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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Tabula Rasa To Shut Down 244

NCSoft announced today that it will be closing down Tabula Rasa on February 28th. The sci-fi shooter-flavored MMO struggled for quite some time, despite recent attempts to draw in new players by announcements of new features, price reductions, and using Richard Garriott's trip into space as a promotion. We discussed Garriott's departure from NCSoft a couple weeks ago. This is NCSoft's second failed MMO, and apparently layoffs are in the works. They seem to be making an effort to make the game's last few months as fun as they can for their remaining players, though. "Before we end the service, we'll make Tabula Rasa servers free to play starting on January 10, 2009. We can assure you that through the next couple of months we'll be doing some really fun things in Tabula Rasa, and we plan to make staying on a little longer worth your while."
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Tabula Rasa To Shut Down

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  • This Is A Shame.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Caraig ( 186934 ) * on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:57PM (#25855167)

    This is a shame; TR had a lot of potential to be more than just another shooty take on MMOs. Ancient mysteries, xeno-archaeology, a strong theme of religion and myth, a dramatic war.... It could have been a lot more. Instead it was pretty bland at times. They had a lot of great ideas but they never seemed to implement them in time or well enough.

    I was in the closed beta, and I really really wanted to like this game. The music was cool, the settings were fantastic, the scaling was pretty nicely done, and it was open to the casual gamer... but it was flawed. It just didn't grab a person.

    As I said, it's really a shame. It could have been a lot more. Oh, well. I hope they learned something from it's failure. I just hope that 'Worlds of Starcraft' doesn't waltz in and take over the SciFi MMO slot.

  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:20AM (#25855277)

    Firstly, I think you mean EMP not EMF. Secondly, EMP would have absolutely no impact on the bits that are stored on a hard drive platter, or a CD or DVD. Granted, those two forms of media won't last for thousand of years without severely degrading, but that property holds for paper also.

    Our historic records are a scant fragment of what actually existed at one point, and imagine if the only pieces of entertainment we have today that can survive an archeologist digging them up in 50000 years would be a copy of ET for the Atari 2600 from the landfill out in the desert.

  • Re:MMO = fun? (Score:4, Informative)

    by LoneBoco ( 701026 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:21AM (#25855285)

    It WAS a lot of fun. It just couldn't shake the stigma attached to it when it went through the public beta. The game had VASTLY improved throughout the year. They resolved many of the issues people had with the game. It is sad really.

  • Re:Beautiful (Score:5, Informative)

    by Macthorpe ( 960048 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:52AM (#25855437) Journal

    This got insightful?

    NCSoft isn't going under - far from it. TR was just not making them anywhere near enough money to keep it going. Not only that, but for people who stick with the game till the end, every player will get:

    - 3 months free on City of Heroes
    - 3 months free on Lineage 2
    - beta access to Aion
    - a pre-order key for Aion
    - 1 month free and a paid-for client for Aion

    Not a bad deal for 'wasting' 60 bucks on a failed MMO - a free game and about 100 dollars in free game time.

  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @02:45AM (#25855885)
    It's interesting you mention Warhammer and Eve, when WoW's biggest competition (by far) is actually... Runescape.

    Blizzard toots it's horn about having 10+ million players, but Jagex hit that number back in 2007, and in 2008, an estimate was placed that the current RS community is over 16 million players.

    Unlike in WoW, RS is extremely difficult to make a powerful avatar (Less than 100 players have reached max level), the game almost encourages individualistic gameplay, the graphics are unimpressive, and playing is dangerous (dying means most all items, no matter what the value, are lost on death).

    What's the secret to success? Easy access. Unlike many other MMORPGs, Runescape doesn't require a 50$ upfront cost. The subscription fee is cheap at a little over $6.00 per month, and there is plenty to do for a willful individual in the free game.

    Most importantly though, the game can be played from almost any computer that can run Java. There are no hard requirements or lengthy installs. Most users choose to play the game through the web browser.

    Perhaps instead of making games that require a player jump through hoops to play, and fork out a stack of cash each month, developers should make the game easier to access and cheaper to play.
  • by RupW ( 515653 ) * on Saturday November 22, 2008 @07:02AM (#25856697)

    did somebody say "free"??? I like "free". :-) Alright. I'm new to online gaming. What do I need to play this game? Is dialup good enough or do I need broadband? Is the software downloadable?

    According to TFA it will be free next year but it isn't yet. Yes, I'm fairly sure you'd need broadband. You can get the client here [] but the installer is a few versions out-of-date and will need to download patches before you can play - you're looking at about 3.2GB all in.

  • by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <> on Saturday November 22, 2008 @09:21AM (#25857105) Homepage Journal

    First, I was supposed to beta test it. The installer kept giving me a weird error about a FIPS cryptographic package. I was never able to install it. The NCSoft Support team didn't seem to have a clue as to how to solve the problem and install the game. If anyone deserves to be sued, it's NCSoft. People bought TR with the expectation that it would be an on-going experience. It is now shutting down. The value that was expect is no longer.

