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Nov 02, 2007



Yahtzee video-reviewed Tabula Rasa in his typically blunt-and-scathing-if-it's-deserved manner.

That review can be found here. Regardless of whether you agree with his diagnosis, it's a most entertaining watch/listen.


The review is very funny, though it's a bit rude in places.



The point of it (other than the reviewer doesn't like MMOs generally!) seems to be that TR is a combination FPS/MMOG, and that the audiences don't overlap. We've been around that question a few times here, with discussion of Guild Wars and the SWG makeover. But I'm not sure I buy the idea that the genres are not compatible.

The other major complaint is about the lack of avatar customization, which the review in the Statesman points out as well... that's too bad.


Tabula Rasa is a nice change from elves and dwarves. The art looks great. The storyline is interesting. And your character has got a great jump (just like in City of Heroes).

But one thing I really didn't like was the complexity of the controls. They have the feel of an FPS but with even more keys. I found myself continuously remapping the keys trying to find a configuration that worked, in which all the keys I needed to use frequently were close to the AWSD position. There were simply not enough keys on the keyboard! For combat there is of course a "fire" key, but also a "melee" attack key, an "ability" key (for special attacks), a "reload" key, a "target" key (in an FPS?), 4 keys for scrolling through two toolbars for "weapons" and "abilities" (which are NOT clickable), and two pointer modes. Too much! I think this will prove too frustrating for casual gamers and non-gamers (and even non-FPS MMORPG players, say, refugees from WoW?).

One other concern I had was that the militaristic setting and classes (very much like an FPS) might not have as wide appeal as fantasy-themed MMOs do (Damion pointed this out a couple years ago at AGC). Making some of the alien races playable and creating some new classes and would probably go a long way.


Greg wrote:

The point of it (other than the reviewer doesn't like MMOs generally!) seems to be that TR is a combination FPS/MMOG, and that the audiences don't overlap.

If the idea is to expand the appeal past the hardcore gamers, that's not a particularly good combination. FPS games are quite hardcore.



Greg>Tabula Rasa is released today

Its full name is "Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa".



As an MMO, it uses the only basic combat interface that is worse than "Hit A and pray": "Click and wait". You select your target (which you can do with either a key or by pointing, but the key is more reliable), then hold down the mouse button until it dies. Rinse, lather, repeat, no big advantage over standard MMO controls, and the big disadvantage that one of your hands has to be glued to the mouse the whole time.

What I saw of it on demo machines set up at an IGDA event: Your damage is entirely deterministic, a function of the qualities of the weapon, the target, and how close you are. So combat is a matter of getting as close to your target as possible (within melee range), then waiting for it to die. It's *not* an FPS, and if you play it like one you're going to be frustrated. Proper aim isn't neccessary, it just selects the target and often means you "waste" rounds on the landscape or another mob overlapping the one you wanted to hit. In fact, I wasn't having any fun at all until I got a shotgun, because finally aiming *did* matter. If you line up multiple targets in the arc of fire, you get much more efficient damage, so movement and aim actually mean something.

Until you get the grouping and positions just right, at which point it's back to "Click and wait". If I had it set up on my own system, the first thing I would have done is map an extra mouse button to be a mouse0 toggle, so I would effectively be back to "Hit A and pray" and could at least do other things like chat while I was "fighting".

All of which is too bad, because the world building, special skills, crafting, etc., are all first-rate. Not so exceptional as to give the game a clear competitive advantage, but certainly on a par and in some ways superior to WoW. But the one really unique part of the game, the core combat system, is not good as it sits.

The "Squad Combat" stuff of the missions is actually okay, although giving orders to your NPC squadmates is a bit hard to figure out a more polished tutorial could probably fix that. But it's no better than "Okay", not an improvement on what some storied shooters we've already seen. And the fact that the combat system is so deterministic really smacks you in the face there, there are a lot of times when the next step in the mission is just to get as many of your squadmates within range as possible, then wait while DPS takes the target(s) down.

It's hard to tell much of the "Revolutionary, All New, Best Ever!" rhetoric is intended as marketing spin, but I have to say that other than the crafting, there's nothing in TR that really represents a major advance from my POV.

