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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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  • Sad but true... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ( 1401783 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:18PM (#25854933)
    Asking around, no one so far has even heard of this game. I watched the intro video, looks cool. Too bad it's already over; I would say next time, look into advertising.
  • by eggman9713 ( 714915 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:19PM (#25854939)
    This is exactly why MMO's don't lend themselves well to keeping a historical imprint on society. One part of what defines us is what we did for entertainment, but without a real hard copy of a game (be it CD, cartridge, etc.), the archaeologists of tomorrow will never know what time we REALLY wasted. In fact that's one BIG problem with everything going to bits, everything needs electricity at some point to keep the records. One big EMF smackdown on the earth and its as if we never even existed past the early 2000's.
  • takes me back (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Leontes ( 653331 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:00AM (#25855181)
    Back in 1997, I was playing a character on the old TrekMoo, when the Q (the admins) were in the process of moving to new servers. They decided to all scorched universe on the remaining players and I have to say, that was a heck of lot of fun. The Borg invaded, the Romulans and Klingons got their ass kicked and we intrepid few in the federation were forced to make some tough choices that included sacrificing our ship. It was a small community of text based adventurers, but the collaborative effort made it a hell of a lot of fun.

    I'm surprised there aren't more scorched earth games, where we build up communities just to have them torn down. I hope the loyal players of playing Tabula Rasa get to have the same kind of experience. I know it influenced me as to what good collaborative theaterical improvisation was all about.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:10AM (#25855221)
    I knew that suggestion was going to pop up within the first twenty posts. Beyond the technical reasons for not bothering, there are plenty of legal ones too. Just ask any of NCSoft's shareholders, or the management hierarchy that would have to reach consensus in order to release the code. This isn't just a matter of one person's pet project, or a small company folding.

    And before anyone points Quake out, recall how long it took for them to release the source, and also recall that the release included none of the actual graphic assets or maps.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:13AM (#25855237)

    Who wants to be the first to suggest to open source the leftovers?

    Who wants to donate endless hours in development and management of the game? Who wants to pay for the servers? Who wants to contribute assets to the game: art, animation, story, dialog, etc?

    This seems to fit with both the Google and the yahoo business model. Take your pick.

  • by kungfugleek ( 1314949 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:25AM (#25855313)
    I'm still waiting for an MMO that really feels like a living world. Where the quests I'm on are only mine: they haven't been done by anyone, and after me no one will do them again. A shared world, but the experience, the goals, and the journey are mine alone. When our paths cross, it isn't because we both clicked on the bright exclamation point over Quest Giver Cletus, but because our individual journeys have fallen in step for a time. And maybe I can develop my character not through killing and loot, but by making real moral decisions. Not the simplistic "Either take your reward (neutral), refuse the reward (good), or kill the guy and take the reward anyway (evil)" choices, but the ones that aren't very clear: Do you steal from the king, who you've sworn allegiance, in order to give some food to somebody who's starving? Do you kill one innocent child in order to save a village?

    Not that I don't mind a little level grinding now and then. It's just that sometimes I want something with a little more meat to it.

    Maybe someday I'll play a game that puts the "character" back in "character building".

  • Hard to do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:46AM (#25855415)

    For a lot of reasons not the least of which being such a thing would require a phenomenal amount of writing to be done to make all these unique quests and allow for all the branching. Hard enough to do something like that well in a single player game and in a huge multi player game, well it's near impossible. There's also technological hurdles to implementing such a thing.

    At this point the closest you'll find to a game world you change is, again, in WoW. There are some quests that deal with a phased world. There are literally multiple versions of a given area and you experience the one relevant to your quest progression. So you do something and the world changes permanently because of it. However each person gets to do it. You are all in the same world, but there are multiple versions. Works pretty well.

    At any rate the sort of thing you want isn't ever likely to come fully to fruition. You'd need something near a real artificial intelligence on the back end to deal with all this and a massive staff of writers and designers to try and implement this ever changing unique experience for millions of people.

    With games you need to be satisfied to live in a small sandbox. There are going to be rules and boundaries of various kinds. That's part of what makes it interesting, fun, and doable. It is just like cards, you have to have a set of rules, limits on the deck and so on. If you just got people together and started drawing random shit on paper and trying to make a game you'd have the card game equivalent of Calvin Ball.

    In terms of deep story and changing universe, you need to stick more to single player games, that's really the place it works. Play Mass Effect for a deep story, play WoW to kill night elves.

  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @01:27AM (#25855613) Journal

    On the Ultima Online boards a few years ago, there was a discussion about player memorials (once a game has been around ten years, when a notable player passes away, it can have a real impact on the community - especially in a game where player houses can become landmarks). One of the arguments against player memorials was that there was no guarantee that the game would always be there, so it didn't seem the right place a true memorial.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @01:40AM (#25855665) Homepage Journal
    I think if you really want to do that the players have to interact more, and in more varied ways than a current MMO. You'd want players occupying roles usually held by NPCs, you'd want to have players be able to generate quests and you'd want to have players build up or tear down towns outside the core few provided by the game.

    I think Ultima Online was closer to providing that experience than WoW has been -- player owned towns were not uncommon and early on it was a constant battle with the forces of chaos since PvP was unavoidable and reds were always griefing.

    MUDs do an incredibly good job of providing an experience like that, since literally all the content is player generated and any NPCs are usually experimental AIs. The problem is it's not nearly as easy to generate graphical content as it is text content. Even if you did the whole game would probably eventually deteriorate into an MMORGY.

  • by haydon4 ( 123439 ) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @08:31AM (#25856943)

    I really thought TR had potential. It's true that the launch was a little rocky and it was rough around the edges but as you really progressed through the game, the story was actually rather compelling.

    I had some misgivings about the limited character creation system where is was basically a cookie cutter system where you could only change the face as a whole, hair, skin color and a couple accessories; as well as the clunky and convoluted crafting system that they took way too long to fix. I think they really had the game to a point where they could tweak settings here and there and still add more content.

    I thought the graphics were great, the enemy character models looked real and had a lot of detail. Gameplay was almost constant out in the field. They even took player created events and made a separate zone for them to hold it. It was a prime example of the developers listening to the players and giving them what they want.

    I think ultimately where they failed was in the advertising arena. When I talked about the game to other gamers, 75% of them had no idea what I was talking about. It is a sad day indeed for TR fans, but I suppose I can invest more time into CoH now.

  • Re:Hard to do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <> on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:00AM (#25857585) Journal
    Well, I've been thinking on one way around this, and while I should save it and make a bazillion dollars off the idea, here it is:

    In many MMOs, the quest items are ethereal - you kill stuff and get things, but you never actually have those items on your person - the quest keeps track, and when you get them all, it goes "ding" and you turn it in for a reward. You don't actually tote around 15 horns of some beast, hides, etc.

    Make those items easier to get, real, but encumbering, and allow them to be traded. And make it so that at lower levels killing the things would be good XP, but at the level you get the quest they aren't very good XP. At first glance this seems like a stupid idea, but....

    The beauty is that there's a good chance you will ask someone lower level to go do your dirty work for you. You'll pay them for the goods, they'll get XP and gold, you'll turn in the quest. Thus, rather than you getting quests from NPCs, you'll get them from PCs. "Damn - that 37th level fighter just came by and offered to pay me a ton of gold to go kill swamp rats, if I bring him the tails. I guess some wizard he knows needs them."

    That is far more interesting than going to the tavern master six times in a row, or bouncing from NPC to NPC in town to get and turn in quests. The strength of a MMO is that there are lots of people playing. Make them part of the world, rather than "just another player".

    When the 57th level wizard rounds up the n00bs and has them party up to go hunting grass snakes for him, that will make the game far more engaging and interesting. If each one of those n00bs was hunting them for the alchemist next to the baker, it would be far less engaging and interesting.
  • Re:Hard to do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @12:19AM (#25862439)

    To be fair, most people play these games for diversion. So, they tend to want to get into the fun quickly. Being able to head to the auction house and then fly to my destination is easier than traveling for an hour or more to the accepted trading location and bartering with people.

    Why -bother- with the auction house at all? That's sort of my point. As a game mechanic its fundamentally FLAWED. Its there to appease the players that don't actually want to trade, that want that whole part of the game reduced to the absolutely most efficient and impersonal mechanism that they can spend the absolute minimum amount of time on it.

    So we gave them a global spreadsheet/database application interface six inches from their bankers?!?!

    I honestly think it would be better to simply remove trade from the game. If your players want to avoid it that badly, and consider it such a complete waste of their time to that extent, just take it out, and design your game around not having it.

    The trouble, or perhaps the beauty of WoW, is that they cater to a (massive) player base who really just want to "kill stuff and get loot" and -anything- that slows down either they want removed or mitigated. Minimal travelling with lots of easy/safe shortcuts, and certainly no "dangerous travelling", no trading, no juggling quest items, no reading, no hunting for NPCs.. they'll barely tolerate running from question mark to exclamation point, provided its on their mini map, and not too far and if it gives them lots of xp or loot.

    From my point of view though, its a pathetic ghost of an mmorpg.

    IMHO, the solution here is to start making smaller-scale MMOs. There are enough people that share your tastes that a game could be made to cater to you.

    I agree, and have advocated this in the past. I don't begrudge WoW players their game, I'm glad they have soemthing they enjoy, but its not for me... everquest, at one time was... but as it evolved, it catered increasingly to the now WoW playerbase, and gave up its soul in the process. (Not that early everquest wasn't flawed... there were PLENTY of flaws.)

    Eve proves that niche games can be successful, (though Eve itself does nothing for me, for a variety of reasons.) I have WAR subscription now, but I find it as uncompelling as WoW...

  • Re:Hard to do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psychochild ( 64124 ) <{psychochild} {at} {}> on Sunday November 23, 2008 @06:51AM (#25863649) Homepage

    As a game mechanic [auction houses are] fundamentally FLAWED.

