A Tad Unusual? Otherland Enters Beta

It's not all this neon.
Any Tad Williams fans in the audience? Ah, just that guy at the back. Oh well, this is for you, anyway: Otherland, the Tad Williams-directed MMO based on his sci-fi scribblings, is going to enter beta this weekend. It’s closed for now, but you can sign up for a chance to get in on the main site. (Top left!)

Otherland is quite ambitious, with different “worlds” encompassing varied genre conventions in a single game: a fantasy Medieval England, a cyberpunk city, a tranquil Eastern mythology, and so on. You can see Tad and his friends talk about all this in their latest Making Of piece, conveniently embedded below. There’s a gameplay trailer, too.


  1. Fizics says:

    Seeing “Kitchen” will be worth the price of admission alone.

  2. kevmscotland says:

    I am so confused looking at this.

    I saw Sci-Fi, Fantasy, JRPG, Neon Lights and technology, swords,staves,axes, laser guns, japanese characters, digital looking characters. Cities, castles, everything inbetween.
    Wub Wub.

    in short, a complete cluster of every idea ever.

    I have no opinion on wether thats good or bad. I’m just abit o_O

    • skittles says:

      Well its a cluster**** because in the books the web of the future is a sort of virtual reality multiverse where any game you want is made real, over all different virtual worlds. I seriously don’t see it working for this MMO though, as at best they will create a small map for a couple of different ones and that will be it, and it will just come across as a cluster**** rather than a number of different gameworlds in their own right.

      Although that ‘create’ bit has me somewhat intrigued. I wonder how powerful it will be, e.g. player-made worlds?

    • NarcoSleepy says:

      It makes a lot more “sense” if you read the Otherland books.

  3. Gormongous says:

    Yes, a huge Tad Williams fan here. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn made my young adulthood. This is officially on my radar now.

    • Imbecile says:

      You know, I loved that series too. Otherland though…not so much :P

    • Swanny says:

      Those are still my favorite books. They are like a more gritty LotR. Otherland’s characters were a bit whiny, but the settings and overall happenings were amazing. Not sure how the game will play, but i’m betting exploring it will be a blast.

      • razgon says:

        Otherland is an awesome idea – I do wonder if its possible to do it justice in a game. I have to admit though, the videos make it seem VERY interesting! Especially the whole create your own world thingie.

  4. Bostec says:

    What a terrible fucking trailer. Stupid music, some kind of stuff happening with bright lights, 2 seconds of some kind of combat, i couldn’t really see. Gametrailer? Yeah good one.

  5. President Weasel says:

    Oh, because Tad Williams! It’s like a pun!

    Were the Otherland books any good? I stopped reading them after the first one.

    The Otherland books were about MMOs and simulated worlds and stuff and things, right? So making an MMO out of them seems pleasingly circular, but in all seriousness why do they think we need another MMO, what is it going to do differently, and why do these people think anyone is going to buy it?

    • Shadowcat says:

      I bought the first “Otherland” book because I’d enjoyed Memory Sorrow & Thorn years earlier, and (importantly) the new book didn’t indicate there would be any more of them! Grrr. I then bought the rest as they came out, because I have OCD like that. About ten years later I started reading them.

      More than anything, I thought the books were an astonishing exercise in self-indulgence on the part of the author. Which isn’t to say that the worlds he created weren’t neat places to read about, but for me the story that tied it all together was deeply unsatisfying, and I came away from reading all those thousands of pages thinking “that was… okay”. Which frankly isn’t the reaction I want to have, after investing that much of my time.

      I’m not sure whether the idea of making a game out of it is a natural move, or (given some of the concepts) fundamentally weird. I’m leaning towards the latter, but it doesn’t really make any difference to me — it’s a MMO, so I’ll never play it.

      Good luck to them, though.

      • President Weasel says:

        I got rather the same impression from the first book, with the story as a thin hook to hang some worlds he’d built on. Unlike you, my response to the rather underhanded way they positioned the first one as a standalo- wait, there’s actually more books you need to buy! was to bear a grudge and not buy the rest.
        I tend to cherish grudges far more than I should.

        However gaytard fondue’s (really?) comment makes me think maybe there’s merit in them after all, and also goes some way to explaining the question as to why a series that didn’t exactly set the world alight has been made into an MMO – turns out it did set at least part of the world alight; I just don’t live there.
        YOu learn something new every day.

