Interviews

Tabula Rasa

Destination Games co-founder Starr Long briefs us on the sci-fi MMORPG

Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa - to give the game it's full, official name - is a sci-fi MMOPRG that combines fast-paced action with such traditional genre fare as character development and guilds (or clans in this case). In terms of setting and plot, it throws players into the future where a cosmic war between an alien race known as Bane and the galaxy's remaining free sentient beings - the Allied Free Sentients - is being fought.

Obviously there's considerable buzz surrounding the title as it's Garriott's new baby, and the game's currently going through closed beta with it expected to release toward the end of the year. We recently caught up with Tabula Rasa producer Starr Long - who co-founded the game's developer Destination Games with Richard and Robert Garriott in 2000 - to discover more...

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A corridor inside a Bane base reveals the biomechanical nature of their architecture

To kick things off, could we get an overview of Tabula Rasa for folks who might not be familiar with the game?

Starr Long: Tabula Rasa is a science fiction MMORPG being created by Richard Garriott and other key folks like me who have some of the deepest experience in the genre. The game features some key elements that differentiate it from what has been done previously in MMO games.

One of those key elements is having a very dynamic battlefield. In most online games the computer controlled characters (NPCs) are just standing around waiting for you to kill them. They don't really do anything and they certainly don't interact with each other. In TR the NPCs are constantly doing things whether you are there or not. They patrol around, they interact with the world and of course they constantly fight each other (there's a war going on after all). For example the NPC soldiers of the Allied Free Sentients, which is the fighting force that you are a member of, controlled by the good guy AI are constantly fighting the Bane soldiers' bad guy AI, even seizing Control Points.

Control Points are another big differentiator for TR, and depending on who is controlling them, the good guys or bad guys, change the state of variables throughout the game. Which waypoint teleporters I can go to, what respawn locations are available, and what missions are available depend on who has taken over any given control point. For example, say you got a cool mission at one of these control points and when you complete it you return to the base only to find that the Bane may have overrun that base. Now you have to get with some other players to take back control of that base in order to finish your mission.

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A break form battle at the LZ base

The environment is very dynamic, it is not always creature X standing in location Y all the time, and that feeling that there is a constant war going on is one of the things I'm most proud of.

What was the initial inspiration behind Tabula Rasa?

Starr Long: I think there were two main inspirations. One is the idea of an epic, story-driven action title. The best example I can think of is the D-Day invasion in Medal of Honor, which presented the feeling of being in the middle of a war, and putting that feeling in an online game, which hasn't been done to date on a large scale. This ties back to the ability to create a very dynamic, large world where NPCs are always fighting each other whether you are there or not. That feeling of being in the middle of a war has always been one of the core visions for the game.

The other inspiration is our experience making the Ultima series, where the game that you are playing is just a slice of a very deep world. We included aspects that people can relate to. For instance, you'll notice when you are playing the game that the good alien race that you interact with may have some angelic references and the bad alien race has some demonic references and there are hints throughout the game that may indicate that they have contacted us in the past.

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