Tabula Rasa interview

Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa - to give the game it's full, official name - is a sci-fi MMORPG 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 a closed beta expected to be released towards 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...

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 - changes 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.

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.