Tabula Rasa

Martin Korda meets Richard 'Lord British' Garriott to discuss his vision for the future of MMO gaming, Tabula Rasa

So, first things first - where did the moniker Lord British come from?

Richard Garriott: I was actually born in England. When I was first playing D&D I needed to find a nickname, and earlier that year I'd moved to Texas, and all the locals thought I had a British accent. The nickname stuck, and when I started writing games I'd always include my character Lord British.

My very first publishers said that Richard Garriott wasn't a very memorable name, and dumped me from the credits and left only Lord British as the author of the early Ultima games. Most people don't know this, but Lord British's first name is Canterbridgian.

How are you changing Lord British into General British?

Garriott: When you're asked to make an ethical judgement in a game, I believe it's important that it's you in the game.

In this way, General British is me within Tabula Rasa. So in 2012, when the world is invaded by the Bane, you and I are going to survive to fight back. But since we'll be part of a military organisation, my character will no longer be Lord British, but General British.

Tabula Rasa seems to be doing some interesting stuff, melding player combat interaction with more traditional MMO mechanics...

Garriott: Yes. I think that MMO combat has devolved. Once you've highlighted an opponent, you ignore the rest of the world. All that matters are your short-cut and health bars. Tabula Rasa's combat is different; it's real-time, fast-paced and tactical.

In addition to your character's attributes being relevant - the game will automatically target enemies - you can also use the 3D environment to your advantage. So if you're standing behind a wall, you're less likely to be hit.

Can you give us any background information on the alien races, the Eloh and the Bane?

Garriott: The Eloh are basically the first sentient intergalactic race. They've travelled from world to world, but never found another race on their level. So they've left behind symbols and information on these worlds about who they are and where they can be found.

When they've found sentient life, they've freely given them their technology so that they can join their quest to explore the universe. But one day they encountered the Bane - the group of aliens that you'll be fighting against in Tabula Rasa - a xenophobic race that used the technology to wage war.

Can you tell us about the Eloh's language and how you created it?

Garriott: The Eloh have left behind obelisks on many planets covered in a pictographic language, telling other races where to find them. This language is one of my personal design contributions to the game. It took months of research and development to perfect.

For example, a bounded hourglass symbol means 'now'. If there's a dot before or after it, it means in the past or the future. Two people with a tick means two people in the first person, i.e. 'we', an arrow means 'travel' and stars mean 'stars'. 'Now we travel the stars.' There'll be bonuses in the game to people who take the time to decipher the messages.

How will Tabula Rasa compete against the likes of WOW?#

Garriott: I think that Tabula Rasa represents a major step towards the feature sets of tomorrow, whereas I see World Of Warcraft as being the pinnacle of the design principles of the past. I not only believe that Tabula Rasa will be successful, but also that those who iterate on features for future MMO games will be iterating from Tabula Rasa's feature set.

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