Tabula Rasa Updated Q&A - Missions and Mission Design

Mission designer Rebekah Tran fills us in on the different types of quests and missions you'll undertake in this sci-fi massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

Arriving next month is Tabula Rasa, the long-awaited game from Richard "Lord British" Garriott, creator of classic role-playing games like Ultima and Ultima Online. As a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Tabula Rasa is a bit like World of Warcraft and EverQuest in that you'll be able to explore huge online worlds alongside thousands of other players. However, while World of Warcraft and EverQuest are fantasy-themed games, Tabula Rasa is science fiction. The game is set on alien worlds in the distant future, and humanity is part of the Allied Free Sentients, a coalition of races battling the evil Bane. Like in many MMOs, you'll have to pursue missions. However, the mission design in Tabula Rasa will strive to make it feel like you're taking part in military operations to free worlds. To learn more, we caught up with mission designer Rebekah Tran.

GameSpot: Tell us about the way players find and accept missions in the game. Will all missions have in-depth briefings?

Rebekah Tran: There are two ways to accept missions in Tabula Rasa. The first is the traditional way of finding a non-player character at a base or town that needs you to do something. The second is via a radio transmission, which is how we dispense missions while you're on the go. The way this works is an alert pops up that opens a mission dialog box containing a mission for you to do. The great part about this is that we can dispense new objectives on the go as opposed to requiring you to run back to a safe zone in order to progress. This really helps keep you in the action and adds to our military feel.

Take part in an intergalactic struggle in Tabula Rasa.

As far as the mission briefings go, we try to keep things as succinct as possible while still conveying the backstory and the reason why you are being sent on this objective. For those that like to read text and learn the backstory, there is a ton of content there. However, for those that just want to know immediately where to go and what to do, we have audio voice one-liners which give the brief rundown of the mission in addition to having objective indicators which show you specifically where you need to go to complete an objective.

GS: Give us a sense of the scale and scope of missions in Tabula Rasa. Will players only be killing 10 rats and returning them to the rat catcher? Will there be larger-scale, longer-term missions?

RT: You definitely will not be just killing X monsters while in Tabula Rasa. All of the designers work very hard to keep the feeling of a war in progress throughout the entire game, so most missions are very military in nature. Destroy a signal-jamming communications tower, protect a specialist while he hacks an enemy computer, gather intel on an enemy, [and] plant a communication spike to call in reinforcements and avoid enemy detection while infiltrating a base are just a few examples of things that you can do in our game. Not only do we have a gamewide, multicontinent mission arc, but the instances [a private copy of the world made for the player] really allow us as designers to craft very special experiences for the player.

GS: Tell us about the variety of missions that will be in the game. What will players be doing besides killing X number of monsters?

Target of opportunity missions will let you battle for titles.

RT: Protection, elimination, retrieval, destruction, and infiltration missions are just a few of the categories of missions that you'll see while in Tabula Rasa. As I mentioned before, we really want the player to feel like a soldier in an epic battle, so the more missions we can do that feel like they're military objectives the better. Beyond this, we have many missions which have a branch in them. This can mean you received two objectives, but can only complete one, or you have two ways to complete a task. In the end, we try to make it so that the choices you make on these missions influence the type of experience you're going to have in the game.

However, we all recognize that sometimes it's fun to be on a major mission and get a little recognition for the number of things you do wipe out with your chainguns. For that, we have a series of missions that we call "targets of opportunity," which are missions to be done alongside other missions. In these missions, as you complete the objective you will gain in-game titles so you can show others how awesome you are. I'm a little bit of a completionist, so I'm always gunning to get the veteran map title. Once I complete every mission on an overland map, I'll get this title and can then flaunt the fact that I'm awesome to everyone. There are currently about 10 different titles you can get per overland map, so there are definitely ways to show your achievements in the game.

GS: How do the missions play into the game's story, which seems to offer a morally ambiguous structure, rather than the typical black-and-white, good-and-evil experience we normally see in massively multiplayer games?

