Right from my first days in the Beta, I always had the fancy that Tabula Rasa would make a good comic series. There was a huge amount of scope to tell personal stories against the backdrop of the conflict between Allied Free Sentient forces and The Bane; Where are the Earth survivors who weren’t fighting?; What about people who didn’t want to be drafted?; What did cloning mean?; What if your clone ended up the opposite sex?; but a lack of time prevented me from exploring any of them while the game was running and it was only the prospect of it being shut down forever that spurred me on in that final month of life to capture some of what I’d seen in the world for posterity.
And what a beautiful world, or worlds, it was, or they were, too.
With the exception of three images I can think of, the 60-ish pages are all screenshots from taken from the game engine and the story only takes place on one continent of one of the planets (two if you count Earth) and none of those have been Photoshopped. Yes, unbelievably even that Thrax Overseer being punched out on page 14, actually happened just the way it was pictured, the instant the screenshot button was being pressed by Julie, as you can see from the whole sequence of images.Speaking of Julie this wouldn’t exist in its current form without her help. Beyond the sanity checking and edits she’s still to finish even as I type, the hours she spent in front of keyboard or laptop during the five nights running up to the server shutdown at midnight on 1st March 2009 were going above and beyond the call of duty, especially the two and a half hours we spent in the Pinhole Caverns trying to get that lightning attack from the correct angle while keeping roaming Miasmas and other players out of the picture without success. It was entirely my fault that we had to return six days later, on that final day of operation, when I realised flagging the characters for PvP would allow us to get exactly what we wanted in only 20 minutes!
And so what if the whole thing took three and a quarter years to finish, despite my highly optimistic appraisal of being able to complete it in a month? It’s still the story I set out to tell which has remained consistent all this time, but more refined and evolved than it would have been being produced in such a short time frame.
Of course the elongated gestation period for the book opened it up to other, less desirable, incidents too, such as the inadvertent deletion of all the screen shots from the backup storage and the loss of all the pages produced between august 2011 and april 2012. While the former was relatively early on in the process and would just have meant abandoning the nascent work, it was much more dis-heartening to lose the pages produced for the latter half of the story with such a substantial portion already completed. In the end it was as much about summoning up the will to redo the lost to work as much as the effort of actually recreating them.
Although Julie was involved in the production process and had a vague notion of the plot, it’s only been during her review of the entire book that she got to experience the whole story from beginning to end. Her initial list of dialogue corrections was accompanied by the comment “a Cliff-hanger? Really?”
So to avoid any confusion for anyone else who wasn’t around when the game ended, the implication in the last minutes before the servers shut down, as the recruit says, is that although the GMs playing the Neph were claiming victory, their forces were actually on the back foot against the players by that point and that the AFS won the war on Earth.
Then obviously they switched off the servers (for story purposes Umbra was activated) and the whole universe disappeared forever…
So as to the cliff hanger, it isn’t one.
The story was always intended to end in an instant, true, heat death.
That’s it, stelliferous era to dark era of universal expansion in a few seconds thanks to Umbra.
Everybody lost. Everything just stopped.
And now I can too…
Day 1234 (yes, really!) of my war