Tabula Rasa… Autopsy?

By Jim Rossignol on April 24th, 2008 at 9:42 am.


Is sci-fi MMO Tabula Rasa stumbling towards extinction? Eurogamer certainly seem to think so:

Today’s piece, sadly, feels more like an autopsy. Tabula Rasa isn’t cold on the slab, but it’s certainly heading that way.

And so yet another sci-fi MMO heads off into troubled waters. What’s going on here? Can Eve’s esotericism really be the only way to create a reasonably successful sci-fi game? Do people simply not want to play in a character-based science fiction world? Are we addicted to spaceships?

Okay, readers. What would you have done if you were Lord British? How would you fix the science fiction MMO and make something to challenge World Of Warcraft? Is it as simply as World Of Starcraft? Or do we need a licence, like Warhammer 40k? Or do you, like me, think that the lessons are there to be learned from City Of Heroes, Planetside, Guild Wars, and Eve Online? Are the MMO developers simply guilty of not learning from the mistakes of past games? What is the answer for the science fiction MMO?

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63 Comments »

  1. Gurrah says:

    I liked PlanetSides approach to the whole MMO-area, but it wasn’t really an RPG. I think a great SciFi MMO should combine something like PlanetSide with actually role playing! Istances should play like PlanetSide but there should also be a world you can explore, alone or in a group, gaining experiene, finding loot et cetera. I found that SciFi MMOs never really made the effort to forge a bond between the player and his character. Yeah, you could alter your face and got some stat points, but you were always a grunt amongst thousands of other grunts that had a different haircut than you, wielding the exact same weapons.

  2. Butler` says:

    It’ll happen, Jim, surely it’s only a matter of time. There’s huge demand for a decent, mainstream sci-fi MMO, mainly due to the saturation of fantasy-based offerings.

    I’d also hope it falls more in line with the EVE, PlanetSide, Guildwars models.

    What else, though, is the million dollar question.

  3. Simes says:

    I suspect that the reason it got as many players as it did were for the promises of being so different from other MassMOGs, and the reason it’s dying on its arse now is because it failed to deliver on so many of those promises.

    I played for a couple of hours, enough to get the first few “kill n things and collect miscellanous body parts/items” quests and then never loaded it again.

  4. Crispy says:

    Give me a one-off payment and minimal amounts of grindcore gameplay and I’ll play an MMO, but I’m not pissing hundreds of pounds down the train just to see the same things repeating in front of my eyes for a year. That’s what my UK TV license is for!

  5. derFeef says:

    It is really a shame, such a nice game, even if I miss some advertised features. But its also too good for making a free to play game out of it. But who knows, could be the plan already…

    The one and only successfull scifi MMO with characters is/was Anarchy Online in my opinion.

  6. Naseer says:

    I like Tabula Rasa. Wouldn’t perhaps change things as much as learn from my mistakes.

    1. Never announce features pre-release that won’t make it into the game on release.
    2. End-game matters! People will always hit the cap sooner than you expect them to.
    3. Don’t take on WoW – that game is almost a genre unto itself. Rather create the MMO you would like to play yourself.

  7. weegosan says:

    let’s not car crash a whole sub genre just yet.

    planetside was truely awful for anyone who didn’t know enough people to be in the group who actually attacked stuff. and was laughable in it’s execution of basic stuff: snipers for example had to get close enough to be visible to everyone; the normal soldiers could pump 2 clips into someones back and they wouldn’t die. perhaps it changed later on but it was utter balls.

    tabula rasa is just plain bad. if it was goblins and wizards it would still be bad and would still be on its arse. it looks bad, sounds bad, the quests are dull, every zone is badly planned out. the list goes on. if it was style over content or content over style then at least it would have something but it’s just bland and a real test of self loathing to pick up after the first few levels worth of new game excitement wears off.

    Eve and WoW would succeed with any mainstream backdrop to them because their developers had the spark that breathes life into something where others can just create a lifeless facsimile and call it done.