Missions aren't just about blasting everything you see; you'll have to make tough choices in some.

RT: Morally gray missions are a hallmark of Richard Garriott's game design philosophy. As a result, we have put a lot of these types of missions in and tried to make sure the choice you make is an action more than just a text choice. This way you actively have to make a decision that is going to affect something else in the game. As an example, in Torcastra Prison there is a soldier who is being converted into an evil cyborg-type creature we call a machina. He asks you to kill him out of mercy, but AFS high command wants you to bring him in so information can be extracted from him. The question is, do you honor the wish of a dying man and kill him while he still has his dignity, or do you follow orders and escort him out of the prison because it's not your job to be an executioner? Depending on what you decide to do, a new set of missions will open up and change the experience you have.

GS: How will accepting certain missions and completing them in favor of certain parties affect the opportunities and advanced missions that players will have access to later? Will there be full-on political factions that players might try to get closer to by completing missions only for those groups?

RT: Every overland map and many of the instances contain branching missions. When you complete branching missions [in] certain ways it will affect the missions available to you and the way that you can complete them. In Tabula Rasa, it's your actions and decisions that influence your gameplay experience over the long run.

GS: We understand that aside from story-based missions, there will be other running missions in the game, such as raid-style missions to recapture bases from alien invasions. Tell us about these types of missions. How easily accessible will they be for advanced players?

RT: Control points are the places where the Bane will be constantly pushing against the players for control of AFS and Bane bases. When the AFS has control of a control point, you'll have missions, vendors, teleporters, and graveyards available to you that aren't available when the Bane is in control of that area. The beauty of it is that when the Bane try to take a base (or when players want to take control of a Bane base), it's as easy as showing up to a location and rallying troops to that area--there are no special prerequisites. However, just because you captured a base before bed last night doesn't mean it's still going to be in AFS hands once you log in after work the next day. These are active battlefields--they need to be actively defended by players and give great rewards for doing so.

GS: Will there be any other types of pick-up-and-play missions in the game for players who are between groups or are playing at off-hours when their usual group of friends isn't around?

After years of development, Tabula Rasa finally launches in November.

RT: Just like in other games, you can group up with people you meet in common areas, so you don't have to wait for your friends to play. Also, there are a ton of missions that can be done on an overland map outside of a group. Beyond that, there is crafting, control points, player-versus-player, and searching out Logos to keep players occupied while their buddies are offline. That being said, the number of hostile targets in an instance will scale based on how many people are in the instance. This means that although it's very challenging to do instances solo, there's a chance that a skilled player can get through an instance alone.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the game's missions, or about Tabula Rasa in general?

RT: Tabula Rasa is one of those games that tries to focus on the fun and is as deep as you want it to be. If things are busy, I can pop in for a quick control point raid. If I have more time I can run through instances, try to get more player titles, advance my character, or craft some enhancement to aid me in PVP. With Tabula Rasa I don't have to spend hours preparing to play, I can just jump right in and get straight to the fun.

Not to mention, I've been completely spoiled by the mission objective indicators. Gone are the days of running a game and running a Web browser with a fan site up telling me where to go. Love that!

GS: Thank you.

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

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

45 comments
master_blue
master_blue

from the creator of UO without retaining the fun parts of UO no non consentual pvp zones, no looting and no inguild fighting.

acej2000
acej2000

Nothing new to see here, pso is even more engrosing than this.

dilbert5000
dilbert5000

*sighs* sometimes i wish i was an acne infested 15 year old who has a 3000 pounds worth PC and does nothing but play WoW all day hahah actually come to think about it i rather not be that :D

fenriz
fenriz

"Protection, elimination, retrieval, destruction, and infiltration missions are just a few of the categories of missions" He said. But I wonder, are these missions divided in actual categories, underlying a different type of interaction, or are these just fancy different words to call you doing the same thing over and over, simply shooting and blowing stuff up, one-right-click detonators, buttons, and NPC talking. Cause what We need in this game is more interaction and socialization The interviewer did well in insisting on the same question of We all hate to just collect 10 rats, clearly to force the guy pointing out the differences (if any) from the same old quest grinding scheme. But really, are they simple package deliveries, collecting and blowing up, or original and interesting ways of interaction ? Aren't those side-stories and quests description just a way to cover up something as stupid as XP grinding? Cause that's not a good thing, to make an instrument of backstories and ethics to disguise something that's dumb at heart.

