If scifi and fantasy author Tad Williams considers the upcoming MMO Otherland as comprising the fifth novel in his book series of the same name, then cyberpunk enthusiasts will be excited to get their hands on Gamigo's new game. I was invited to check out Otherland at last week's Game Developer's Conference, and came away with a ton of details that paint a clearer picture of what Gamigo and their developers are trying to accomplish with the free-to-play MMORPG.
Our preview began on Lambda Mall, which is one of the three announced worlds in Otherland, alongside 8 Squared and Mars. Lambda instantly reveals the cyberpunk atmosphere of Williams' series, and our previewers called the world a kind of "'Blade Runner' meets Coruscant" or "what it would be like to be in the Internet" (a terrifying proposition). The comparisons are fair, as Lambda Mall is littered with AR-inspired neon signs, multi-layered city architecture and cybergoth sensibilities à la Deus Ex: Human Revolution, along with shops, clubs and pubs for you to explore. You can enter class shops to build your characters from 2 genders, 3 races and a bunch of customization options, which you can change at any time from within the game, although Gamigo haven't settled on the daily limits for this feature just yet.
Or you can enter a weapons shop like "Armageddon," and pick up some swords, guns, hammers, you name it to fight with. If you'd like to check out a club instead, you'll be able to try your luck at getting into "Mr. J's," one of the most exclusive clubs in the game, which will require you to run quests or discover a secret key or emote to gain access. Wherever you go, the game's music will change based on the in-game sources like the neon ads I mentioned, which is a nice touch.
If you feel like putting your feet up or engaging in some friendly competition, you can hit up one of Lambda Mall's pubs and get some drink buffs or play one of Otherland's 30+ minigames, like "Dogfight," a warplane minigame, or "Roswell," a minigame where you control a UFO and have to lift cows with a gravity beam (I'm not making this up). Gamigo intend to implement competitions, leaderboards, and possibly in-game benefits for minigames, so you'll have more reasons than just bragging rights to participate.
The particular pub we were shown had a backdoor that led to Lambda Mall's black market, called the "Hacker Zone," where PvP battles were possible. We got to see some of Otherland's action-oriented combat, which features a non-targeting system, meaning that you'll hit everything in front of you with an attack instead of a discrete target. Gamigo are currently only showing the Gunner and Rage classes, the former playing like a third-person shooter, and the latter, presumably, being of a melee archetype.
We were then shown 8 Squared, a traditional fantasy world with huge luminescent chess pieces - which happened to also be dungeons - dotting the landscape. Interestingly, none of the pieces were kings, which are of course necessary for victory in a chess game, somewhat implying that the world is eternally locked in battle. 8 Squared shows off some interesting visuals that illustrate the digital nature of Otherland, like unfinished - or uncoded - trees, and programming code visible in the water.
The loot system in Otherland is comprised of collecting "electronic DNA" (eDNA) from objects in the world, for which you're given the option of harvesting an item or a "fragment." Fragments can be collected to earn the ability to place monsters and other creatures in your "clan land," which is kind of an open guild housing area. The clan land is much more than guild housing, as you'll need to explore it like you would a PvE region and will face monsters in the area as well. This feature wasn't available to preview in our demo, but we were shown a video that gave an overview of how it will work in the live game.
Some of the other features in Otherland include player housing in the form of rentable Lambda Mall apartments, which are not in the game yet, an auction house, crafting based on collecting "Soma" (a component in Williams' series), and area, arena, and clan PvP. We didn't get to see Mars, the third announced world, but were told that there will be info about more worlds closer to E3 and that each will be very different from one another, which was clear in the contrast between Lambda Mall and 8 Squared.
I was also interested in knowing more about the overarching narrative behind Otherland, and our previewers assured us that Gamigo have been working with Williams directly to bring the game in line with the fiction. There will be standard MMO-type quests to pursue, but the developers are keeping away from making the game feel grindy and will be drawing from a rich background story.
Additionally, Otherland will be free-to-play, and you'll be able to buy everything that's available so far with in-game credits, while convenience charges will be possible if you're interested in using real money. We were assured that the game's F2P model will not be a pay-to-win scenario.
Otherland is being developed on the Unreal 3 engine by Real U, a diverse and experienced team based in Singapore. Gamigo and the developers are planning a closed beta in the 2nd quarter of this year, with a projected launch for 4th quarter 2012.
Overall, I enjoyed what I saw of Otherland, and although the demo we saw was of an early build of the game, I'm looking forward to seeing more of the MMORPG as it comes together.
Are you excited for Otherland? Let us know in the comments below!