Paul Sage joins April Burba to answer the latest in our Tabula Rasa Q&A series and the first since they launched the game on Friday. Burba and Sage tackle questions on humor, differentiation and what launch day was like.


WarCry Q&A: Tabula Rasa
Answers by Paul Sage (Lead Designer) and April Burba (Community Manager)
Questions by Dana Massey

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WarCry: Often when we speak to Garriott and others about TR, they explain how specific elements are usually done in MMOs and how TR is different. How do you balance the desire for innovation in the genre with the pre-conceived notions of a playerbase that has seen essentially the same game over and over?

Paul Sage: We set out coming up with a rough outline of what we want to do, and what we want to deliver. For instance, the control scheme for TR came more from two ideas for TR: (1) I want to look into the center of my screen when I play and not at the borders (2) I want to have a gun in my hand when I play. When you look at those two objectives, you start to look at what has happened before in gaming and who has done it “right.” Third-person shooters nailed that feel with a weapon and the war feel, so it was a good model. It is innovative for MMOs, but not so much for games in general. So it isn’t about trying to innovate, it is about delivering a fun experience to the user. When innovation is called for, it is usually because we aren’t sure how to solve one of our main goals.

WarCry: One underplayed part of TR is that the game actually has quite the sense of humor, such as the messages played over the PA systems in human bases. Talk about some of the ways you guys have taken the destruction Earth and made it a touch less than serious.

April Burba: That’s nothing. Have you seen the Mini-British running around? He is on a quest to find his rat-tail. There are tons of little ‘easter-eggs’ if you want to call them that all over the world. There are Apple IIe’s that have the opening lines from Akalabeth. There are also some pretty funny NPC chatter/actions. There is one NPC standing precariously on several chairs welding directly into a pipe. Another NPC has some funny commentary about it.

WarCry: The core selling points of Tabula Rasa have centered on things like the “ethical parables”, which while impressive, really only appear every few levels as part of the core story. Do you have plans to do more of this?

April Burba: Absolutely. The team is constantly working towards adding more of this type of content to the current game and to Operation content.

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WarCry: Competition wise, Hellgate: London is not altogether dissimilar from your product. How do you think you’ll fare head to head and why should fans select you over them?

April Burba: I think we both have our own unique flavour and handle key elements in different ways, so your preference will probably dictate which you prefer. Their game is more instanced like Guild Wars, with ‘town’ type areas being the only place you see other players unless you group. We have large maps where players could be anywhere. They are more loot focused, we are more story focused. Neither may be Elves and Warlocks, but the games feel very different.

WarCry: Shoot back. It’s launch day. What was everyone at NCSoft doing?

April Burba: Launch day was actually pretty quiet and smooth. Since we had already turned the servers on for our three day headstart the only really remarkable thing about the day was the level of excitement around the office. There was much celebration and watching of old gameplay from past E3’s. Strangely – it kind of felt like the last day of high school with everyone reminiscing about how hard it was to do things long ago, how far we have all come, and laughing at old jokes. 🙂

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