My thoughts on Tabula Rasa will have to wait as I wish to write about something else at the moment: equipment.
In any massively multiplayer online game that I know of, there is equipment. While it is just one part of the overall game, so many other parts depend on or influence it. From loot drops to crafting to trade to player progression, etc. Lets look at different ways equipment is implemented.
In World of Warcraft (from what I read on wowwiki), equipment does not break. Even when its durability reaches 0 it just goes into a state where it provides not benefits. Your items stay with you always when you die. The only time you upgrade is when you find something better.
In Eve Online your equipment is your ship and modules. It never wears out with use. You can freely swap out anything you want. If you die you drop it all. The ship is destroyed along with half your modules. The other half drop to your corpse. You are constantly acquiring new ships and modules to replenish.
In Ultima Online’s past your equipment wore out with use. You could get equipment repaired but the maximum effectiveness dropped a little. Eventually you must replace everything. If you died then you lost it (unless you managed to loot it back). You had to constantly be acquiring new equipment to keep your current level.
In Ultima Online today there are significant changes. Your equipment still wears out but you can cheaply boost it’s life span indefinitely. Equipment also lasts much, much longer between repairs. Item insurance (fixed at 600 gold per item) means you get to keep all your items for relatively little cost. Thus the only thing you go after is better equipment or powder to keep up your current set.
World of Warcraft’s equipment model depends on new pieces to be constantly introduced to the game in order to keep things interesting. New items are usually very difficult to obtain at first. Later on the difficulty is toned down and in turn the equipment becomes more common. Eventually giving way to new and better stuff. One example of this is the tiered armor sets introduced each season. They are even numbered so you know which are the latest and greatest. Currently up to number 8.
World of Warcraft’s model is to consistantly introduced new equipment and obsolete older pieces.
Eve Online’s equipment model depends of players dying and needing new items. New equipment is introduced into the game, but it usually serves a specific purpose and does not replace currently usefulness. While there are new “tiers” (referred to as Tech II, and recently Tech III) , they are much more expensive than base items. And as mentioned earlier, when you die you lose it all. Thus, no equipment is made obsolete because cheap models and ships are useful in their own situations.
Eve Online’s model is to periodically introduce new equipment which expands into completely new areas or add slightly more powerful modules which are more signficatly more costly than originals.
Ultima Online’s equipment model was tied most closely with real life. As was what Richard Garriott intended which his design. Players acquired items, used them, wore them out or lost them and got new equipment. The level of your equipment depended on how much you were willing to work/pay for. Game expansions added brand new equipment which was different from what was already available. Never replacing it.
Ultima Online’s original model was to add new types of equipment, but no enhancements on the originals.
Now on to today’s model. From the Age of Shadows expansion onward, equipment was modified to be fully repairable akin to the World of Warcraft model. This however was stated to be a bug in the code which unfortunately was not fixed for a long time. The introduction of Item Insurance made it so player’s no longer had to worry about item loss on death. Now the constant progression of always going after the latest and greatest equipment began. Many items are now considered trash, and as such are never looted from creature corpses. Most player crafted equipment also past the point where it was no longer used by anyone. Expansions since (Samurai Empire and Mondain’s Legacy) added new equipment once again. But a lot went unused by players due to it being below current equipment types in usefulness. For example some new weapons such as the Compsite Bow and Bokuto have replaced the normal Bow and Halberd.
Ultima Online’s current model is to add either better equipment which replaces current items or equipment which is ignored for various reasons.
The current UO model is very broken.