Tabula Rasa Ends... (November 23, 2008)


Finder of things, Doer of stuff
Following the recent announcement that Richard Garriot - one time Origin founder and recent space traveler - would be leaving the company, NCSoft has announced it will be shutting down Tabula Rasa at the end of February. This is what they had to say in their press release on the Tabula Rasa website:

Last November we launched what we hoped would be a ground breaking sci-fi MMO. In many ways, we think we've achieved that goal. Tabula Rasa has some unique features that make it fun and very different from every other MMO out there. Unfortunately, the fact is that the game hasn't performed as expected. The development team has worked hard to improve the game since launch, but the game never achieved the player population we hoped for.

Tabula Rasa will end live service on February 28, 2009. Even so, the team intends to go out with a bang. Tabula Rasa servers will be free to play beginning January 10th, 2009. The team promises to have "some really fun things in Tabula Rasa" for the finale and promise that sticking with the game to the end will be worth your while.

That said, our sympathies are with the Tabula Rasa team that will soon be jobless and that invariably includes a number of ex-Originites. To those, We wish all the best wherever their careers take them next.

Original update published on November 23, 2008
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Mr. Standoff
I wonder if TR was really that bad of a game, or if sci-fi just doesn't currently spark enough interest, even in what seems to be the most successful PC game genre at the moment, and even while backed by names like Richard Garriot and NCSoft (which, as I understand it, has some pretty successful MMOs going).

Oh well, at least this explains Garriot's departure. And let's hope those ex-Originites get back to space shooters! :p


I played TR when it first came out for about 2 months but after a while I got a bit bored as for me as it was pretty samey through out, all the weapons looked the same in terms of graphics and their shooting effects and there just wasnt enough to customize or engage me.

At first it was great fun playing an online FPS style MMO but it soon left and all I had was an empty feeling :(

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The finished product was actually a fairly solid game... but that it had a long, troubled and expensive development cycle coupled with a set of completely unrealistic goals from the top of the company and general disinterest on the part of modern gamers.

You may remember that development was actually restarted midway through. Mr. Garriott made big promises, to gamers and to NCSoft corporate, about how Tabula Rasa was the game he always wanted to make - that now technology could allow it to be made. Corporate bought that, regular people didn't really care... and it wasn't strictly true. He seems to have had something of a hands-off approach at first, letting the Ultima Online 2 veterans have at it (remember, for all the press he gets for it, UO wasn't his project). The time came to review the project and (much like UO2) it was... just outright strange. Weird, weird, weird. You've all seen the giant unicorn screenshot.

So several years into development they dropped all their art assets, fired the people in charge (the great Carly Stahelin took the blame for the direction and hasn't been in game development since) and suddenly Garriott's project he always dreamed about was... re-inspired by the current popular craze, sci fi first person shooters. As stupid as the giant horses looked, I think our warning signs went up here - everyone just instinctively knew Richard Garriott's amazing dream project *wasn't* a Halo-derived first person shooter MMP game. But in spite of all these thoughts swirling around in our heads, it was a good game. They did some unique things, created a neat world

The whole deal was somewhat naive on NCSoft's part. They had a very succesful MMORPG... in Korea. They partnered with Garriott and spent a huge amount of cash on an American expansion that seemed more based on his non-existent star-power than it did on any really great business model (in fact, Garriott was a much bigger name in *Japan*... where Tabula Rasa never even launched, despite last-minute plans to expand there to try and build the subscriber base).

... and in the end, who really cared? We've seen time and time again that developers names aren't enough to sell big unrelated projects. Chris Roberts proved that at Digital Anvil, John Romero at Ion Storm. Money might pour in from investors, but gamers see these things as vanity projects if anything - and their money doesn't follow developers who leave their franchises. Worse than that, Tabula Rasa wasn't even a game for people who loved Ultima... Halo fans didn't care about Richard Garriott and Richard Garriott fans, however many there were, didn't care about Halo.

Garriott, for his part, tried to sell the game the way he knew how -- with the sort of fantastic spectacle that made him beloved in the 1980s. The game launched with this fantastic event for reporters where they brought them to Britania Manor and acted out a futuristic battle with tens of thousands of dollars worth of fireworks and rented helicopters and dinosaur skeletons. The Kotaku's of the world called it hokey. Awesome just wasn't cool anymore (then there was the Tabula Rasa girl posing naked in Playboy... and of course the space trip... we would have loved this stuff if it were done at Origin in 1993).

(And then there's the fact that it's an MMO in the first place. It's a market that you have to spend a huge amount of money on for a tiny chance of competing with WoW... and Tabula Rasa is an MMO inspired by a type of game that everyone can play online for free anyway. It was a great game, but it wasn't great in a way that expressed itself over that particular problem.)


I really wish that they'd taken some lessons from how Anarchy Online and Neocron fared, along with one of the few really successful MMO's with an original sci-fi premise I know of; EVE Online. Anarchy Online and Neocron had previously tried the online sci-fi MMO thing (to a degree)... and I've played both. Not very impressed when I was beta-testing, certainly not enough to shell out more money into the game. Tabula Rasa might have done better if they'd, at least in my opinion, cultivated a bigger (and more fanatic) fanbase, the way EVE Online has. And a sci-fi MMO where you're running around on other planets shooting at things (with guns) doesn't have all that much to differentiate it from something like say... WoW, where you can run around, with guns, and shoot at things - albeit not in an FPS perspective.l