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Have You Played... Tabula Rasa?

The bursting of the MMO bubble

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Well, you can’t. It’s long dead. That was never the plan, of course – Tabula Rasa was supposed to be Richard Garriot’s grand comeback and the game that took down World of Warcraft.

Tabula Rasa cost NCSoft a fortune, so sure were they that combination of a legendary developer and spaceguns in a World of Warcraft structure would be the MMO to end all MMOs. It didn’t exactly work out like that (and we’d see remarkably similar folly from them half a decade later, with WildStar). Which is a shame, as the fault was less with the game and more with impossible expectations – both from the people behind the game and from the millions of people they spent a couple of years convincing it would be the answer to their every prayer.

What a strange time 2006-2008 was. So many of us were so desperate for a World of Warcraft alternative, specifically because we spent our every waking hour for months playing World of Warcraft, loving it to bits, then burning out of it. How could any game using the same approximate structure somehow achieve that? We had all seen Oz behind his curtain by that point, and no self-proclaimed WoW-killer stood a chance.

Tabula Rasa wasn’t bad. Short on a personality of its own, unless you were one of those who’s happy to take a deep dive into lore, and the shooting was a slightly awkward blend of cooldown skills and real-time, but it was science fiction, aliens, robots and guns in a time when we were drowning in swords and goblins.

It was a little bit different and a little bit the same, which was what we wall thought we wanted. It seemed, for a while, as if it had an open goal for success: was it that it took too long, that it cost too much, that it didn’t achieve that sense of otherworldly mystery that early WoW did? Or was it simply that MMO town was never bigger enough for two?

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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