Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Fine and Lovely Morning...

I finished Empyrean Age this morning over coffee. I enjoyed it a lot and now that I'm done with it, I'll be reading those news stories I haven't read yet and probably going to check out some of the results. I must admit that I find this really interesting, perhaps even a completely new way of telling a story. It's fascinating to me that the results of what I just read in a novel can be actually traveled to and seen for oneself in the game.

A novel, a self-contained sci-fi story, that actually happens in "reality" in an MMO, with events you can actually witness for yourself as they happen and which carry lasting changes for that world. This, my fellow capsuleers, is truly the cutting edge of fiction storytelling and of sci-fi in particular (where readers/players/viewers are generally much more receptive overall to such innovations than the average media consumer).

This might not seem like such a big deal to some, but consider this: Until now, virtually all fictional media has been, generally speaking, originally presented in one format or another, with almost all of the crossover coming between print and film or television. In sci-fi, and particularly in media based on well-established franchises such as Star Trek, there is always the issue of which stories are considered "canon", part of the established "official" history of the franchise. These are generally arguments for the fanboy faithful, but the rule until now seems to have always been that if the story was told on television or in film then it's considered canon, but if the story appears solely in print or in a videogame, it's generally not.

What makes EvE: Empyrean Age so innovative and groundbreaking is that it actually eliminates the fourth wall and brings EvE players actually into the story itself. The events of the book are indeed canon and the results of those events are physically manifest within the game. In this way, even players who were not playing at the time these events occurred within the game (like me) are drawn into the scenario as well as they must deal with the repercussions of the events in the book just as every player must.

More than just breaking down the fourth wall, though, CCP goes even further here and gives the events and results of the novel a 3-D existence within the game that players can visit and interact with. I know of no other sci-fi franchise that's ever done this (and no, I'm not counting Lord of the Rings, which has been done and redone to death, to the point of torturous boredom).

From a player/media consumer perspective, this is the first sci-fi novel I've ever read that "matters" in a significant way to the universe it presents beyond its own pages. It changes the way I perceive the book, and it might even influence how I play the game in the future in some way.

I think a big part of why this could be done with EvE but not with a media monolith like Star Trek is that there's just too much Star Trek media already out there in every format to keep it all coordinated to start adding additional canon in more than just dribs and drabs.

EvE, first and foremost, is the game. Other media comes from and is based on the game, not the other way around as with LotRO. In addition, there's a lot less canon established in EvE than in a 44-year-old franchise like Star Trek, and so there's a lot more they can do in terms of shaking things up and taking risks with the overall story arc.

What I'm now most interested in seeing is not only the physical results of Empyrean Age, but also how/if the next novel (now apparently due out in March) will play out within the game. One thing is for certain, I won't miss this one.

Oh and hey, in another hour or so I'll be heading to Best Buy to pick up my PC. As you might imagine, I'm very much looking forward to that. Hmmm, I've been writing this post for so long that it's not even morning any more.

Soon, life will return to normal. Eight days without my PC (and without EvE) is just too freaking long.

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