  • Re:MMO = fun? (Score:3, Informative)

    by schon ( 31600 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @10:48AM (#25857525)

    The problem is that it's not just the software industry. []

  • Re:MMO = fun? (Score:5, Informative)

    by garylian ( 870843 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:22PM (#25858099)

    It may be fun now, but when a public beta is one dimensional and boring, this is what happens. And that summed up Tabula Rasa in a nutshell. Considering that the last few Origin games weren't that great (it peaked at 3-5), Garriott had lost his fastball.

    MMOs are really about how good a game is at launch. The more bugs and poor gameplay there is, the worse the game will do. And it's hard to recover for a lackluster launch and first few months. Let's look at some examples.

    City of Heroes had one of the cleanest launches of an MMO that I've ever seen. Almost no bugs, and for the first 20-30 levels, you don't really pay too much attention to how monotonous the game really is. Then the monotony gets to you, and players pushed through it. Personally, I think it was the costumes that made this game playable beyond those first 20 levels or so, as the costume generator is second to none. But the number of players dropped quicly after launch, because of that monotony. You can only go through so many "caves" or similar looking "installations" before you're done.

    EQ2 launched, and the game was specifically designed to be just as hard as EQ, but with better graphics. There were a lot of interesting aspects to the game, but the #1 drawback is that you didn't play your real class until you hit lvl 20! You started off as a generic fighter/mage/healer/thief, and at lvl 10, you refined it down a little more, and at lvl 20 you finally gained your ultimate class. Well, nobody liked that part. While it was launched a week or two before WoW, EQ2 suffered for that initial stupidty. In many ways, EQ2 now is a better game than WoW is today, with a lot less downtime, a heck of a lot better with new content, and a more mature player base. But it is doubtful that it will ever recover from the blah launch it had. Maybe if Blizzard destroys WoW with some stupid expansion, EQ2 will explode, minues the PvP crowd.

    WoW launched after a pretty positive closed and open beta. And unless you were on one of the original "terrible 20" servers (I was on one), the game wasn't too bad. Sure, they took about 6 months to stop having the same exact problem after EACH update, but the game has a genuine "fun factor" to it that didn't wear off until you hit level cap, unless you enjoyed PvP. Blizzard made a LOT of mistakes, but what they didn't screw up was making the game flat out fun. There's a reason they have over 10 million subscribers world wide: it's fun to play. It will remain to be seen if Blizzard's continual push for more Arena style PvP starts to piss the player base off, but it's hard to get a large group of friends to switch games, and WoW has most of them hooked deep. The only things that will be a WoW-killer are Blizzard and time.

    LotRO was a pretty poor beta experience. When one class is completely dominant over all others, the game has problems. The primary healer class was also the best offensive spellcaster in the game. A group of 4 of them could handle pretty much all content easily in the early stages, leaving a poor taste in the player's mouth. It's not surprising that with all the history and the success of the LotR movies, the game saw decent numbers at launch. They didn't last very long.

    AoC was a disasterous beta, in the fact that the open beta only let you experience the first 20 levels, which happened to contain the only fun part of the game. Look at it now. It's going to be the next game to shut down their servers. I'd guestimate that over 75% of the players that bought the game for launch left within 2 months. That's a staggering number.

    Warhammer Online might make a decent dent in the market. For all the delays and the removal of content prior to launch, the game was actually a hell of a lot of fun in beta. I hate PvP for the most part, and even I enjoyed my beta experience a lot. I believe the game is doing well so far, from what friends are saying. The game didn't get a lot of good hype based on it's name alone, so the hype was all about the gameplay itself. This one could have staying power.

    We won't even get into SW:G and everything that went wrong with that game. We'll just cross that one off as a colossal mistake.

  • It makes me wonder if an open-source MMO might one day not only rival the current big commercial ones, but even become far more long lived than any of them because its community would last forever, and it could never get shut down, regardless of perceived success or failure.

    In a word: No. This has been tried many times before. Perhaps the most notable project has been WorldForge (

    For a bit of background, I've been developing MMO games professionally for over a decade, and did text MUD coding in college starting in 1993. I currently own and operate the MMO Meridian 59 [], a game that originally launched in 1996. So, I have some idea of what is required for making an MMO game. I'm also a professional who has shown a personal interest in maintaining an online game world even after it was originally shut down; 3DO shut down the game in 2000, and my business partner and I bought the rights to the game and re-launched it. Let me tell you, that has turned out to be a somewhat thankless task.

    The main problem with a "community MMO" as you suggest is that you need a strong, central vision for the game. You can't just have a bunch of people working on things and hope it comes together as a cohesive project at the end. You need someone like Linus with Linux, someone who can direct the path of the project. These types of people tend to be fairly rare, though.

