Tabula Rasa Updated Q&A - Final Thoughts and Post-Launch Content

Tabula Rasa launches this week, and we caught up with producer Starr Long to find out what the plans are for this science fiction-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

One of the earliest genres of computer games was role-playing games, and one of the trailblazers of RPGs back in the day was Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, creator of the famed Ultima fantasy RPG franchise. Since then, RPGs have evolved to become massively multiplayer online RPGs, allowing thousands of players to inhabit the same virtual world at the same time. MMOs let players socialize, fight together, fight against one another, and more. Garriott was one of the pioneers of this genre as well, with 1997's Ultima Online.

Now Garriott, his studio Destination Games, and NCsoft are launching Tabula Rasa, a science fiction-themed MMO that will let you play as a human soldier caught up in a large, intergalactic war. You'll be able to join thousands of other players online as you explore strange new worlds and battle enemy races. The emphasis in Tabula Rasa is as much on action as it is on role playing. With Tabula Rasa launching this week, we caught up with producer Starr Long, a longtime Garriott collaborator and one of the driving forces behind Ultima Online, to find out what Destination Games has planned for the game.

GameSpot: Now that development on Tabula Rasa's launch content is winding down, what would you say was the most challenging part of the game's development?

Tabula Rasa features laser weapons and robots--not swords and sorcery.

Starr Long: The most difficult part now is balancing three core needs: fixing stuff, improving the game experience, and adding new features. We're improving the game experience by adding to existing features, like loadout trays for weapons. We have them for abilities now and want to add them for weapons. And we're adding new game features, like new classes, personal armor units, and a bunch of stuff we've not really talked about yet!

The thing is they all have equal priority in our minds, but we still have to prioritize them. Keeping the pace of adding new content while fixing stuff--that's difficult!

GS: Tabula Rasa is known for being a game with a lot of unique features and quite a bit of depth. How will the game make sure new players don't get confused while they experiment with all this brand new stuff?

SL: We spent a lot of time trying to make it so you won't be confused from the beginning of the game. For instance, take character creation. We make that easy by starting everyone off as a recruit. You don't have to tweak any stats or anything like that without the knowledge of how you like to play or how the classes work. You focus on what you want to look like and jump in the game.

You don't make your first character class selection until level five--after you have more exposure to the game. I think we do a really good job of not assaulting players with too many choices in the beginning when they can't make informed decisions. Later in the game, though, there are tons of choices and decisions the players will make.

GS: What aspects of the game do you think will resonate most with beginners or more casual players? What aspects will appeal most to hardcore players?

SL: For casual players, I think the ease of use of the game will have some appeal. You can get in the game, start shooting stuff, and feel like a hero quickly.

For the hardcore players, the clan warfare and crafting system, plus the decisions you need to make in the game--in ethical parables, strategies for fighting enemies (like cover), weapons (weapon and damage types), and moment-to-moment gameplay decisions--will provide them with what they need to keep enjoying the game even after a significant time investment. Later in the game, things like cover become more important, so there will be a lot of decisions to make and strategies to try out.

I actually think there will be a crossover in control points. Casual players may walk by and say, "Oh, look, there's a group taking a control point. I'm going to go help," and have a blast doing that. Hardcore players will enjoy doing that as well, but will probably be more involved in the planning of taking control points and collecting defense tokens.

You can be part of an intergalactic army.

GS: We understand that Tabula Rasa was intended to fly in the face of what a conventional MMO game is supposed to be like--the typical kind of game that forces players to invest countless hours and always group with other players. How will the game allow players to enjoy themselves even if they can't play for long periods of time or don't have groups of friends also playing?

SL: We try to engineer most of the missions to last 30 minutes to an hour. The rewarding part of our game is that you can get in during your lunch hour and have a good play session. It is a fast-paced game where most of the barriers to meaningful gameplay have been drastically reduced or eliminated.

That said, you can solo or group up in Tabula Rasa. Shared battlefields are solo-able. Really, the key areas you probably want to group are in instances and control point battles.

