On Wednesday, September 5th, in Austin Texas, I had one of the most interesting experiences that I've had since starting at this job two years ago. What was I doing in Texas? Well, I was there to cover the Austin Game Developers Conference, but on that particular evening, I was there as a guest of Richard Garriott and NCsoft for the pre-launch party for the upcoming game, Tabula Rasa.
Tabula Rasa is an interesting game for a number of reasons. First, it's a kind of melding between third person shooter games and MMORPGs. What I mean by that is that it combines the action of a shooter with levels, quests and other trappings usually associated with RPG games.
Second, and more in the tradition of Garriott, they have incorporated "ethical parables" into the game. Basically, these are points throughout the game's story that forces players to make a decision. There are no right or wrong answers, but the decision that the character makes will be based on well, ethics, and will have consequences in the game.
The game also makes use of Logos, a language created specifically for the game. Without going into too much detail here (there are lots of other places to get full details on this), this Logos language is used to unlock special powers that are latent in some Humans. The power of the mind.
Power of the Mind was the theme for the event which was really part promotional tool, part tour of Garriott's home and part theatre.
From the moment that we showed up at the hotel where we would catch a bus that would take us to Garriott's home, strange things were happening. Upon arrival, we were approached by what looked like a vagrant (I expected to be asked for change), but turned out to be someone (presumably an actor), giving us a logos puzzle to solve.
From there, we boarded the buses, and set off, only to be pulled over by the police and boarded by some kind of "agent", comparing our faces to two pictures he held in his hand.
When we finally arrived at Garriott's home, we were treated to food, and then broken into groups for the tour. While moving through the house, we were taken to visit three "logos instructors" whose job it was to determine who among us might have the power of logos. We met a para-psychologist, a spoon bender and a meditative, all of whom showed us various ways that he mind could be used. Very entertaining. You get a glimpse of them on the video.
As with any good mysterious party, this one ended up at a construction site. Earlier in the evening, we learned that when Richard began construction on his new home, they unearthed a number of mysterious relics (a logos coin, a crazy skull, a metallic ball and what looked mysteriously like a Tabula Rasa control point).
After our tour through the construction site (we all had to wear these stylish hard hats), we were attacked by aliens, things blew up, the good guys won (I could describe it, but the video really illustrates well) and we were told that Tabula Rasa would launch on October 19th.