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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Otherland MMO - Cyberpunk? Not so much.

Posted by Daedren Friday October 3 2008 at 6:24AM
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For those that haven't heard, an adaptation of Tad Williams Otherland books is in development by an unheard of German company with a bunch of Aussie developers. I think most people will say "What the hell is Otherland?" - something I can empathize with. Tad Williams isn't exactly the Dan Brown of sci-fi. However, his books do have a bit of a following, and I've actually read all 4 of the monstrous, Bible-sized novels. With that said, I'm going to talk about what I think of this idea.

First of all, the announcement of this MMO seems to have brought a bunch of clueless half-wits to the table to talk about this MMO. Eurogamer, in the fanboy, payroll induced article I linked above, went as far as saying "Let's call this the first cyberpunk MMO." And I'm going pull my hand back and say "No, let's call this Second Life, version 2" - Yeah, the Otherland series is technically cyberpunk - there is no arguing that. It's just that the MMO has announced it'll be focusing on the avatar / Lambda Mall version of the series, which is pretty much no more than a glorified 3D chat room.

Allow me to explain. Here is a quick synoposis of Otherland:

Set in the future, we have some mega-cities and urban sprawls that are popular in cyberpunk. People plug into "the net" via a neural shunt and some fancy VR equipment. They then hang out at the "Lambda Mall" and run around with crazy looking avatars - pretty much nothing more than elaborate version of Second Life.

Yeah, that's pretty much it.

The real appeal of the Otherland books was that the main characters get trapped in "the net" because an evil mega-corp is doing something naughty. They end up having to battle the evil guys and save the world pretty much. It takes them through some crazy places - user created lands - via a river. For example, they go into a jungle and are the size of ants, get attacked by a scorpion. Or they have to play cowboys and indians with real life toys in a kitchen. Or they're thrown into a Viking-esque frozen land where they're chased by savages. And lastly, there is actually a Lord of the Rings-esque MMO type game in the game. One of the main characters lives in it (he's a kid, sick, has a terminal disease).  Basically a VR/Cyberspace version of any modern MMO.

I'll be the first to say that capturing the second, main element of the stories (user created worlds, dynamic content) might make an Otherland MMO actually worthwhile. So, unless every MMO subscriber gets to be one of the Otherland super-rich, playground/world creating guys, the thought of running around with a crazy avatar is about as exciting as it gets. From the over-excited Eurogamer article, it seems you can't do more than have your own space in the world and customize your avatar. Yipee!

Continuing the line of cluess-gits, we've got this announcement over on the Shadowland (Otherland fansite boards). The topic? Otherland MMO could be the WOW Killer! Now, while most of my regular readers are familiar with my thoughts on this subject, the fact that this came up 2nd in a Google search for "Otherland MMO" makes me weep for humanity. What's next? Hello Kitty, the WOW Killer? Fuck WOW, and fuck killing it. You're talking apples and oranges here. How is "making a pretty avatar!" going to compete with people that like high-fantasy and enjoy the treadmill-like advancement system of WoW? It caters to a completely different audience.

I digress, like I usually do. I'm all for a non high-fantasy MMO. Warhammer was pretty much the last straw in terms of the general populus's tolerance for yet another orcs and elves, magic and swords, fuck creativity of a game. It's like watching television and the only thing on is CSI or 10 spinoffs of it. I like crime shows as much as the next guy, but it's time to move on. So, in that aspect, *applause* to the unknown German company investing the rubels into something a bit different.

However, until we're told otherwise, Otherland MMO is not Cyberpunk. It's 2nd Life with a 90's retro theme. Let's not get too excited to say "FIRST POST!" in the land of MMO's in regards to a genre. Uncouth, Eurogamer, uncouth. So, until you know a bit more about the game, this guy from Office Space wants his Jump to Conclusions Mat back when you're done using it.

Original article is here.

Digg it here.