  8. Bozzley says:

    If I was Lord British, I wouldn’t have bothered. Don’t get me wrong – for as long as I played it, I loved Tabula Rasa. It felt to me like it was missing the hustle and bustle you get from the more popular MMOs. There was no equivalent to the big cities you get in WoW, and so interaction with other players just didn’t really happen, there was no real need.

    Just seems to me like there’s no point going up against WoW or Guild Wars. Doesn’t matter what theme you frame your MMO game around, or how you tweak the parameters of the standard MMO model to be different; there’s not enough market share to go around.

    Sad, really.

  9. ygor says:

    Where Tabula Rasa failed for me is that i simply didnt like my choice of classes or skills.
    If i can’t pretend to be something i enjoy then what is the point of pretending in the first place?

  10. Ozzie says:

    Maybe he shouldn’t have chosen a generic sci-fi scenario?
    Everytime I see or read something about Tabula Rasa I think “boring”.
    The world doesn’t seem to stand on its own two feets.

    But then, I don’t play MMOs, so my opinion doesn’t matter. ;)

  11. Xizor says:

    It’s not so much that it was sci-fi, it’s just that it sucked. Like many others I played it for a couple of hours, got bored, and never looked back.

    When I first picked up WoW in a beta ages ago it was so much different, even if it was beta it was more polished than almost any MMO out there. It was easy to get started, easy to keep playing and easy to have fun.

  12. Dan Harris says:

    I, and no doubt many, many other people, are waiting for BioWare to bring out their long-mooted KoToR MMO. Happily, CVG just reported they might be a step closer:

    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=162675

  13. fluffy bunny says:

    “Okay, readers. What would you have done if you were Lord British?”

    I would announce my triumphant return to the world of single-player RPGs.

  14. Ginger Yellow says:

    Tabula Rasa was a marketing disaster. I read previews about a year before it came out, and thought it sounded really interesting. I’m dying for a non-fantasy, non-Eve, MMO. I read an interview with Garriott a few months before release. And then I was in a store and it was on the shelf. I would have bought it, but I figured if I didn’t know it had been released, nobody else would either, and so it would be pointless. As it has proven.

    It’s not rocket science. An MMO needs a huge marketing push to get lots of players in the first month, or even those people who do sign up will drift away (see Pirates of the Burning Sea). It doesn’t matter how good your game is if nobody knows it, and MMOs can’t survive on word of mouth like, say, Darwinia.

  15. Chaz says:

    Tabula Rasa interested me in its earlier conceptual stages before it got a total redesign and turned into a rather dull looking shooting experience.

    What’s the answer for a sci-fi MMO? I don’t know but for me it’s certainly not anything that’s currently available. For me the perfect sci-fi MMO would include both space flight and ground based gameplay. A tall order perhaps, but without one or the other it would just feel like half a game to me.

    I’ve never understood why someone doesn’t take the Traveller license and turn it into an MMO. It was my favourite pen and paper RPG and the only good sci-fi one I know of. Plenty of other pen and paper RPG systems have made the conversion to computer, and with todays technology I can’t see the reason why this one shouldn’t make the leap.

  16. groovychainsaw says:

    40K, big ships, big crews, landing parties on planets, raiding planets and hulks for instances, working off a hybrid warcraft/gears of war model(?!). Keep exploration as a key theme. Would be difficult to make solo work mind but maybe dropships, asteroid mining a la eve could fill the gaps?
    I could go on for ages actually, maybe I’m giving this too much thought, but you could make travelling between worlds a collaborative effort, with different tasks depending on your race. Then land on a world, and begin a fight, either PvE or PvP. It would have to be a war-based game, because thats what 40k is, but at least it would feel different to WoW et al. Maybe let you beam between home ships, take smaller dropships out to scout smaller areas (for small groups etc.). Get 8 races in there to start with, you’ve got 4 key ones left for expansions… And they all have good backstory, interesting mechanics built in.
    As someone else mentioned, Richard Garriot hsould never have left single-player rpgs in the first place…

  17. Surgeon says:

    weegosan says:

    …planetside was truely awful for anyone who didn’t know enough people to be in the group who actually attacked stuff. and was laughable in it’s execution of basic stuff: snipers for example had to get close enough to be visible to everyone; the normal soldiers could pump 2 clips into someones back and they wouldn’t die. perhaps it changed later on but it was utter balls…

    As I’ve only got five minutes left of my lunch, all I’ll say is that you’re wrong, you could not be more wrong if you tried, and you’re an idiot.

