A team of talented games developers in Newcastle are spearheading the development of Eve Valkyrie, one of the most eagerly anticipated sci-fi virtual reality games.
Valkryie is a multiplayer dogfighting shooter game set in the "Eve universe" that uses a virtual reality headset to give the player the sense of being in a real dogfight. It is being built for Facebook's Occulus Rift headset and Sony's Morpheus headset, which is used in conjunction with the Playstation 4. The game has been born out of Eve Online – a massively multiplayer online (MMO) sci-fi game that sees people fly around a fantasy universe in spaceships. It is played by approximately half a million people globally.
Interestingly, the game development for Valkyrie is being done almost exclusively in Newcastle even though CCP Games, the company behind Eve, is based in Iceland.
Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP, told Techworld at the company’s headquarters in Reykjavik that Newcastle has "quite a few seasoned console developers that it has built up over the years."
The North East has 26,856 people working in digital roles according to Tech City UK ©Flickr/Wojtek Gurak
Pétursson, who also claims to be a driving force behind Iceland's first major data centre, has tasked 25 people in Newcastle with the development of Valkyrie, which is designed to be a fast-paced game that can sit alongside Eve Online.
Approximately half of the Newcastle team were hired by CCP Games straight after US games publisher Midway Games went bankrupt, leaving a host of Newcastle game developers without a job. The other half have joined the team as CCP Games has grown.
The developers, picked up in 2010 through what Pétursson describes as a “very fortunate coincidence”, initially worked on a Playstation 3 game called Dust 514.
"We had the marriage of talent and opportunity when we really needed a kick ass console development team to build Dust 415," said Pétursson. “We had an extremely ambitious vision for that game, linking together Eve and Dust and innovating on many fronts which presented many technical challenges.”
Six of the developers that worked on Dust 514 built a prototype for Eve Valkyrie and showcased it in 2013 to Eve Online fans at the annually held Eve Fanfest, an event that saw 2,000 gamers fly to Iceland this March, several of whom dressed up as their favourite Eve character.
“Eve is a game full of large agendas, world domination and it takes years to implement,” said Pétursson. “Valkyrie is a 15 minute session that is extremely fast-paced, quick to get in, quick to get out, play again and again if you want to."
Valkyrie became a “rocketship” of enthusiasm at Fanfest, according to Pétursson. “Everyone loved it."
"Then we had another good fortunate chain of events," he said. "The Newcastle guys were ramping up their work on Dust while we had six guys here who were super passionate about the demo they had made but without the capacity here in Iceland to wrap it up quickly. We talked to the six guys – they were really interested in making their game a real product so we moved them and the game to Newcastle.”
The development of the game continues in the Northeast of England. CCP Games claims that Valkyrie will be ready to play when the virtual reality headset manufacturers release their hardware to the public.