So much of a game is unseen, unspoken, felt through the fingertips. EVE Online has never felt like a game of spaceships to me, and this isn’t a lazy “MS Excel In Space” joke. Oh it’s got gorgeous space-scenery and some cracking spaceship designs (how I loved my many Rifters!), but it doesn’t feel like space, not how I’ve experienced it in other spaceship games. Navigation is through menus – orbit this target at this distance, approach this gate, align to face this station – or double-clicking points in space. Most games make us both the captain giving orders and the pilot at the stick. How interesting, then, that EVE is adding keyboard flight controls with WASD in its next update.
They’ll arrive in Rhea on December 9th. Yes, yes, Rhea will add new wormhole systems, new ships, new NPC enemies, better ship lighting with physically-based rendering, and other stuff, but that’s mostly interesting to folks who play EVE and already know this. So WASD controls, then.
Senior engineer ‘Nullarbor’ explains in a blog post that they’re coming after CCP’s tests with bringing in a load of folks who play PC games but have never touched EVE:
One of the things we almost universally observed was the initial expectation to be able to fly your spaceship in any direction using the WASD keys on the keyboard. The transition to EVEs flight control scheme of right clicking on things was jarring for some.
So here come traditional spaceship controls, or a beta experiment at least, with WASD or arrow keys moving your ship up, left, down, and right. Oh sure, this will be less efficient than using menus. If you’re mining somewhere risky, you will still trust your navigation computer to keep you pointed towards safe space. If you’re on a long journey, you’ll still let EVE calculate headings.
But if you want to experience the joys of being in space, of controlling a spaceship, of taking your pride and joy that you scrimped and saved for on a joyride, look at this:
I only played EVE for a few months, but the sense this seems to give of controlling an actual spaceship rather than an abstract collection of data points is so very exciting. I imagine I’d only use it to waggle a bit when docking, but those small moments can form a real bond with a ship.