HydroMat
HydroMat

the graphics are fairly presented (average) and the sound is again fair (nice music though).. but as others have said it gets boring fast,, VERY fast and i am usually very patient with games. same old boring grind only decidely worse than some of the biggest offenders like wow and lotr's, there doesnt even seem to be any point to the game other than run here talk to that guy then run back kill a few things and talk to another guy.. rinse and repeat thousands of times.

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

I played the beta and am still in it right now. They've fixed many problems, but for every one they fix, they seem to make at least one other new problem, and the main problem is that yes, the game does get boring fast, and you wonder why you have to pay a full $50 box fee and $15 a month for such a shallow amount of "content". Plus, the weapon selection's not as good as I thought it'd be. Not having Assault Rifles in particular's very disappointing.

Wedge55
Wedge55

Nothing new to see here, it's the same old quest grind. Being able to accept quests remotely? City of Heroes did that years ago. I mean really, if you want a sci-fi MMO, go play CoH. It's infinitely better than this dud.

Rizer
Rizer

Ya know, I must have totally missed all advertisements for this game. It look fun, different and cool...but I've never heard of it before now. Maybe I can find a beta of it some where.

Egameht
Egameht

It's a good game. I'm enjoying the simple mechanics so far, and it's easy to get how everything works. The only thing I'd suggest would be a stronger tutorial (the game just kinda throws you into it, and doesn't explain what gear is, what the stats mean, etc). The graphics are nice, and the missions are awesome so far. I like how the "Kill X Monsters" missions are all optional in style, and all the story missions are more varied and interesting. The enemy design is fascinating, the Logos powers, and backstory, is interesting and a lot of fun, and, most of all, the gameplay is fast-paced, fun, and much like a 3rd person shooter.

abadgirl84
abadgirl84

I played the beta, I hope the beta problems are fixed.

InBisco
InBisco

Its not a bad game. Gets boring pretty fast, but the biggest problem is the lag on the beta servers. I hope they'll fix it when they release.

geroth
geroth

I played beta of this also hoping for a mmo/fps like huxley is going to be... obviously that is not what this game was. Still I was fairly impressed with the general setup of the game even with the almost turn based shooting style they have in the game, they have a nice ui and fairly decent graphics, and the game is fun to lvl on in the early stages. My main problem with this game is that it becomes boring extremely fast for a high time input style mmo game... by the time i got in the mood to start tweaking my character i was already bored and not even past lvl 20 yet, that is bad.... All the same the game has potential and just needs some tweaking. With all this said though i actually would not recommend it to any "hardcore" mmo players

lev_six
lev_six

I think this is easily one of the worst games I have ever played, and I like the sci fi genre. I also like the ideas and concept behind Tabula Rasa. The way it feels is weak, the movement of the characters seems like something out of 1998. It is exactly identical to this lame game called Breed, almost to the absolute letter. That's not a good thing. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/breed/ You are going to be disappointed. Don't go by the video, it is NOTHING like that. It's the same thing over and over and over again. It gets old sooo fast. People kept saying, "It is just a beta" up until a few weeks ago...but it is being released in only a few weeks. It's not going to change THAT much. Horrible game, and I have been gaming for as long as gaming has existed... don't waste your time. I've played many MMO betas and have never seen something so weak. For ZERO monthly fee, maybe...and even then, I'd be done after 1 week. Don't waste your money. I've never picked up a game this bad, ever, except for maybe ET on Atari. It's THAT lame.