  18. Delduwath says:

    I’ve been dreaming for some time about a cyberpunk MMO. I know it’s been done with Neocron 1 and 2, but this was before I caved into MMOs. I did try out the Neocron 1 beta, though, and didn’t find it to be that much to my taste (maybe I just needed more time with it, though).

    When I think about a Shadowrun MMO, I get tingly all over – provided that they manage to do away with the “kill rats with a stick for hours so you can level up and kill dire rats with a vorpal stick for hours” mechanic. I like to think that in a Shadowrun game, you could introduce some more varied quests than “slaughter 100 wolves and bathe in their blood”: sneak into a research facility to do recon/steal data, log into the Matrix to track down a missing corporate exec, travel to a metaplane to bargain with a spirit, and so on. Rather than have dudes with exclamation points over their heads give you quests, you could have fixers who get jobs for you (sort of like contacts in CoH), and you could probably be able to do dynamically generated quests this way (although they probably wouldn’t be anything complex and fancy).

    Of course, a cyberpunk MMO would almost certainly still fall prey to standard MMO patterns, the most distasteful of which (for me) is the necessity for grinding.

  19. kuddles says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Like Eve Online, it needs to be so anti-WOW that it appeals to a market that hasn’t been tapped, but also done on a modest budget. The average gamer doesn’t tend to pay for more than one MMO subscription at a time, and with the major time and money investment these games are, do you choose the game with some nice differences but it still kind of WOW-like and lacking some polish, has a shaky future, and none of your friends are playing, or do you go for WOW?

    Tabula Rasa’s on the way out, Pirates of the Burning Sea had barely passed three months before they announced they were shutting off half their servers. Both these games were in development for insane amounts of time. I’m surprised so many publishers are still taking a chance, since LOTRO isn’t doing so great right now despite having a very powerful license, and yet it’s probably the most successful one in quite a while by a landslide. The Agency, Age of Conan and Warhammer all look interesting, but I can’t bring myself to give them a try when I have no idea if they’ll stick around or won’t be giving the client away for free a month later.

  20. Janto says:

    Shadowrun would dovetail in nicely with an EVE type ‘corporate game’.

    Well, if we’re going to bat around IPs, what about a Culture game? Lets see… loot is irrelevant, because there’s no ‘economy’ that we’d understand, most of the game would be spent socialising and doing diplomacy, with Special Circumstances instances for the trigger-happy crowd, strong political endgame, or you could even ‘upgrade’ to become a Mind.

  21. Ginger Yellow says:

    “What’s the answer for a sci-fi MMO? I don’t know but for me it’s certainly not anything that’s currently available. For me the perfect sci-fi MMO would include both space flight and ground based gameplay.”

    Firefly, anyone?

    They are actually making a Firefly MMO, but it seems to be a bit of a fly-by-night developer, so I’m not keeping my hopes up.

  22. Babs says:

    what about a Culture game?

    That’s my wet-dream come true, though I’m not sure if the technology or the world is quite ready to do it justice.

  23. Fedora.Pirate says:

    Based in your stock standard not-too-distant-future city, Corporation Wars are the in thing and you are a mercenary in the conflict. There are two main paths you can take, you can be a hacker, where you exist mostly in the Cyber world as your Avatar (or actually your avatar’s avatar) where the system is very much like the fantasy RPGs. Isometric style view of a Tron like world where you can break into things by stealth, brute force or any other method you wish, as you progress you get better and certain abilities become available (spells) and so on. There’s also the city itself, where you can take guns, cars and so on, sort of like a large scale GTA-of the future, except where crime is far less of a major element.
    As you perform acts (quests) for various corporations generally against others their relationships with you and their respect for you will change. This can act as a major game mechanic.

    At least that’s what I dreamt up in my physics classes two years ago.

  24. Janto says:

    it would somewhat ruin everything the entire Culture stood for if everyone in it suddenly started behaving like immature jerks. maybe the Affront should be a faction…

  25. Drakkheim says:

    Dying, quick to pop the nail in the coffin aren’t they?
    Just this weekend after watching the Garriott interview from the Warren Spector UT master class (thanks rps) I re subbed after having given it a shot a month after release.
    To my surprise there were now 4 servers, not counting the Test server (3 us & 1 eu) with medium pop all weekend. Which is more than there was when I last tried it. Sure the crafting still sucks, and the character classes are kinda bland (at least the first couple tiers) But there was no shortage of people and squads recruiting. And all the broken things/quests seem to have been repaired/ finished.
    Hopefully they’ll get some high end content and some interesting PVP stuff out this summber.
    I wouldn’t hammer a nail in it yet. It seems like the marker for success has been totally distorted by WoW, in everyone’s mind.

    Oh and dont forget the Stargate MMO that’s coming, that seems like a premise made for an instance n hub MMO.

  26. Chris Mayer says:

    Does anyone actually think World Of Starcraft wouldn’t be a massive success? Surely Korea alone could carry the development budget. Cannibalism, and the upcoming non MMO Starcraft are the only reasons preventing it.

  27. Inhocmark says:

    There was an awesome well thought out Sci Fi MMORPG in the Pre-”Everybody Gets a Jedi” Star Wars Galaxies. Take away the license (which probably held the game down) and the holocron grinding and what you had was a pretty decent Sci Fi MMORPG with a working player driven economy. It had some issues, but it’s still one of the better MMORPG experiences out there.

  28. Will Tomas says:

    Had someone got together and made a proper stab at Star Trek Online it could have been huge, especially if it wasn’t trying to pander solely to a casual audience (note: this does not mean it has to be impenetrable).

    It’s not sci-fi that’s the problem, but that generic sci-fi settings where everything is either grey or brown are just as unappealing as generic fantasy settings where everything is either grey or brown. If something isn’t generic it has potential, and if something taps into player’s fantasies about alternate worlds they love (Star Trek Online, pre-Jedi-silliness Star Wars Galaxies) then it can work.

  29. cliffski says:

    I’d start small and work up gradually. there are plenty of small MMOs doing very well. this idea that every MMo needs to be a blockbuster with multiple servers and on the front page of newsweek is the reason they crash and burn. most people don’t get it right the first time round, so don’t put all your chips on the first role of the dice.

  30. groovychainsaw says:

    The one thing most people seem to agree on is that it needs a license to be successful in the WoW-dominated market. Interesting, as most of the innovation in single player comes from new IP, but licences are a better fit for mmorpgs?

  31. Razor says:

    I think a rich universe in a single player or multiplayer game is pretty necessary before the MMO version is made. As much as EVE is popular, it doesn’t have nearly the following that WoW has. And I suspect that Blizzard’s taking advantage of the existing Warcraft universe helped WoW get past that first year or so when it wasn’t all that mainstream.

    Blizzard had a strong story and personalities well before WoW was made, one that those that played the orginal Warcraft games were familiar with. I’ve heard some WoW players express that when they see so-and-so NPC in game it’s like seeing an old friend.

    Now imagine how many new WoW players there are that have never played the original games!

    I think this lack of lineage is what is killing alot of newer MMOs (although it doesn’t well explain why properties like Star Wars are having such a hard time).

    Well, just add this to the other many reasons brought up so far by RPS readers. Together we can save the world…. um, no. But developers would do themselves a favour by reading this site more often.

  32. dw40 says:

    I’d second the “Traveller” desire.
    I played TR for about 3 months. It was my first MMO besides a few months of EVE. After a while it seemed exactly like the GuildWars I had watched my brother play, all the time wondering, “Where’s the fun part?”
    Coming from shooters, I liked the gun element, and not having a lot of MMO chat/party experience, I liked the idea of everyone needing to work together to defend outposts. The problem was, nobody really *needed* to defend the outposts. If those outposts provided all the in game power, say, and major parts of the game like crafting (once they added it), teleporters and such went down when they were overrun, I think it would have added the “at war” feeling the game was going for while forcing people to actually care that outposts were under attack.

    Also, I’d agree with the above comments that sci-fi without space travel is just fantasy with the addition of plastics.

  33. groovychainsaw says:

    Yeah, exploration i think is a key element that is missed by many of these mmo’s. One thing warcraft does well is the ‘whats over that hill’ feeling, where you wander off. Inevitably into a high-level area, but enabling that curiosity is key. Its something that mass effect tried for, and was most successful when you had that curious, planet-exploring feeling. Unfortunately, even they managed to turn this into a grind, but it could still be adapted for a sci-fi mmo.

  34. Dinger says:

    Traveller license: I seem to remember that, some six months before World War 2 Online‘s legendary release, Playnet (I know, same page now; it wasn’t back then) bought the rights to the Traveller MMO. I don’t know whether they still have them, but in any case, the WWIIOL experience changed the game. Hey, they had a “can’t miss” title and premise (for 2001), and turned it into a partial simulation of one of the more lopsided and disastrous campaigns of the war. But people insult it needlessly without recognizing the innovation. In choosing the 1940 battle of France, they rescued a lopsided rout from well-deserved ludic obscurity. Their implementation was revolutionary. While still requiring every player to purchase a retail box with a CD in it, on release day they became de facto the first MMO to distribute all functional assets exclusively via download.

    So, well, I don’t know if the Traveller license survived Playnet’s Chapter 11.

    Cliffski may be right about how to build a space MMO. Heck, space MMOs are ripe for that. I mean, most of the “space opera” popular science fiction out there is premised on the myth of perpetual technological advancement. So, start with a small solar system sandbox and slowly expand. Disruptive technology makes the expansion possible and throws into some chaos the existing order (so the old cliques don’t rule everything).

    Yet there are still huge problems. Every space opera out there deals with the variable scale by “cheats” that become apparent once you try to live there (cf. the grisly end of the Ewoks).

    Well, I’ll never make one myself, but you figure that if they’ve got these massively multiplayer shopping malls where people try to make a living selling virtual skins, why not make some sort of virtual world where propulsion systems, weapons, comms and the like followed a series of rather complicated and non-obvious rules, give the players basic (and inefficient) controls, and an API to write better ones (as well as control interfaces and the like)? With the proper control over such a scripting system, some artificial limits, and disruptive technology to break deadlocks, you might get a system that would have the abstract simplicity for the hordes of fighter jocks and freighter drivers, but yet permitting the technobabble complexity yearned for by the subterranean-dwelling socopaths whose flesh has never known the warmth of a non-Klingon speaker, and who make up the backbone of any space MMO.

    It could be awesome!
    It’d probably suck, though.

  35. Leelad says:

    To make a decent sci-fi MMO that’s popular is simple..Take the Star Wars MMO licence off Sony and give it to Blizzard then let Bioware take over it.

  36. Perry says:

    The only MMO I played more than a couple of hours was Guild Wars.

    I think what is broken is the economics. No game is worth $50 + $180/year to play. If Tabula Rasa was $60 with free online I would play it.

    I grew up on free multiplayer. There is no chance of me spending $15/month on fees to play. All the suckers are on WoW. I doubt there are any more to fund another cash cow.

  37. steve says:

    Sci-fi is problematic for an MMO, or at least what we normally think of sci-fi (and MMOs, for that matter). Fantasy helps make the abstracted, phased combat—which is generally needed for a large-scale MMO, as opposed to what Planetside is doing—easier to do. Ranged weapons, for example, are tough to deal with… at least when not bows and arrows. (Or bizarre guns.)

    EVE gets around this by having space combat, which turned out to be a stroke of genius. (And I think its complex economy appeals to a segment of sci-fi fans too; just smart decisions all around.)

    But if you put EVE on land, it’d run into some of the problems the Tabula Rasas of the world run into. You just expect a different style of combat; Tabula Rasa looks like an action game, but certainly doesn’t play like one.

    The Guild Wars structure—MMO-style hubs and instances for small groups of players—might be the only way to do a true sci-fi (or future, or current) MMO.

