Tabula Rasa Designer Diary #1 - Creating the Story

Famed role-playing designer Richard Garriott introduces us to the story in Tabula Rasa and the thinking involved in creating it.

When it launches later this year, Tabula Rasa will be the latest massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by famed designer Richard Garriott and producer Starr Long. Their first was Ultima Online, which was arguably the first breakthrough MMORPG. However, Tabula Rasa goes in a very different direction than most games in the genre. Rather than steer for a traditional fantasy setting filled with elves and orcs, Tabula Rasa takes place in the distant future, as humanity struggles for survival in a very hostile universe. You will create a human character and explore alien worlds, interact with new cultures, and battle an array of opponents. Read on to learn more about the story of Tabula Rasa.

Tabula Rasa will let you explore strange, alien worlds.

In the Beginning...

By Richard Garriott
Executive Producer and Creative Director, NCsoft

We thought we were alone. We felt secure in our future. Little did we know that we would end up being plunged into an intergalactic war that has been raging for millennia.

With every great story, there must be a beginning. As with every great discovery, there must be a first. Our story begins thousands of years in the distant past with the Eloh, an ancient and highly advanced alien culture. The Eloh civilization chose to devote their time and energy to peaceful pursuits of study and introspection. Over thousands of years they finally realized the key to a powerful science that unified all known theories of physics. With this knowledge they developed Logos, through which they gained the mystical ability to manipulate matter, energy, and force in unique and powerful ways.

In creating Tabula Rasa, I was determined to break away from our roots in medieval fantasy and develop a solid science fiction universe. We felt that we had created a compelling alien race in the Eloh. What we needed was some kind of scientific breakthrough that would become the defining moment in our story. And the discovery of Logos powers was the scientific revelation that became that pivotal discovery, both in the fiction and the gameplay for Tabula Rasa. As the Eloh begin to use their knowledge of Logos to travel the universe, they forge the beginnings of an intergalactic culture where they openly share their knowledge with all the races they discover that are advanced enough to understand it.

The Eloh are the alien race at the heart of Tabula Rasa's story.

Many of the races they discovered, however, were in their infancy and too primitive to share in the Eloh's knowledge. Earth was one such case. But the Eloh are an altruistic people and wanted to someday return to these primitive planets. They left seeds of knowledge for these races to discover, including the language of the Logos, so that one day, when these cultures were ready to understand, a relationship could be established with them.

Other races advanced enough for the Eloh to make contact with accepted the gifts of their knowledge, and their cultures thrived as a result of their interaction. But not all worlds would be content to embrace the Eloh as their benefactors. The Eloh had never encountered such a race--until they traveled to the planet Thraxis.

One of the most important things to me when creating a compelling enemy is making them well rounded, believable, and not just evil for evil's sake. Since the Ultima series, I've tried to be sure the antagonists in my games have logic behind their behavior, a purpose to their dastardly deeds that they could internalize to justify their actions.

Bane of Your Existence

We created the Thrax as a warlike, xenophobic species, and when they encountered the Eloh, their logical reaction, of course, would be a mixture of fear, anger, envy, and distrust. But the Thrax had advanced technology and were highly intelligent. They recognized an opportunity and learned as much as they could from the Eloh, always with the intention of one day using the Eloh's gifts to their advantage. Ultimately, the Thrax turned on the Eloh, catching them off guard and landing a devastating blow to the Eloh culture. The Eloh's understanding of Logos was superior, and they were able to, in the end, overcome the Thrax and emerge victorious. But the damage that had been done to the fundamental beliefs of the Eloh people would ultimately lead to their downfall.

Advanced technology may look like magic.

It is at this point in our story that the rift that ultimately destroys the Eloh civilization is formed. On one side, many Eloh felt that, although they might need to exercise more care in the future, their encounter with the Thrax was atypical and their goal should be to continue as before, sharing their knowledge with others for the betterment of both those races and their own people. Another group of Eloh, which eventually became known as the Neph, felt that the cost of sharing the knowledge and advancements they had spent millions of years achieving was far too great. They believed that less advanced cultures were not worthy to bestow this knowledge upon, and instead, these races should be given "guidance" from the Eloh to ensure that the Eloh always retained their rightful place as a superior race. I like to compare these differing philosophies to two contemporary belief systems to illustrate their differences. The Eloh wanted peaceful coexistence and a community of mutual sharing and growth for all races. On the other hand, the Neph wanted to control the development of these "lesser" races so that their culture would prosper and their superiority could never be challenged.