--Dave (my wife, on the other hand, is a lot less charitable, possibly because she really liked the original E3 demo from a few years ago that was completely different)


I can't play most FPS games because they give me vertigo. 3rd person perspective (generally) is no problem for me.

1. There should be a law (A LAW, I TELL YOU!) making it mandatory for all games to come with a choice of first/third person. I kept on with "Thief" even though it made me throw up.

2. Especially in an MMO... isn't not being able to see your character kind of odd? Isn't part of the fun of interacting with others the ability to see that your sword is bigger than hers? Er... his/hers?


I have to say i am often puzzled at reactions that seem to insist entertainment need fit into one specific genre. Certainly comparing TR to existing game genres is useful, however the comparisons might be just as useful comparing TR to action movies or live action roleplay (i use extreme examples deliberately).

I spent a few weeks in beta and come from CRPG, RPG, MMO, RTS, FPS, movie, and roleplay backgrounds. For me at least the entertainment experience as a whole nails many problems that i have with some of the other genres people compare TR to.

The good (many previously mentioned):
Tabula Rasa allows people to get involved in the action quickly.

The backstory is simple and easy to associate with.

The combat requires less "twitch" reflex yet is still quite busy. Switching weapons and tools as well as targeting.

Solo play is completely viable while giving folks that enjoy group play the chance to take on challenges at earlier levels.

Roleplay (folks interacting in-character) was scarce in beta, but in the first few days of the head start has been surprisingly abundant on Cassiopia on the #3 instances (the unoffical roleplay server and instance number).

Landscape graphics are well done and contribute rather than detract from immersion. The sets are well thought out, though somewhat static.

Voice acting is superb in places.

Career planning for the classes is made immediately apparent via the UI to the user. The ability to make clones at various points in a character's career soften the blow of less than optimal decisions during the learning phase.

The bad:
Controls are awkward in places and introduce a mouse-look mode (modes bad! see, we all have things that bug us, eh?) that the user must master to get use out of the UI. The default MMO and FPS key settings did not help much for me. I had to remap nearly everything as well.

Level based systems make playing with the same group of people more difficult as everyone needs to stay in the same level range (yep, i dislike this in nearly all MMO's).

Static quests quickly become chores when playing through again with a new character (yep, i dislike this in nearly all MMO's).

I didn't really intend this to turn into a review, but i did want to address the tendency to push games into categories with specific examples. That the NY Times article was in the Arts section is very telling. This is a new breed of entertainment that we are watching develop, and titles like Tabula Rasa are incrementally leading this development.

~ Dao


Too bad that mr.Garriott forgot to put actually something there, after he erased the table. Probably the game was meant for masochists. There isn't anything new or more interesting/funny than in many other games available for free on internet. Mimmick of WoW , CounterStrike and Metin2 , seasoned with a bad taste storyline and allusions to the " war on terror ". Mr. Garriott should pay me if he wanna me waste my time / hurt my fingers playing his game.He confuse " complicated " with " complex " and " substance " with " substantial"; his " dilemmas " are so old news and the answers are available all over the internet.


Thats not particularly constructive Amarilla


dmx says:

"Thats not particularly constructive Amarilla"

Mr.Garriott is paid to construct games; i only post my observations/opinions.


So if you poison the river, are there consequences? Do some NPCs hate you forevermore from that point forward? Does the river stay poisoned?

If not, then Garriot's got no business claiming that he's added this kind of dimensionality to a MMOG. All choices already have moral dimensions in existing MMOGs if the player chooses to imagine them as such: I can make myself believe that my character has done something morally dubious but pragmatically necessary when I run Black Morass in World of Warcraft, for example. And how players behave towards other players has an ethical dimension as well.

Now if on the other hand, Tabula Rasa's world responds permanently to the choices of players, and some servers have unpoisoned rivers where players have chosen a more difficult tactic for fighting the Bane and others have "destroyed the village to save the village", well, that's very interesting and I'll be heading into the game myself like a shot. But I haven't seen any indication of that in the reports from players so far.


No downloadable trial?

Come on now.


I was looking forward to RGTR for years, and even got in on the beta... software kept crashing with "unhandled exception." Advice I received from the tech support ranged from "reinstall windows" to suggestions my hardware is defective.
Finally fired up procmon.exe and trolled the system calls (yes, I want the game that badly.) Turns out the software calls for DirectX diag info, then quits normally. I'm certain RGTR judged my computer insufficient, and shut itself down.

Long story short: computer hardware is a barrier to entry, and the barrier keeps rising, and that makes me sad.


Well, I was in the broadly configured beta and I played Tabula R through the tutorial and up to the point where I got to the place with all the little tent-stores with all their little tent-loot and all their little microscopic pluses and minuses for all my little doodaddy multipully slotted gear and I said omg and left and didn't go back because what, after all, is unique about that.

The interface was interesting and I did enjoy shooting some stuff.

That would be totally it on my estimate of the innovation scale, however.


TR was a fun game, but I don't think it's world-y enough to be categorized alongside other games collecting a similar fee.

The game went through a lot of growth from February through launch, but my own issue with it was never adequately addressed. It's just a game. That's fine, except when it keeps claiming to be more.

Ethical Dilemmas?
This could be remedied a bit if they actually had a copious amount of "ethical dilemmas", but they do not (unless they added a few dozen in the last few weeks of beta). This has always topped the list of what is important about TR while being the least represented feature.

UI-wise, I think HG:L (Marksman) is what TR was trying to achieve. It works in some rare cases, but most of the time you're still just standing there pounding down a mob until dead. The much-touted differences aren't there.

And really, how many years has it been since anyone really just hit auto-attack and watched? Heck, ironically, the only game I can think of in which players really did that was UO :) Even EQ1 Warriors had to pay close attention. TR tried to solve a problem that hasn't existed ever for the audience they hope to have captured here.

I wanted TR to be the game RG kept talking about. But I feel like the folks actually doing the work weren't marching to the same drum. There was this big disconnect between the PR and the beta. Maybe they'll bring them closer together in time.


I have been in the TR beta since about mid-September and I am both a FPS player (both console and pc) and a an MMO player (WoW mostly). So I fit the profile for TR quite well.

The biggest problems I had with the game was that the controls are tough but the gameplay is easy. As someone mentioned above the real trick is to just get close to your enemy and hold down the mouse. Sure you can use the "Logos" or different weapons and grenades but I never found the need. I just equipped a shotgun and ran right at everything until it died then I continued.

Also I found I was getting lost a lot because the quest text never seemed enough to get me where I needed to go so I had to wander around more than I wanted. Also the map never told me if a quest point was in a cave or on a cliff so a few times I would travel to a point only to find myself standing on it and scratching my head until I figured out that I needed to be above the waterfall, not below it.

As far as the ethical decisions in the quests the best example of it I cam across was when I was asked to arrest a young man for not reporting to training to become a warrior. I found him and was then presented with a choice, bring him back for training or escort him away to another zone for safety. I chose to go against my original orders and help the guy to freedom. The outcome? The original quest giver got mad at me saying he would give a report to my commander, when he did my commander said the quest giver was overreacting and gave me the reward I promised anyway. I was not exactly morally challenged or presented with real consequences to my actions.

While I truly do not think I played enough TR to make a judgment on it for others I must say while it has some really cool features, as a package it just was not fulfilling enough for me.


I suspect it'll take a while to see how the market reacts on this one. I really want it to succeed because I'd like to see WOWs near monopoly broken up a little bit (I apreciate its Popularisation of the Genre, but it'd be nice if others could play too!) , that and SciFi is cool.

But its copping a few bad reviews right now, that I suspect are on most fronts a little unfair.

A lot of the grass roots reviews seem to come from gamers that have existing loyalties that might conflict a bit. WOWers that see it as a threat, and so on. Plus some of the industry folks are sort of kicking it a bit for not being as 'innovative' as they might of wanted , perhaps forgetting that some degree of apeing WOW is kind of needed just to help make the bet a bit safer.

Give it a couple of months for a fan base to start buzzing and we'll see, I reckon.


I am not a hard core "career" MMO player. I have a chronic case of fantasy fatigue when it comes to MMO's. So far, I like what I see. Sure there are some tweaks I would make, and I am sure many others have a similar list. (How about the color of the mission markers on the map reflecting altitude?) What MMO has ever been released and stayed static with the released code?

I personally want my MMO to be an escape from my daily job, not a second job. That means that it must be able to be played solo, and in pick up groups. The interface needs to be simple and intuitive (need some tweaking here). And I want instances and quests that I can do in a few hours, not a few days. So far RGTR is fitting that bill.

One thing nobody seems to be mentioning here is that the servers were incredibly stable in BETA, and from what I saw they were rock solid on release. I am not seeing any significant lag in-world like I've seen in other games. For the week after launch, this by far has a better up-time record that most any other MMO I've played in the past 10 years. Like others, I am still waiting for those ethical parables, I've only had one so far. And I really do hope that choices made my the populations on servers have a lasting effect on those servers and the environment (if they don't, then why bother).

And the test of all tests, my 15 year old triplets who have played MMO's from an early age seem to love it. I run an educational virtual world project, and Tabula Rasa stuff is already creaping into that environment from other students (http://pacificrimx.wordpress.com).

This may not be a WOW killer, but it may steal some population from there, and gather new recruits from those who like me are burnt out on fantasy MMO's.


"When you do that, you are no longer playing a role; you are playing an inventory-management game..."

Role-playing led me to MMOs in the first place, but it's inventory management that's kept me there for 10 years. Sorting bank vaults and backpacks and grading items for various uses is far and away the most addictive part of the whole MMO experience for me. Without lots of little virtual objects to sort admire, pretending to be a dwarf would get old very fast indeed.


>> Plus some of the industry folks are sort of kicking it a bit for not being as 'innovative' as they might of wanted , perhaps forgetting that some degree of apeing WOW is kind of needed just to help make the bet a bit safer.

yes i'm sure that people who make games for a living routinely forget the realities of making games for a living and assume that publication is no barrier to innovation. or maybe they know exactly how much innovation can be put into a mass market game and are just sick of apes full of hot air.


Some of the "reviews" I've seen posted on the internet (including this blog) appear to be based exclusively on the writer's experiences during beta.

One aspect they criticize was how easy the game is, "just hold down the mouse button while you charge into melee range, no skill required" is a common sentiment. I dare you to try that now, after launch, at level 10+ against even or higher level mobs and see how long you live.


Difficulty is definitely ramped up considerably in the released version of Tabula. You notice that in the first half hour of play.


I think part of the problem reviewers are having with TR is that with the names tied to it, they assume it is more than just what it is: yet another MMO to enter the genre with an interesting twist. it is interesting, but no more groundbreaking than the influx of other MMOs over the last few years. People seem to want to talk about it more than there is much to really talk about :)


TR? I like it.. has a real MMO halo half life shooter feel about it. sure it took me awhile to fit into the interface and key strokes.. but for me its so nice to be away from two faction alliance /horde wow model( so bombed with fantasy) and have a enemy every ones against..Give TR time, its only been released for a short time PVP will come and AH as well im sure..Hey they even may bring in joystick patch too eventually ... i see the reviews and think that some people are way too hard on TR.. i was there when wow was first launched and have watched it change grow and evolve over the years TR will do the same and ill be there to see it..


As an ex soldier, rolepalying fanatic, and FPS player, I have to say that so far this game is alot of fun. It has distintive FPS type styling. but since it's a MMO PC it's like playing Halo, Gears of War or whatever in a persistan co-operative world. essentially it's a huge Lan party hosted by NCsoft. I love that I can clone a toon to a respec, and make it my Crafting beyotch just so that I can improve my gear. I love that since release that the rifle is much more effective and efficient at long range, that a pistol is the ideal single mob close range weapon ( unless you've chosed to learn unarmed combat)

Using Logos and weapons in combo is mu more potent and devestating than simplying holding the auto attach button.

Questing leads to exploration of the area to a certain degree, but if you want to know where a quest objective is you can togle the quest tracker and know in what general area it is.

really looking for to the "raid" style instance, to see if any one actually attempts to bring small unit tactics to the table.