    But I’m not 100% convinced there’s this huge, untapped market. Everyone kind of assumes that a sci-fi MMO would be a license to print money if done right, but sci-fi is less popular than fantasy in all of gaming (board games, PnP games, videogames). It’s entirely possible that fantasy is the ideal setting for the current version of the MMO, and that someone will have to come up with something radically different to work with sci-fi.

    I’m not sure I’d want to make that $20-$50 million bet on what that is, though.

  38. Derek K. says:

    The best suggestion I’ve seen so far is for the 40k MMO.

    You create two games, in essence. You have planet based areas which are 99% PvE – it’s your Space Marines cleansing Ork planets, Orkz taking over new areas, etc – it’s your standard WoW type experience – quests and zones and instances and such. Make it good, and people will play that.

    Then,, each major space port has a drop ship. You hop yourself on a dropship, and choose one of 5-10 drop zones, and fly on in. Now you’re fighting against up to however many other factions over control of key planets – basically a planetside type of game – base control, different continents, vehicles, planes, ground troops.

    When you’re done, you recall out to your home planet again, and do some more quests.

    Course, now you’re designing two different games, but, you know….

    The PvP balance would be an issue. I’d like a Planetside model, where you get more certifications if you’re higher level, but everyone has the same guns and same HP – maybe model that in special abilities.

  39. Zell says:

    Practically every MMO apart from WoW is designed by people who feel little-concealed contempt for their intended audience. Even more bizarre: even otherwise honest and self-aware gamers who return every day to grind for hours will profess contempt for grinding. This is as bewildering a puzzle as any, and so far only Blizzard has shown themselves to be able to overcome it internally.

  40. Smitty says:

    After almost two years of WoW I woke up. It was nice at first, shiny graphics and such, but eventually it was just the same thing over and over…grind this, fetch this, etc. When hit the cap it turned into more of the same, just endless amounts of it.

    The pvp went from being good (long hours of a single AV game) to boringly stupid (such as what AV has become now, which is just a race to see who burns everything down or kills the opposing general first).

    Burning Crusade was more of the same with a fresh coat of paint, and WotLK looks to be the same.

    So far every MMO I’ve tried afterwards, with the exception of Eve and the first Everquest, has been the same as WoW, nothing new, nothing different.

    I’ll happily await a new sci-fi MMO that has the spine to move away from the WoW model.

    I love Eve a good deal, but I like getting out of my ship and exploring as well.

  41. Nick says:

    Yes, the pre-fubar SWG was pleasingly different, it could have used refinements (and some flat out changes) in its combat/armour system, but apart from that it was a nice alternative and pretty smartly done. What it lacked really was Star Warsyness, the cities were all identi-kit which didn’t work either.

    As for TR, it needed less dull grind and stupid magic powers and more psuedo-FPS-ness. More of what it promised would have been nice.

  42. BKG says:

    I think the thing that any future MMOs trying to beat WoW have to deal with is not so much poaching people content to play a better version of the same thing, it’s keeping them. A lot of first time MMO players stuck on WoW have an itch for something different but very much the same, most of whom will ultimately revert to their sunken investment back in WoW should it get them back into the genre.

    The biggest revival for my old, waning WoW guild was when everyone went off to play LOTRO for two months, ending up back in Outland with a renewed focus to hit endgame hard. I didn’t jump ship to LOTRO and on the other hand fell out of MMOs altogether.

    I think the best form of competition for future MMOs is not to compete in the same interest space – ie something you play several hours every day to keep pace – by looking at EVE’s offline progress system to get players into just checking in on their interests a little every day with larger play sessions being an indulgence rather than a requirement.

    Ultimately, avatars being a bit more disposable wouldn’t hurt either – one thing that annoys me is the holy trinity of damage dealer/tank/healer. Not so much in a game mechanic sense of doing those things in a fight, more in the firmness of class types, it’s actually pretty anti-social to ask someone to spend hundreds of hours playing a class that lacks much solo or PVP ability just so high tier groups can function and it also means that you are never seeking 4 people to play with, but rather 4 classes.

