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CCP dev: "Virtual reality doesn't need a killer app"

Eve Valkyrie lead game designer Andrew Whillans also shares how to account for low install bases with VR multiplayer games

The conversation around virtual reality often turns to the ongoing wait for a must-have title that proves the power of the technology. But a member of CCP believes the technology itself is that killer app.

Speaking to attendees at Develop:VR in London yesterday, Eve Valkyrie's lead game designer Andrew Willans discussed previous landmark moments in gaming and likened them to the rise of virtual reality.

"One of the things I hear most is, 'When are you going to do Call of Duty in VR?'," he said. "We're over a year into our journey with VR and that killer app is still waiting to appear. I think maybe we don't actually need one.

"When Mario jumped into 3D [in Super Mario 64], it was a landmark moment. It was the very definition of a killer app. We had new hardware that opened up new possibilities with an iconic hero that showcased what was possible.

"I would argue that Xbox Live was the next landmark moment. It was the dawn of mass market, consumer-friendly online gaming. Did it have a killer app? I don't think so. I mean it had some great games like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, but it was the technology itself that showcased what was possible to players. It was a showcase of the future.

"I hope that's where we are with VR right now, because I still see those 'wow' faces every time I do an event. It's an incredibly powerful medium."

Willans' comments are somewhat ironic given that not only was Eve Valkyrie often positioned as a contender for VR's killer app, but his talk also follows the news that CCP is pulling out of virtual reality development - something Willans was unable to comment on during the event.

Elsewhere in his talk, he offered developers advice on how they can build an active community - or at least give players the appearance that they have one - while install bases for high-end VR headsets are so low.

"Lower player numbers... it's like the elephant in the room," he said. "They are a reality of VR, and for a multiplayer game, there are a few things you can do to help grow and maintain your playerbase.

"Invest heavily [in AI] to ensure gameplay pillars are as close to multiplayer as possible. We created over 100 AI personality types, and all of them had real skill ratings behind the scenes. We push them out into the wilds of PvP and they float between different servers and different matchmaking sessions. They actually increase their skill or lose their skill by fighting real players, adapting and fitting in like other players would."

He added that "any amount of single-player content will really help your game" and that asynchronous challenges, such as skill-based missions and leaderboards are a way "to get players to feel competitive even when you're not fighting against people mano a mano."

He also revealed that CCP actually merged its 'proving ground' servers between US and Europe, increasing the amount of players battling AI together to ensure such matches were lot more fun.

"Obviously, this can't be done for PvP because of latency issues," he noted.

He also urged developers to track data and player behaviour closely, gathering their team regularly to discuss it so they can understand where they're losing players and draw conclusions as to why.

"Features need to complement the community you have, not the one you want," he said. "We got some but not all of this right, and if I were starting a fresh project today, I would tackle [things differently].

"Make sure you prioritise any features that can help attract and onboard new players. Iterate, prove and streamline the path to your core gameplay - get people in as soon as possible, and get them tooled up so they fool competent."

He concluded that activities like daily challenges can also help retain players, while social media tools "help players share their stories and build the community for you".

"This is one we really should have done sooner, but you have to juggle a lot of things when you're a dev and a 40-person team in the North East of England," he said."

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Latest comments (1)

Shane Sweeney Academic 7 days ago
Halo was the killer app for not only Xbox Live but Xbox as a whole?

What a weird statement as I'm not sure their has ever been a single greater industry example of a "killer app".
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