Video Game Look: Otherland by Tad Williams


williams-otherlandIn 1996, I began study at the University of Washington.

It was a normal move to college. What I remember most is not knowing what the hell I wanted to study. I took a whole menagerie of different courses from literature to chemistry to sociology, trying to discover what path I should place myself and how to go about gaining that all-important diploma.

During my literature classes, I read a lot of classics. Homer. D’Arthur. Carroll. Even classic sci-fi/fantasy from Tolkien, Burroughs, Wells and Baum.

Imagine my surprise then when Tad Williams published Otherland.

Otherland is a sci-fi tetralogy, featuring a 22nd-century virtual reality machine that pervades the world, allowing people to be fully immersed into the internet. The real world conflicts directly with the virtual when a secret organization of the wealthiest people—the Grail Brotherhood—tries to become immortal at the detriment of people in the real world.

It was a great story. It had some of the best characters I’ve read. And it depicted a World of Warcraft-ian world where everyone is plugged into the internet to varying levels and how the creation can overtake the creator. Sound familiar? But what I loved so much about it is how Tad Williams built his virtual worlds. He took worlds established by classic literature and gave them his own twist. There is a dark Through the Looking Glass simulation. There is the epic battle at Troy—and its epic! Oz is a scary place! These places and many more litter Otherland, and if you’ve read their original sources the series is enjoyable on a level that is very hard to describe.

Jump forward 15 years. The video game industry makes more money than movies and books combined. Therefore, an author getting a book series adapted to video games can potentially expand a readership a great deal. There are many such games being created right now; game companies are taking the plunge on our current fantasy bubble.

Fortunately, Otherland by Tad Williams is one of them.

A video game company is in the last few stages of putting together a game based on the virtual machine engine in Otherland. There will be many worlds—all of them different—for game players to involve themselves in, an MMO which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. If done well, this could be a far more interesting MMO, given that creatively the game can literally incorporate any environment and setting.


Will this be another World of Warcraft? Let’s hope.

HERE is an interview where the creators talk about the game and feature screenshots! And below is a video as well!

If you haven’t read Otherland: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams, do it. First, the series is complete. No waiting. Second, if you have read the classics, I think you’ll absolutely love how Tad has interwoven them into an exciting series.

And who knows?

Perhaps you’ll love the game when it is released next year too!