Eve: Valkyrie started as an internal passion project to investigate the possibilities of virtual reality, but press and player enthusiasm couldn't be denied after showing an early version of the game at CCP's Fanfest.
Ramping up an after-hours pet project into a full-on VR game release required a number of hard decisions. It was clear to the team that they'd outgrown their initial tools and platform.
After examining their options, CCP decided Unreal Engine 4 was the right call. Changing engines required tossing out most of the work they'd done so far, but the switch brought a number of advantages.
"It gives us familiarity. It gives us a great engine. I’ve worked in Unreal before. It gives us ready made accessibility into the market," Chris Smith, the lead game designer, told Polygon in an interview. "I’m not a business person, so for me it’s just a great engine that renders a great game. It allows me to express what I need to express on a tool I’m familiar with."
EVE: Valkyrie required revisiting all of Eve Online's art and overhauling it for virtual reality. The ships players know and love have to look right even while zooming around in a dogfight.
UE4's Blueprint system lets content designers work in the engine without bugging programmers. Blueprints also let them iterate rapidly, making sure that Minmatar Titan looks great on fly-by without requiring long build cycles for minor tweaks.
CCP knows they've got the hopes and dreams of every would-be space fighter pilot on their shoulders. With the power of Unreal Engine 4, they can bring that dream to life.