OtherSpace Interactive SF Saga
A good review does more than simply tell you "This place is great, come see it," or, "This place sucks, don't go there." A review should tell you what, exactly, are the strengths and/or weaknesses of the object under review. Bear with me, then, because this will be longer than your average review.
I first came to Otherspace MUSH in the Summer of 1998, a few weeks after it opened. Admittedly, I had met most of the people involved in its creation, including the Creator himself, Brody, on another MU**. I knew Brody and his new staff were creative people and gifted roleplayers, but what they were attempting to do seemed impossible: build a committed playerbase for a game based on a completely original theme. For those of you who are most used to hack-and-slash MUDs, you may not realize how difficult this is. An environment that is created for the purpose of RPing, rather than combat, has a lot working against it. Most such games are based on existing themes like Star Wars, Star Trek, the Lord of the Rings, Camelot, whatever. Players come to such games with some kind of background knowledge of the theme and have some idea of the kind of character they want to play. With an original theme, it's very different.
Otherspace's theme is, as I said, all-original, springing from the mind of Wes Platt, a.k.a. Brody. The story began in the year 2650, when Earth was the center of a coalition of worlds known as the Stellar Consortium, comprising a number of original worlds and alien races. Humans and aliens had learned to travel faster-than-light thanks to a "gift" from the malevolent Il'Ri'Kamm Hive Mind, and spread across the galaxy. Outside the orderly world of the Consortium was the Fringe, a ragtag collection of worlds where those who did not fit in to the Consortium (or were on the run from its legal authorities) dwelt. The most powerful man in the Fringe was the ruthless Lord Fagin, the Pirate King. Beyond the Fringe was the Parallax, a militaristic empire ruled by the reptilian Nall, who had subjugated various alien worlds beneath their clawed fist.
I say "was" because this was the lay of the land, so to speak, for 5 of what Brody calls "story arcs." Story arcs are sustained plotlines that are played out through a series of staff-organized RP events over a period of a few months. It's like a season from a serialized TV show, such as Babylon 5.
During these first 5 Arcs, the Stellar Consortium nearly collapsed, rocked by internal scandal and external threat, the worlds under the fist of the Nall rebelled and gained independence from the Parallax, Fagin's empire nearly collapsed, and the insidious Hive Mind's schemes were revealed and it was (presumably) destroyed. Along the way, a few worlds were destroyed and a warmongering alien race known as the Kretonians were royally pissed off. Arc V ended with the Kretonians invading and conquering all the known worlds.
After that, for 6 months the entire MUSH consisted of a group of refugees aboard a colony ship that had escaped to another dimension. Time passed more slowly for these refugees, and when they finally managed to return home, after a number of adventures, 350 years had passed.
It was the year 3000, and everything had changed. The Kretonians were finally overthrown, but the universe was a more hostile and less united. Oh, and the Il'Ri'kamm hive mind was back, thanks largely to the actions of the refugees on Sanctuary.
Otherspace is about to begin its 10th story arc. These arcs, which make Otherspace a truly evolving story, are the game's greatest strength. It's important to realize that all of the action described above ACTUALLY HAPPENED. This story has played out this far, in this way. Along the way it has diverged from the general story outline Brody began with, as his storylines interacted with the behavior of real players, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
Maintaining this sort of evolving story is an extremely difficult task (take it from someone who was once an admin on a much less successful game)and it takes a committed staff. If the storyline itself is OS's greatest strength, the staff is its second greatest. They do not lord power over players, and are extremely accessible and approachable. They facilitate the evolution of the story, and help newbies learn the basics of the theme and develop character concepts.
Newbies are NOT simply plunked down into this universe with no guidance, which is, I think, a point which cannot be overemphasized. If you're thinking of coming to OS, you'll be directed first to the webpage (www.otherspace.org) where there is a wealth of information on the theme, races, and occupations available. You then will be asked to complete a character application, with the help and guidance of a staff member. If you find the process difficult, a ready-made character concept can be made available to you to get you started. Within a short time you can be set up and taking part in the story.
It should be noted I am NOT a staffer writing this review...I am a player who has immensely enjoyed the game and would like to see others share in the experience. OS routinely has 35-40 players online at peak hours on a daily basis, and has had over 100 on special occasions (and will be shooting for 150 this weekend, a new record.) It's really a great place to be. Give it a shot.