As the schism grew wider and more fractured, the Neph joined forces with the remaining Thrax, and with the use of Thrax weapons and tactical knowledge, quickly overthrew the Eloh home world, destroying any Eloh that opposed them. The surviving Eloh fled to the far reaches of the universe, finding refuge and anonymity on many of the worlds they had visited. Without the Eloh presence to stand in their way, the Neph began aggressively implementing their plan for the universe. I do want to point out that the Neph, who even now do not see themselves as sinister, feel justified in their actions and, as they subjugate more and more planets, they grow even more efficient and brutal in their tactics.

You aren't in Kansas anymore.

Hundreds of years later, a small blue planet that the Eloh had visited thousands of years prior began to make rapid advancements in its civilization. It began broadcasting radio waves, building large cities, testing nuclear devices, and launching spacecraft into the cosmos. It was in this way that the Earth finally captured the attention of the Bane. To clarify something, "Bane" is the term used to describe all of the forces fighting under the Neph army and includes the Thrax and many other races and genetically engineered creatures that fight for the Neph. Once the Bane forces became aware of Earth, they invaded the planet to acquire its resources, both natural and biological, just as they had done so many times before on other worlds. Their method was precise and swift, and in a mere five days, Earth was completely overrun and humans became firmly entrenched in a celestial war that had already lasted for centuries.

But the Eloh had not forgotten the fledgling races they had visited. They left knowledge and technology behind that allowed a select group of humans, chosen for their ability to learn and use the power of Logos, to escape. These refugees escaped to a handful of alien worlds where they could be trained to fight the Bane. On these worlds they found allies, other sentient creatures fighting for their survival against the ruthless Bane. And so, the Army of the Allied Free Sentients was born. That is the story of Tabula Rasa. What happens next is up to you. The future is yours to write; it's a blank slate.

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46 comments
rich181
rich181

Interesting observation The_Needle. While it may very well be true I don't think it will get the game banned in anyway, and may bring a theologic twist that would just make it that much more interesting.

VRMaster
VRMaster

Hmmm, Must agree. This game looks really in good content and gameplay. Hope they have trial version of the finished one. I missed out on the beta. Also, its kinda what Evilbaga said.

EvilBaga
EvilBaga

Sounds like Liberals Vs. Conservatives...

Shinso-Zangetsu
Shinso-Zangetsu

Man, this sounds awesome! I wouldn't care if it's P2P.

londonrider
londonrider

The_Needle, thanks for sharing your notices! But for me personaly the game's story looks even more charming then. I just hope old farts will not ban it for these similarities :)

DarkStorm2332
DarkStorm2332

Some pretty nifty research ya did there. I wouldn't be too surprised if these things were all biblical references, or at least share similarities. It's always a neat way to come up with stories :P People seem to do that a lot

The_Needle
The_Needle

I don't mean to offend anyone with this post, so please don't take it wrong. It's just that, as a student of the Scriptures, I see some glaring connections that the creators of the game have taken from the Bible and incorporated into their game. I'm not sure how I feel about it really. But I will share the connections with anyone who is interested. If you read Designer Diary#1 (posted on gamespot on June 29, 2007), tells some of the background for the game. There are Two races in particular mentioned. The Eloh, a highly advance benevolent species who want to help all life to progress. The Logos, the highly advanced quantum super-science developed/discovered by the Eloh. In the game, it is also a language. The Neph, a splinter group of the Eloh, who believe that lesser forms of life are not worthy of their help. They believe all lesser life should be subjugated. How does this relate to the Bible? -The Eloh - as in "Elohim", the Hebrew term for God. (Genesis 1: "In the beginning, God(Elohim) created the heavens and the earth...and God(Elohim) said, let us make man in our own image") -The Logos - Christians belive that Jesus was the "Logos" (translated "word" or "intelligence") in scripture (God being a singular infinite being with three triune aspects- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) ie: John "In the beginning was the Word(Logos), and the word was WITH God, and the Word WAS God. All things were made by him...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...and we beheld His glory, that of the only begotten of the Father...For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" -The Neph - from Nephilim. This is the ancient Hebrew word meaning "fallen ones", and relates to Lucifer(Satan) and the angels (and their offspring) who rebelled against God. Just thought I would share. Thanks for listening to my ramblings. Again, please take no offense to this post.

