Tabula Rasa Designer Diary #4: Character Cloning System

Paul Sage, Lead Designer at NCsoft for Tabula Rasa, talks us through the character cloning system.

I think we have all had that moment when you are so busy you just wish you could clone yourself. I know as we get closer to launch, a few clones of the development team would be a welcome addition. But that’s not the kind of cloning I want to talk about. Though the Medic class can create a temporary clone to fight alongside them, the actual Character Cloning System in Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa is a bit different. It is a way for players to save their progress with a character so they can try new classes and new builds without having to start over.

The idea behind cloning is to give players the ability to save their progress with a particular character before making a major change. It allows a player to say, “I want to do something radical or something I’m not quite sure of,” while acting as an insurance of sorts while they try something they may not have done yet. It allows players to have more choices and try new classes and builds without worrying that once that change is made, there is no going back. In my mind, while I was helping to develop this system, I was hoping that we could encourage players to not be as cautious as they might be with a typical MMO. To encourage them to take chances and try new things.

One clone, straight up, no twist.

When we were in the early stages of development, I was just sitting down and really thinking about what it was that I just didn’t like about most MMOs. I realized that what I was most unhappy with was that I didn’t always feel like I could get out there and do something different. I wanted to be able to dabble in other things with my characters. That really is my favorite aspect of cloning; it lets me try something new without starting over. Of course, that was mitigated a little bit because people could exploit it. But to help balance limiting the times someone could clone, we added in the ability to respec your character at that point, so not only can the players save at cloning, but they can also experiment with their character and really personalize their character.

As I was saying, initially we had unlimited cloning in the game. Basically, at any point, a player could clone their character. Unfortunately, there were some exploits with the cloning system that we had to address. What happened was that players would clone a character before a particularly valuable mission and then run that mission multiple times. (While we admire player ingenuity, this isn’t the intention of the design!) So we decided to restrict how often a player can clone. Right now, players receive a cloning credit each time they reach a tier choice. That is where we felt, “Here’s the big choice, here’s where you should clone.” We also provided some additional ways players can receive cloning credits as well, like completing certain missions for example.

In a world this dangerous, having a spare has obvious benefits.

Another thing I like about the cloning system is the way it compliments our class system. The two really emerged almost hand-in-hand in Tabula Rasa. We wanted to solve the problem of the player having the appropriate amount of choices in the beginning. When you think about it, anytime you try something new, you really don’t have enough information in the beginning to decide it its something you want to do. It’s not until you’ve had a chance to experience it, to play with it for a while, that you really have a chance decide, yeah, this is for me. Plus, along the way you’ll want to have chances to go back if you decide that you don’t like the choices you’ve made so far. In that way, the cloning system supports our class system very well, though I feel it would also compliment other class systems.

So far, the players have really enjoyed the cloning system in Tabula Rasa because it gives them more choices and more freedom. Right now, no one else is doing it. We talk a lot on the team about what makes Tabula Rasa unique and what feature will separate it from the rest of the games that came before it. I think that one of those things is the cloning system. I am very happy that it is something the players really seem to be enjoying. Character cloning gives players a way to respec in a way that makes sense, and it lets them try out classes and skills they may not have ever played before. I think most importantly, it makes Tabula Rasa a bit less restrictive and much more fun for the player.

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18 comments
Snaptrap
Snaptrap

The cloning system allows you to switch classes with a high level character instead of being stuck with the class you choose at the beginning of the game. Take for instance Guild Wars which allows you to choose a variety of classes off the start, and even though you can change your secondary, you're ultimately stuck with that main class you chose throughout the game. I've played the beta of Tabula Rasa and I was not impressed at all. Reminds me too much of Brute Force meets online. The action is very slow paced and the interface controls are sloppy. You can't properly move your character with any sub menu open such as inventory (backpack). I guess General British put too much focus on what other MMO's didn't have and forgot to keep what was good about them. Richard says magic, dragons, and elve type games are overdone. Well, he doesn't seem to look at anything beyond online gaming which is exactly the opposite. Military games are seriously overdone. I guess that's what turned me off the most about Tabula Rasa. Too many weaknesses in the game, and a subscription fee is going to hurt it even more before changes can be made.

