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"Ultima creator Richard Garriott is going to fly to the International Space Station, and he's taking you with him.
With Garriott on his flight will be the "Immortality Drive," a repurposed commercial storage drive containing the avatars of every player to ever set foot in Garriott's new MMO, Tabula Rasa. In an interview with Wired.com, the celebrated role-playing game designer said that he wanted to log into his virtual world from space, but the space station operators nixed the idea.
"I'll have the Tabula Rasa code with me, but the ISS partners won't let me boot it up," Garriott said. "As you might understand, they're particularly worried about hackers reverse-sniffing their way back to the ISS."
It totally could have happened, though. "The ISS has a pretty good internet connection," he said. And Garriott believes that Tabula Rasa could tolerate the latency created by the craft's distance from Earth.
But the universe's first interstellar MMO session isn't gonna happen. So Garriott's trip to space, scheduled for this October, will be a bit less impressive as a publicity stunt. But it just might save humanity. As the game designer explains it, his game's virtual version of Earth is going to be destroyed by the evil Bane race in the near future, so by transporting all this data to a refuge such as the ISS, Garriott is ensuring the future survival of the human race.
That's as good a reason as any we can think of.
Garriott is calling the trip "Operation Immortality." It's the end result, he says, of months of discussion between him and publisher NCsoft on how he could tie his trip into orbit into Tabula Rasa.
But Garriott points out that the trip isn't just a big promotion: He's also doing some crucial scientific work for private corporations.
"I have a pretty full schedule, but for example, I'll be working on protein crystal growth," he said. "I'll be taking a device two or three times the size of a lunch box Thermos filled with a thousand small plastic tubes that I will then crystallize up in space, and return them to Earth."
Thanks to the unique growing conditions introduced in space, Garriott's crystals would be "twice as useful" to pharmaceutical firms as similar crystals grown in terrestrial labs, he said -- a lucrative opportunity that is funding a large portion of Garriott's flight.
From the excitement in Garriott's voice, I began to wonder if he would adopt his own unique brand of entrepreneurial space travel as a full-time job, leaving game development behind. Garriott assured me otherwise.
"I'm a creator," he said. "Even at my home in Texas, I'm always 'developing' with my hammer and backhoe."
If that's true, the current, solid status of Tabula Rasa must mean Garriott's team at NCsoft is in the planning stages for its next project.
Garriott, laughing, said that though the plans are not "even close to being solidified," he has ideas for an open-world title that shares more in common with Ultima Online than today's popular virtual worlds.
"I've got a really strong affinity for the type of game that is represented by Ultima Online," he explained. "No one has gone back and followed up on that. Most MMOs since then have become more combat-oriented, and less of a virtual world; a place where you live. There's good odds you'll see me encourage the team to go that route."
Image courtesy NCsoft"
This is Garriot to Ground Control, I'm stepping through the door, and I'm floating in a most a peculiar way.
This is a more detailed document than those others have posted, and also information that relates to Tabula Rasa,