Daichisan
Daichisan

Cant wait to se the result of the developers. Nov. will be a great month of coming games like this is.

the_humanity
the_humanity

I played the beta, its great, but I hope itll be well optimized, because it ran horribly :(

storm_bas
storm_bas

I played the demo. The idea is great, but omg the game-play sucks! When you want a good MMO for now, just go for WOW. Its simply the best!

ETP3
ETP3

Where the hell is Huxley, if you don't know what I mean look it up and you will.

chewygun
chewygun

an MMO....dat u hav to pay for...

-Origin-
-Origin-

I have 0 % interest in this game, dont know why, I guess I don't know too much about it and too many other games to play.

Thomasskins
Thomasskins

CoH with a Halo feel imo looks pretty good

gfile
gfile

From the video its looking great, but first i wanna see the gameplay from PC!

warrner11
warrner11

pushed back to nov= better chance for a more polished game. Im lovin the beta and this may be the MMo id b willin to pay fo along with CoH.

Ralphsperry
Ralphsperry

idk about this game, i was skeptical about it but it sounds pretty good

earlthecannibal
earlthecannibal

Just looking at those crappy graphics gets me sick feeling

blowtrees
blowtrees

We need good sci-fi games. Mostly they're all hype. Hope they've got a free trial or something like that.

Dylanius
Dylanius

Do you like SWG in its current state? Then youll probably like TR

RagnarBloodAxe
RagnarBloodAxe

There are some bad things about Tabula Rasa, but the missions is not one them. Missions are very well thought out, different, and fun. You'll be doing everything from sabotage, hacking, shutting down a facility step by step, removing mind controlling implants from soldiers, etc etc etc. BUT there are missions where you act like a courier boy, and kill X amount of stuff.

defjam33
defjam33

wonder if some missions are like special ops mission where you asassinate people?

kristjanp07
kristjanp07

im playin the beta right now and da game is awesome. come 2 think of it, its da best game ive ever played 10 points dude

ZeroDemo
ZeroDemo

I'm hoping the beta problems are fixed. Some can't, but if half of them get fixed, I'm going to play this game like no other. I've seen some battles that make alterac valley matches in wow look "small"!

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

This is one of those games that have amazing screen shots to gaze at, but gameplay that you expect more from. Having played the beta for over a week, I've found the game to be extremely monotonous with the missions and goals. Most of it is just wash and rinse, and in most aspects, I don't think this is much of an RPG as it is an online action MMO. The game tries to generate that same battlefield atmoshpere as Halo 2 did with the first few missions. Although it seems like it, how you interact with the environment is completely different. Actually in Tabula Rasa environmental interaction is limited as much of it is negated by nagging flaws such as the "crack-shot" AI which never seems to miss at any range regardless of your positioning. Sort of takes away the purpose of crouching and with this game, crouching is completely useless since there are no benifits to doing it. You'll find a lot of features are pointless incorporating into the game. I feel the developer put to much emphasis on doing what other MMO's didn't and failed to do what's best for the game as a whole. Mixing all the best ingredients into one doesn't necessarily make a good result. In this case, the old doesn't blend well with the new. Too much focus on trying to break new ground in this genre may well be breaking the bank. Reminds me of Nintendo and how they attempt to make an "innovative" controller with each system they release. Why bother being different if the sacrifice is practicality? Sometimes the norm is better than some freakshow garbage with useless features. For all of you who remember Brute Force on the Xbox will remember how poorly the game was executed. Tabula Rasa carries similar traits, only this time it's online. Richard Garriot wanted to be different, and I can say that Tabula Rasa most certainly is, but in the sense that if it were a human, it would have many appendages and few digits.

