Science fiction literature has brought forth many mind-bending and society-changing stories. From the classic novels of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley to the grand visions of Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. Entire universes were conjured in our minds by Asimov's Foundation series and Frank Herbert's Dune saga.
Cinema was quick to embrace the opportunity to portray the future of man with Fritz Lang's Metropolis and eventually went on to give us the ever growing extended universes of Lucas' Star Wars and Roddenberry's Star Trek along with many others, both original works and adaptations of previously written stories.
Rich futuristic civilisations have sprung forth from other sources too; Games Workshop's dystopian Warhammer 40,000 universe and FASA Corporation's feudal BattleTech worlds to name just two. Comics have given us everything from Dan Dare to Judge Dredd and in recent years digital entertainment has stepped into the arena with enduring original storytelling like Half Life and Mass Effect.
But the future of storytelling is changing and EVE Online stands on the frontier.
When Science-Fiction and Science-Fact Collide
Every story mentioned above, no matter how engaging and wonderful, has one thing in common: They were all written to be enjoyed by the individual reader, viewer or player (or in the case of tabletop games, a small group). EVE Online is different.
EVE Online's universe of New Eden is an epic story told on an unprecedented scale, enacted and recorded by and for its thousands of participants. The freeform universe engulfs the player as soon as a character is created, fusing him into the story by simply being present in a single-sharded science-fiction universe.
Everyone Plays a Role
Even those participants who choose to shun the lore are still woven into the tapestry as they select their race and bloodline, starship piloting skills and then head off into the player-populated organisation of their choice. Every player becomes the citizen of a galaxy seething with politics and treachery, violence and opportunity.
The lore of EVE Online is not purely a resource for hardcore roleplayers, it's there to be passively enjoyed by everyone with even a passing interest in epic science fiction concepts. The themes colour the environment in which the metagamers plot, it provides character to the engines of mass destruction flown in huge invasion fleets and it flavours the tactical equipment options made by every pilot.
In fact, now our entertainment is so immersive, with participants so involved in adrenaline-pumping ship-to-ship combat, our bodies can't differentiate between a fictional spaceship environment and a primordial threat that triggers a fight-or-flight response. Likewise with pleasure - we get our dopamine hits from the digital stimuli of our pixellated victories. Those players who furiously claim that they are not "roleplayers" would be right in a sense; whether they are an e-sports combat pilot, a stoic fleet commander or the "King of Space", they aren't playing a role, they're living it.
No Wizard's Hat Required
Yet the depth of fiction available for those who also choose a lore-driven path of immersion is immense. With a backstory that has grown organically over the last decade, the epic interplay of warring civilisations in a universe of amoral, technologically-enhanced humans can be overwhelming for the newcomer.
But fear not, if your interest has been piqued and you'd like to know how to dip your toe in the pond of EVE lore - or perhaps even go for a paddle - help is at hand. I am proud to present renowned EVE content-explorer and lorehound Mark726's EVE Lore Survival Guide.
I approached Mark with the idea of an "EVE Lore for Dummies"-type concept, knowing his knowledge and writing style would make him the perfect author for such a project. What I expected was two or three articles providing a quick insight. What I got was that and much more; 20,000 words of light, well-researched explanation that could be presented in short, digestible chunks. I have given it pride of place along the top bar of this very blog, but I think it deserves to evolve into something more. I suspect Mark was hoping I'd stop asking him stupid questions once he'd written it, but now I have a host of new stupid questions and after reading it, I'm sure you will too.
The Greatest Story Not Yet Told
As EVE Online continues to grow and its capsuleers live the story as it unfolds, we can only hope that the content developers at CCP have the vision to continue to push the narrative envelope, creating content that will ensnare and inspire.
Orson Welles had only the written word to inspire millions and by simply adding audio to H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds he managed to troll a nation. Just think what is possible with a state-of-the-art server cluster, a cast and crew of hundreds of thousands and a universe as deep and stunning as New Eden.
Go tell Asimov, the future is happening. We're living it.
NEXT: Mark726's EVE Lore Guide: An Introduction
Labels: content, discussion, storyline