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. Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature The bursting of the MMO bubble
RPS Feature Getting your keks
The sign of a truly hardcore world is that it has its own languages. Klingon. Dothraki. Elvish. The term for these is ‘Conlangs’ – aka ‘constructed languages’ – and whether you see them as a vital part of world-building or a joke-in-waiting on The Big Bang Theory (they’re due a third one one of these days), there’s more to them than just slapping together some uncommon syllables and hoping it sounds alien. Well, actually, that’s exactly how Klingon started, but never mind. Done right, paying attention to language offers more than just another DVD extra. Or at least, it can do…
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.
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Just a quickie about GameDaily’s fairly candid interview with Lord British hisself. The sometime space voyager mostly shares about his thoughts on the upcoming Tabula Rasa closure. He seems saddened but not devastated; perhaps that’s because the old boy’s seen plenty of his games suffer in the past, or perhaps it’s endemic of how TR was never what it should have been.
The bombshell, such as it is, comes at the interview’s close, where he says he would gladly work on a new Ultima game for EA given the chance: “I think that if, by hook or by crook, I had access to that property, either in solo-player or multiplayer, I would absolutely love to continue to play in the Ultima universe.” EA has this nasty habit of jealously guarding its old franchises yet doing nothing with ’em, but lately we’ve heard rumours of new Syndicate and Dungeon Keeper titles. Maybe now there is a chance the Avatar will get to lock horns with that big red guy again after all…
At Christmas, we should spare a thought for those who are more unfortunate than ourselves. Like John. And the live team on Tabula Rasa whose work is winding down as the game for its final closure on February 28th. But until then, the game’s actually totally free to play for everyone. Instructions are on the site proper, allowing you to either play from an old account or start a whole new one. Below the cut you’ll find the most recently posted uservideo on gametrailers, which appears to be a repost of a post-release instance. It’s cute enough but the sad thing is realzob’s usertext on the video: “Tabula Rasa must survive”. Poor old Realzob.
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Richard Garriott’s last great effort to make the MMO of our dreams is to shut down in February 2009. It’s always particularly sad when an MMO meets its end – they don’t get to be saved from the bargain bin like other games. They’re just gone. Sniff.
The official message is here:
So it is with regret that we must announce that Tabula Rasa will end live service on February 28, 2009. Before we end the service, we’ll make Tabula Rasa servers free to play starting on January 10, 2009.
Free stuff! Hurray! I mean: Yes, what a shame.
(And isn’t that joke getting annoying now? I aim to displease…)
With WAR, WOW and LOTRO managing a high-fantasy chokehold on the MMO market at the moment, one might forget that Tabula Rasa’s still out there offering something a little different. There’ve been various reports that the Richard Garriott-figureheaded sci-fi onliner isn’t doing so well of late, but perhaps an apparent renewed offensive could lure back those who prefer their MMOs to have pistols rather than poleaxes.
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The rumours have been floating for a couple of days, but it’s now confirmed that NCsoft Europe will axe 58 jobs from its Brighton office. According to reports by GamesIndustry.biz, the first round of sackings took place yesterday, with jobs going from a variety of departments.
This follows from yesterday’s announcement that NCsoft would be consolidating a number of its component parts into the new NC West (although this name might change). This move brings together NC Interactive, NC Europe, NC Austin, and ArenaNet, putting its headquarters in Seattle, WA by the end of the year.
Edit: Denied by NCSoft, but then they would say that.
The rumour-mill over at Joystiq is grinding up some vital seeds of information from the Texas MMO scene. It looks like NCSoft’s main North America office might be in trouble, which means that Dungeon Runners and Tabula Rasa are on dangerous ground.
Future development of Tabula Rasa will reportedly be handed over to Seattle-based Guild Wars creator Arena.net, with Massively reporting that the title may meet a similar fate as Dungeon Runners if it “fails to turn the tide of subscribers and expectations.” It has also learned that any future collaboration between NCsoft and Tabula Rasa principals Richard and Robert Garriot will be “limited in scope,” due to a souring of relations with the Korean management team over their title’s lackluster performance.
It sure is a shame TR wasn’t much fun. Dungeon Runners is a laff though, and free.
Need your DNA in space? Yeah, we thought so. Thankfully Richard Garriott is here to help. Well, if you’re in the US anyway. (Apparently EU law prevents it taking place – any lawyers out there know why?) “What,” you ask incredulously, “are you on about?”
Well, it seems that in a deeply peculiar promotion for the middling NCSoft MMO, Tabula Rasa, players are being offered the chance to have their DNA sequenced, digitised, and fired off into space as part of the “Immortality Drive”, to accompany Lord “Richard Garriott” British’s expedition to the International Space Station in October 2008. You know, in case the human race gets wiped out and we needs spares.
If we paid attention to note the relative amounts of Online RPG noteworthy news, we’d be sure to note that today is the biggest day for noteworthy news since the previous noteworthy news day. Firstly, Bluesnews brings to our attention that Flagshipped discovered Guy Somberg’s blog post about the state of affairs at Flagship. He rapidly deleted it, but Google-cache remembers all, where he despairs how people are leaving Flagship in droves. Meanwhile, over at Eurogamer, a NCSoft spokesman say that Tabula Rasa’s sales are growing month on month. Which must be nice for them.
Full quotations beneath this linky-thing.
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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?
Just in time for Space Week Jason Ford, Mission Designer for Tabula Rasa talks about a Mission in Tabula Rasa. Who’d have thunk it?
Thanks Gametrailers! You’ll be first pick for our high-level raid party.
