Lead designer Paul Sage talks about the character cloning system in the upcoiming MMO action title.I think we have all had that moment when you are so busy you just wish you could clone yourself. I know as we get closer to launch, a few clones of the development team would be a welcome addition. But that’s not the kind of cloning I want to talk about. Though the Medic class can create a temporary clone to fight alongside them, the actual Character Cloning System™ in Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa is a bit different. It is a way for players to save their progress with a character so they can try new classes and new builds without having to start over.
The idea behind cloning is to give players the ability to save their progress with a particular character before making a major change. It allows a player to say, “I want to do something radical or something I’m not quite sure of,” while acting as an insurance of sorts while they try something they may not have done yet. It allows players to have more choices and try new classes and builds without worrying that once that change is made, there is no going back. In my mind, while I was helping to develop this system, I was hoping that we could encourage players to not be as cautious as they might be with a typical MMO. To encourage them to take chances and try new things.
When we were in the early stages of development, I was just sitting down and really thinking about what it was that I just didn’t like about most MMOs. I realized that what I was most unhappy with was that I didn’t always feel like I could get out there and do something different. I wanted to be able to dabble in other things with my characters. That really is my favorite aspect of cloning; it lets me try something new without starting over. Of course, that was mitigated a little bit because people could exploit it. But to help balance limiting the times someone could clone, we added in the ability to respec your character at that point, so not only can the players save at cloning, but they can also experiment with their character and really personalize their character.
As I was saying, initially we had unlimited cloning in the game. Basically, at any point, a player could clone their character. Unfortunately, there were some exploits with the cloning system that we had to address. What happened was that players would clone a character before a particularly valuable mission and then run that mission multiple times. (While we admire player ingenuity, this isn’t the intention of the design!) So we decided to restrict how often a player can clone. Right now, players receive a cloning credit each time they reach a tier choice. That is where we felt, “Here’s the big choice, here’s where you should clone.” We also provided some additional ways players can receive cloning credits as well, like completing certain missions for example.
Another thing I like about the cloning system is the way it compliments our class system. The two really emerged almost hand-in-hand in Tabula Rasa. We wanted to solve the problem of the player having the appropriate amount of choices in the beginning. When you think about it, anytime you try something new, you really don’t have enough information in the beginning to decide it its something you want to do. It’s not until you’ve had a chance to experience it, to play with it for a while, that you really have a chance decide, yeah, this is for me. Plus, along the way you’ll want to have chances to go back if you decide that you don’t like the choices you’ve made so far. In that way, the cloning system supports our class system very well, though I feel it would also compliment other class systems.
So far, the players have really enjoyed the cloning system in Tabula Rasa because it gives them more choices and more freedom. Right now, no one else is doing it. We talk a lot on the team about what makes Tabula Rasa unique and what feature will separate it from the rest of the games that came before it. I think that one of those things is the cloning system. I am very happy that it is something the players really seem to be enjoying. Character cloning gives players a way to respec in a way that makes sense, and it lets them try out classes and skills they may not have ever played before. I think most importantly, it makes Tabula Rasa a bit less restrictive and much more fun for the player.