Tabula Setsa

For those who haven’t noticed, this blog is updating every day at 12AM Eastern. There is this nice feature where I can set the time the posts go live.

We all saw it coming. Tabula Rasa lost its creator, Richard Garriott, just a few short days ago. He said it was because of a new found enlightenment on his recent journey into space. Conspiracy theorists probably conclude it is from solar radiation and he is now being controlled by aliens. Myself? I think he is just tired of making games. He has been doing it all his life. While he enjoyed a lot of success up to Ultima franchise including Ultima Online, things have not kept pace. While City of Heroes could be considered a success, it wasn’t a hit. Now his latest creation, some kind of space universe, has met its demise.

I have never tried the game myself. Actually I picked up a copy for $1 at Gamestop a couple weeks ago when they were on clearance. That is certainly a bad sign in itself when your game is no longer going to be sold at the largest game retailer in the country. I suppose I will give it a go in a couple weeks, see what it is all about. Learn more about why it wasn’t well received.

But I can form a few theories by just reading the box. First of all it prominently displays Richard’s name at the top of both sides. “A science fiction epic from Richard Garriott”. I bet more than a few casual gamers have said “who is this guy?” The box doesn’t say anything about it, just that he made this game. If you are going to display someone’s name prominently on your product, it might be a good idea to have a sentence or two explaining who the heck he is. Perhaps something like, “Richard Garriott, the father of the modern MMO, of which millions of players now enjoy in a variety of worlds.” Then someone may say “hey, this guy was the one who invented World of Warcraft? I should check this game out!” Not exactly true, but a sub is a sub.

The top headline on the back of the box, below an even bigger headline exclaiming who made this game, states “Explore massive alien worlds, immerse yourself in deep storylines, and face the consequence of the choices that you make.” How many people are going to care about deep story lines? I am not joking here. Hardcore players rarely do. Casual players might have a passing interest. This is just not a selling point of games today. Deep story is not going to pull people in. It will help keep the people already playing. If you are going to advertise this on your box, at least tell me what the story involves. I don’t even see the name of any alien race on this box. People read books for a deep story. People play games to have fun. Several games have actually had such convoluted stories recently, that it might turn some people off.

Next headline down, “Take Role-Playing to the Battlefield!” Are you kidding? Whoever designed this box is not very good at marketing. I just grabbed the box for Bioshock (real journalistic research here), lets see what is says. “Bioshock is a shooter unlike any you’ve ever played, loaded with weapons and tactics never seen.” Unlike anything I’ve ever played? Hmm, that sounds interesting. It goes on to say how you can modify your DNA to fight and stuff. It actually tells you what the game is about. There is absolutely no mention on the Tabula Rasa box about this “deep story” that is supposed to draw me in. I was going to compare it to the Warhammer Online box, but that has nothing but a picture on the DVD package. I can’t locate the sleeve that it came in at the moment.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it certainly helps. The last thing I am going to nitpick, because there isn’t much else to do since I haven’t played the game yet, is this absolutely ridiculous blank space. There is a section that lists 3 features (consensual PVP, crafting & economy [whatever that means, what MMO doesn’t have those?], and voice chat). The list itself is fine. The space underneath where you could fit 2-3 more points is not. It is just devoid of information or aesthetics. Is this an omen as to what the game itself will be like? I’ll do another post once I actually try out the game.

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