In yesterday’s article we looked at the world of science fiction movies and how EVE: Valkyrie is building on that great body of work. Today we turn our attention briefly to games, and more fundamentally, sci-fi literature to celebrate the art that has inspired Valkyrie’s enthusiastic team of VR explorers.
A Galaxy of Our Own
The truth is, when it comes examining EVE: Valkyrie’s place in the history of gaming, it sort of begins and ends with our very own EVE Online. It’s true the maps in Valkyrie don’t appear physically in its parent game, but everything about your favorite multi-player online VR dogfighter is informed by the EVE universe and its rich history of science fiction lore.
It’s coming up to 14 years since EVE Online first gave players the chance to explore a whole new galaxy, and with a game on this epic a scale, it’s no surprise that the Valkyrie has benefited from its vast wealth of not only assets, but its history and the many conflicts and stories that have played out over the years.
For the uninitiated, EVE Online is a vast enterprise in which players can create and decide their own destiny in a galaxy full of pirate, merchant, military and political factions. The basic premise is that thousands of years before the current EVE universe's setting, a wormhole opened up in space linking our own Milky Way to a whole new galaxy, later to become known as New Eden.
The various warring human factions came together to build a warp gate around the wormhole and a new era of intergalactic trade and exploration developed. When the gate catastrophically collapsed, many of the factions were trapped in New Eden, and over the centuries they formed into a variety of factions who survived and indeed thrived. It’s these factions among which the players of EVE Online write their stories. While EVE Online is a dense, long-term strategy role-playing experience featuring trading and industry elements and battles between huge capital ships, Valkyrie enables players to finally climb inside the cockpit of a single fighter and experience New Eden’s conflicts through the eyes of the pilot.
Anyone who tries to create a science-fiction vision of their own has to doff their cap to the many space combat and sci-fi games that have inspired and entertained us over the decades. One particular noteworthy example would have to be Halo and the incredible mix of weaponry providing a balance of real ammunition and lasers. The visceral combat that emerges from such a varied weapons loadout is certainly something that Valkyrie also strives to deliver on.
So, what of the Valkyrie’s literary ancestry? Well, before we tap that particularly rich vein regarding Valkyrie, it seems only appropriate to stay with EVE Online for just a moment more and give a shout out to Frank Herbert’s massively popular space opera Dune, which takes pride of place on any self-respecting sci-fi fanatic’s bookshelves. The grand sweep of its tale of interstellar trading and conflict has been igniting the imaginations of creative people in all forms of media since the 1960s and there can be few creators of sci-fi themed games that haven’t been inspired by it.
Technology Meets Biology
One of the most intriguing aspects of EVE: Valkyrie is how technology and humanity are combined in the form of cloned pilots. In the case of Valkyrie’s pilots this is something of a mixed blessing. It’s true that the clones are able to effectively return from the dead with their cerebral functions transplanted into a whole new body. This could point to a future in which we are for all intents and purposes immortal, but let’s not forget that the route to becoming a Valkyrie pilot was via the massively unethical activities of Fatal in targeting pilots and transplanting their consciousnesses after their deaths.
These themes are explored extensively in sci-fi literature. For example, Japanese manga comic series Ghost in the Shell plays with the idea that members of the public can adapt their physical brains with technological implants, enabling them to interface with computer networks. It can be done to varying degrees and combined with artificial prostheses, a person might become a cyborg. But in integrating technology into the body, a risk of physical harm from hackers becomes a reality.
What’s particularly exciting is that ideas of escaping the limitations of our own bodies by inhabiting a shared virtual space – like the ‘metaverse’ depicted in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash – are now possible through games like EVE: Valkyrie.
Old and New Testaments
Visit any developer working in VR and with a passion for cutting edge technology and you will doubtless find the two testaments of their sci-fi bible.
The first is, of course, William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. It follows the (mis)fortunes of former computer hacker Henry Case, who has had his central nervous system chemically damaged to prevent him entering Cyberspace, which is a virtual reality dataspace called the Matrix. Doubtless from that one sentence synopsis alone, you can appreciate the relevance of the work. For coining the word Cyberspace and inspiring the Wachowskis to make sci-fi movie classic The Matrix, Gibson gets maximum props, and his seminal novel continues to inspire each new generation of avid readers.
The second must-read is Ready Player One, a novel by Ernest Cline, published in 2011. It takes place in a dystopian future where the world has basically gone to crap, suffering an energy crisis and economic meltdown, so the members of society escape their woes by entering virtual reality simulator OASIS. It’s a go-to for anyone working or playing in VR, and while the story takes place in 2044, its subject matter sits uncomfortably close to home.
In closing it’s worth reflecting on the fact that as is the nature of such things, art forms feed upon themselves and evolve over time. Just as a multitude of great science fiction works have inspired EVE Online’s developers, so EVE: Valkyrie inspires other. If you want to find out about the books and comics based on EVE: Valkyrie, simply head over to our recently published article.