This Is The End: Tabula Raises Hell

MMOs are supposed to be the never-ending story. When one bucks that trend – when it concludes – it becomes something else entirely. In hindsight, is it still the same looped search for short-term personal rewards that it began as (and that its peers remain to be), or does it become a complete experience, more akin to a traditional game?

We already knew troubled sci-fi MMORPG Tabula Rasa (the “Richard Garriot’s” was dropped when Big Beard jumped ship from the project last year) was to shut down in early 2009. What we didn’t know is whether it would go with a bang, a whimper, or just the click-BZZZzzzzzzt of a central server being switched off. In the end, the Saturday just gone revealed it to be a little of all three.

The end to all things was spectacular, but certainly not happy. An odd way, perhaps, to thank those players who did stick with the game until the bitter end, but then can you really blame the developers who put years into creating the thing for wearing their unhappy hearts on their sleeves. While there had been speculation that the end-game (for once, that curious portmanteau is apt) would involve a triumphant return to Earth for the human exiles that played TR’s protagonists, the harsh reality was a deadly assault by developer-controlled elite baddies. Any and everyone formed part of a desperate last stand that was doomed to end in the tragedy of mutually assured destruction.

For some reason, I’m having a bit of a lip-quiver moment about this. The couple of weeks I spent in TR were fine, but I couldn’t say it was never a game I respected. Too ordinary, too unambitious, too confused. Yet people lived and played there on a daily basis, and now their home has been demolished. It can’t be a nice feeling, no matter how epic that final fight was. I respect them for staying the course, and can only hope TR’s short history feels like a complete experience for them. By all accounts, the devs have made the last couple of months good’uns, with a steady stream of new content and a renewed energy thanks to making the game free for its twilight hours. Farewell then, young game. You have, at least, achieved one thing most other MMOs do not: to end.

Here’s the team’s final words, from the official site (and note the rather bittersweet call to “join the fight” on the top right of that page):

As we return to Earth, our adventure comes to an end. Thank you to all who have supported us for the last few years! We hope you have enjoyed your journey through the galaxy and that the next worlds you visit will be filled with excitement and fun.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to our community – fansite administrators, forum administrators, and friends – for it is your passion and commitment that drives us to keep creating new and unique games. With every ending comes a new beginning, a clean slate, and a new story to be written. Thank you from all of us on the Tabula Rasa team, past and present.

Youtube provides a rather different, but thoroughly mordern eulogy: footage from those frantic final minutes. Out of context, it’s difficult to tell what’s happening or the sense of occasion to it, but it’s a least a demonstration of the scale of this apocalypse:


  1. Fat says:

    Wow, what a letdown. When i heard of this event i thought it would be a bit more insane and literally see everyone become overpowered and die at least.

    Also thought they might make a large explosion or similar effect as a bonus… but really, i didn’t see anyone being overcome by this ‘invasion’.

  2. WarpRattler says:

    Sounds like this game at least ended better than Hellgate, which ended with nothing more than a server shutdown on January 31st.

    (Not that I cared. With satellite Internet preventing me from playing most online games – including Hellgate – I knew I was spending twelve American dollars for a single-player game.)

  3. Professor says:

    It’s always a sad thing to see the end of something as big and eternal as an MMO. Shutting down MMO’s must feel like a tremendous failure, and I can’t imagine how bad the devs must be feeling. But I guess that in gaming like in nature, it’s survival of the fittest, and tabula rasa just didn’t have enough to offer.

  4. BrokenSymmetry says:

    I was there, in the final hours of Tabula Rasa, and to me it was a strangely moving event. As waves and waves of elite monsters attacked all outposts, everyone rallied to desperately defend these outposts. One by one the conquered zones were closed down, and in the end all players were ushered into a final stand on Earth, where we (seemingly) defeated the Bane for good. It all ended with a simple message: “You have been disconnected from the server”. I was only a very casual player, but I miss the game already.

  5. Rei Onryou says:

    WoW will eventually meet this fate. Unless Blizzard figure out some way of breaking the fate of old MMOs.

  6. Nick says:

    EQ is still going 10 years on.

  7. Tei says:

    Soo sad.. not a bad game at all!, but not enough game. It lost me with the netgun. I loved that overpowered weapon. Why removing a overpowered weapon? It was fun to me. Now my money is elsewhere. Is sad…

  8. Heliocentric says:

    I’ve always said that they should free the source code and let it live on when this happens. Despite only being excited about this early on when i thought it was pve planetside.

  9. alex_jacobson says:

    I can’t wait until Blizzard shutdown WoW just to see what they do with it.

  10. Rich_P says:

    WoW’s shutting down in 2012; the apocalypse is the only thing that can stop it from making a shitload of money.