    • ColOfNature says:

      They were pretty good but he does go on a bit. A decent editor, that’s what Williams needs.

    • Bobtree says:

      Dunno, I stopped reading Otherland right after I started it.

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      Yes they are. Let me just tell you that they are that good that you continue reading despite some really large gaps in terms of story arc continuation (or something like that, my English is terrible, please excuse me). All in all Tad Williams did an superb job in bringing all those arcs together over the course of the books. Otherland is really popular in Germany (which explains the German publisher/developer spending more than 30 million € on the game, a really large amount for the German VG industry.).
      In fact they’re so popular here that a radio/tv station commissioned a 24 hour radio play. (Which of course turned out absolutely epic.)

    • Swanny says:

      The first Otherlands book is like the first book in LotR. Don’t stop there- keep reading. It’s about laying a foundation and history more than anything major happening. The series is great, and the plot itself was incredible, but i felt the the characters were off. It seemed to me all they ever did was run away from things. That said, Otherland’s villian is probably my favorite ever. The settings in the book seemed dreamlike and familiar to me, instead of an exercise in indulgence by the author. Many of the settings were familiar, like a chessboard, with a neat twist, like each piece was a kingdom that as at perpetual war.

  6. mrwonko says:

    I’m actually reading the first book at the moment, because somebody mentioned it was good in a preview for the game, I think. Almost done. Did enjoy it so far.

    But there’s no way the game can live up to it. Basically, it’s this cyberpunk future where they’ve got Virtual Reality with full sensory feedback, provided you’ve got the right equipment. That in and by itself is impossible for an ordinary videogame (but sounds really cool! I’m psyched for what the future may actually bring!), but it gets worse: The Otherland is an extremely advanced VR – the ordinary one is still somewhat blatantly virtual (think videogames), but the Otherland is this extremely advanced VR that’s pretty much indistinguishable from reality. They can’t hope to convey that in a game, obviously.

    So I’m hardly interested in the game, but I’m happy it introduced me to the book.

    • kalirion says:

      I don’t see what the problem is. World of Warcraft doesn’t give you real weapons and magical powers and throw real monsters at you, so why should this game try to give you real virtual reality? You’ll get a virtual representation of the universe, just like with any other game.

      • mrwonko says:

        It’s just that having read the book (well, 38 out of 39 chapters of it) I’d much rather have what is described in there – which is more like The Matrix, except in Lo-Res. Well, and Otherland is really just The Matrix. Or many Matrices. I’d like to actually be in the virtual world. Maybe in a couple of decades…

        But yeah, that’s really just my own overly high expectations. Of course no other game would fulfil those either, but then again other games are not based on a franchise that inherently promises it. It doesn’t help that I just got into Shadowrun, either.

        Well, since it’ll be free-but-not I’ll probably give it a try.

      • Skabooga says:

        I assume (and it’s quite possible that I’m wrong!) that what made these Otherland novels/settings special was their use of fully immersive virtual reality, and how tantalizing that idea is. When that doesn’t carry over when the setting is translated to an actual computer game, you are left with, well, just another game like any other, perhaps even more generic than most.

        That’s not to say that it would be impossible for this to be a good game, just that it has major potential pitfalls.

  7. GunnerMcCaffrey says:


  8. ferdy says:

    It’s F2P so i might give it a try.

    • Wisq says:

      It’s F2P so I’m going to avoid it like the plague.

      Because by definition, it means they’ve either intentionally made it bad enough that I’ll feel that I need to buy stuff, or they haven’t and won’t make enough money to keep it going.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Exactly like Team Fortress 2

        • Wisq says:

          TF2 is an exception, but that’s because everyone already paid for it years ago. Plus it’s a loss leader for the Steam platform (if it’s even a loss, which is highly doubtful). Plus there’s a ton of cosmetic stuff to buy.

      • Bobvance says:

        LoL and HoN and BL:R and more would like to speak to you about F2P being horrid (Im not stating that these games are fun for you just that they can be successful while being free to play and not pay to win)

        • D3xter says:

          Tribes: Ascend, DC Universe Online and some of the other games I played are also good examples.
          I’ve actually seen/played more “F2P” games done right than otherwise, dunno if that was due to me staying away from all the bad ones, but I don’t really see F2P as a bad thing at all, especially for MMOs where you are otherwise supposed to pay monthly fees…

      • Eophasmus says:

        I’m actually intending to make use of the F2P this time, purely for exploration, maybe take some lovely screenshots, then cruelly discard it. I’m not an MMO player, mainly because of the combat systems and the monies, but I love exploring and this certainly looks like a gorgeous place to explore. If I can do that for free, then sign me up!

