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Destination Games
MMORPG | Setting:Sci-Fi | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 11/02/07)  | Pub:NCSoft
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Retail | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Subscription
System Req: PC | ESRB:TOut of date info? Let us know!

Interviews: Talking to New Lead Designer Tom Potter

By Jon Wood on May 27, 2008

Talking to New Lead Designer Tom Potter

Can you tell us a little bit about your job on Tabula Rasa? What are your responsibilities as Lead Designer?

Tom Potter

My name is Tom Potter, and like you said, I'm the Lead Designer for Tabula Rasa. Essentially that means I guide the development of new game features and maintain the overall design vision for the game. Let me tell you, it can be a lot of work, but it's also very rewarding.


Can you give us an idea of your own personal game design experience?

Tom Potter

If you had told me when I was eight years old, "hey kid, you're gonna be making games someday", I think my head would have exploded.

Whether it was making my own rules for Axis and Allies, or actually sending Nintendo proposals in the mail (which were all kindly rejected), I always knew I wanted to be a game designer. But back then it really didn't seem like a viable career path. So I took a long detour through some other fields before realizing that is was in fact possible to make games and make it a career. I was a chemist for a while, but it just wasn't really fulfilling personally. So I made the decision to switch careers, and through a lot of blood, sweat and tears I finally got a chance to join the industry. Prior to joining NCsoft I worked at Iron Lore Entertainment as Lead Content Designer. While there I worked on Titan Quest, Titan Quest: Immortal Throne, and a little bit of Dawn of War: Soulstorm. I joined NCsoft initially as a Senior World Designer and was responsible for making maps and instances. I just recently transitioned to the Lead Designer role which is really a whole new set of challenges. But the team is really fantastic and we're making strides towards making TR better and better with every update.

What, in your opinion, is the strongest aspect of Tabula Rasa?

Tom Potter

Hands-down it's the fast-paced nature of combat. Personally, I'm more of an action gamer anyway, so the fast action really suits my play style. We really tried to build upon the advantages of the combat system in such things as the Control Points. For those that aren't familiar with the system, control points are essentially contested where ownership is in a constant state of flux between the Bane and the AFS. When held by the enemy (Bane), players can launch an assault and capture the control point. And once held players have to band together and defend it against wave after wave of Bane assaults. That's really the essence of our vision - keep the combat fast and furious - so constantly working on things to improve that aspect. Currently we're hard at work on clan-owned Control Points that really expand upon this idea. The team is very excited about it.

Obviously, this game has changed a lot since launch. Can you fill us in on some of the biggest changes?

Tom Potter

The team has definitely been extremely busy working on the game after launch. Since our launch late last year, we've already had 8 updates, or "Deployments," as we call them. There is a lot bundled into each update. We've released multiple new instances like Sanctus Grotto and Fault Lever, almost completely redesigned a handful of instances like Live Target Pens and Magma Caverns, made a ton of skill tweaks, balance changes, and performance tweaks. Players will enjoy a much more polished game now. Monster AI and responsiveness have been updated to make combat feel even more engaging. And we're right at the cusp of some great new features that are coming this summer.

What, in your opinion, is the most important item on the game's to-do list at the moment?

Tom Potter

Right now we're really focused on making the clan-owned control points fun and compelling. It's a big system and it's absorbing a lot of our resources. But the team is really excited about the feature and its possible evolution over time. After the clan-owned control points go live we'll continue to add features to the system based on player feedback - we really want to nail this and make it a reason to play TR. In my first communication with our community when I became Lead Designer I expanded on what is on my to-do list. So those who are interested can read that here

Where, in your opinion, is the game currently lacking?

Tom Potter

I think we could do better in some of the character customization options, in both options to create your character, and ways of differentiating your character from other players. I think in general players want to feel both unique and powerful in the world, and there are a number of ways that we can improve upon that. We're working on ways to improve that now.

If you were given unlimited time and resources, what single element would you add to the game?

Tom Potter

Oh wow, that's basically every developer's dream - infinite budget! I'd start by getting everything players want into the game, including Personal Armor Units (PAU's) right this very second. I'm sure that would make me a popular guy! Once that is all done, I'd love to see things like space stations and Bane motherships in the game some day. It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but the simple fact is that big, tech-heavy features like that take time to develop and test, and although there are things you would absolutely love to see implemented, some things are just not within scope. But with that said, I'm really excited about a number of the things that we are working on currently, and slated to release in the coming weeks and months, and I think players will really enjoy what's to come.