  11. Xercies says:

    I can only see WoW shutting down if the players get under 1mil subscribers. There may come a time though that Blizzard stop updating it and it dies a slow death. But as UO and EQ is still going after many years(even though they are thought of as dead) I’m not sure whether that will happen at all.

  12. Archonsod says:

    Of course it will.

    Forces people to subscribe to WoW II then ….

  13. Jocho says:

    If I was an MMO-dev, I’d prefer it to shut it down while still having a few subscribers then letting them run with it for years on an end. To get an ending to something often makes the time getting there feel like a travel of sorts, or a closed episode, something a never-ending game fails to.

    In the case of WoW, I’m having troubles guessing what could make it close, as Starcraft and Diablo II are still active years since the last content appeared, and no MMO (in the west, at least) have ever gotten that many subscribers before or after.

  14. yxxxx says:

    Ncsoft gave me a copy of this free when they closed auto assault i never played it other than beta

    I still miss auto assault :(

  15. Chris R says:

    Didn’t Asheron’s Call 2 do something like this when it shut down too? Or am I imagining things? I know Ashereons Call 1 is still going…

  16. Thingus says:

    It’s a shame. NCSoft are trying to do stuff that stretches the mold a bit with this and Auto Assault, but they both died in the end. Ah well. EVE goes on.

  17. newt says:


    I’ve enjoyed some of the most memorable virtual battles in there.

  18. malkav11 says:

    I wish they’d found a way to make it work. That and Auto Assault. They were never quite up there with the big boys, but they had heart and some interesting things to contribute and now they’re just useless boxes on my shelf.

  19. neoanderthal says:

    I was there when the world ended – Hydra server (US), Instance 2 on earth, in New York. It was mad – the devs working behind the scenes to try to keep enough instances spawned to keep things playable on the last US server – hundreds of players running around the instances, and then the devs appear, and start unleashing waves of Elite creatures, and kicking everyone’s ass.
    We spent the last couple of minutes sitting with the one of the nearly-unkillable dev-powered Nephs (I say nearly, since I saw two drop over the course of the fight – Neph-Leonidas and Neph-Seanba).
    The last big of the game’s life was bittersweet – there were some really interesting updates that made it into the game (including some very nice graphics updates), but it still suffered from the problems I encountered when I was a paying subscriber – no one really played it. You needed a ‘squad’ to do the instances properly, and it was hard to round up enough people who would stick through to the end.
    With the game updates, it reminds me somewhat of Hellgate:London. I spent the last bit of HG:L’s official life as an MMO on the test server playing the 2.0 patch – it really was a game-changer.
    At least TR went out with a fight, and while some sort of screen-burning explosion would’ve been nice, I think the poignancy of the message “You have been disconnected from the server” following the 10-second countdown to server shutdown can’t be overlooked. It was a little shocking to have played a very busy last few hours of the game’s life, to have the login screen show no servers as available after the event ended. Pretty sad, truth to tell, as the last few hours of the game, lag and all, were some of the most fun I’ve ever had on it.
    Back to WAR, and here’s to hoping it doesn’t go tits-up as well.

  20. Dave says:

    EverQuest is a noob. Try 19 years for GemStone.

  21. DigitalSignalX says:

    The final week of TR, indeed perhaps even the final hours especially; perfectly summed up the previous year of TR. A superb idea, unfortunately executed; failed to meet expectations while highlighting over-all flaws.

    In the week before, Devs merged the servers and released XP x 2000 tokens, and special lvl 50 armor/weapons a lvl 1 could equip. This allowed you to basically get to the level cap within hours of play. I understand that this was so “everyone” could see “all of TR” but it’s representative of the over-all failure of TR to compensate for fast leveling and lack of content after reaching lvl cap regardless. The only people who benefited from it were people who were starting that week, everyone else had leveled to 50 *normally* in 3-4weeks and had already seen all TR had to offer. For a MMO to have such a easily reached cap isn’t the problem, it’s that new content therefor *must* be the priority then since players will spend so little time on char development, they will want to spend more time on instances or content with their friends. Instead, people played TR for a month.. then quit, or simply rerolled new character classes.

    So basically it was rubbing salt into exactly the wound TR suffered from.

    A good deal of planning went into the final day’s battle, yet Devs were still plagued with unbearable server load, latency issues, they were forced to create new server shards (at least 5 more for each map) all evening to compensate.

    Again, representative of the promises made since beta about content that was never released, or was poorly implemented (crafting, mech/pau outside of pvp area etc) the best laid plans fell through in the face of reality.

  22. Xyzzy says:

    It looks kinda like the end of Mythos. That was a great game.

  23. A-Scale says:

    I would have gone with a GIANT (I’m talking 300-500 times the size of a human in game) walker stomping over everything and firing lasers at the unlucky players. Just one unit to conquer the entire world. No chance of victory, nowhere to run.