There's a Big War Out There

GS: What will the game have to offer players who plan to make that kind of commitment? What can groups of hardcore players looking to migrate from their current game to this one expect?

There are a lot of strange things to encounter in the game.

SL: The pace of the game and the moment-to-moment decisions you have to make are (I hope) more exciting and different from most other games. If you want to invest a lot of time, our crafting system provides thousands upon thousands of combinations. You also have the ability to enhance your items, but beware! You increase your risk of breaking or destroying items the more you try to enhance them.

Clan versus clan warfare, which is in the game now--but we'll beef out a bunch after launch--will really intrigue players who love to invest a lot of time in MMOs. Once a clan battle has begun, it can happen anywhere at any time for the period of a week. Two hundred-person clans could be at war for a week...all over the place!

GS: Tell us about how the tactical combat system will help differentiate the game from standard online games. And how will character development and the learning of new skills keep combat fresh as people develop more powerful characters over time?

SL: The big thing for us is the blend of RPG and action mechanics. How much damage do I do while moving versus standing still? If you are behind cover when a shot is initiated, you don't get hurt. But if you try to duck or run away, that's another story. Cover and movement, balanced with skills and weapons and armor--that blend of action and RPG is unique to Tabula Rasa.

As far as character development is concerned, as you level you get points to spend on abilities. Most games just pump up the impact of a skill (fireball does more damage). We have this too, but sometimes adding points make a new version of the ability. For instance, with "lightning," the first time you get it, you can use it against one target. When you apply another point to it, then it works on multiple targets. Then the third point adds area effect damage and the fourth point gets you a "knock down" effect. So the skill is slightly different each time you apply points. And there are tactical reasons to use each version of that skill, so those abilities don't lose relevance as your character progresses.

Also, you make a lot of decisions at the higher levels. Identifying vulnerabilities in enemies and using the weapon that will give the most damage is a simple example of this. Basically, in this game you're an adult in a war. And with that knowledge comes all of the responsibilities you would have in real life. [There are] lots of choices in this game.

Tabula Rasa launches this Friday.

GS: Could you tell us a bit about your plans to support and expand the game in the future? We understand, for instance, that the game will launch with two planets, hundreds of quests, and several war zones. How do you see it growing and changing in the future?

SL: We plan to do yearly large expansions with other planets and all the creatures, missions, etc., associated with that. Between those times, we will be adding content to existing systems, like player-versus-player and military surplus every few months.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Tabula Rasa?

SL: Buy it!

Although we have been focusing a lot about how Tabula Rasa is different from other MMOs when we talk about the game, I think it has a nice mesh of new features that we view as improvements to the genre and familiar things that players expect and love about MMOs.

GS: Thank you, Starr.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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53 comments
cellolol
cellolol

Ok about the war zones n stuff is it going 2 be anther guild wars where you cant see any1 oooorrrrr is it like auto asult where no bad dudes can come in the citys

johannleo
johannleo

Why hasn´t the game been reviewed yet ?

Chris23
Chris23

Yea I know it was and I wish I realized that in time to get into it.. I bought it anyways and I love it. Now I'm busy trying to get my friends addicted. they offer a 3 day free trial to people you refer but that's quite a short period of time. Anyways the game is great. it does have bugs and minor issues here or there but it's probably the smoothest MMORPG launch I've ever seen. I hope the content is updated and kept fresh. The future plans that I've heard about make me drool.. :P I wonder why GameSpot hasn't reviewed it yet..? What are you guys waiting for?! :()

Hades_30
Hades_30

I'm really enjoying Tabula Rasa. I'll admit that I was not a fan during beta, but I reserved my judgement for the release version of the game, and I must say it has been a lot of fun. Now the question is, will it stay fresh and fun for months to come? With additional content and and expanding storyline, it think it can.

mujeeb1
mujeeb1

Chris23.. There was an open beta for about 3 months. Pretty much everyone who's playing it now, played that beta.

Chris23
Chris23

They need to offer a free trial.. I think the only reason I bought Hellgate was because I got addicted during beta, but the lack of polish annoys me. I'd love to try this game but I can't justify the money (mainly the subscription) without playing it first.

Gamingguy87
Gamingguy87

Simeon: U can't pause it because it's an MMO, but death doesn't carry a big penalty and is only slightly annoying. But you can really just /quit anywhere and log back in when you're ready w/ out a problem (except in the unstanced missions).

Simeon_Crane
Simeon_Crane

Can you pause it or get away from the game at a moments notice? I want to play this game, but also have a baby and a wife. I am able to play games all the time but, if I get called away I have to go. I learned with EQII and Eve, that situation is not optimal. Also do you have to group? I hate having to look around for a group especially if I have to AFK for a few minutes every so often.

spuddyt
spuddyt

the clan warfare sounds kind of funny... but you might just get single players making a clan, declaring war and because there is only one person, no one will ever find the bastard

Holysapyn
Holysapyn

I think they wanted to go a differant direction from WoW, so do us a favor and stop comparing the two. Just play the game for what it is or dont play it at all, I'm not saying it dont have any issues, but what game doesnt.

HiroHito
HiroHito

another boooring MMO, gimme a break thanks.

Cythwydd
Cythwydd

Kind of leery about how Starr dodged the question of what hardcore players can expect... because there's really no endgame content, just more instances.

Lozzo87
Lozzo87

I used to be a hardcore WoW player but i'm now turning my back cuz of the simply fact... i'm bored. Originally, WoW blew me away, it was an entirely new experience that just falt massive and limitless and it was easy to get lost in the amazing fantasy world. TR however, this is a game that I played from start of beta and thought "Well this is OK, looks and plays like it's from 2005 tho"... This game has no real PUNCH. I'm gonna stick with the AMAZING single player RPGs that are our and are due to arrive (The Witcher, Mass Effect) as they offer a more innovative, fun and deep experience than MMOs nowadays.

pinksandcocaine
pinksandcocaine

I think Hellgate and Tabula Rasa are just completely different takes on a somewhat similar premise, though. I'm honestly kind of surprised they're being so directly compared in the comments. I was in the beta and personally I was just never really won over. Some of the fighting is more interesting, but a lot of the game just felt so... I don't even know how to explain it. Collecting runes felt almost just arbitrary, the areas were just incredibly boring. I realize it was the beta, but I don't know how much they possibly could adjust some of those things for launch

Zee666
Zee666

Looks good, pity me and my mates ain't PC guys or the next few weeks (or months etc.) would just be lost to this. Bummer.

Tollers
Tollers

Looks like most people see the lameness in this game. Ack Gadzeek!! Back to WoW. Come on Devs make a deep, rich MMO!!!

cyw1988
cyw1988

The Setting looks really Doom 3... especially the last picture...

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

I agree with Demoralizer. The Battle system is so lame, that Hellgate: London gives you more options and variety with just two classes than you get from all the classes in TR combined. Plus, the gameplay in Hellgate is more fun and frenetic right off the bat and it only gets better as you go on. Unlike the gameplay in Tabula Rasa, the aiming is twitch-based, and you have an honest to goodness first person view available (TR only has a lame over the shoulder zoom-in view and that's as close as you can get to the action) but the aiming isn't so difficult as to turn off people that aren't good at shooters. The auto-aiming in TR is easy even for those who are good at shooters, and it's downright insulting to those who are good at shooters.

kajtrooper
kajtrooper

I love this action type RPG online game. It's what I've been lookin for. When it comes out, who wants to make a clan?! xD

demoralizer
demoralizer

This game is a money pit I hope Sony losses money lol. Level 5 to pick a class, come on.... Casuals will quit before level 5 and harcorers will get there and be like well the battle system is lame so whats the point.

