Interviews// Richard Garriott - Tabula Rasa Interview

Richard Garriott - Tabula Rasa Interview

Posted 25 Jul 2007 12:24 by
Richard Garriott, known back in the Ultima era as ‘Lord British’, but now as ‘General British’ (pictured here) gave SPOnG a brief demo of his latest massively multiplayer online game Tabula Rasa (pictured here) out at E3 earlier this month.

This potentially groundbreaking MMO game, as you would expect from a developer with Garriott’s pedigree, is beautifully executed, extremely polished and immense. SPOnG’s MMO team is currently getting well and truly stuck into the beta test of Tabula Rasa and will be bringing you their first considered preview on Tabula Rasa sometime very soon.

Meanwhile, we were treated to an all-too-brief demo of the game from Garriott, who ran us through some of the unique features which he believes are really going to make it stand out from most of the other more traditional sci-fi or fantasy MMO titles on the market (or, to use the marketing jargon, ‘in the MMO space’). Here’s what he told us.

SPOnG: Hi, Richard, most gamers will know of you from your work on Ultima Online days. Is Tabula Rasa similar in any ways to Ultima?

Richard Garriott: In the Ultima series, part of the fiction of the games is that both the players and the developers really do go to this world to live and work and play together – this is one of the fictional ties that we tried to keep true through our work in the past and our recent work on Tabula Rasa.

SPOnG: What’s the back-story in Tabula Rasa?

Richard Garriott: From back-story standpoint, since Tabula Rasa is a near future game, tragically just a few years from now there is an evil alien horde known as the ‘Bane’ which is going to invade the earth and wipe out the vast majority of humanity. The good news is that you and myself and all the players who choose to subscribe to the game are going to survive this onslaught and live to fight another day and we’re going to be able to take up arms, aided by another alien group called the ‘Elo’ – who not only provide us technology such as wormholes and advanced weaponry, but also provide us the key to the superpowers we use in the game as well.

SPOnG: You mentioned that there were three key feature areas in which Tabula Rasa really stands out, what are these?

Richard Garriott: One of them is what we call our fast-paced and tactical combat. If you have played MMOs then you are probably familiar with the turn-based nature of combat – its almost ‘whack-a-mole’ really in my mind – to see who does the most damage over time until one of you dies. In Tabula Rasa it’s not only much more fast-paced, but the 3D environment really does play a much more important role in combat.

Another key area is what we call our dynamic battlefields – where, as opposed to just having creatures that just spawn on a map and then wait for you to come along and farm them, all of our characters and NPCs have objectives that they are trying to achieve, such as being able to take, hold or defend geographic territory. So, even without real players in the game, the state of the battlefields in the game has a nice ebb and flow.

Finally there is the way that we deal with the storyline in Tabula Rasa – in most MMOs the story is basically inconsequential. It is just your excuse to go and farm in some other field for XP (experience points).

In Tabula Rasa you are commonly given mission arcs that are in conflict with other mission arcs – so you as a player are constantly having to make judgement calls about who you are going to favour; which stories you are going to continue; which groups you are going to favour, who remains your friends and who becomes your enemies.
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