Tabula Rasa NDA Lifted: 10/19/07 Launch

Tabula Rasa has lifted the veil of silence on their Beta testing population, so those of us who were not invited to the party will finally get a glimpse into this newest of MMOs. Officially set to launch on October 19th, Tabula Rasa offers gamers a blend of FPS and traditional MMO elements that attempts to break with the fantasy MMO genre and offer ‘something new.’

Heartless points out that reviews in the blogosphere are few and far between, surmising that perhaps with all the other games launched or in beta, Tabula Rasa just hasn’t inspired much enthusiasm.

Tobold has his review up, which as always, is quite insightful. Good game, but not his style.

Keen and Graev have a comprehensive review posted. They are pretty down on it in general.

Darren shares his thoughts on TR. He seems to share Tobold’s ‘good but not my bag, baby’ opinion.

Bildo was in and promises his thoughts soon. I’ll link to it when he puts it up [Edit: His review is up, and it is quite good. Go check it out.]

MMOG Nation was given permission to break the NDA to post a review back in July, and though more than a month has passed, it remains the most complete review I have seen thus far.

…that’s it. A Google search does reveal other reviews posted long before the lifting of the NDA, but I refuse to link to people who violate their beta agreements, even after the NDA is gone.

KTR readers, I invite you to post your thoughts and impressions of the beta if you were in or to post links to reviews that I have missed.


19 thoughts on “Tabula Rasa NDA Lifted: 10/19/07 Launch”

  1. I played for a few weeks back in July/August and was not impressed. It’s starts off giving you the feel that it’s a different type of game but quickly loses its originality by allowing “locking on” for aiming. It has a lot of changes to traditional MMOs but overall doesn’t really draw me in as something new. Once again you’re forced along pre-set paths for your character to follow and while the array of guns is impressive, they aren’t customizable nor is your armor. It’s similar to a Diablo loot style. The enemies coming down in dropships instead of spawning was a nice touch but I would have liked to see more dynamic landing zones and more tactics from the enemy.

    For instance, there’s a spot in the newbie town where like clockwork every two or three minutes on one exact spot a dropship will bring down a few mobs that will promptly die to a hail of gunfire. Not only is this spot static, but the AI clearly doesn’t know that it’s a really BAD idea to drop your weakest mobs directly in the middle of a well armed fortress. I was excited to play this game initially when I heard they were working on “really good” AI but it turns out to be inanely simple to beat, even though they take cover occasionally. I also feel the GUI needs some work, it feels very old and too static.

    I’ve talked about a lot of negative things but the game has some strong points, such as the loot system (which was kinda nice except for the non-customizability) and the ability for two people with the same class to play differently simply based on their skill points and gun usage. Overall, this could be a good game in my eyes if they did some massive overhauls with the AI (like they said they would) and broke their class system to allow any character to pick up any skills they want.

    I give a 3 out of 5.

  2. I started and stopped writing a review about TR three times and I finally gave up. I’m so tired of complaining about MMOs that I just couldn’t get into it.

    Fact is, TR failed to impress me. Many bugs didn’t get fixed. Some quests didn’t work at all. The combat and movement was fun, but not worth paying a monthly fee for. For me, I saw nothing “new” from what was supposed to be very “new”.

    When I sat down at my computer, I had a few choices. Ryzom, Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa and another beta. The truth is, TR fell solidly into 4th place for my time in game over the span I had it installed. The fun TR provided me, was truthfully better provided by any of the multi-player FPS games out there. I was itching for a new sci-fi MMO to play and TR did not deliver on my hopes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I did have fun once and a while and I might even be willing to play if the price was under $10/month for something different – but it’s not a game to fill my main MMO position at all. If you are interested in sci-fi, I still recommend you try it for yourself. There is not really any other MMO currently like this out there. You be the judge.

    Some things that bothered me: Doesn’t feel like a “world” to me, just a bunch of battlefields. Characters all pretty much looked the same to me. Aiming is not required, just need to be “close”. While cover was supposed to be a big part of the game, I was constantly being shot through the wall or the hill-side. When the health of the mobs dropped to zero, the mobs would frequently remain standing for 10 seconds before death, causing the unaware to waste ammo – which you need to pay for. I never once had an escort quest work, my charge always disappeared at some point at the quest would not advance. Some of these are bugs, which by nature should be removed from the game sooner or later.

    Some things I liked: Getting into combat was easy, it’s war everywhere. You can quest or just go find a battle. The enemies can spawn right on top of you, thanks to drop ships. The taunting from the Bane is cool. Big battles. No need for a huge bar of many skills. You just choose which weapon and which skill you want active, very simple. There is crafting (which I did not try so no comment on it’s quality or lack thereof). It’s not elves and dwarves!

  3. I played a quick hour at a friends house this morning to level 5. It was fun, fast paced, presented well, and was definitely interesting. I can’t comment much on it from my limited experience, although I have no clue how grouping will work, things go so fast at the early levels.

