Link to Official Homepage
Platform: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
Publisher: NCsoft
Developer: Destination Games
Format: CD-ROM
Release: US 01/17/05
Japan N/A

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Mark P. Tjan
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Mark P. Tjan

Richard Garriott is a man who needs no introduction. He's often better known as his avatar, however; Lord British, the man who with his team called Origin, defined the MMORPG. After Origin was dissolved by its parent company, EA, Garriott formed Destination Games with many of his old co-workers, including Starr Long and Ralph Koster. Under the flag of Korean online gaming giant NCsoft, Destination Games is set and ready to unveil their latest online creation, Tabula Rasa.

The game will feature a science fiction setting with a touch of esoteric embroidery. Two major cultures involved in the game - the Benefactors and the Thrax - are vying to help or hinder human evolution. The Benefactors were the most advanced race in the galaxy. While they found that true space travel was impractical due to physical laws and distances, they discovered a way to warp space using a method that didn't interfere with natural physics. This they called "Logos," and it was through this that the Benefactors began to explore the cosmos around them.

Unfortunately, none of the other races were as advanced as they were, so in an effort to help the cosmos evolve, the Benefactors began imparting technology and teachings to varying cultures. Unfortunately, one such culture was called the Thrax, a xenophobic race with hostile intentions for other species, including the Benefactors. The Thrax began to add race after race to their empire, conquering all until the Benefactors were pushed back so far that they almost became nothing more than a memory.

While in hiding, the Benefactors discovered a planet called Earth. This planet, having finally reached a point of evolution that it was worth taking note of, was suddenly in Thrax sights. But this was the planet the Benefactors had been waiting for, the planet to which they would entrust their legacy - The Logos. Hiding it in a place called Sanctuary on the event horizon of a black hole, they gave humanity means to discover it, and that is where Tabula Rasa begins.

The Sanctuary hubs are where the majority of player interaction will take place, and from where all adventures are launched. Around the hubs players also have tracts of real estate which they can decorate and add to. Players can also invite their friends over and visit other estates, given that they're permitted by the owners of course. Transport between these and other locations is instantaneous using the Logos. As a result, players will never be forced to run long distances while their friends wait on them. Cutting down the time it takes to complete a task in Tabula Rasa, especially a tedious one such as travel, has been high on the list of priorities for Destination Games.

Outside of private estates, a hub serves as a player commune. There, gamers can get together to trade goods, craft, and talk, all the staples of online socializing. From the hub, they can then embark on adventures by themselves or with friends. Missions will include instances not usually found in MMORPGs. For example, certain missions may require players to go on surveillance missions before starting their attack run. This is a common feature in offline games, but isn't readily found in online titles. Requirements such as this add a wholly new dimension to the strategy involved in an MMORPG. Players will be given both primary and secondary objectives for regular missions. Depending on how a team approaches a mission, some secondary objectives may become unavailable, or the mission may wind up a complete failure. Planning ahead, rather than rushing through a mission will therefore be a top priority.

In addition to regular play, gamers can also take part in two kinds of specialty missions. One kind of specialty mission is called Battlefield, where players can take on monster mobs as they would in most MMORPGs. However, Destination Games has stressed that players won't be "rat killing" for hours on end. Instead, they'll have to deal with a wide variety of tactical decisions to be made while in combat. This concept comes close to that of an FPS, where players may have to complete certain objectives to clear battlefields, as well as eliminating the monster hordes coming against them.

War games is another kind of specialty mission. Here, players will be required to fight each other, although the objectives surrounding elimination are subject to change. Much like an FPS, players can participate in team-based objectives, free-for-alls, and games of capture the flag. War games will come complete with a ladder system of scoring, where being on top means everything.

In all cases, combat is integral to success, and automation isn't the driving force behind combat. Most MMORPGs come equipped with an auto-attack feature that limits player interaction, but Tabula Rasa requires players to input their commands manually. At their disposal are three different attack classes. The first is Body, which as its name implies, refers to physical attacks. Next is Mind, which gives players the ability to cast spells. Finally, Spirit confers the ability to use music as a highly diverse form of weaponry. Switching between attacks will build up a character's super meter, where in a fashion familiar to fighting game fans, players can unleash a devastating special attack when full.

Of course, the attacks available to characters are determined by what players choose to be in the game. Rather than having players determine what they want to be right away, however, all the game will ask for is a name and gender, the rest being automatically generated. In the beginning, characters will have no classes, no specialties, and no augmented statistics. This is so players will be able to ascertain what exactly they wish to pursue in the game after having played for awhile. Once a few levels have been gained and players are comfortable with the game, then they can choose what they wish to specialize in.

If players find their characters unsuitable to their playing style, having chosen a certain career, they may save and return their characters to an earlier state. The saved characters will remain frozen, ready to for use, while players experiment with other paths. As a result, a single character essentially becomes many characters, allowing for a wide range of exploration.

One of the major issues in MMORPGs has been character appearance. Many characters wind up looking very similar due to a lack of physical customization in the game. Destination Games aims to solve this problem with Tabula Rasa, by getting rid of any sort of physical armor, replacing it with regular clothing. Clothing will come with armor modules in which players can place defensive equipment. The clothing itself however, is purely ornamental and serves the primary purpose of making the wearer that much more distinct.

Richard Garriott and Destination Games has gone to great lengths to try and redefine how an MMORPG should work. Incorporating many elements found in offline games and making them feasible for an online community is one of their primary objectives with Tabula Rasa. In addition, the elimination of many tedious elements in MMORPGs, such as travel, and the liberal character customization system may help Tabula Rasa stand out from what has become an online crowd. Look for Tabula Rasa on the PC in early 2005 from NCsoft.


© 2004-2005 Destination Games and NCsoft Corporation.
All Rights Reserved.

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