Korean Times claims Tabula Rasa Blanks Out

By Kieron Gillen on February 19th, 2008 at 11:00 am.

Well, we like it.

Cho Jin-seo of the Korean Times has started internet grumblings with his latest piece where he reports that Tabula Rasa, “has proven to be a financial disaster”. With information taken from an investor conference call, he claims that it’s only seen 5 million in revenue when TR was believed to cost 100 billion. It also claims that Garriott started the project more than twice, the studio is now to be downsized, while the project leaders, “will keep their position”. However Robert Garriott has been replaced by Chris Chung from his position as head of the organisation and the-not-ex-Lord-British Garriott is, “free from day-to-day operations”. More here.

The article’s already been strongly argued as misleading from NCsoft Sources, noting the reporter in question had previously written reports from conferences he never even attended.

Speaking to Massively, they’ve pointed out various elements which perhaps take some of the sting from the Korean Times’ blows.

“NCsoft CFO Lee Jae-ho did state that some downsizing in Austin is inevitable. But he also indicated in the conference call that he has hope that TR will improve its revenue stream over time.

NCsoft has committed to putting several million dollars more into further developing TR.

TR is launching in Japan later this year. Considering that Richard Garriott’s games have done well in Japan, this will only help to bolster the game’s population.

There will be some reduction at the Austin Studio, but only on the TR team. This isn’t shocking by the way. MMOs normally ramp up their staff during development and leading up to launch, then reduce it after. Fact is, some of the TR team has already transitioned over to other internal dev teams.”

More over at Massively. So there appears to be an element of business as usual – that said, there are elements which they didn’t argue against, including many of the direct quotes from NCsoft’s Chief Financial Officer. Misrepresentive it may have been, but that Tabula Rasa response has proved disappointing for NCsoft remains. Which, admittedly, we probably already knew.

Shame, really. It’s pretty neat.

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17 Comments »

  1. Wozza says:

    You can’t polish up a turd, if it’s shit to begin with.

    I tried to like this game so much, I liked how action based and fast paced it was, but it was just boring as hell, the grind started at lvl 3.

  2. Nny says:

    Yeah it was quite sad to see the grind start so early, the first mission I got that involved killing x of that or getting y of the other thing is when I uninstalled the game. Too bad.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    It’s not an unreasonable system to measure an MMO’s wretchedness by its start-to-grind time. How long was it for you, Nny?

    We should keep repeating this until people listen.

    There IS NO MMO INDUSTRY, THERE IS ONLY WOW.

    If you think you can create a WOW clone and take away some of Blizzard’s money, you’re an idiot.

    The only way to survive is to hide in one of WoW’s crevices where they can’t reach you like EVE or Runescape or Guild Wars.

    I fail to understand why anyone thinks you can turn up, offer some fraction of WoW and simply expect millions of WoWheads to abandon their toons geared out in years-long purple grind loot and guilds and enemies to start all over again, in an almost identical but markedly less well polished world.

    IT MAKES NO SENSE.

    At least when I moved on, I moved to EVE which has the almost unique distinction amongst non-WoW MMOs to (a) not be a WoW clone and (b) have a growing subscriber base.

  4. jamscones says:

    The grinding starts in TR the moment you get out of the newbie area. One of the first NPCs you meet give you your “Targets of Opportunity” quest, which is essentially a freeform grind with a couple of dozen categories of “Kill 10/20/50/200 Wretches/Urchins/Growlers/Unicorns”. You get one ToO quest per area, in addition to normal quests, which are either grinding or fedexing.

    Also of note – everyone arguing against this Korean Times report has argued via ad-hominem : “He’s written nasty things about NCSoft before”. None of them really argue over the basic facts, such as a 5m USD revenue over a cost to market of 100m. Even if their revenue stream picks up (hah!), they’re still looking at never making a profit on this game. Ever.

    It’s not like they’re adding content (read: getting the game in the sort of shape it should have been at release) in any particular hurry. There’s been, like, one patch since early Dec, and they’ve cut their dev team, which is PERFECTLY NORMAL FOLKS, NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

    After this article was published, I went to visit the “unofficial” TR forums over at

    http://tabularasa.gangrel.me.uk/index.php

    Once you manage to cut your way through the tumbleweeds, you see posts about gradually emptying servers.

    They had better spend that “several million dollars” in additional dev investment wisely, or I wouldn’t be at all surprised if TR isn’t still around this time next year.