      • Winged Nazgul says:

        Good luck sticking to your guns when every game coming down the pike will be F2P it seems like.

        It’s a natural evolution when high-speed internet meets digital distribution meets too many games competing for your attention. Better get used to it.

  9. Tacroy says:

    Man, I read Otherland while at the same time reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In my head I had a half-written thesis comparing the two thematically (towers, obvs, but there was other stuff too), except at the time I was a busy student and nobody would read that crap anyway.

    Also Tad Williams went to my middle school, so they had like five copies of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I should re-read those books, I totally did not understand them the first time.

  10. Mastodon says:

    Otherland is in my top 3 book series of all time so I am looking forward to this. Been in development for a long time now but beta is a good sign! A MMORPG that is not standard fantasy fare gets my vote.

  11. kud13 says:

    Otherland was a good series, if a tad long-winded.

    • Cvnk says:

      Agreed. I thoroughly enjoyed those books and the worlds he described were quite vivid and interesting but after a while you couldn’t help but think “Get on with it!”.

  12. Engloutie says:

    Dubstep trailer :( Probably bad combat :( Amazing world to explore, yay, sign me up! :)

  13. Moonracer says:

    the game trailer actually got me excited despite it being an MMO, The combat looks bad but that is pretty much a given for MMOs the world design however looks quite good (the cyberpunk bits at least). I’ll probably check it out when it is released just to see what the world looks like in game.

    I thought the visuals gave off more of a 90s techno vibe than dubstep but whatever.

    • Moonracer says:

      wow, just watched the 2011 trailer on their site and it shows significantly more content variation (and the music I imagined more appropriate). I wonder it they just wanted to be more edgy and fast paced or if they are trimming things? It does look like a very bold project.

  14. Nevard says:

    Did the creators not even read the books and learn of the horrible things that happened to almost everyone who was playing the game?
    I fear for my life

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Depends if they got their hands on a psychic space baby. If they have, we’re doomed anyway, because if such things actually exist, the endtimes are nigh.

      Oh and spoilers, kinda…..

      • Swanny says:

        Dammit. Now i’m going to have to lose a chunk of grey matter to get rid of that spoiler. Ah well, maybe they can put an mp3 player/composer in the empty space…

  15. Jackablade says:

    I’m curious as to whether this recent incarnation of dub-step is something that people actually listen to, or whether it’s a genre perpetuated entirely by video game trailers.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      It was a pleasingly unintrusive timeless/generic dance style for the first minute and then they just phoned the rest in with dubstep.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than edit the trailer length to match the songs anymore, publishers just knock out a couple of minutes of wub-wub to pad the tune out to match.

  16. LionsPhil says:

    It’s not all this neon.

    Interest lost.

  17. f1x says:

    0:40 the octopus from Parodius? humm sweet memories

  18. theoriginaled says:

    If they do the House world properly Im in love. For those who havent read it. The main characters are at a point dumped into a world that is one large house. The residents cant even conceive of something that is not house. There are city sized wings, abandoned, stacked with broken furniture and covered in dust. Huge tracts of pasture in rooftop gardens. Sweeping indoor vistas over bottomless crevices. A vast indoor library with an order of monks dedicated to finding and preserving the knowledge of the creators in the books climbing over it all like spiders. And the river always running through it all.

    Otherland is quite good I think, and for as many pointless places it seems to go, it ties it all together quite nicely in the end.

  19. freduardo says:

    Granted that I haven’t read the books, I still somehow expected the land described to be in some way other or at least different from the standard MMO fare. What do I see instead? A grassy knoll, some ogre-looking dudes with axes and a generic hero wielding a definitely non-laser sword.

    Sci-fi cutscenes, bubble worlds, maybe even a fight in Japan or something, but at the end of the day it looks like most of the gameplay will be the same played out fantasy game everybody’s apparently making. Not encouraged one bit.

    On balance I don’t want to play GW2 either because seriously, I don’t want to buy another orcs and elves fantasy game for a looooong time.