    It depends on what the goal of the mechanic is. In the case of WoW, it streamlines the experience and lets people get to the "fun parts" of building up a character faster. So, in this instance, it's actually a rousing success. You're arguing that it takes away something that you value: the feeling of a living world. But I don't think that goal, as you would define it, was ever an intention of WoW. Therefore, you can't say the auction houses are fundamentally flawed as the apply to WoW.

    The trouble, or perhaps the beauty of WoW, is that they cater to a (massive) player base who really just want to "kill stuff and get loot" and -anything- that slows down either they want removed or mitigated.

    Exactly. And, know what? A lot of old-school MMO game players heralded that as a success. It gets people to the "fun parts" of the game. It doesn't make the game feel like "a grind". People have welcomed this with open arms. WoW has, by far, the largest subscriber base in North America of any game; the masses have spoken, and they like that type of game. (Not to downplay the market power of the "Blizzard" and "Warcraft" names, though, since those helped a lot.)

    Unfortunately, the grim business reality is that most projects are going to want to aim for this market. Back when EQ1 was the king of the roost, people wanted MMO projects to be "more like EverQuest!" Now that WoW is top of the heap in terms of subscribers, people want that. Especially the people funding these projects, because they want to make what Blizzard is making off of WoW. That means things like having what feels like a "living world" is not usually a concern for MMO game developers, specially the ones getting big funding from game companies.

    Eve proves that niche games can be successful

    EVE proves nothing of the sort. EVE was a commercial failure when it launched, the publisher dropped the project quickly after launch. For most companies, this would have been death. CCP, the developers of EVE, got funding from the goverment of Iceland, and thus were able to re-acquire the rights to the game and stay in business. EVE was able to stick with development and enjoy some modest success for being a game that didn't try to directly copy EQ or WoW. But, it took a pretty special set of circumstances for the game to survive and thrive. A lot of niche games aren't so lucky.

    This is why I made a big deal about people having to accept that a niche game isn't going to be as large, high quality, and/or as cheap as mainstream games. WoW is like McDonalds: it serves millions and millions, but it's not the best food you'll ever eat. If you want something more healthy and tasty, you aren't going to be able to only spend 99 cents for your hamburger; likewise, if you want something that isn't built to cater to the largest market possible, get ready to have to accept some compromises.

  • Re:Hard to do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @02:57PM (#25866115)

    It depends on what the goal of the mechanic is. In the case of WoW, it streamlines the experience and lets people get to the "fun parts" of building up a character faster.

    Precisely. It streamlines away part of the game the majority of the players don't want to play. Why not just finish the job, and streamline it right out of the game? Its not like anyone actually enjoys sitting there using the auction house. Its just a "housekeeping" chore that they attend to. It still takes time away from doing the "fun parts" of building up a character faster.

    To illustrate my point, if they added a smithing system, where you could walk up to a smith, design your equipment from the available options. (or even just choose from any piece of equipment that ever hits the AH), pay for it and leave the AH would be dead. The AH is simply a means to an end, nobody actually enjoys it. If something even more streamlined showed up, that would be the end of the AH.

    Exactly. And, know what? A lot of old-school MMO game players heralded that as a success. It gets people to the "fun parts" of the game.

    Those guys were NEVER really "MMO game players", what they really wanted is a first person shooter with an ability/equipment progression in a fantasy setting. A first person 3D diablo II.

    Unfortunately, the grim business reality is that most projects are going to want to aim for this market.

    No question about that.

    Back when EQ1 was the king of the roost, people wanted MMO projects to be "more like EverQuest!"

    I disagree. The challengers to everquest were ALWAYS about "improving" everquest by eliminating more 'downtime', being more solo-able, and allowing you get to the "fun parts" as you call them faster. WoW is really just the first game that "improved" Everquest by effectively removing everything that slowed people down. All the games Post Everquest moved in this direction. WoW just 'mastered it'. Food/water - gone. Difficult travel - gone. Death penalty - gone. Corpse recovery - gone. Trading - reduced to a spreadsheet. Questing difficulty - reduced to finding the exclamation points. Limited Spell slots - gone. Slow natural health/mana regeneration (aka downtime) - gone. Trains of mobs/chain aggro - gone. Faction - essentially gone.

    Turns out that in terms of attracting / satisfying a lot of players it was a good move. Blizzard distilled the mmorpg genre to the essense of what people "liked doing". Trouble is, its barely an rpg anymore. I think "first person diablo 2" is surprisingly close to the mark. (And there is nothing wrong with that of course... D2 is a fun game, and WoW obviously appeals to a lot of people. But its not really an MMORPG at all. All that housekeeping stuff - maintaining inventory, quest items, avoiding death, travelling around, figuring things out, etc are part of the genre.

    WoW is to an MMORPG what Need for Speed is to a real racing sim.

    PS - Interesting comments on the history of Eve. I didn't know that. Its discouraging to say the least.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.