JeuxOnLine exclusive interview with Starr Long (July 2005)

JeuxOnLine exclusive interview with Starr Long July, 19th 2005 (by IronYan)

Original Story was based on inter-galactic flights and the discovering of new planets. This story line allows playing through many varied environments. Can we expect something different in the new version of Tabula Rasa? In this new story, what is the role of Thrax (now also known as Bane Forces) and the Eloh (Benefactors) ?

Starr Long: The Bane forces, including many conscripted races, are your main enemy in the game. The Bane are a malevolent alien race that have conquered the known universe, including Earth. They are enslaving, destroying, and/or exploiting every planet and species they come in contact with. You are a soldier in a loose band of sentient races that are fighting a resistance across a handful of worlds still on the edge. A mysterious angelic race known as the Eloh is our strongest ally in this war even though their power and numbers have been shattered by the Bane. They have incredible powers known as Logos that allow them to freely convert matter and energy. They are gradually teaching us these powers which are providing us an edge in the war. Richard has even created an entire symbolic language that they use to communicate with us. As you accumulate these symbols from the Eloh and remnants of their once mighty civilization, you use them in the game to unlock everything from powers to secret areas.

A galaxy is by definition, large. How many planets will be possible for the player to visit? Does the planet Foreas which was the one shown at E3 will be one of them?

Starr Long: We will have as many planets for ship as we think we can develop fully. Yes Foreas was the planet we showed at E3 and where all the screenshots and movies on our website were made.

Interface we have seen at E3 was very light. Is this a desire from the development team? Will it be customizable by the player?

Starr Long: Yes we definitely wanted to minimize the amount of interface the player has to deal with in order to play the game. Our experience with most Role Playing Games is that you end up "playing the interface" by clicking all over the place. You end up looking at the interface elements more than the actual characters on screen. This is in strong contrast with shooter style games where your attention is focused on the center of the screen and all the action happening there. In these games there is almost no visible interface. This is also symptomatic of games with a faster pace than traditional RPGs. With all that in mind we developed an interface that was extremely minimal.

Now that Tabula Rasa is an action-oriented game, many people are wondering how magical aspects will be implemented into gameplay. Can we expect more than an alternate fire? 'Logos Power' is a new feature in Tabula Rasa. Can you tell us more about this? Is this power allowed depending on character's class?

Starr Long: Logos is the name of the powers you learn from the Eloh. This power at its heart is powered by the ability to transform matter to energy and energy to matter with the power of the mind. These are powers beyond normal human abilities or weapons. For instance the Logos power Knockback is a blast of energy that knocks the target into the air and away from the caster. Each class has a set of Logos abilities specific to their class.

How many classes will be in the game? Are these classes "FPS-oriented" (Soldat, engineer, medic, etc)? Which method will be used to develop characters? Are we going to see levels like World of Warcraft or development will be usage based like Ultima Online?

Starr Long: We feel very strongly that players should only be making informed choices for their characters. In most games you have to choose the class you want to play at the beginning of the game. At that point how can you know which class you will like the best? In Tabula Rasa everyone starts as the same class: The Recruit. As you advance in levels by earning experience you get periodic opportunities to specialize into the other classes in the game. At each of these points you can choose a further specialization. This way you are making decisions based on what kinds of gameplay you enjoyed each time. We also believe that you should not have to start over every time you want to try a different class. So in TR you can make a copy of your character at any time and make different choices for that new character without having to start over. In a way this is like having a save game feature in an online game. There will be a total of approximately fifteen classes at ship. The first branch after recruit is a choice between Soldier (frontline combat) and Specialist (support roles). On the Soldier side there are further specialized classes like Grenadier, Spy, Sniper, etc. On the Specialist side the further specialized classes consist of things like Medic, Engineer, Sapper, etc.

Will Tabula Rasa allow players versus players combats? How will this be implemented?

Starr Long: There will be some PVP activities in the game but we do not have detailed information about those yet.

Will there be localized version of the game?

Starr Long: Yes, there will be localized versions for Europe and Asia. The exact list of languages is not finalized yet.

There are currently a lot of MMORPG in the market and it should be some more by the end of 2006. How Tabula Rasa will attract on-line gamer? In your opinion, for which reason a player will choose Tabula Rasa?

Starr Long: I think the game's blend of RPG and Shooter game mechanics coupled with a focus on large, shared persistent battlefields will be the features that set TR apart. These battlefields have features that allow players to have an impact on the state of the battle at any time. Even instanced missions that are launched from the battlefield are linked to the battle's status. For instance the players may get a mission to rescue a group of commandos from an enemy prison (an instanced space). When the players return to the battlefield they might see a dropship swoop in and unload those same commandos they just rescued. This will in turn give the good guys a temporary advantage. However the enemy will hopefully detect this and counter by bringing out the Boss for the level. So the players are directly triggering ebb and flow of the battle by their actions. Also there will be control points scattered across these battlefields that the AI is programmed to seek and hold. Whichever side is holding a control point gains some advantages. Again the situation on the battlefield is directly affected by players and AI events. Integrated voice chat for player squads will really help players coordinate with each other in the faster pace of the game, more so than most other online games.

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