Last week, we were invited to take a look at NCsoft's Austin offices to see where the the magic behind some of our favorite MMOs takes place. Communications Director David Swofford was happy to give us a tour of the facilities and tell us a bit about how NCsoft does what it does. Nestled in the Texas hill country off Loop 360, this could be one of countless tech companies -- but don't let its ordinary exterior fool you. Want to take a look inside? Keep reading!
NCsoft moved into this facility in 2001, starting the North American branch of NCsoft. Initially, they occupied about half of one floor, and today they occupy the entire building and about half of one of another building in the complex. These offices house more than just Tabula Rasa: marketing, PR, sales, customer support, creative services, a core technology group (working for tools used by NCsoft developers across the country).
Our first stop on the second floor is a collection of PR and marketing materials, clustered under a never-used logo for NCsoft's North American division. (The logo was an attempt to design something more friendly for a western audience, but in the end went with the logo we know today.)
When NCsoft only resided in a small portion of the building, this hallway was where all of the Tabula Rasa developers worked. (They've since moved up to the third floor.) A friend of Richard Garriott's designed and made the neon signs above the doors, and they served to mark out the design team's territory.
A close-up example of one of the light fixtures in the hallway. All of them seem to be completely unique.
Behind this intimidating-looking door is a sound-proof room for in-house audio recording. They do quite a bit of recording here. Says David, "Pretty much all of the Dungeon Runners stuff was done in-house and composed here, and all the voices, a lot of them were internal."
Just out of the elevators on the third floor we run into Richard Garriott's personal collection of classic arcade games. This shot only shows a small portion of the games scattered throughout the building, running from Donkey Kong to Gauntlet and covering everything in between.
On display in the third floor lobby-area is the Apple II that Richard Garriott originally coded Akalabeth on. It still runs -- you can put in the boot disk and log in and play. David comments, "It really takes you back and shows you how far we've come, because it's so slow. It takes forever for it to take one move."
This wall gives us a chronology of Richard Garriott's work, starting at his earliest dungeons and dragons simulators and going all the way down to Ultima Online. NCsoft's Austin offices are full of gaming history. But on Tabula Rasa's launch day, do they have what it takes to be a part of the future of the genre? After our tour, we had a chance to sit down with Starr Long to talk about how the Tabula Rasa project got started and where it's going from here.