Brassaren2000
Brassaren2000

Guess next game will be The chronicles of spellborn or as they say "the sleeping giant" . WHY do all new games bo so freaking easy to play? Ok i admit its good that u dont have to play 24/7 to get soemwhere if u have a jobb and so on... BUT atleast make it a challenge GEZUS. Anarchy Online and EvE is 2 games that is hard to master but the most fun games if u have the time for it ! Look at WoW easy game no reward in the endgame = bad game even if it have 9 milljon fanboys playing it !

Wedge55
Wedge55

It's a band-aid for the fact that characters all start out exactly the same with generic abilities. You have to grind for hours before you even get the chance to try anything even marginally unique. How's this better than most MMOs that let you try a variety of interesting classes the moment you load the game?

Brassaren2000
Brassaren2000

Ive been in close beta i must say i was very dissapointed. I hade high hopes on this to maybe take Anarchy Online place. What i got was a nice looking game but WAY to easy for my taste i like the hardcore games most of all. I will seem i will have to w8 for a VERY long time before any sci-fi game takes anarchy Onlines place cry !

crimson_axe
crimson_axe

You know, this isn't something that's never been done before. SWG had something very similar in effect to this. The only difference was, it was a long term trial and error thing instead of an instant gratification. Just goes to show you what people want these days - instant gratification.

gike987
gike987

Just pre-orded the collector editon this game sounds great.

Maximiliator
Maximiliator

I WANT this game !!! I just WANT it !!! The trailers banning !!! o.O w0000000t *crazy hopping up and down* --- Max

dontcare5454
dontcare5454

This Hellgate or Witcher I cant decide......

nightcall14
nightcall14

the clone system really lets you try all the options

Citan76
Citan76

Man I want on this beta so bad. I signed up for it come on guys give me a chance!

Fillerninja
Fillerninja

The cloning system is one of the best parts of this game. By the time I was level 15 I was a sapper but I wanted to play a slightly different character. So all I had to do was click the clone button and bam! I had a level 15 Biotechnician. Although I quickly went back to my sapper because I just couldn't give up the cool mech armor.

osleyee
osleyee

clone system is really helpful to make the righ choose and the right desicions.

GIF
GIF

Hehe, MMOGs are not realistic in the least. Immersive is a better choice of a word to describe what you want to say. Either way its a nice addition but MMOGs as of right now are still way behind console games and PC games in terms of gameplay as far as combat is concerned. Static environments, a world that does not change and point based, static based combat is snore inducing to me.

Ninjak
Ninjak

oh.. it's a MMO.. no thanks!

DizzInArms
DizzInArms

Nice. I've always disliked the unforgiving aspect of "choose wisely or create a dud alt" in MMORPG games. I've paid my XX amount of dollars per month to 'play' the game, not sit on the developer forums for 3 hours reading "Build/Class" guides so I don't stuff my toon up! This is good news!

dn3datomiced
dn3datomiced

maddyml123 true, but i think hole idea of an MMO is to do something, and be wise about it, and you should think about it, the future of it. it's a fun idea, just takes away from the realism aspect, but since this is the future, i guess it makes some sense Since when were MMOs about WISDOM? Just like any other game, it should be able to be played on your terms, not someone else's. Having the ability to do what you WANT, but then have the option to go back and try something you're not sure about later is wonderful. Not like starting over in every MMO in existence.

dsymetry
dsymetry

Very good idea IMO, think that is a great plus for the game.

maddyml123
maddyml123

true, but i think hole idea of an MMO is to do something, and be wise about it, and you should think about it, the future of it. it's a fun idea, just takes away from the realism aspect, but since this is the future, i guess it makes some sense