Gaming Massively

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fare thee well, Tabula Rasa

Poor Tabula Rasa - slashdot has reminded me that the final swan song is this weekend. It was a good game, as far as it went (I enjoyed it a lot more when I played it in January), and it's sad to see so much work just... disappear. I stand by my assertion that the game should be open sourced and left to the fans, but the game's website would seem to indicate a fairly... final... finale. "[I]f it is truly our destiny to be destroyed, we are taking them all with us."

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

playing LotRO

So, despite all my whinging, I am really enjoying Lord of the Rings Online. I like the music, the atmosphere, the fact that it is, in some small way, related to some of my favourite books ever. I've got a dwarf now on Nimrodel, and he's up to level 5. Everything about the game so far seems like it's a little slower-paced, like you're actually expected to stop and smell the roses. We'll see if that continues.

I had actually been playing Tabula Rasa up to this morning, and finding it quite enjoyable. But I had one too many CtDs and decided to start the new game, since restarting the client isn't very much fun the 3rd time through.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Tabula Rasa, Player Ownership, and the Open Source question

So Tabula Rasa is going to be killed. There's something especially sad about watching a game you beta tested die (sounds like I may get to do it again with Conan before too long).

As always when a game is to be shut down, a wealth of articles proposing various ways of saving the game come out. This time is no exception, and I'll grab the one at massively as an example.

The usual idea with these things seems to be 'if players like the game enough to want to save it, they can all pool their money (which would have gone for subscriptions) and save it'. Of course, if every good idea only required cash, the world would be a much better place. To even begin to save the game, you would need people with particular skill sets to arrange the move to a player-owned game, and people with an entirely different set of skills to keep it going once the transfer had been made.

It's very difficult to separate the idea of 'player owned' from the idea of 'open source', not because they aren't different, but because they would behave so similarly. So, for example, with open source when you have a problem with the software, you generally go to the community and ask a question. There are three or four helpful people, three or four assholes, and several hundred people who might help if they knew anything at all about your question, but they don't.

Given what I've seen of MMO customer service, this part sounds workable, or possibly even better, than what you get with your paid service.

Of course, the trick with an MMO is that, in addition to supplying the software, the folks holding the game in trust have to supply some fairly hefty back-end hardware. This costs real-world money, and means that, despite the fact there is no longer a company to yell at, people would still have to cough up some maintenance fees (shall we call them 'subscription fees'?) And this is where I think things might break down.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of making this work, despite the high end hardware requirements. If you could get enough tech people interested in creating an open source gaming server platform, you might be able to have the servers supplied by the developers of the back-end. Additionally, because keeping costs in check would be such a high priority, the gaming servers would have a much higher incentive to be as efficient as possible. Whether the open source community could create a server platform that is more efficient than the gaming servers already on offer by commercial companies is debatable, experience would indicate that exposure to so many more developers would lead to a better platform than any closed source platform.

The other reason this might work is because you could open the server platform to other games. Creating a simple front end (or even a complex front end, though simple would be better) and allowing other games to access the same server technology (and hopefully, the same servers) would allow you to maximize server load, and hopefully thus use the equipment as efficiently as possible, and draw in the maximum number of paying players to keep the servers running.

If, as the massively article suggests, Tabula Rasa is breaking even, it might theoretically be possible to keep it running while transitions to a more sustainable business model took place. But the challenges of creating all the teams necessary to promote and develop the game (software and hardware) long-term are daunting, and I don't know if the gaming world is ready, or willing, to embrace the kind of changes that would be necessary to pull off a TR save.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Garriot leaving NCSoft

Slashdot is reporting that Richard Garriot has left NCSoft. That sounds like bad news for Tabula Rasa. Or maybe not - I never really got why people care about individuals - especially now that the game is launched. In fact, given the state it was launched in, this may be the best possible news....

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Colbert is Immortal

So did you see the Stephen Colbert interview with Richard Garriot? I love the fact that, other than the screen shot (which was really small), Tabula Rasa got no mention at all. I'm not sure how effective that was as marketing, but it certainly was amusing. I wonder if Garriot made it to space, or is still being held by the Russians?

Massively also did a post on this, with lots of link love.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

review of Tabula Rasa

Tom's Games has a review up of Tabula Rasa. I think they've been playing it for quite some time, and the summation of the review seems to be 'meh'. What's interesting is that I think they are used to twitch games, and so the review is from a POV I don't see as often in these sorts of articles.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good job!

With all the pseudo-Christmas celebrations going on in the various MMOs, it's refreshing to see a game taking a different tack. So props to Tabula Rasa for their Defeat of Earth memorial day. More at Massively.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

something for n00bs

Massively pointed me to an article on How Stuff Works titled How World of Warcraft Works, which is an overview of massive game technology, using WoW as the example game.

This isn't exactly what I had expected when I clicked through. I had expected a tutorial for people who hadn't played massive games before.

Given that WoW is now doing TV ads (with Mr. T and William Shatner), some sort of primer is probably going to become necessary. I learned the game by watching someone else play, but I imagine the ads are targeting an audience that doesn't have that experience (or rather, more likely, they're targeting the parents of an audience that doesn't have that experience). As the industry matures, instruction may become less necessary, but right now I bet there are a lot of people looking for serious guidance.

Actually, that was my experience with Tabula Rasa. Obviously I know more or less how an MMO works, but the details are important, and I found the intro section simply didn't offer enough guidance on those details. At least, I assume there were details I was missing - the alternative is that combat was really terrible, and I find it hard to believe that the main point of the game wasn't polished.

A game doesn't have to be dumbed down to have a good tutorial - one of the NDA games I've played has a very good tutorial, I thought. But if you want to bring in people who find your game through a flippin' TV ad, you better have something!

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fall Game Preview

Tom's Hardware has a gaming section which recently published a two part Fall Gaming Preview. For the most part there's nothing new, but it does give a nice overview of what's coming out, and it's great for non-MMO titles. Tabula Rasa does make an appearance, but otherwise it's a whole lot of FPS (unless we count Tabula Rasa as FPS as well).

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Tabula Rasa

So Tabula Rasa, the new sci-fi shooter MMO, went to open beta last weekend, which basically means anyone who wants to can download it and try it out. So I did. Other people have written reviews, some of which have been positive, more of which have been negative. I only made it through the first few quests so far (I think I have ten days to try it out), so I can't give a comprehensive opinion, but from what I saw so far my thoughts are 'meh'. Not because I don't think it's a good game for a certain type of player - merely because that player isn't me. It's very first person shooter-esque. And army game-esque. I did like some things - you can apparently lead teams of NPCs, which I think is a really good idea that all games should incorporate - as your character becomes epically powerful, give 'em an army. Sack a town. Etc. But for the most part it just didn't speak to me. I'll try it some more and see if it grows on me, but for the most part I think it's not my bag, baby.

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