    One thing I despise about the game is the shameless self promotion. “Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa”. That scares me. If a game isn’t good enough to stand on it’s own in title, even, that is a bad sign. Many MMO players have no clue who RG is, never played Ultima, and frankly, the game is so far removed from UO that it is pointless to even mention he created it. It is like having a new baseball game, called “John Elways Hardball”. Completely unrelated, and a simple marketing ploy.

    How did “Brad McQuaid’s Vanguard” do? Perhaps Brad didn’t want to put his name in the title because he knew it was so bad! At bare minimum, NC Soft should be clever enough to remove RG from the title based off the complete failure of the “other” genre setting producer having such a flop. I have read little about TR, but I did get irked when Lord British himself started writing an MMO piece for a big name magazine out there. He would make some good points, but in the end, it was always rounded out with “Well, In Tabula Rasa, we are doing XyzZ to ensure this doesn’t happen”. Should have had a big logo above the “independant” article saying “Advertisement”.

    Anyway, pushing it so hard as Richards scares me off a bit. Even with a little play time I would like to give this game a chance, but I can’t pay $15.00 for it as it stands now. $5.00, I’d give it a fair shot. It’s not that I can’t afford the extra 10 bucks, its more on principal. =)

  4. TR didn’t impress me either, but most MMORPGs are the same to me, being a Guild Wars aficionado. It’s just as grindy as everything else out there. UI is similar to other MMORPGs. The setting is in space on lots of different planets and you’re killing aliens instead of killing orcs or dragons.

    I actually liked that TR didn’t require pixel-perfect aiming. I don’t play FPS games. I expected the game to frustrate me with the need to be super accurate with my aim, so I was pleasantly surprised.

    I think the setting will appeal to people who are tired of fantasy MMORPGs. The skills also seem a lot more customisable than other MMORPGs, which is a good thing.

    If you didn’t have to pay a monthly fee, I’d play it for several months at least.

  5. Thanks for the linkage, Cyndre.

    I want to reiterate that it’s not that the game is bad… just not all that great either. And without a strong IP to back it up, I fear it’ll wander into the same territory as AA. I wish NCsoft would go the SOE route and start exploring some more payment options. A time-chunk or NCPass option would actually make me consider getting the title.

    But it holds no water for me as a 15 dollar a month game, when I can get more from a game that’s been out for years.

  6. I like and will get it, but Im too involved in writing about weird WoW stuff to come up with an honest review. It wont be my main MMO though, mainly due to time invested elsewhere

  7. Bildo: in fairness, NCSoft has been exploring some payment options, just not that one. They have Guild Wars (box cost, no online fee), Dungeon Runners (no box, unlimited trial, small online fee), and several games with traditional cost structures. City of Heroes/Villains even has some add-ons you can buy, and combining those two games under the same monthly fee is another sort of experiment.

    I wonder how a pass option would work across NCSoft’s stable of games.

  8. Good point, Zubon. I forgot about DR’s pay option.

    As for GW, as I understand it that was ArenaNet’s decision, with NC as just the publisher, sort of like what SOE’s doing with Platform Publishing. With TR, the way RG talks is that NC has a good hand in the development of the game early on, and then not so much when they had to rewrite the whole game from scratch a couple of years back.

    So how much pull NC has on Destination Games’ decisions I’m uncertain of. But I do know I can’t see myself paying to play this one for 15 bucks at least. Where DR doesn’t feel like it’s worth 5 bucks, TR feels like around that type of cost would fit in nicely. It’s depth just isn’t there to justify 15 a month in the face of other MMO’s offerings.

    Not for me at least.

  9. It was refreshing, and fun for a while, but I had a few major complaints. Ammunition is a huge problem at the beginning of the game, I had a lot of trouble finding quest content after I left the first zone, and by gods… the bugs! While they’re at it taking the same general quest-review system I saw in LotRO’s beta, would it hurt them to add a comments field, or at least a “I had technical difficulties and had to restart this quest four times.” check-box?

    The lag on mob death can be rationalized as a part of stress testing. Personally, I gave up after two weeks of finding myself stuck in or on the terrain once or twice an hour. I took a look at the launch date and figured I couldn’t on good conscience ask them to let me test their game for free, when in a mere two months people would be lining up to pay them to do so.

  10. Thanks all for the impressions.

    So… if I’m reading all this correctly… the only thing they’re really-really-really-really innovating anything with is that FPSish control scheme that’s hit or miss with some people?

  11. New patch. Can’t log in. They ask you to wait 5 minutes and if you don’t get to character selection, close out and try again. I tried three times and I’m going to do something else now.

    It’s ready to go boys, ship it!!!

  12. Julian,

    If you read or listen to Richard Garriott when he talks about Tabula Rasa, he covers 5 elements in the game which he considers important/innovative pieces.

    1. The more minimalistic user interface. While the actual targeting mechanism at least visually resembles a more FPS like game, it really isn’t that much different and it works better than other attempts where one has actually tried to bring in FPS style targetting (Neocron and SWG NGE comes to mind at least). At least as important I think is the more streamlined interface, although SWG NGE also have tried this, I think TRs attempt works better.
    I guess RG also includes the differences in combat here which has a bit more emphasis on movement and positioning as tactical elements.

