at first, I figured.
“Here, just like this.” The developer slid the headset’s straps back further, and my cranium slid deeper into the device than ever. Suddenly, everything seemed clearer, more in focus. The lenses slotted perfectly into my eye sockets, and I could see the cockpit of my EVE Online-inspired starship docked within a larger ship’s launch tube without discomfort. As far as cockpits go, it was a damned attractive one, and I was utterly submerged by it, and the mysterious new world of unexperienced pleasures.
“I want you to look left,” the demo-meister commanded. “Look right. Look up. Now look down at your body.”
I was still disoriented by the cockpit’s glory, with its glimmering diodes and shining displays. It wasn’t until I dutifully followed the command that I realized CCP had modeled a dazzling character model of manhood. My head was atop his shoulders, and in my headphones I could hear his breath heaving in a synchronous mimic of my own. The immersion of virtual reality was complete. We were of one mind, one body, one seamless, head-tracking soul.
That’s when it finally happened. The two of us were rocketed forth within the encompassing womb of our starship through the launch tube — Battlestar Galactica style, as they say — into the bright, exploding ecstasy of deep space and three-on-three-way combat.
When I moved my head within the Oculus Rift’s embrace, my counterpart would do the same, knowing exactly what to move and when. Doing so allowed us to target enemy fighters. After releasing the gentlest of squeezes on the left trigger, this would eject a volley of missiles, brimming with payloads passionate for the heat of warm, enemy bodies. Meanwhile, the right trigger pushed a more rapid, pulsating burst of satisfying laser fire.
Just as my partners and I began to find a more experienced rhythm of explosively enjoyable missiles and rhythmic pumping of laser fire, the demo came to a sudden, unexpected climax, and, ultimately, resolution. A score screen was displayed, telling every player where they ranked among the group’s partners. My score, in case you were wondering, was 840. When he who ran the demo removed me from virtual reality’s embrace, reminding me of my own fickleness, he assured me that this was among the higher tier. As I write this, however, I cannot convince myself he was telling this neophyte anything but a beautiful lie.
“You guys did much better than the other team,” he assured me.
“Other team?” I wondered aloud. It was only then that I realized that mass of entangled starships had actually featured six players competing against each other for the top of the heap in teams of three. My amazement with the proceedings was sealed.
EVE-VR, as it stands, is short on content and thin on gameplay options. However, it uses what size it has so remarkably that it’s sure to leave marks on anyone who plays it. I can’t wait to have more of it.