    Another major problem is that MMO games aren't just technological, they're also creative. One part of being a professional game designer is being able to realize that most of your ideas suck. It's easy to sit around and spitball ideas all day, but refining them and turning them into something that can be implemented into a fun game is a pretty rare skill. And, most people contributing to the project probably don't want to hear, "Your game ideas suck, stick to coding." The reason a coder would work on a game rather than another project is probably because you want to have input on the formation of the game. Again, you need that strong, central vision to keep things going.

    Finally, game development is really hard. I've tried to start up a lot of small-scale projects in the past, bootstrapping the project instead of getting a questionable deal on funding form publishers. Of the few dozen people I've interacted with in the past few years, about 95% of them have flaked out on me. Most of them weren't experienced game developers, so when the real work reared its ugly head, they were suddenly scarce. As I said above, it's easy to sit around and spitball different ideas to see what might stick, but actually turning that idle chatter into an actual game is much more difficult than people realize. Without a paycheck, it's hard to keep people productive when the "real work" starts.

    ...the MMO feeling is there despite the server requirements being not much different to those of an IRC server.

    You're pretty off-base here. I'm not saying MMO servers are horribly complex (the server for Meridian 59 can be (and has been) run on my laptop), but they require a bit more than your typical IRC server, particularly if you want to support more than a few hundred people on a server. Most of the gameplay is calculated on the server, mostly to help reduce the effects of cheating. That's one of the reasons why a "distributed peer-to-peer" MMO is unlikely to work, unless you come up with some sure-fire way to prevent cheating. Given how much people have complained about WoW's Warden system on Slashdot in the past, that's a tall order to fill.

    Some thoughts from someone who has some experience.

  • That's a great response, thanks Psychochild!

    My pleasure. I enjoy a good discussion about an area I'm pretty passionate about.

    Let me give you a concrete counter-example to what you suggest is a fundamental problem.

    I don't know much about Cube/Sauerbraten, so I can't comment on it directly. I will say that it's nowhere near as complex as an MMO. The game boasts 7 weapons, whereas Meridian 59, which is hardly the largest game, has 13 melee weapons, 4 ranged weapons, and over 150 individual spells that all have to be balanced against each other. It has many, many rooms, which are about as complex as DOOM 1 levels, all interconnected. Now, imagine a game like WoW that has hundreds of weapons, armors, spells, stats, etc.

    But, let me give an example of what I was talking about: MUDs.

    Text MUDs were the predecessors to modern MMO games. They were entirely text-based, but they shared a lot of features with modern MMO games. The two primary game-focused ones were LP-MUDs (which allowed user programming on the fly) and DIKU MUDs. DIKU MUDs were a lot more popular for two reasons: there was only one administrator and the popular verions had a game world right out of the box. LP-MUDs had a tradition of allowing the top players to become Wizards (coders) on the game, and you usually had to write most of the game world yourself. The shared administration duties caused a lot of schisms, and probably at least half of the LP MUDs out there were formed when someone got into an argument and took a copy of the existing game to create their own version of the game.

    And, in games where you had a variety of people working on them, you often had special issues. For example, every new player wanted to have the "best" area, which mean that you had to have something special in your area that was more desireable. Perhaps the most powerful weapon or armor, so you had the original cause of "mudflation". Or, you had one person working on an X-Men themed area right next to one area with Ninjas and another area parodying My Little Pony. A far cry from the (mostly) coherent storylines found in current graphical games.

    MUDs used to be what people who wanted to do an online game made back in the day. There were a lot of them, and the best ones (and most of the ones that still exist today) had very strong, central authorities to support them.

    One other thing to consider: What is the weakest area of open source development? Usually the documentation. It's not sexy and few people really want to do it. However, game development is about 50% documentation (that is, the game design). I noticed Sauerbraten has a Wiki, so it's ahead of that game. But, look at the documentation the vast majority of open source projects out there; the documentation only becomes mature once the project has been out there long enough. That's death for a large scale game like an MMO.

    [Y]ou could always just play with people you trust instead. That's been a good strategy to use in countless online games, and works a treat when they're instanced. Not a showstopper.

    We're talking an MMO here, though, not something like a personal Neverwinter Nights server. The difference is trying to run a D&D game for your friends vs. trying to run D&D games for a convention. If you just want to play with your friends, then you're not talking about an MMO anymore. Not to say that something like a game server where you could play with your friends wouldn't be cool, but it's not the same.

    So, there's some clarification on my points. I think the differences between a multiplayer FPS and an MMO is important. In fact, the first "M" stands for "massively", which was intended to separate these games from the 16 player FPS servers that were available back in the day.

    Now, all this isn't to say that I think a community project would never work or that I wouldn't support one. I know a few of the WorldForge people and really respect them for the work they've done. But, I've heard from them first-hand about the issues they've faced.

    More of my thoughts.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle