Time is running short for the science fiction MMO known as Tabula Rasa and the end of the month signals a shutdown for the roughly 18 month old game. Promoted as the brain child of industry veteran Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series, it had a bumpy launch and unfortunately suffered disappointing sales. Deciding to cut their losses, NCsoft has pledged to pull the plug. Making a return to pay my respects was a given, but I was a little surprised at what I found.
The starting planet of Foreas is a much quieter place than it was nearly a year ago. Small squads no longer fan out against Bane positions and control points are frequently under enemy occupation. You will still find people milling about some of the major hubs but for the most part it's a wide open hunting ground. It sounds like a soloers dream, but without the chat channels it gets to be a very lonely place.
The lack of population on Foreas leads me to two conclusions. First, not many new people are trying Tabula Rasa, and it's hard to blame them. As players we become extremely attached to the sweat equity we put into characters and with only a week until it all goes away, it seems moot. This leads me to my second conclusion: Most of the people I did run into were the hardened veterans who have lovingly followed the game through it's ups and downs. Of course there were a smattering of people like myself who came back to say goodbye and reminisce about the better days.
What really struck me most was how Tabula Rasa's community was going through four of the Kübler-Ross five stages of death. I listened a lot in chat channels and even struck up conversations with a few people and almost everyone fit into one of these categories.
Denial - These were few and far between but I found a few people who really believed NCsoft were going to change their minds. Maybe they'd realize killing the game was a mistake, or some philanthropist company would swoop in and save it. Surely there was still profit to be made, even if it was turned free to play! Letting go can be really hard to do and I hope they start building shrines.
Anger - This is the one I identified most with personally, although I would classify my own feelings more as mild annoyance. Many players shared my frustration that the game wasn't sold off to another company. An entire working product with a staff of three is better than nothing. We understand NCsoft's need to reduce expenses, but this seems like tossing out something useful. Others are mad at Richard Garriott, the Tabula Rasa development team, and...strangely enough... Communism, which is the root of most problems.
Depression - This is the emotion I ran into most frequently but it was usually found only in private conversations. Why was the game closing? There were certainly still a few subscribers around but was it so bad that they weren't breaking even? The word "Auto Assault" frequently was mentioned in reference to another canceled product from NCsoft. Many weren't sure where they were going to go next with only a few AAA science fiction titles available and games like Star Trek Online a long way off.
Acceptance - Many players have accepted the fate of Tabula Rasa and are just enjoying their last few moments. A few have been there from the very beginning and others, like myself, are back to get a last glance at what they once knew. We all realize in a few weeks this unique game will disappear and join the somber club of cancelled products. When asked where they will go next, many say back to World of Warcraft or whatever else will tide them over until the release of the next great science fiction game.
The most impressive thing I've seen about Tabula Rasa in recent days is the enthusiasm of developers to continue working. Diligently adding content, they have even put in the Power Armor Units (PAU's) we all thought were myths. There have even been some bug fixes done in the last few updates, which is a testament to the dedication of the remaining team.
What I walked away with was a mixed community with the angry, sad, and fun all joined together by their love of the game. Sure you have the haters who will moan and find any and everything to complain about, but for the most part it appears to have brought many people together. It's odd how you never really appreciate something until it's taken away. Keep checking back with Ten Ton Hammer as we continue our coverage of the end of Tabula Rasa.
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