E3 2001: Tabula Rasa revealed

In an interview on GameSpot Live, Ultima creator Richard Garriott gave early details on his next project--an ambitious online game designed with mass appeal in mind.

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On the last day of E3 2001, Richard Garriott and Ultima Online designer Starr Long gave an exclusive interview on GameSpot's E3 Live, our live broadcast from the show floor. During the interview, Garriott spoke more about Destination Games, the company that he and brother Robert Garriott recently co-founded, much like they co-founded Origin Systems in the early '80s. Garriott and Long also revealed the first details about the first major project of Austin, Texas-based Destination Games, a massively multiplayer online game that's being called Tabula Rasa--or "blank slate" in Latin.

The name appropriately suggests a fresh start for Garriott and his new team, as Tabula Rasa will apparently feature several unique aspects in its design--not the least of which will be the fact that getting a copy of Tabula Rasa won't cost you a cent. That doesn't mean you'll just be able to walk into your local computer store and walk out with a copy; Tabula Rasa won't be distributed in boxes, but purely in digital form. Presumably you'd have to start paying to keep playing it after an initial trial period.

The game will not have a medieval swords-and-sorcery setting, nor will it be a science fiction epic. Garriott didn't explicitly state what it actually would be.

One of the main features that Garriott stressed about the game is that it will not be designed to reward devotion. That is, the phenomenon seen in many popular online role-playing games--that you need to invest a very substantial amount of time each week in order to be as experienced as other players--won't be inherent in Tabula Rasa.

Garriott also revealed that the game would address another problem inherent in many online role-playing games--the fact that, while each and every one of the current crop boasts gigantic virtual worlds, which would require many hours to traverse from end to end, walking for many hours isn't necessarily fun. Thus Garriott instead presented the metaphor of a theme park--where there's some travel involved, but a lot of areas of highly concentrated interest along the way. Tabula Rasa is apparently being designed with this sort of design philosophy behind it.

The game has a two-and-a-half-year development cycle ahead of it. In the meantime, Garriott is still working out some of the details of the partnership with Korea-based parent company NCsoft, creators of the extremely popular Korean online game Lineage: The Bloodpledge, which allegedly has more than 2,000,000 active accounts. But Richard Garriott, Starr Long, and NCsoft designer Jake Song have already begun work on Tabula Rasa, which promises to be another serious contender in the extremely competitive online gaming market.

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