When it comes to the potential gameplay quality, the game does indeed look quite promising; however I am still skeptical about its chances to gather enough players for the 100k milestone. The marketing campaign was rather successful in the pre-release stage, which is definitely not being the case in the post stage. It seems that PlayNC is fine with buying every banner on the net, yet still insists on keeping the rather restricting, in regards of newbie-harvesting, buddy-key demo system. World of Warcraft on the other hand allows everybody, with a credit card, to play for (correct me if I’m wrong) 10 days, which in my opinion is a significantly superior solution. Providing that you’re trying to gather players from the foreign areas such as casual-gaming and ego-shooters, it is rather naïve to expect that those parties are all willing to pay 50 USD just to see if they like it. You can never kill a 10 million colossus with this approach, regardless of how well designed your game is.


Guys sort it out, your all pointing out really stupid things which you say are flaws. Your completely wrong, I played wow, and now play TR instead. The Character classes are exactly the same as casters, it works the same way with different names. And the targeting function is for people to use abilities on targets and stuff, its pretty much not FPS at all apart from the fact u have a crosshair. And the buttons are so ridiculously simple to use you would have to have one arm to say theres too many! Theres less buttons than warcraft! And they are all exactly adjacent to ASDW controls, the mouse does the rest. This game rules, and as far as avatar customization goes, have you played wow? It got the worst char customization ever! This game has way more you can choose from, and on top of that you can dye all your pieces of armour! So try actually playing the game before you try and point out its flaws! Thanks!


"Role-playing led me to MMOs in the first place, but it's inventory management that's kept me there for 10 years. Sorting bank vaults and backpacks and grading items for various uses is far and away the most addictive part of the whole MMO experience for me. Without lots of little virtual objects to sort admire, pretending to be a dwarf would get old very fast indeed."

You exactly the type of person that has ruined mmo's for everyone else, they market it for people that dont like roleplaying, your just there to get the best gear and then say your better than everyone else because you have the best gear, which in turn will actually make your char better than everyone else's. The thing is, this loot drops from endgame instances, and the endgame instances should be really extravagant and involve lots of storyline and stunning graphics for bosses etc. This I found was the thing warcraft lacked, the world it is based in and the instances just seem to lack any involving storyline, its become boss = loot, not boss = storyline character who coincidentally drops loot just so people will kill him. Theres no point even calling it roleplaying anymore. If you want to be the best at a game, play halo so you dont have to spend 4 weeks getting gear you can just go on and be the best, unless you suck at computer games, in which case play some mmo's since they have all been dumbed down for people like you.


Every one is different, Kapitan.

Pointing the finger at someone saying they are the reason for for ruined mmo's and claiming people's opinoin is dumb is somewhat questionable and innapropriate to say the least. It's like saying someone is dumb because they like the color green.

Don't forget the four general types of players, Killers, Socializers, Achievers, Explorers.

Understanding that, I would predict TR doesn't survive much past 4th quarter 2008. Why? No PvP. All carebear cracks asdide, just look at the most successful MMO's in history. Heck Mr. Garriot's own hit had PvP.

Without risk and loss, what is there to gain? If there is nothing to gain then what is the purpose of playing?


TR strikes me as being more of a concept demo than a finished game. The hype was not fleshed out nearly enough in the product released before it was in my opinion, of finished quality.

There is too much competition in this WoW dominated space to get away with shipping something that can become really cool with time. The few faithful who buy into that are not enough to sustain a title such that it has an ice cube's chance in hell of ever realizing its potential.

Vanguard was another example of this. Had it been given more development time, it could have become the promised spiritual sucessor to EverQuest. Unfortunately, even with significant improvement it is now quite unlikely it will ever amount to much more than a missed opportunity.

TR is not going to fly because it was not good enough at launch. It is not relevant how good it could become, how neat it will be when all the hype is made real if ever, etc. There is not the user base to sustain the sort of development it would take to make that real and as such the game is doomed. Remember the failed launch of AO? Game over. Many hailed it's later greatness but by that time nobody cared. It was too late. The same thing applies here even though the problem was not the launch but the unfinished design and implementation.