  43. Cruz says:

    Amen on pre-jedi SWG. It’s what got me hooked to MMOs. Makes me wonder if a skill point system would still hold up. I had a good time dabbling.

    As far as TR, was it really different from WoW? Really? It had your class archtypes dressed up in tech, except it would take longer than I was willing to play the game to actually see the class flesh out. Not exactly an improvement in my opinion. And yeah, the game did not have anything that made you want to explore, nothing that made you care about the lore. I felt the same with those who could not form attachment with their toons. The world was super drab, the story was not engaging at all. I didn’t last but a week.

  44. Jahkaivah says:

    If I was Lord British? (Or put it more precisely if I was a MMO dev?) I would develop a motto:

    “There’s always room for a TWIST.”

    Ok… Ok…. how about this…

    You start the game, typical, MMO, heck imagine WoW.

    TWIST

    But there are guns! And unless you forced into dueling with swrds, the spraying bullets at each other…

    TWIST

    There are also cars! And you ride around, jumping from car to car, GTA style…

    TWIST

    But there are also RTS points! Place you fight for control over, ownership gives you an RTS like control over the surrounding area, sending armies in RTS style to help the actual players….

    TWIST

    But theres more than just the ground… theres the sky as well! Expect the fight to take the skies, with Just cause style parachuting…

    TWIST

    And the whole things is built openly! FFA style play…

    TWIST

    You can travel into enemy cities and avoid the players Assassins Creed style

    TWIST

    Espionage plays into it! Disguise yourself as an enemy player, no one will suspect the teams healer will backstab them…

    TWIST

    Classes? Play how you want! COH style character creations are in!

    Might sound ridiculous…. and it is… but the thing is that MMOs aim to keep the player playing far longer than is natural… people bore of of the same old thing, yet MMO dev’s solutions is always put in more of what the game already has. Instead of putting in a TWIST.

  45. Kanakotka says:

    There is but two very important things.

    1. Not make it YET ANOTHER useless unfun grindfest of an MMO. 99.999% of all MMO’s are just that… Fix that, or mask it as beautifully as Blizz has, and you’ll get millions upon millions of players.

    2. Not get NCsoft involved. We see what they did to AutoAssault, and quite a few other games. NCSoft is like getting a megaphone, and screaming “UNFINISHED GRIIINDFEEESTTSS!!” in your ear. The only above mediocre game NCSoft has released is still guild wars. And will probably always be that way. A A wouldn’t count as it was forced to be released in early stages of beta.

  46. Nick says:

    “The one thing most people seem to agree on is that it needs a license to be successful”

    I think that’s the absolute polar opposite of what a history of MMOs teaches – a licence is absolutely no guarantee of success, which is a nice contrast to mainstream gaming.

    The reason? MMOs are not so much an investment of money, as they are an investment of time (AND money). It’s easy enough to get people to buy some licenced tat when they spend a couple of hours playing it before putting it on the shelf – in an MMO, however, a licence just widens the audience willing to try the game, but they’ll quit like everyone else if it’s shit.

    MMOs are probably the one genre where a licence matters a lot less than people think.

  47. malkav11 says:

    I think MMOs are a genre where a license is an active drawback, myself.

    I suppose I’d better get around to installing and playing my month of Tabula Rasa before it folds, then.

  48. Ixis says:

    Sci-Fi MMO =/= failure.

    It’s simple, just make an MMORPG that doesn’t suck (not so simple, actually). Most MMORPGs have grand plans but they’re so un-user friendly and unpolished that no one plays them.

    Here’s what you do, (as simple as it sounds this will require no concrete release date to ensure publishers don’t jump the gun on the release date and push out something incomplete, like every other MMORPG that doesn’t come from Korea):

    - Focus on letting the player get into the game slow and simple. NO BACKSTORY!! You can have it there, and perhaps gloss through it, but I bet you most MMORPG players don’t give a rat’s ass unless they’re RPers, and they can gain all the lore knowledge they need while playing the game or through timelines and information kept on the main page.

