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Tabula Rasa update returns to Earth

So does Richard Garriott.

In the latest post on the Tabula Rasa website, lead designer Susan Kath has revealed that the next major update to the science-fiction MMO, Deployment 15, will take players to Earth for the first time.

Tabula Rasa's setting has humans fighting for survival on an alien world after Earth was invaded and presumed destroyed by the Bane race. However, the next update will see players return to a ravaged Caprica, sorry Earth, and fight alongside a resistance force formed by the humans left behind.

Screens show combat in a ruined urban landscape, apparently "one of the most iconic cities on Earth" (New York City, going by the skyline silhouette, and the label on the minimap which reads "New York City").

The Earth map will feature "epic control point gameplay for level 48 to 50 players", new monsters including Epics and mini-bosses, opportunities to use mechs, and new armour sets.

Kath also promises that future maps will continue the Earth storyline. It's an encouraging sign of creative life from a game that has been rumoured to be on the chopping block many times in the year since its launch.

Meanwhile, Tabula Rasa's creator, Ultima legend Richard Garriott, has also returned to Earth from his own adventures in space, in a coincidence so perfect a PR couldn't make it up (well, maybe).

The Associated Press, via MSNBC, reported late on Friday that space tourist and second-generation astronaut Garriott had touched down safely in Kazakhstan with his Russian cosmonaut colleagues. He'd spent two weeks aboard the International Space Station.

"I'm fresh and ready to go - again," Garriott reportedly told his NASA astronaut father Owen. "What a great ride that was." At USD 30 million, you'd hope so.