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Platform: PC
Genre: MMORPG
Publisher: NCSoft
Developer: Destination Games
ETA: February 2006 

 

 

 

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Tabula Rasa

 

A few years back, when the creator of the Ultima series, Richard Garriot, chose to leave Origin, and with it his legendary RPG franchise, there was quite the kafuffle as to why he departed.  However, in time things calmed down, his non-compete clause with Electronic Arts expired, and he got down to the business of making games again, creating a new company called Destination Games, where they have been busting their collective butt ever since on their new MMORPG Tabula Rasa.

 

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Taking a science fiction spin, players will be in a futuristic world where a dangerous race known as the Bane has been discovered.  These beings are a vicious lot who enslave each and every race that they come across.  In a pro-active attempt to keep this same fate from falling upon players’ home world in Tabula Rasa, they set to the stars to hunt down the Bane and destroy them first, and this will be the main drive of the game for players as they build up their characters and go on adventures with their friends.

 

With Tabula Rasa, Destination Games is trying to do something a little bit different with the genre, taking certain elements from the first person shooter, and fusing them with role-playing.  This isn’t to say that the game is going to be highly twitch-oriented, where dexterity rules the roost, as this simply isn’t the case.  The game will still be focused on stats and character advancement like one would expect to find in an RPG, but the developers want to find a way to include some of the visceral, psychological elements of the FPS to include in the game.  By doing this, they hope to provide a more intense, fast-paced experience for players.

 

As to how the whole gameplay experience will go, developers of MMORPGs have a lot that they need to take into account, since there are so many directions that they can take their 

project in, each with their own segment of highly devoted fans.  Will the game support PvP (Player versus Player)?  How solo-able will the game be?  To what extent will players be able to directly impact the events of the game world?

 

For Tabula Rasa, the game will be strictly PvE (Player versus Environment), so that means those worried about being attacked by other players at every turn will have nothing to fear.  The developers are also gunning to make the game quite solo-able, ensuring that those with a more solitary approach to online games can have a 

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good time.  There will also be plenty of opportunities for players to team up and tackle various quests, and regions as a group.

 

In terms of actual character development, not much information has been released as of yet regarding which types of character classes will be in the game.  One thing that has been hinted at is that this will remain somewhat open-ended, as the game’s designers don’t want to pigeon hole players into specific classes in hopes of avoiding a mentality among the Tabula Rasa community that there is a “right” build for characters to do specific tasks, and everything else is “wrong”.  If this approach to character development can translate well into the final game it will be interesting to see how players react to a game world where they aren't categorized into traditional MMORPG roles such as tanks, heal bots, nukers, and the like.

 

One area that Destination Games wants to pay particular attention to is how the narrative of the game will work.  The development team wants to ensure that there is a strong mythos behind Tabula Rasa that players can discover over the course of their time in the game.  This won’t just happen through the various quests that can be picked up, but also through the game’s magic system.  Known as “Logos”, this is a sort of psychic energy that flows through the fabric of the cosmos.  As players acquire new skills in this discipline, they will learn more about the ancient lore of the game world.

 

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Looking at what the developers of the game have been able to do in terms of the game’s aesthetic, Tabula Rasa appears to be doing a good job of capturing the science fiction atmosphere that its story portrays.  The environments are appropriately blasted, with soldiers decked out in hi-tech gear, and towering steel bases on the horizon.  At this point in production, much of the media that has been shown is quite desolate, with burned out landscapes, and copious use of the colors red and brown.  What becomes abundantly clear, though, from looking at the screenshots of the game is that the level of detail is quite high.

 

With the pedigree of games already under Richard Garriots belt, he could just as well retire right now and enjoy the good life.  However, he’s chosen to continue to pursue his passion, and for that RPG fans everywhere are extremely fortunate.  With Tabula Rasa, it’s easy to see that he and the rest of the team at Destination Games want to make this the best game that they can.  With the various design decisions going into the title, there’s little wonder that fans of MMORPGs are keeping a close eye on this game.  The question now for Mr. Garriot and the gang is which will be harder, realizing their vision for the game, or encouraging its following to remain patient until it's release.

 

Mr. Nash

(August 27, 2005)