Richard Garriott talks Tabula Rasa

News on how it's progressing and the E3 demo.

As you've probably spotted, we've got a brand new Tabula Rasa trailer up on Eurogamer TV at the moment, giving you an idea of what to expect from NCsoft's latest MMORPG. Not content with that, we've also got hold of a quick Q&A with Destination Games head and Ultima legend Richard Garriott. We didn't get to ask the questions, sadly, but nevertheless it's an interesting update - giving you an idea of what's changed since last year's build, how the game compares to rival MMOs, and what we can expect to see in this year's E3 demo.

NCsoft: Tabula Rasa is known for changing quite a bit from when you guys first showed it to its appearance at E3 last year. What's changed in the year since then?

Richard Garriot: Last year we debuted the bold new look and feel for Tabula Rasa. Since then we have fleshed out one complete world and some of our second. (We plan to launch with three worlds and build new worlds with expansions.) We have refined and balanced the combat systems and character growth. We have detailed hundreds of compelling quests and storylines. Most importantly, I believe we have delivered on our promise of integrating RPG mechanics and shooter pace and feel into a massively multiplayer game. And, we have dynamic changing battlefield environments that are sophisticated and compelling to play.

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Ernie has a pantomime moment.

NCsoft: How will players be spending their downtime outside of the action, and over time as they stick with the game, apart from the primary combat?

Richard Garriot: While TR is definitely a combat game centered on the war for survival of humanity and our allies. TR will include many traditional MMO elements including clans, crafting and such. I believe the deep and compelling fiction behind TR will draw people in to explore the worlds, get to know its peoples, and resolve to solve the dilemmas that plague the planets we visit.

NCsoft: Do you view Tabula Rasa's target audience as leaning towards the hardcore or casual side? Can there be such a thing as a casual MMO?

Richard Garriot: TR is definitely a gamer's game, which you could therefore call hardcore. That being said, we have radically lowered the barriers to play compared to most MMOs. In most MMOs your life is the level grind, and keeping up with your friends involves hours and hours of tedium. In TR we have created game systems that support the concepts of solo play, grouping with people of diverse levels, and deep custom crafted story telling for individuals or small groups. Plus we will have PvP for advanced players who opt in to play those systems.

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"We're gonna need a bigger gun..."

NCsoft: How will character development in Tabula Rasa work?

Richard Garriot: In Tabula Rasa, we have a very unique take on character growth. In most MMOs you first decide on a life long class, and then if you'd like to explore another class, you start a new character from scratch. We think this is bad for the player and the game. Players who have to repeat the game from level zero are going to repeat a lot of content to get to the point where they stopped. For them it's like having to start at level zero in a whole new game. We think most players in that situation do not explore the whole class tree of most games, and thus that content is wasted. In TR we have a branching class structure, combined with our "Character Cloning System(TM)". With this system, players can explore the whole tree without restarting from scratch.

NCsoft: What games do you see as your direct competitors?

Richard Garriot: Well, that's hard to say, because we feel we appeal to MMO players and Shooter players alike. So in a sense we compete with games like Medal of Honor and Battlefield, but in the MMO space, we don't see another product attempting to do what we are doing. We believe we have a unique strategy that will bring lots of new gamers to MMOs.

NCsoft: What will you guys be showing from the game at E3 this year?

Richard Garriot: We will be showing a great deal of content this year. We are showing numerous maps from Foreas, the first planet players discover, including "Boot Camp" the tutorial space for the game. We will also be showing Arieki, the second, more hostile and mysterious planet. During game play, some players will have both guided tours through advanced spaces and storylines, as well as roaming free play across the game. They will visit bases, battlefields, enemy facilities and indigenous peoples. I think those who visit the NCsoft booth will get a feel for why we believe Tabula Rasa is a major step forward in MMP gaming!

Tabula Rasa will be on show at E3 and is due out whenever Richard Garriott and pals finish it.

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