Tabula Rasa interview

How does character development/advancement work in Tabula Rasa?

Starr Long: TR's character development system is another thing that differentiates us from other games. In most MMOs you have to pick your character class at the very beginning and that is a decision that you are making before you know what is going to be your favorite player class. Players may find out after playing with that character class that maybe they want to be something else, but now all the time that they have invested all goes away and they have to start from scratch.

In our game all characters start out as a raw recruit. Our class system is a branching system and as you reach certain leveling benchmarks you get to choose a branch. The first choice you can make is whether you want to be a soldier or specialist and then later depending on which branch you choose you are presented with new choices as you level up. If you choose, for example, to become a specialist, later on you will have the option to choose to be a biotech which is more of a healing role or an engineer which is a machine building role.

Each time you make one of these decisions you have come across some information about whether you would like to be in this class or not, but what is really unique about TR is that you can create a clone of your character at any point of the game, which is an exact duplicate of your character at that time. If you clone your character at level 4 before making a decision between soldier and specialist, you can choose to be a soldier and then later on go back to your cloned character and choose to be a specialist.

You get to save your progression, which means all the time you've invested isn't wasted when you want to try out another class. Also, all the clones you've created share a footlocker that allows you to throw some equipment so your clone doesn't have to start from scratch.

How do you envisage hardware shaping the MMO genre in the future, and is there stuff you'd like to do now in the genre but can't due to limitations placed on you by technology?

Hardware and operating systems are always limitations that we will run against, especially when you are doing something as aggressive as the dynamic world we are working on. I would always have more things going on - being able to see further, have more NPCs. But we're also getting away with a lot right now. It's pretty amazing what hardware can do right now. We're doing things that were impossible when I was working on Ultima Online 10 years ago. Ultimately it all comes down to whether the game is fun or not, and I think it is.