abcddcba
abcddcba

That whole MMO's is for kids and geeks argument is getting so old... So is the term "having a life"... Quite sad to see some of our gaming community say playing a mmorpg 2+ hours per evening is not "having a life". So 2+hours a day playing a FPS is "having a life" for example? Because im pretty sure that loads of anti-mmo people out there who use this argument play games a whole evening. Nor do I think that watching tv all evening or getting piss drunk at friday and saturday night falls into the category of "having a life". To each his own how to lead his or her life. I find the "if you want to feel good about playing such game, you have to be good at it." comment somewhat odd as well. If you want to be good at ANY game it requires time. Yet you dont have to be good to like a game, doesn't matter which genre. Some like the story, others like the social contact (And oh yes, online contact is still social contact. You are not talking to bots!). I agree on the fact that the mmo business needs to change from the endless grind gameplay to something that can be played a few hours a week if you want. Considering the whole level, skill, xp, loot system is kind of inherent to RPG's I do not see this changing anytime soon though. :(

Kubilius
Kubilius

I think that MMO's are for 18- and geeks. Sorry, but it's true - if you want to feel good about playing such game, you have to be good at it. If you want to be good at such games - you need XP, levels, armor, guns, skills, etc, etc. And for that - you need 2+ hours a day. Each day. 20+ on weekends. For a year :) And this, my dear friends, is absolutely impossible for people who have a job, friends, LIFE. WoW already showed that despite it's success it also involves some personal problems for geeky people + a lot of hostility from non-players towards the game and company brand itself. Although the MMO's are really fun, but there has to be a way how to divide the players and give some interest to those players who want to play 2-3 hours a week. No need to suck all players and suck out all their money. Don't be so greedy :)

thestrateger
thestrateger

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

tomjacobs
tomjacobs

I've played the beta for a couple of weeks, and to me, the innovative aspect lies in the feeling of a "live" battlefield. Sometimes it can be total chaos, with dropships appearing out of nowhere and Bane troops swarming you. The AFS then usually calls in reinforcements, and a firefight plays out before your eyes, in which you can participate or just try and save your a$$. It's pretty far beyond the static and "dead" feel of the gameworld that you get in games like WoW (I'm not even talking about the instances).

ollism
ollism

Is it free??? or does Mr.Monthly payment get involved :D

InsideTheseArms
InsideTheseArms

The player reviews for this game are so back and forth. You read one list of comments on a news item and they are all "this game blows !@#$" and the next are "it's completely innovative" or "I love it". I have played the beta extensively and I was kind of drawn to it at first wanting something more than the mundane grind-!@#$ that is WoW and countless other RPGs. The shooter-esque playstyle was cool at first, but then it just seemed to be a means to pull your attention away from the mediocrity of the game as a whole. And PLEASE stop saying "Well, at least it will be better than WoW". I too have played WoW for since week one of launch and stopped for a 3 month stint and I cannot stomach the game either anymore, however, the more we keep saying these things as gamers, the more mediocre games that will be released. I don't want just a "slightly better game" than the one before... I want something that blows me away both visually and game play. I can't wait for games such as Crysis and Age of Conan to really push what our concepts of what a "good game" is. I just wish they wouldn't set unrealistic launch dates and then prolong the development in a game till the point that no ones cares about it anymore and give up on purchasing it.

galerian86
galerian86

PHeMoX : i think the innovative part is the battle. rather taking down the rpg road, it takes the road of a shooter game, which is awesome i might add

PHeMoX
PHeMoX

[quote=""]Protection, elimination, retrieval, destruction, and infiltration missions[/quote] ... has all been done before and the targets of opportunity is also not something new. So really, why is this game so innovative??? I like the art style and from what I've seen so far it's a great game, but it's hardly innovative.

SentientGames
SentientGames

I like it. It's good change of pace from traditional fantasy and the other aging sci-fi games out there.

NuZZ01
NuZZ01

The game is pretty good... Not amazing or anything - I have a feeling hellgate is better though. The TR beta can't really be taken seriously, so when the trial comes out ill be sure to play again... Still... The lack of PVP agrovates me... Can't wait for Stargate Worlds though, now that will be an extremely successful game. The story just works so well for a mmo.

ZeRo2545
ZeRo2545

Hell yeah! Looks very promising. I can't wait to play this game and quit World of Warcraft for a change :)