PAX08: Interview with Dane Caruthers of Tabula Rasa

Shawn Schuster
S. Schuster|09.04.08

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PAX08: Interview with Dane Caruthers of Tabula Rasa

At PAX08, we were able to catch up with NCsoft's Dane Caruthers, the Associate Producer for Tabula Rasa, for a quick interview. While the TR booth was busy and Caruthers was swamped with showing attendees all about the sci-fi MMO, he was kind enough to answer a few questions.

With Deployment 12 now on the Public Test Server, Caruthers talks a bit about what to expect with Deployment 13 and how it should make many Tabula Rasa players very happy. He also goes on to explain a bit about the recent contests they've been holding, including an explanation of Operation Immortality. Plus, Caruthers talks candidly about Tabula Rasa's beta through to its launch, and despite the fact that he says it was "quite possibly the smoothest MMO launch in history", they realize the mistakes that were made and are confident that the product they have to offer currently will win back those who tried the game and have since left.

Check out a transcript of the entire interview after the cut.
Massively: Thank you for spending the time with us for this interview. Why don't you start off by giving us your name and what you do over at NCsoft.

My name is Dane Caruthers, I am the Associate Producer at Tabula Rasa. I've been an AP for just a few months. Prior to that I've been the QA lead since I came on the project a couple years ago. So I've been with the project for quite a while.

So here at PAX, NCsoft has had some contests from the booth as well as through the website recently. Tell us a bit about your presence here at PAX.

So our presence here for Tabula Rasa is we're really trying to capture some new players, get some people who might be interested into the game who somehow managed to not hear about it, to just get some kind of visibility on it. The contests that we're running here at PAX are tied into our Operation Immortality promotion that's going on right now. The Operation Immortality is basically, we had to find a way to tie in the game with Richard's avatar in space into Richard actually going into space. So the Operation Immortality is a chance to get character information and votes on humanity's best ten songs and the most dramatic achievements all on a hard drive that's actually going with Richard up to the space station in October. Part of the promotion is also to get certain contest winners and random people who have logged on during the promotion who get a DNA kit sent to them. We will then take your DNA, digitize it and ut the digital version of your DNA also on that hard drive that's going into space.

Now as far as the future of Tabula Rasa, we've noticed that you've had many new promotions such as the 7-day trial keys given away here at PAX and on the website, plus the recent beta reactivation promotion. So it seems like there's a large push to get both old players and new players back into the game.

Yeah, and we'd really like to get both. A lot of the people we're seeing here at PAX are still a bit surprised. They're like, "Oh is this out?" But yeah it actually has been out, but it's been lost in the noise from some other really big launches over the past year. It's been a really big year for games.

As far as the beta re-activations, we managed to burn through a lot of people in our beta when the beta was not as solid as perhaps it should have been. A mistake we obviously learned from. And it's really a tricky thing with betas, really, because you are testing the game and it is a beta, but modern gamers think of a beta as it's launching tomorrow and it basically should be perfect, assuming that's what the game is going to be. Now the nice thing about it was because we're really focusing on stability and optimization during that beta, we had quite possibly the smoothest MMO launch in history. We had very, very few problems. The first couple weeks, the first month, we didn't have server downtime, we didn't have giant wait queues of people trying to get in, I mean it was remarkably smooth. So it paid off for us there, but the downside was some of the beta players ended up being casualties of us trying to get to that smooth place, and took the impressions of the game from that. So we spent a year adding content, optimizing and just polishing the game up some more and adding some things. So we're trying to get them interested again. You know, "Hey, you checked us out, it was rough at the time, because that's what we were focusing on, and we got that sorted out. But come back in and see what the game is really like when it's running the way it's supposed to.

So what about the future of Tabula Rasa? Is there anything you can tell us about new implementation that will be coming soon that the readers might be interested to hear?

Hopefully! So Deployment 12 just went onto PTS I believe Thursday? Deployment 12 has some really cool stuff that we've been working towards. Deployment 13, which is what we're working on internally now, it would end up going onto PTS in about three to four weeks. I can't get into specifics, but we've got several major systems that are coming in simultaneously that we think are really going to excite people and players are really going to appreciate. There's shadows of it on 12, but 13 is where it's really going to kick into gear. Players are going to see the fruits of our labors and I think they're going to be really excited about some of the directions we're going.

Thank you very much for your time, sir.
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