After more than three years in development, massively multiplayer role-playing game Tabula Rasa is in good hands according to a spokesperson for its publisher, NCsoft North America. But, as of today, it's not in as many hands. Three of the higher-profile members of the TR team--lead designer Carly Staehlin, lead programmer Bill Randolph, and artist Scott Jones--have left the project and the company.
While he gave no reason for the trio's departure, NCsoft director of PR David Swofford confirmed to GameSpot that the three had made their exit. Project development is a dynamic process, Swofford said. There is restructuring going on, and Carly Staehlin is no longer on the team or with NCsoft. The cuts to staff occurred earlier this week, according to Swofford.
Staehlin spoke with GameSpot today, and, in effect, corroborated Swofford's "in good hands" assessment. "The role of lead designer will [now] be Richard Garriott's. Having him in this position means he will have tighter control over the game, which is a huge plus."
Starr Long maintains his role as the game's producer.
Staehlin had been one of NCsofts rising stars who first gained her reputation in the industry as community services manager of Ultima Online. She later became the game's producer. Over the past two years, she has been a constant figure on the conference circuit and was an outspoken advocate of the game.
Staehlin, Randolph, and Jones were part of Garriott's original Destination Games, the development group he founded after leaving Origin Systems. Almost immediately after Destination was announced, it became the North American beachhead for Korea's largest publisher--becoming a subsidiary of NCsoft and changing its name to NCsoft North America.
Swofford confirmed that between 30 and 40 developers remain at work on Tabula Rasa, which is still on track for a 2005 release. The projects going on and moving forward, said Swofford.
When it finally arrives on the market, Tabula Rasa will offer a unique game experience, fusing Eastern philosophy with an MMORPG framework. GameSpot got a chance to explore Tabula Rasa's world at this year's E3. Check out our preview.