A well-crafted science fiction story can deal with powerful themes. Fans of television shows like Battlestar Galactica know very well that a story of humanity's struggle for survival has a particularly strong emotional pull. The creators of EVE Online recognized this long ago, creating an extensive body of lore about the races of New Eden and their clashes with one another on a galactic scale. Their long history of conflicts creates endless ripples of discord felt by later generations, resulting in the subjugation of entire races countered by the will to be free of such tyranny.
The struggle to survive in the face of a great threat is central to the EVE Online machinima "Day of Darkness II", which is nothing short of exceptional. It's a short film created in-game by EVE player Dire Lauthris and a retelling of a key bit of EVE's lore. In fact, Lauthris drew upon one of the actual Chronicles called "The Breakout". Day of Darkness II focuses on the strife between the Caldari and Gallente races of New Eden, turning back the clock to a historic battle 200 years ago between the Caldari State and the Gallente Federation.
Following an attack on a Gallente city, a militant faction in their government seizes power in the Gallente Federation and turns their fleets on the Caldari homeworld, bombing their cities from orbit while preparing for a full scale invasion. The population of Caldari Prime attempts a mass exodus, but it's clear there won't be enough time for the entire population to evacuate before the Gallente invasion. Day of Darkness II follows the actions of a Caldari hero and martyr: admiral Yakiya Tovil-Toba, who tries to save his people.
He does the unthinkable; he leads a small fleet of ships to the Gallente homeworld itself, turning the tables and attacking their forces in hit and run, guerilla-style engagements. His actions forced the Gallente to shift their combat forces away from the Caldari Prime onslaught to deal with this threat closer to home. Tovil-Toba holds out for an entire week giving his people time to escape, his fleet losing ship after ship until only his vessel remains. His final defiant act is to direct his burning ship towards the surface of Gallente Prime as his own people are given a chance at life they wouldn't have had without him.
He died for the Caldari people and his actions resonate with them in future generations. Although they're cast to the wind, they never forget his sacrifice. The narration in Day of Darkness II drives this point home: "Admiral Tovil-Toba and his crew sacrificed themselves in order for millions more Caldari to escape. To this day he is revered as a national hero and his name is the first thing every Caldari child learns."
Re-enacting something on this scale in game-captured video was a daunting prospect, but to Lauthris' surprise, he got some help from the CCP Games developers themselves. "I thought I'd ask CCP if they could help out with the locations of some complexes to use on Sisi [the "Singularity" test server]. Instead they invited me over to their offices and let me have a tinker with the software they use for making their own vids," says Lauthris. "I was able to bring a cut-down version of this away and set about making the film - so without CCP this probably wouldn't have turned out anything like it was. A big thank you to CCP for being an awesomely open company to their players." He also thanks EVE TV celeb Stevie Ward for her voice work on Day of Darkness II. EVE Online players will note she sounds good as Aura, the voice of EVE's tutorial.
The players are blown away by what Dire Lauthris has accomplished; the thread announcing the machinima is page after page of praise. In among that is quite an outpouring of response from the dev team themselves -- not something you see every day. (Especially not the marriage proposal.)
Works like "Day of Darkness II" are a testament to how dedicated EVE players can be to the game. What Dire Lauthris has created ranks with the work of Kyoko Sakoda (War Has Come), Chris Newcombe and Anil Kamath (Havoc) and Ian Chisholm (Clear Skies). Moreover, it shows how players can find ways to actively get involved in EVE's lore.