Show Us Your Brains… Mmmm, Brains
That’s right pilots, we want to crack open your brainiums and take a good hard look at the grey matter contained therein, so we can see what makes
Science fiction has long been a mainstay of popular fiction, cinema and videogames. In some (dare we say, ignorant) quarters it’s seen as pure entertainment, simply an author’s flight of fancy speculating on cool future technology and bizarre alien civilisations. But at its best, science fiction is an exploration of the human condition, what makes us tick, the constant urge to find answers and the sometimes terrible consequences of our actions in the face of the unknown. EVE: Valkyrie is no exception and while we will stop short of debating the game’s philosophical merits here, we thought it might be enjoyable to examine its rich sci-fi (and not-so-sci-fi) ancestry.
For this first part we’ll take a look at cinematic science fiction and the relationship between Valkyrie and the silver screen.
Any great sci-fi story is underpinned by a good versus evil moral dilemma. Sometimes that’s a subtle, cerebral meditation on mankind’s ability to make the right choices in difficult situations, and it’s not always obvious who we should be rooting for. In other instances, the distinction is clear. Which brings us to Star Wars.
In Star Wars, young Luke Skywalker’s foster aunt and uncle get murdered and he embarks on a journey that sees him transformed from naive farm boy to hero. He then joins a rebel alliance and takes on the might of an evil empire. He has special powers, a sword made of light and a group of friends that includes a big hairy thing and a couple of robots. There’s also a bit of awkwardness with a princess before he discovers she’s his sister… but we digress.
At the heart of the story sit the good guys, the Rebel Alliance, and the bad guys, the Empire. In Valkyrie, it’s Rán’s Valkyrie versus Fatal’s Schism. As a foundation for conflict it’s pretty cool, right? But the connection goes a little deeper than that as it also brings into play a classic dramatic trope… the ‘impossible shot’.
In the case of Valkyrie, we are of course talking about that final run to destroy the core in Carrier Assault mode. Having bravely fought against the odds to break down the defences of a superior force, it is now up to a small band of heroes to finish the job and emerge victorious. In Star Wars, Luke’s final assault on the Empire’s Death Star is a similarly miraculous victory. Even though the climax to George Lucas’s groundbreaking space opera seemed like something gob-smackingly new, it had its roots firmly planted in the real world. Look back to 1955’s Dambusters, a movie based on real events, and you'll see a small band of allied scientists and pilots attempting to achieve the seemingly impossible, delivering explosives to the foot of a strategically important dam from low flying aircraft inside a tight window of opportunity. While sci-fi tries to predict the future, it just as often draws its inspiration from, and tries to make sense of, the past.
One way or another, we all know humanity is doomed. Whether it’s a giant asteroid that does for us, an invasion by malevolent alien species or just the slow, sputtering death of our sun, it’s all going to be over at some point.
The caveat, though, is that we believe we can escape our fate. Why else would we travel to the Moon, study the universe, or set our sights on colonizing Mars if we didn’t believe it was a starting point to extra-galactic exploration and a furtherance of our species? And nowhere is this drive for survival more thoroughly explored than in science fiction.
A wonderful recent televisual example is the reboot of the Battlestar Galactica franchise that launched in 2004 and ran for four glorious seasons. It followed the fate of humans who had colonized a distant star system and lived on a group of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. They were all but wiped out during an attack by Cylons, a cybernetic race of beings that mankind itself created. Silly old mankind. The remnants of humanity, aboard a small fleet of ships, headed off to find the fabled thirteenth colony known as Earth. This constant struggle for survival is echoed in our own EVE Online role-playing epic and filters down to the individual struggles of pilots in EVE: Valkyrie.
More directly important to players, perhaps, is that the Battlestar Galactica series featured some phenomenally visceral space combat sequences that EVE: Valkyrie has made flesh. You want to actually blast a Cylon out of the sky? Well, you can’t. But Valkyrie is about as close as you can get.
An even more direct connection comes in the form of Katee Sackhoff, who played ace pilot Starbuck in the TV show and provides the voice of Rán Kavik in Valkyrie.
Let’s leave aside the political and ethical issues surrounding mankind’s distant future and get back to the really fun stuff… the gadgets. Take a look back over the years of sci-fi cinema and you can see a few missteps when it comes to predicting the future. Star Trek was ahead of its time when addressing how we might deal with space travel and encountering new lifeforms, but Uhura’s crude scope and the Enterprise’s banks of analogue buttons failed to anticipate the touchscreens and haptic feedback that we are now enjoying on our mobile phones. That said, take a look at Ender’s Game, Prometheus and Minority report and you can see that there’s an ongoing process of looking to the future of interaction with machines. Valkyrie’s holographic heads-up displays, head-tracked missiles and floating menus are cool, but precursors to technologies that are not that far off becoming a reality.
OK, so some science fiction is based in a far distant future or past and in truth, there is no way of knowing what has been or what might come. That’s why the best sci-fi roots itself in the present, if not in terms of its premise, then in the reality it presents to the viewer.
Joss Whedon’s knockabout sci-fi TV series and movie, Firefly and Serenity respectively, focused on the activities of a crew of misfits who travel from planet to planet picking up jobs where they can, whether they might be perfectly legit or a bit on the wrong side of the law. They are constantly pursued by the authorities and tend to be excellent at improvising solutions to tricky situations. Not only did the feisty band of outlaws provide some excellent eye candy for male and female viewers alike, but their irrepressible enthusiasm was infectious, as was their refusal to play by the rules. Crucially, they used spacecraft assembled from former military vehicles and salvage, much like the Valkyrie. The same can be said of the Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s Alien. The human/computer interfaces might seem a little crude by today’s standards, but the industrial aesthetic of the ship, like those customised pirate ships in Valkyrie, give an authenticity that appeals to a 21st century audience.
Food for thought. Next time we’ll dig into the sci-fi works of literature and games that have informed the thinking of the team when developing VR’s greatest multi-player space rumble.
If you want to find out more about the EVE universe and Valkyrie's place within it, take a look at our brief history of EVE.