LightofHeroes
LightofHeroes

this story has stolen pieces from Marvel( The Kree Skrull War), I think a bit of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and a lot from the story of Warcraft. I mean this Bane is very similar to the lot you fight in Warcraft 3, and this resistance to that new race you can play in WoW.( I don't know the exact names since it's been a long time when I played Warcraft.) You're a fool stfu. If anything they stole some gameplay and things from SWG. Thats it.

Sokol4ever
Sokol4ever

This could be something special, something not traditional for MMORPG. It's got a good setting, very compelling story, If they workout the gameplay and mix or introduce a new way of combat this will definitely be a a hit. Time will tell.

Built
Built

as borat would say... "very nice"

londonrider
londonrider

I'm beta tester. And I have to say there is more than just good a story in this game. It is created with very special atmoshpere which keeps me addicted to Tabula Rasa. It's not a shiny-holywood-style-fairy-tale. It IS a war. In addition, it's developed very firmly- even now the beta version of the game is working 99% smoothly. Sound & music are superb. Graphics is good. Indeed, I am looking forward for the official launch of Tabula Rasa!

Dark_Nexus3367
Dark_Nexus3367

I'm quite fond of RPGs but MMOs just seem to pointless nowadays,you kill things and level up,buy new weapons and kill more things.There is no real point to it,this game looks to give a good story with an actual ending,it's not tough to make side quests or added missions after the main story so why not give it an actual end.WoW certainly had good gameplay but it just felt too boring and repetitive to me after 4 months of killing the same things over and over again with no sense of finality in the game.

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

Yep, solid context they've built up there, now to see if the gameplay/graphics etc. hold up. I don't want to have to go questing with the 12 year old army :s

Nazzdreg
Nazzdreg

Not sure if I'll get it or not. But it does look groovy. I am playing WoW, and devout a fair amount of time to it. SO I probably won't have enough time to play that one. Plus my 40k addiction takes up other time of my day. I do agree that some MMO's players can make you want to leave a game. I have been tempted to a point. But that was form Gold Spammers!

CroCorwin
CroCorwin

this story has stolen pieces from Marvel( The Kree Skrull War), I think a bit of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and a lot from the story of Warcraft. I mean this Bane is very similar to the lot you fight in Warcraft 3, and this resistance to that new race you can play in WoW.( I don't know the exact names since it's been a long time when I played Warcraft.)

Lonelynight
Lonelynight

Sounds interesting too bad I don't play any MMOs

SCGhost2424
SCGhost2424

Love the story, now i have to see gameplay. Please make it so it wont depend on other players to do everything....

zeekx
zeekx

Yea, I hope for a lot with this game. I played World of Warcraft and was always trying to find something better after getting to 70 and not wanting to get addicted to raiding. My main problem was there were too many god damned people who were all little know it alls. This should be a welcome break and hopefully the end of my little MMORPG search.

dmn_link
dmn_link

Dam, i wish this was a book, i rally enjoyed this read. Now i have to wait for the game T_T.... hope its good.

arnavdesai
arnavdesai

I truly hope this games lives up to its hype and expectations I have of it & I hope the pricing is comfortable. I really only play Guild Wars so am not experienced in this genre but am really actually looking forward to this game & admittedly this is one game I might consider paying monthly for. Hope they have something cool here.

Saije
Saije

If you can make comparisons that are that broad then you might aswell stop playing games right now, cause they are all the same.

can0of0cheese
can0of0cheese

Reminds me of starwars.. Evil superior empire of doom, outcasts and rebels with special powers training on secret planets.... Throw in a light sword to the fray and rename the logos to the force and it's basically kotor with multiplayer.

grassgreener12
grassgreener12

looks cool....im not a huge mmorpg gamer but i might check it out.....WoW high $15 per month plus buying the game seemed a little too high for me so i hope this game is cheaper.....im a teenager, but my parents wont pay any subscription fees