    Edit: The other “unofficial” forums at Ten Hammers. Same tumbleweeds, same discussion of declining server pops:

    http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=381

  5. arqueturus says:

    Robert Garriott?

  6. Meat Circus says:

    TWO GARRIOTS ENTER

    ONE GARRIOT LEAVES

  7. Oasx says:

    If killing creatures is the same as grinding then every MMO is a grind fest, if it werent for grind there wouldnt be 9 million WOW subscribers constantly running the same instance over and over. If you get past the beginner zone Tabula Rasa has much less grind than other MMO’s

  8. Butler` says:

    I’m with Meat Circus on this. There’s two types of MMO players, WoW players and EVE players! (Discounting those freeloading Guild Wars types.)

    It’ll be nice to see how WAR/AOC do, though.

  9. heartless_ says:

    I believe the report in essense. TR did take a hell of a long time to develop, had a documented development restart, and has not really “stormed the genre”. I can’t even name a person playing it currently, and I have gaming friends that try almost anything in the MMO space.

    Fact is, General British hasn’t got a clue about these things we call “MMOs” and is merely riding the fact that he was part of the original Ultima Online, which has proved fatal for many of the former UO greats and the venture capitalists that have funded their products.

  10. Dave says:

    Y’all are discounting lower budget MMOs. You don’t have to swim in the ocean with WoW when you can inhabit a nice lake instead.

    Build something that turns a profit with 15,000 subscribers and is relatively inexpensive to scale, and while other people are scoffing at your 50,000 subscribers, you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

  11. Richard says:

    To paraphrase Not The Nine O’Clock News:

    “Nice combat system. Shame about the bland world, slow levelling and lack of character customisation and endgame.”

  12. Nick says:

    Or..

    “I hate grinding, I hate grinding, I hate grinding and I hate to grind”

  13. Xander says:

    What’s with all the slavering in these comments?

    This article has an interview with NCSoft where they say that, no, it didn’t cost 100mil, and it wasn’t ‘restarted 2-3 times’: http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9184&Itemid=2

    And for the guy a few posts up — the most populated unofficial forums for the game are actually here: http://www.planettr.com/forums/index.php

    I still maintain it’s a great game and sufficiently different from WoW. The latest patch was huge, game-changing and mostly successful, and the devs are highly-involved with the community.

    Some people here need to find a better punching bag…

  14. malkav11 says:

    Ohhh, 5 and 100 *million*, not billion. I was about to say that it seemed very unlikely that any game ever had received even a billion dollars in funding.

    Tabula Rasa’s on Target store shelves new for $12.50 already. The last MMO I bought that went into the $10 range before an expansion was Auto Assault. We all remember how that turned out, right?

    Not that I care especially. I’ll play my free month and maybe another month on top of that, then I’ll do something else, because that’s how I interact with MMOs that aren’t WoW. (WoW got about four months, and would have claimed more with Burning Crusade if my account hadn’t been hacked and subsequently banned.)

  15. Stromko says:

    You get a ridiculous pink helmet upon leaving the tutorial. That’s pretty much the only notable loot I picked up in my first ten hours or so. Hi-larious! I only played for about 20 hours solid I think, at least, it /felt/ that long, too long.

    The class system was atrocious in my opinion, yes they have that interesting option to ‘clone’ a backup and try a different path later, trouble is you only have one class to start with, and then a branching into one of two other classes, and so on. Sounds complex, but here’s how it boils down : the game has two classes, and you unlock about 3 abilities every (lots of levels) by further specializing in a given arc.

    It’s necessary to make a clone at each branch so you don’t have to replay the same goddamn class with the same grind later to try another branch. It’s a decent workaround for bad design but it still feels minimal.

    The spawn system was interesting, seeing enemies beamed down by (hostile) dropships instead of just appearing. Taking out enemy concentrations was kind of fun, but I thought AutoAssault did it better. Tabula Rasa isn’t anymore of a shooter than AA was, aiming and reflexes are pretty minimal. They can’t really be blamed for that, there’s only so much a full-scale MMO can do without latency becoming a problem when it’s handling potentially hundreds of players. WAY less variety when it comes to weapons and all that, however.

    To put it shortly, I think TR is what happens when you mesh RPG-lite with FPS-lite and millions of dollars-worth of anemic content. A bunch of pretty fluff.

  16. oper says:

    all aboard the fail boat. wonder if age of conan is next

  17. Wickedashtray says:

    I had lots of fun in the beta. I don’t quite get all the animosity towards the game simply because it didn’t end up as the second coming.

    Not every MMOG starts strong. EVE is a perfect example.