    But this was ok too. I won’t miss the game as I never played it, but I too feel for the people who are losing the experience they loved (liked?).

  24. DMJ says:

    I feel a peculiar sense of loss, considering that I never played it and I never would.

  25. Jesucristo says:

    IT was a bad game, like most of MMORPG or MMO. Ultima Online opened a new kind of games, but this genre did not evolve. Lack os history, static NPC’s, repetitive quests, death worlds… I will not miss Tabula Rasa, but I hope Richard Garriot come back to create a MMORPG which makes us forget Ultima Online.

  26. Anthony Damiani says:

    “If I was an MMO-dev, I’d prefer it to shut it down while still having a few subscribers then letting them run with it for years on an end. ”

    1) If you’re the developer, you’re talking about losing your job, or the jobs of some people you work with if the thing shuts down.
    2) When an MMO dies, everything that made it up basically vanishes. It’s not like calling it quits on a TV show or a comic book series; that stuff is still there. The end is much more permanent, in a way that has few parallels in our mass-media age.
    3) These things, historically, appear to have been ended for the sole reason that they were no longer economically viable. It’s not really about what you’d prefer; it’s a business decision.

    Broken Symmetry: So the humans *won* the battle for Earth, then? This wasn’t going out on a dark and bitter note?

  27. phil says:

    Frankly a desparte last stand, Earth’s final free city shattering around me, an implacable wall of cyber alien titans advancing, a white hot mini-nuke rocket lancher in one hand and a well used chainsaw in the other, would be perhaps be my top real life death. Though I suspect skillful fallatio would also be involved

  28. Tei says:

    Re: “2) When an MMO dies, everything that made it up basically vanishes. It’s not like calling it quits on a TV show or a comic book series; that stuff is still there. The end is much more permanent, in a way that has few parallels in our mass-media age.”

    Well.. this is a feature of a MMO. What you feel with the game is unique, and is not a experience that can be stored for later. There are these the haved the privilege to be there, and these that not. And these that not will never be able to know something the others know.

  29. Chaz says:

    @ DMJ

    Oddly enough I feel the same. Even though I never played it, I feel strangely depressed about it’s demise.

  30. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I played it for a bit the last month, and I found it to be a rather entertaining game. More to my liking than City of Heroes/Villains, but that may be because I’m not that into superheroes.

    The game had potential. It’s only too bad that it never really bloomed.

  31. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Didn’t the WoW beta end with dragons sweeping over the world, killing everything? Or am I thinking of something else?

  32. Dasleah says:

    @Rufus T. Firefly

    I believe the beta ended with a massive invasion of Demons and the like.

  33. Crucifixed says:

    The reason some of you are feeling vaguely sad about Tabula Rasa’s closure is because you were missing out. But this isn’t like usual. You can’t buy it on budget a few years from now and see what the fuss was about. You can’t fire it up to refresh your memory. Because it’s gone, forever.

    Of course it had flaws; chiefly of which being that it wasn’t an MMO. But it was fun, and it was vibrant, and it cared more about you having a good time than keeping your subscription or keeping you grinding or whatever else the appeal of the certain megalith is that’s got a stranglehold on the genre.

    We never gave it a chance, and now it’s dead. We’re the murderers.

  34. Klaus says:

    Not at all exaggerating, even a bit. One could argue that if the developers made a better game then it would have lasted. Perhaps they killed their own creation.

    Anyways, at least it went out interestingly. At least to me. I’ll be waiting for the same thing when WoW eventually dies. I don’t care too much either way, I am not much of an online gaming person.

  35. Mark says:

    Well, I have a different take on the end-game. The dev’s did a good job when they released the Earth instance. It was playable at least part-way through even solo, but required a squad to get it done. However, it was this playability that made it the most over-played, obsessively-played instance in the whole game! Some of the other instances that cropped-up in the last few months (e.g. Epic Donn) were simply unplayable no matter how large your squad, and so were basically ignored –> a waste of dev time.

    The last few hours of the final battle were GREAT fun! I wonder if that concentration of players all on one server might have made the game interesting enough to keep it afloat for a while longer (welll… without the lag, of course).

  36. Larry says:

    I played TR for a few months last year. Reached level cap, got everything I wanted for my character and then the game got dull. So I decided to cancel my subscription and wait for updates. I was broken heated to come back and find out that it was shut down for good. I really miss that game and it makes me sad that’s its gone. It’s really depressing to be honest. I keep checking the net for any private servers or new news. :(

    If I had the cash, I would make some kind of deal to buy the content to support at least 1 server and hire back some devs. Weather that be 1 million or not. TR was a very fun game! For the few months that I played, I wont ever forget Tabula Rasa. R.I.P.

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