Sndman71
Sndman71

I've solo'd and played with friends since Ultimia online. If your too much of a social outcast in games that you can't find a good person or two to play with, then the mmorpg genre isn't for you. This game is going to put World of Warcraft to shame. For one reason. Originality! World of Warcraft is the top selling MMORPG, and there is nothing that makes that game good, other then the backing of blizzard. If I had a problem with someone in a MMORPG it usually was some kid who didn't know the difference between, right and wrong. This game is going to change alot of things in the MMORPG community. I think the only thing I will find annoying is the people shouting, or talking about WoW in this game, because so many will move on. I find anyone who plays WoW ignorant towards the gaming industry because its not Original and the gaming community should be crying for more original content. I'm sick of seeing Elfs, Dwarfs, and other races alike used in the same matter? why not mix it up a little? I'm just sick in General for MMORPGS I've played the following to give you a IDEA of how much life I wasted. -Ultimia Online -Anarchy Online -Dark Age of Camelot -Everquest 1 -Everquest 2 -Asherons Call 1 -Asherons Call 2 -Planetside -City of Heroes -Final Fantasy XI -Shadowbane -Earth and Beyond -The Sims Online -Neocron -And A Bunch of Free Ones (I found at download.com cause I was bored) I've played them all for atleast 3+ months each. So obviously I been around long enough to know that there is no original gaming no more. History is starting to repeat and I want new ideas, or I think this big kid will just go to consoles, like Wii. Which is much more innovative.

Saije
Saije

Thats reassuring, The game looks great and I'd like to try it. But when you play an MMORPG the other people playing the game can make it or break it for you, still I'll probably give this a shot when it comes out.

Garygok
Garygok

Saije, that is a bit synical but I understand your opinion. But all you have to do to realise that this isnt the case everywhere is log into UO for a while. You will see a community like no other; groups of people who have been there for years still ready to help out any newbie that comes along. My point is that it is these people who allow themselves to get caught up in the story; and they are still around. That being said, I think alot of people are going to be in for a fantastic surprise when they fire up Tabula for the first time, this is the best Beta I've ever been involved with.

Saije
Saije

Great story, to bad it wont matter... No one plays MMORPGs to get lost or wrapped up in the story... There will still be idiots running around with names like Leet_Hamburgr and other stupid ****. If they really cared about crafting a great story experience they would make a single player rpg...

McAndrew_basic
McAndrew_basic

At first I was skeptic. The first video was awesome when it introduced a fantasy theme. However when the new look came out and they introduced a sci fi theme it looked too much like star wars galaxies/planetside. But after seeing and reading this new information I am once again intrigued and more open to play it. (I often wonder if EA had some kind of contract hold on Richard Garriott when it came to making a fantasy mmorpg)

asianguy9915
asianguy9915

My Father actually knows "Lord British" and he spent some time with him about 3 weeks ago talking about the game. Garriott said hes got all the right things in place such as graphics and combat etc. but what he really wants to know is "Is it fun" ? If i remember correctly it cost around 30 million to make this game, so from what im hearing it should be a great addition to the MMORPGS

Glordit
Glordit

:D Time to give away my GW account! Whoops have done that already! :lol: oh well mabey this will satisfy my MMO craving!

Targzissian
Targzissian

Those goodie goodie Eloh thought that they should just share their knowledge with anyone advanced enough to understand it. Well, look where that got them.

jag215
jag215

This seems like it would also make for an amazing storyline to a regular RPG.

jag215
jag215

One of the only MMOs that has ever really intrigued me. But my puny computer will never be able to play it. Hopefully it become a huge success and gets ported to the PS3. I know. Not gonna happen. but still it sounds interesting.

efrench9
efrench9

Please delay this game as long as it takes to make it truly remarkable and not just marketable!

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

this is the mmo that i have been waiting 4 once it comes out bey 2 wow and hello 2 Tabula Rasa

TheC0m1ssar
TheC0m1ssar

Looks really nice. This is on my list to buy for Christmas. If it comes out by then, that is.

SkarFace7331
SkarFace7331

I'm certanly leave World of Warcraft and start playing Tabula Rasa, from what I've played in the beta and from what I'm reading its gona quick ass... PS: Ofc I'll only play it until GW 2 comes out :D

JFenix
JFenix

Sounds promising, and apparently - I'll admit - better developed than I had previously assumed.