I found it interesting that, in the wake of Fanfest, Wired Magazine published this article. Not because I imagine some collusion with CCP, but because it reflects the incredible transformation of virtual and augmented reality from an academic footnote to a mainstream reality. The article is principally concerned with the mysterious startup Magic Leap, but it provides a reasonable survey of the entire landscape, including questions of surveillance, data mining and privacy that are raised by the technology. I encourage everyone to read it.
Back? Good. Let us talk about the Future Vision video, and avatar gameplay. CCP Seagull is apparently on record as saying that she wants to encourage people to want to be their characters more than to want to get with them, though of course now that I need the link I cannot find it. It certainly sounds like her. This emphasis tends automatically to a first-person view through the eyes of the character. But what happens when you introduce VR? This happens:
First-person point of view is the default stance for many of the videogame franchises dominating best-seller lists. Among them is Minecraft, which is played by more than 100 million people [….]. Inside the game you see your hand or a pick. But in the virtual-reality version of Minecraft that Microsoft is building, […] Minecraft developers discovered that performing the same role in VR feels far more intimate than it does in first-person on a flatscreen. We might call this new immersive VR view the “you-person” view, because it’s the position of feeling rather than the position of observing.
Researchers found that the you-person view that VR creates is so intense that it’s emotionally taxing. People need a break after an hour. […]
The degree of presence can be so strong in VR that you have to tone down the evocation of base emotions and the depiction of brute force.
If the effect is so pronounced in Minecraft, imagine how it could be in the far more sophisticated rendering of EVE Online. It could be astonishing. The technology does not allow this yet, but when it does, it will be breathtaking. EVE could be a truly social game. But what about spaceships?
Once this small display perfects realism, it becomes the one display to rule them all. If a near-eye screen offers sufficient resolution, brightness, breadth, and color richness, it can display any number of virtual screens, of any size, inside it. While I was wearing the photonic spectacles of Magic Leap, I watched an HD movie on a virtual movie screen. It looked as bright and crisp as my 55-inch TV at home. With Microsoft’s HoloLens on, I watched a live football game on a virtual screen hovering next to a web browser window, alongside a few other virtual screens. I could fill my office with as many screens as I wanted, as big (or small) as I desired. I could click for a screen overlaid anywhere in the real world.
This is technology that Microsoft has also been hard at work on. Does that look like a pod interface to you? Virtual screens that can be brought up and dismissed at will, at any size, at any distance? Or perhaps the screens automatically enlarge when you move your head to stare at them for a second? There are many possible variations, all of which would rely on the vastly more intuitive and communicative interface of our heads and hands, instead of the bottlenecks of a keyboard and mouse, or moreso of a controller. As to the lore, CCP need only explain that “recent advances in capsule technology pioneered by the Upwell Consortium/researched by the Sisters of EVE from captured Drifter corpses/provided by the Society of Conscious Thought…” After all, just because the empires did not fully understand the technology of the capsule when it was given to them does not mean that they never will, nor does it mean that cloning technology would never improve.
Even if you do not see the direct relevance to EVE spaceship piloting, there is the fact of the real-world equivalent: if you can summon a full-resolution 55 inch television wherever you want one, what use would you have for an actual television? Why keep a monitor for your computer when you can will six of them into existence at any time? One way or another, EVE Online will have to make the transition to VR eventually. The only question is how. In the near term, certainly, you could summon a screen running the current EVE client, but if you are already looking at it through the eyes of your character that is an unsatisfying experience. It could be so much more.
And it should be so much more. The grand vision of CCP is perhaps not so far from being realized after all. No wonder, then, that they are so excited about virtual reality.