It’s actually an updated mission in a forthcoming update. It includes AI becoming self-aware and – as everyone knows – that’s rarely a good thing for more carbon-based Self-aware things. If RPS became self aware, you’d be in trouble, mark our words. The video is called Patches to Ashes, after the unlikely name of the AI in question, which brings to mind Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes (Which is very Space week) and Clarence Carter’s Patches (Which isn’t very Space week).
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.
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If RPS were to start a book-club styled games discussion then I think it would be Tabula Rasa that I would first bring to the group as a suggested reading material. It’s a game that I haven’t made my mind up on. I’ve played a few levels and enjoyed it, but my opinion has not had time to settle. I’ve heard various net chums complain that it’s unlike WoW, or that it’s too like WoW, and I read Kieron’s remarkably enthusiastic review. And I want an excuse for some space adventure. I really do. This is a game I need to spend some more time with, perhaps go out to lunch, to see if we can be friends.
I want to get in there before I miss too much of what it has to offer. MMOs have a habit of evolving so that gamers say “oh yeah, patch 1.242342 was fun times…” I’m probably not going to miss much with the latest addition of various coloured humanoids, but I’m sure there’s some other stuff in there too:
We’ve ranted that you should give Tabula Rasa a shot when a free trial arrived before. And lo! one has. And we thought we’d mention it as i) we’re a pc gaming blog. That’s what we do, man. ii) it gives another chance to publish this screenshot of a handsome in-game moustache.
It’s only a three day trial, but that’s certainly enough to give you a weekend of Bane-bashing (Which suddenly sounds like a euphemism, but I’m hungover, so bear with me). To get it, you have to be a member of Eurogamer (i.e. Fill in the form which lets you post on their forums) and then click the button on this page. Hurrah!
What’s the first thing humanity should be sure to protect in the event of alien invasion? Its brightest minds? Its strongest labourers? Its finest art? A lock of Elvis’ hair? Wrong, wrongity wrong. It’s Dell PCs, of course!
Tabula Rasa’s bloody full of them. Everything else is as alien as can be, but high performance Dell XPS gaming systems are everywhere. The implication is that Dell will save humanity. So I suppose I’d better go and buy one. Otherwise aliens will get me. I don’t object to in-game advertising that strongly so long as it’s subtle, but this is out-and-out ridiculous.
Anyway, Tabula Rasa. What follows is fairly stream of consciousness initial thoughts, so if you’re a Tabula Rasa player and read something in it you think is wrong and stupid, go ahead and say so, but please bear in mind I’m basing this solely on what I’ve actually experienced in the game itself over the last four or five hours.
It’s an MMO I’ve been getting mixed messages about. Read the rest of this entry »
The lovely chaps over at C&VG have placed my Gamer review of Tabula Rasa on an info-podium for the assembled hordes of the electric internet to gawk at. Join them! In it, I find myself surprised to find myself saying things like…
Open betas are awesome things; you get to play a game for free. Open betas are terrible things; the game you get to play may not be awesome, at least yet. When I played the Tabula Rasa beta, I found myself charmed by some of it, but with a mass of worries. Now it’s released, it’s probably my favourite persistent-world MMO since City of Heroes.
Loads more about Betas, MMOs in 2007 and Tabula Rasa beneath the cut. Read the rest of this entry »
Good news: I’ve worked out how to dye my armour hot fuschia, so sidestepping ZeroPunctuation’s World Of Khaki Motley.
Bad news: If you walk into a shop in America and buy it, you’re not allowed to play. While you can buy Tabula Rasa, until the release tomorrow only those who threw down money on the preorder pack can play. And you thought the hour or so unlocking occasionally on STEAM was bad. While the “official” release isn’t until tomorrow… well, it doesn’t exactly serve the consumers interest to artificially keep valid codes off working servers when they’ve paid for it. This is unacceptable and has provoked RPS frowning, which we simulate by linking to the google image page for “Frown”.
Sci-fi MMO Tabula Rasa will go live on the 19th of October, and the 16th for pre-order people. (What an interesting way to spread the server load). Like John, I was unable to figure out quite what the Tabula Rasa Beta NDA would actually allow us to say, but I’ll have a crack at summing it up here (in a legal way) for those of you who might be interested.
You shoot aliens. That might not sound particularly unusual, but the fact is that this is an MMO, like ye Olde World Of Warcraft, with all those levels and stuff, and you still get to shoot all kinds of guns. Sure, there’s some kind of auto-aim nonsense going on, but you really do get to point and blast the evil carapaced ones. There’s loads of aliens to shoot at too, since they arrive from the sky by dropship in seemingly endless waves. You shoot them on a backdrop of war-torn alien worlds, some of which are quite inspiring with their weird fauna and unlikely topographies.
Yes, Tabula Rasa is quite beautiful, but it’s beautiful in the manner of a slightly naive science-fiction paperback cover painting. That’s often charming, but it also betrays a strong whiff of unhealthy nostalgia – this is a game that is supposed to be carving out a new future for MMO gaming. I suspect that this, like Guild Wars, will be newness without being quite new enough. It is going to be a game that some people hook into and others simply cannot process.
What I would say, however, is that it also reminded me strongly (in a positive way) of City Of Heroes. I think this is going to be a game where going off to adventure on alien worlds with a few friends is going to be utterly absorbing. There is some PvP, which is weird, because I didn’t think there was any – so I’ve not seen that at all – in fact I’m going to look for it right now. Anyway, I think it’s mostly going to be about the dynamics of the perfect co-op party, with you all complementing/hindering each other in overcoming your foe, and unfolding a story.
I shall be playing Tabula Rasa from the 16th to make up my fully-fledged critical opinion. I shall no doubt see some of you there.