    2. Character cloning. You do not have to start all over from scratch if you want to create an alt, you clone an existing character, reallocate skill points and modify its appearance and you are ready to go from the point of cloning. I think this is a brilliant feature.
    All characters also share storage space, like the bank slots in EQ2.

    3. Dynamic battlefields. The idea is that mobs do not just spawn at the same spot all the time, but that it may be different all the time and that outposts may be controlled by the Bane (baddies) or the AFS (good guys) at any point and this may change. To be honest, beside the tutorial example of taking control of an outpost, I have not seen much of this and while Bane does not just spawn, but are dropped down through drop ships, they still tend to appear at the same spots. I can understand that there is an exception for the lowbie/newbie areas though.

    4. Ethical parables – there is not only one choice to make when doing missions, but multiple options, which may have consequences later with the different factions in the game. I have seen two of these missions in the lowbie areas so far, have yet to determine what the actual consequences will be.

    5. Instanced storyline focused areas. The idea is more focus on moving the story forward and presenting some puzzles rather than a place to grind/get loot. Not sure I would call it innovative, but a good element nonetheless.

    I like it and taking it as a game to spend perhaps somewhat short sessions in every now and then I think it has potential to be good fun. But given the state of the beta I would say October 19th is a bit early.
    And far too often I have not been able to get into the game at all due to the same type of problems as Ethic describes.

  13. Sente,

    1). FPS is the key acronym here. While I agree that a minimalistic interface is important, I would suggest that a well designed and intuitive interface is more important than simply minimalist…however in a FPS, there isn’t much going on besides aiming and shooting. You need more for a properly designed MMORPG.

    2) Character Cloning. Yeah, sounds like a feature in a single player game. Doesn’t really make sense in a mmorpg. Now, I’m not talking about clones like you see in Eve Online or Anarchy or whatever, this is different. I mean come on, save points for your character that you can turn into another character? Yeah, sounds good on paper, but I think it doesn’t fit the RPG space, but is fine for the FPS stuff.

    3) NCSoft is a little disingenuous here with the word “dynamic”. They *mean* that the battlefield changes when different control points are possessed by different parties. This is about as dynamic as “dynamic characters that can live or die!”. What they *imply* is that every gamer has the chance to do great and wonderful world-shaking things! Dynamic battlefields where things happen! You can do stuff! Wait wait, you can HIDE BEHIND THINGS and IT MATTERS!. I’m telling you, its a FPS with some RPG makeup on.

    4) Ethical Parables. This isn’t new by any means. MUDs back in the 80’s had this, and many players were tormented by dungeon masters way before then. What is new though, is a MMORPG developer actually going this route for a chance with any meaningful weight. I wonder how well this is implemented in TR or if it is just lightweight “make a choice to affect your faction later”.

    5) Instanced storyline! Wow. More single player game design. You know, it isn’t epic if everyone experiences the same thing, and nothing any of them does affects anyone else. Truly epic games have many things going on where a player or players can make their mark or affect the overall longterm experience of other players. Instanced storylines are a sham. Instanced dungeons are likewise weak (they have their place, but not as the mainstay of content).

    I need some coffee, I’m getting cranky.

  14. Nicodemus,

    Sorry if I got you cranky… ;)

    Of course a user interface should be well designed and intuitive, no argument there. And I agree that the dynamics of battle fields are probably not more than perhaps changing some spawns in order to try to enforce periodic changes of control points in order to give the impression that player fights matter.

    After all, it is market speak.

    The cloning is a good idea I believe though and more or less a necessity to have if a tiered class structure is used.

    I do not see this game as anything that are aiming for any epic proportions or anything beyond some short play sessions with a bit of fun and it that is fine with me.

  15. I got my coffee.

    I think TR in general has some potential and I like the fact that they are trying to break the mold in a lot of areas. Kudos to NCSoft for making the effort.

    I think their marketing is off and they are trying to pitch TR as something that it is not.

    I still say it looks mostly like an FPS styled game.

  16. If TR is an FPS I am Smoked Gouda cheese with whip cream filling. This game will NOT attract a single FPS player. It has NO elements of FPS playstyle. It has about as much aiming as making sure your character is facing the general direction of the mob…like every other MMO.

    The previous comments about Neocron were more spot on than they’d like to say. Neocron actually had BETTER controls than this game, aside from the lag. Hell, even SWG NGE had a better control scheme. This game really HAD some great ideas, but failed to implement any of them. Previously I stated I would give this game a 3/5, but that’s a rating on it’s own. If this game were compared to the current market of MMOs, it doesn’t even rate itself into the pay-to-play category IN IT’S CURRENT STATE (in case anyone was to misquote me).

    Time will tell, but the outcome looks pretty grim.

  17. Bildo nailed my opinion, “But it holds no water for me as a 15 dollar a month game, when I can get more from a game that’s been out for years.”

    I played the beta for a long time. Forcing myself to like it so I could replace WoW. I have more fun playing WoW (even with all its problems).

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