All WoW did was to perfect the EverQuest experience such as it was and not a lot more. Since then the only real evolutionary improvements have come from Turbine I think and even those take small steps but perhaps that is wise for now. I consider Eve to be an entirely different animal than what I regard as mainstream MMO's but within its space it remains peerless in its good quality. It is a niche title however and will never be a major player in the MMO market on the order of a WoW or potential sucessor to that game in terms of its popularity.

There's not a lot new under the sun for a long time in MMO land really, including hyped newness that isn't fleshed out enough to truely be so.

Mythic's WAR is simply a new DAoC and as such I think it will have about as much impact on WoW as DAoC did on EverQuest in its heyday. If they don't screw it up this time, that heyday may last longer and be better however.

AoC I think will fail as another over hyped game, in this case a pvp gore-fest with little else to recommend it over similar titles and high system requirements most likely that will also contribute to limiting its audience.

I think the real innovation over time is going to be seen from Turbine and possibly from Bioware given the latter's track record of high quality in single player RPGs.

What I see in Turbine's games is a refinement of the EQ model as well but with the very welcome touch of making them feel more like single player story driven RPGs than any other MMOs I have seen yet. D&D's hand crafted adventures are certainly a very welcome step up as is the story telling and cinematics within LoTRO. I expect to see this kind of emphasis on RPG story in Bioware's game as well whenever it releases. I think there is a larger market for story driven entertainment in a social virtual world than there is for itemization driven worlds like WoW and nobody has tapped it yet. I don't see anyone even trying outside of Turbine to do so really and that mystifies me.

I think all of these games need to become less gear and achievement centric and more story and entertainment centric in ways that do not revolve around the mindless grinding for virtual junk and worthless virtual status. It's ok for that to be a part of it for those who enjoy the collecting and glowing sword waving but there needs to be more if this genre is going to capture a wider audience. WoW's dominance is not preventing new games from suceeding. The same old lame old designs that fail to challenge it are.

EverQuest has been perfected. Game over. Blizzard won. There is no point going there anymore. There is a potentially enormous market for a social game that breaks the old EverQuest mold and the new focus on pvp in WAR and AoC ain't it.

The other major improvement they all need is to be far more casual play friendly with plenty of solo content and group content that is doable and rewarding and fun in sane amounts of playtime. Normal people with busy real lives enjoy entertainment that is not a second job as someone else here noted. MMO's limit their potential incredibly by being such time sinks. This holds the market back more than any other single issue these games as a group have. If we've hit saturation it means we've hit saturation of gamers who'd waste this much of their lives playing a game constantly.

Counter-Strike and countless other shooters like it offer fun pvp in bite sized chunks on demand 24/7 without subscription fees nor time sinks. You login, pick a game type and map and bingo. Let the fun begin and its fun whether you just started or have been at it for a year in most of them. There's no levels. There's no camping for drops. There's no epic quests. There's a buy menu at the start of the round and you are gtg the moment you play for the very first time. There's something to be said for that kind of jump in and play model. While some may value the investment and work in characters they evolve over countless hours, they are in fact a minority versus the general populous who already have plenty of work to do on the character that is themself in reality. When they want entertainment, they want entertainment - not work. How hard is that to grasp?

15 million WoW users is nothing compared to the potential for a social game done better. As someone else noted, MySpace has twice as many users and even that number is nothing compared to the potential. Start considering total console units sold for some potential in this game space. That many people enjoy playing video games. Somebody might want to try making an MMO that would actually appeal to a lot of them, not some subset of normal humanity with pathologic needs for virtual "achievements and stuff" that they are willing to trade 40 plus hours a week of work for (hard core raiding for the best loots anyone?) but normal people who like small chunks of high quality entertainment time when they have free time for fun.

I think someone needs to really get this and create a game that takes these things into account at every turn before anyone is going to topple WoW. I'd go so far as predicting whomever does, will.

Wow. I probably should just write my own blog. lol


I think its perfect. But my opinion is still you need to think on your comment.

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