Josh-Fu
Josh-Fu

I dont think its about what game is better, its what you like. TR offers a lot of conviences and faster action. Not everyone wants to grind of ride a bird for 15 minutes to play some more. And I think we all wish we had a rocket launcher in WOW from time to time

LucasUP
LucasUP

GameDAILYMadMan: I didn't know that. Sorry for comparing the two like I did. There are still some ridiculous similarities in the two games and their failings though.

ravenowns
ravenowns

No one will ever beat WOW. Are you insane. Wow is popular because of one reason. It is easy to play. Anyone can play it. Even a 5 year old. There are mmo's that are much better then WOW that less people play because you have to use your BRAINS. Start using yoru brain Toller and you will see. What a tool.

Tollers
Tollers

Not good. Compared to WoW this is like a small, little, miny park. You just don't feel like you are in a real world with politics, community, etc. The depth is just not there. The funny thing about WoW is nothing will ever beat it...it will eventually just die from age. I'm so dissapointed in the mmo's out atm.

NervoZa
NervoZa

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

master_blue
master_blue

If this has no non consentual pvp zones, player killing, inguild fighting or looting then this game = a no buy.

GameDAILYMadMan
GameDAILYMadMan

LucasUP said: "I feel that there were many mistakes to be earned from in Auto Assault, but apparently, they didn't learn from them." Except that Auto Assault was developed by NetDevil while Tabula Rasa was developed by Richard Garriott and Destination Games. Two completely different development houses. NCsoft is just the publisher.

LucasUP
LucasUP

I played the beta for a while. Heres the lowdown: It will fail EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AND FOR THE SAME REASONS AS AUTO ASSAULT. I feel that there were many mistakes to be learned from in Auto Assault, but apparently, they didn't learn from them Maybe it wont fail as hard, they have done a decent job marketing it. The good: Makes a decent /attempt/ at changing standard MMO affair, being able to move around and take cover adds a decent amount of excitement, as opposed to clicking on something and then watching it die. If your looking for an MMO and /not/ a shooter, this will probably be fun for you. The bad: -The quests suck. The same things we've always seen, fetch this, kill that. -combat is NOT ANYTHING LIKE AN FPS. You are essentially still clicking on guys to kill them, your weapons lock on, and aiming has nothing to do with anything. Its still a die-roll system to determine hits. Cover does makes a bit of difference, and running around shooting stuff still gives you some satisfaction; but FPS players beware: This is not an FPS. -Not enough skills/weapons/tactics. You will soon get bored of your chosen class skills. You don't get enough of them, and they too long time to get. So yeah, overall, there is an alright MMO, better then some others. But GS really hasn't done a great job "Redefining" the MMO. This is still a standard game, in a futuristic setting, and a few "quirks" which sort of "hide" the fact that your playing an MMO. This was exactly the same problem with Auto Assault (which was really fun to drive around and shoot stuff in, untill you realized the rest of the game was still a standard MMO). However, TR could still make it. There isn't the problem of no-one playing it, like in AA.

bodylotion
bodylotion

This game could be interesting but it could also be ****

F4ll3n_1
F4ll3n_1

I was in the BETA, and I'll just say, expect a good time from this game. In response to Idonyo, the level or Roleplaying depends on how players wish to interact - some MMOs have specific RP servers, whilst other people just prefer to play the game. To look at it loosely though, you play the "role" of a recruit in a galactic defense army. There you go - Roleplaying ;)

ldonyo
ldonyo

Was there really a need for yet another MMO game? I have yet to see one that claims to involve role-playing actually have any role-playing in it. Leveling and stats are not the only parts of a role-playing game!

kyrieee
kyrieee

the devs for this game seem really arrogant

sergio_afonso
sergio_afonso

Being playing this game since October 30! Great MMO! Dont expect to be a revolution in MMo its more an evolution! It takes everything good in MMOs and do it better!

Cerberoz
Cerberoz

I got news for you: Tabula rasa sucks. You get to aim weapons, but it does no good because your skill points determine wether or not you hit. Garriott is about 5 years behind his time.

FunkyFlyChicken
FunkyFlyChicken

Well, after playing a few months in beta, I have to say that I'm still on the fence about whether or not it's worth a fee. For those of you interested, please hear me out... the game IS fun, right out of the box. The tutorial is amazingly fun and dynamic. Unfortunately, that's never fully replicated again, until a few instances that you run. These instances have been beefed up now for live release, and now almost require a group, so they are not soloable until you are way above the "recommended" level (and therefore level of reward). Control Points also have been beefed up, almost too much. At level 5-8, you can walk into a CP with quests your level, and be assaulted by about 30 Bane attacking a CP, all in the "red" (level 15 or so). Also, it is very disappointing to see that they plan on charging for content updates like new planets, instead of offering them in bi-monthly updates like City of Heroes does with it's new zones and content. Tabula Rasa is seriously lacking in content for an MMORPG. The content that is there (the two planets) can be easily completed within a month or two at best. And there are no other races to play, and only ONE starting area. Every character you make will follow the same exact path for questing/leveling at this point, until their first "pay expansion" in a year. the game would make a GREAT action rpg that could be played online, but as an MMORPG, it just doesn't have the content now to sustain a community long term. Clan vs Clan warfare is just an afterthought, the crafting system is NOT deep - you can customize weapons with attributes (buffs/enemy debuffs), or create items that you could buy easier from any vendor. There is no depth or real point to the crafting, it's not worth the effort to find the recipes and materials needed, just to get a small boost that isn't all that beneficial. Don't get me wrong though, the game will be LOADS of fun for sci-fi and action lovers who also like RPG's, at least for the first month or two. AFter that, it is going to lose it's shine, and a lot of players are going to leave out of boredom.

londonrider
londonrider

"Free trial"- the open beta available for half a year already. Everyone who was interested in this game, could download the client and test it. My personal impressions are mixed. The designs are quite good, but everything looks too artificial (especially after STALKER). Gameplay itself is quite fun, but not so addictive. The most I liked there- that's the atmosphere. PvP is quite awkward, and you can play only as a human. The bottom line is that the game is good and enjoyable, but there are lots of very good games without monthly fees

Wedge55
Wedge55

I've played enough of the beta recently to realize that the game is a hollow attempt to capitalize on the tired WoW formula. It makes no attempt to advance the MMO genre, in fact it feels dated right out of the box. Unfortunately for them they have given players way too many opportunities to try the game before its release and that will cost them sales. Ignorance would have served them far better.

thenewau25
thenewau25

why why not action rpg,why? sorry guys am a bit desperate for an action rpg online!

PacoL250
PacoL250

If this is good, then I'll have to give it a shot. :) I've been intrigued by it since I heard about when I was still playing CoH/CoV. With Richard Garriot behind it, I had high hopes and I still do. @warmmachine: We definitely need a sci-fi MMO that "rocks the boat" as you say. IMHO, I feel the fantasy genre is getting slightly played out nowadays. @hatefull: How was the beta? (PM me with details as I'll probably miss the comment here :) ).

hatefull
hatefull

well from the beta i can tell one thing. its very energizing! this may sound a little odd i know, but its one of the very few games that managed to change my mood entirely. the music, the action, dunno. plus it has a sort of charm i only saw in fantasy games, and well this is sci-fi so it feels different anyway ..:)

Succumbus
Succumbus

Yay I want to try this out before I start to pay though =/

warmmachineme
warmmachineme

I really hope this one takes off. We need a sci-fi MMO that rocks the boat a bit. If this takes off, it could be my game for a long time.

Maybe even after the Conan MMO, if Garriot's team really piles on the content between now and then.

warcryry
warcryry

Well HGL's shooting is horrible so I hope this can do the job.

thebestever1232
thebestever1232

This game looks seriously awesome in terms of the giant wars. I almost creamed my pants, then I realized it was sci-fi. Ima need some sort stimulant to re sustain the excitement I felt in the beginning.

Leonagard
Leonagard

free trial! or nothing... MMOFPS??... not sure...