I’m rather fond of books by Diane Duane. I read and enjoyed the first three or four books in her Young Wizards series (beginning with So You Want to be a Wizard) when I was in high school. She’s one of my favorite authors of Star Trek novels; I particularly like her development of the Rihannsu (that’s the Romulans’ name for themselves). So when I saw a new novel by Diane Duane when I was at the library a few weeks ago, naturally I picked it up!
This new novel, Omnitopia Dawn, has a most intriguing premise — one that I probably would not have found nearly so intriguing, or understood nearly so well, if I were not a WoW player.
It’s summer of 2015, and the most successful game company on the planet is counting down to the launch of the newest expansion for their incredibly popular MMO game world. The four main threads of the plot follow an ordinary player of “the Great Game” (he’s a healer!); the founder, head, and “First Player” of the game company (named “Dev” — no, really); a reporter come to the game company’s business campus determined to dig up some dirt; and the hackers and their backers who are trying to not only ruin the launch of the new expansion, but also totally destroy the game company. One of these hacker-backers is the head of a rival game company… who is also a former business partner and ex-friend of Dev.
The “real world” in the book is almost, but not quite, like our own; its virtual reality technology is much, much more advanced than ours — and, of course, none of the game companies have recognizable names. Because I play WoW, it’s tempting to associate Omnitopia with Blizzard, but I don’t know enough about Trion or Turbine or Bioware or the various other MMO producers to associate them with any of Omnitopia’s rivals (and it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to any of them to do so).
Dev uses a forest of trees as a visual representation of Omnitopia’s overall code structure, and I couldn’t help but think of Crystalsong Forest.
I thought the core idea of the Omnitopia game was pretty cool — indeed, any company that could really get their gaming platform to do that would certainly profit beyond the wildest dreams of the goblins and the ethereals combined. Diane Duane described and expanded upon such common MMO concepts as guilds, raids, loot distribution, professions/crafting, and spellcasting within the Omnitopia game setting in a quite delightful way. Omnitopia has a nifty program for company-mentored player-developed content and a deviously clever method of dealing with players who behave badly. The characters were engaging — if somewhat idealized (even the bad guys!) — the plot kept me turning pages, and the twist at the end has me looking forward to Omnitopia #2. I do wonder, though, how the most successful game company on the planet could possibly get away with launching an expansion of the described magnitude without having at least some kind of public beta-testing period, which they seemed to not have done….
If you enjoy playing MMOs, you might also enjoy reading Omnitopia Dawn.