    - Quests are good, and have fun making them. Aside from the usual “Kill X rabbits” there’s also escort quests (where the escort can fight or heal, because a lot of escort quests suck), finding new locations, digging buried treasure, running through the town naked on a dare, getting naked photos of a young woman for a dirty old man, killing 5 bosses in a row, running through a dungeon without hitting a single target and surviving, make a cyber-bong with a crafting skill, assassinate a mutant guerilla leader and escape her base before her minions swarm you. The sky’s the limit. For every 10 “kill x monsters” or “get x monster paws” there should be 3 random fun quests.

    Also quest threads are good too.

    - Make talking to people easy, simple, and intuitive. Also make it so it’s easy for players to get together. For something so simple so many MMORPGs screw this up. Chat windows should be simple to use, un-intrusive, and editable. Trading needs to be quick and efficient. It should be easy for people to make friends, talk with them, or meet up with them.

    - An inventive setting. Yes, it’s Sci-Fi, but it has to be YOUR Sci-Fi. Potential customers should be able to tell the difference between your MMO and any other MMOs out there, as well as any other Sci-Fi games out there. One of the problems I have with Mass Effect is that it’s so generic, cut and dry Sci-Fi. Jade Empire is pretty generic too, but there aren’t many martial arts RPGs out there, so Bioware kind of got by with that one.

    YES, you WILL NEED lasers, space ships, teleporters, aliens, psychic forces, vehicles, light saber weapons, seedy bars, advanced telecommunications, multiple planets, and blue alien women (or men) to procreate with. But what else?! What else can you bring to Sci-Fi?

    Star Wars did fantasy in a futuristic setting (which, means it’s actually fantasy, but whatever), Star Trek had an exploring the unknown vibe to it, Dr. Who has time travel, Jurassic Park has frikken dinosaurs (yes, it counts as science fiction.) There’s a lot of stuff you could add to your game based on criteria you normally wouldn’t associate with the genre.

    Time traveling whorehouses? (That’s all I got right now, you can probably think of better ones.)

    - Strong economy. Auction houses, guilds, trading and crafting system (that’s either really fun to do, or easy to set up and do something else, ala LotRO/WoW.) How about weapons that level with you, and armor, so you’re not buying new crap every level? This is the future (supposedly) so we’ve hit the industrial age a few centuries back. Making a smaller weapon pool, with a greater importance on customization (visually and functionally) would be far more entertaining in my opinion (especially because it reinforces the MMORPG aspect of allowing player creativity and customization.)

    - A strong social network. Probably more important than quests and combat in some respects. You want people to play your game and stay in it. Content can only go so far, it’s the community that helps keep an MMORPG together. You’ll need guilds, guild housing, normal housing, perhaps guild quests, PVP, PVP arena, world PVP, RVR possibly, planet-vs-planet, starship-vs-starship, etc. And keep it simple and intuitive (if possible, but don’t bend over backwards. By the time the players are getting into heavy social stuff they should be pretty familiar with the system.)

    - Travel. Mounts, and cheap travel from town to town. When I log in as a cthulhu-esque warrior, I want to be able to get to my blue-skinned alien girlfriend who also recently signed up, but is in another starting point because of her race. Throw me a cheap, non-drivable Akira motorcycle to get me to her or something.

    - Strong rules against gold farmers. The only reason people use gold farmers is because they’re low down freakin’ cheaters, or they family men/women who don’t have time to grind for gold to pay for broken equipment. Solution: don’t make end-game raiding suck so that happens. In fact, screw dungeon raiding altogether. World PVP raiding? Ok. WoW/Everquest endgame raiding can suck it.

    Doodeedoodeedoo, closing statement!

  49. Ixis says:

    tl;dr
    MMORPGs need time to make them good. Also user friendliness and polish.

  50. MindBrain says:

    I’m not big into MMOs (just play Eve online once in a while) but I thought Tabula Rasa was going to be THE sci-fi mmo to get. It looked really cool, the artwork and such.

    I had trouble running the trial good on my computer though (maybe my fault, crappy computer) but I think the cost hurt it too. Wasn’t it like $50 up front and then + the montly fee.