Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa A Complete Failure

NC Soft announced that it will shutter the game at the end of February.

Ok, that’s a bit harsh.  But what’s really worse?  This headline or the hubris that it takes to include your name in the game’s title? Or that fact that all that money basically went for nought?

Quite frankly, the entire notion of the RG-centricity of the marketing put me off the game almost from the date it was announced.  Seriously, why didn’t they just call it “RICHARD GARRIOTT’S ENORMOUS E-PEEN (now with free MMO)(TM)”.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand arrogant, self aggrandizing assholes.  And the only thing worse than arrogant self aggrandizing assholes are arrogant self aggrandizing assholes that don’t deliver the goods.

I mean seriously.  The only guy who might be able to get away with that shit is Sid Meier and that’s still debatable.  Every designer is going to deliver a turd at some point.  Why risk devaluing your own brand?

“Joel and Ethan Coen’s Hudsucker Proxy”

“Bill Gates’ Windows Me Vista”

“Richard Fuld’s Lehman Brothers”

“Steve Jobs’ Merlin”

“Field Marshall Tito’s Yugo”


Payback, as they say, is a bitch.  We can only hope that in the annals of MMO-failure, this game will always be referred to the future the way its been marketed– “NC Soft’s failed MMO, Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa” or “the spectacular failure that was Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa”, etc.

I have no particular axe grind.  I beta’d the game.  There just wasn’t that much there for me.  It wasn’t ground breaking.  It wasn’t that fun.

Frankly it was hard to see where all the money went.  Until I remember who went to space versus who’s now out of work.  At least now, in addition to his ego having its own zip code, so does his failure.

21 thoughts on “Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa A Complete Failure”

  1. My favorite headline of late was “Richard Garriott Returns to Earth.”

    Be nice if it was true.

    How about Sid Meier? Have his games gotten better since they got the Sid Meier brand atop them? My favorite version of Civilization is still Civ II, which predates most of the name thing. (The original Pirates had his moniker on it.)

    Other greats managed to keep their names out of the titles. It isn’t “Will Wright’s Spore” after all.

  2. F Garriott … God that guy needs to be locked away where he can no longer contaminate the rest of us with his insanity.

    If anyone on Earth had the potential to one day appear on a hovering disk above New York city shooting lasers from his bio suit, it’s him. Total mad scientist material.

  3. Minor correction Hudson.


    In spaaaaaaaaaace! *with heavy emphasis on the Wrath of Khan*

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

  4. I always got the impression that beyond the Garriot-Crazy, there was a much beleaguered team trying to make the best of a bad job and get *something* out. Did quite enjoy my time there and it’ll be a shame to see it go.

  5. It’s a shame. Beyond all the Garriot-hating, there isn’t a terrible game in TR. I played it for a couple of months and quite enjoyed myself. It wasn’t the best of the bunch that I had to consider, but my experience in TR was certainly more enjoyable than in AoC. My hope was that this game would eventually find it’s place. More and more however, a game either garners a fan-base to support it from the beginning or it’s “auf wiedersehen”.

  6. All snarkiness aside, none of us like to see a game fail. Especially those of us who keep hoping for something other than a typical fantasy MMO.

    It is a shame. Particularly because it impacts so many of the team that had little if any meaningful input on the decisions that brought them to this place. The upside for those that did work on the game is that they really don’t have anything to be ashamed of.

    Its not like it was a craptastic game poorly executed. My impression was that it was well executed but just wasn’t that compelling. It was the hype and hyperbole along with the wierd/questionable launch/not launch redo that doomed the title. With the amount of chips NC Soft put on the table, it put totally unreasonable expectations/requirements on the game.

    @Wil: As I said, with Sid Meier, “might be able” to. I’m not so sure all his later games had the impact that the early ones did. Will Wright is another perfect example. Or even Brad McQuaid’s Vanguard: Saga of Heroes…

    While we’re at it, throw in Gamma (featuring Ronny Montrose) and Scandal (featuring Patty Smythe) or Jimmy Page’s The Firm or Kevin Costner’s Waterworld or ….

  7. Oh Lawd! Are you ever right about some of the other names you’ve dropped. Personally, I think that Sid Meier craps gold (jk, but I’m a Civ junkie), but Brad McQuaid/Vanguard:SOH … wow.

    Not that it’s here or there anymore, but simply as a point of interest, had TR been supported by a studio with pockets as deep as say SOE’s, do you think that TR would have been able to survive a little longer and reestablish itself a foothold in the industry? It seems like SOE can keep any title alive so long as they’ve got their StationAccess Pass programme. Does NCSoft have such a programme and could that have been the answer?

  8. First, Brad McQuaid is the antichrist. If he and Garriott ever team up, it will be the end of the world. Mark my words.

    Secondly, Tablua Rasa was a good game. I played it right after launch and was happy with the basics of the game. I had planned on returning to it after it had some time to mature and get some more content.

    I just wish that game could have been brought out by a team without that f-tard Garriott involved. It should have had a much brighter future.

  9. It’s a little strange. TR isn’t the best game in the world, nor for everybody. But in a world where Anarchy Online and Matrix Online are still plugging away, I am surprised that there’s no niche for it.

    NCSoft, as others have pointed out, are pretty hard on games that they feel are underperforming. Maybe they’ll sell TR (and Auto Assault, for that matter) to someone who’ll be able to host it cheaply enough to turn a profit from the x ten thousand subscribers.

  10. @nbarnes: I was chatting with a friend about this– does anyone at NC Soft own a copy of excel? If, as you say, AO, MO, Planetside, SWG and others can continue to exist on minimal resources, why not keep it up and running?

    Isn’t some ROI better than no ROI? Particularly when so much was spent on the game. As someone mentioned in one of the various discussions floating around, if NC Soft had a “Station Pass” type program, RICHARD GARRIOTT’S TABULA RASA would be a shoe in. I’m sure many people would be willing to pay something to have access to the game and CoX as well, especially if GW2 ends up subscription based.

    Just another strange decision in the game’s checkered history.

  11. It is a shame–on many levels.

    The game was in development for 6 years, and thru at least 2 complete re-makes (some say 3). I don’t think the final product was a bad game–it had some interesting potential. The TR developers are all old-school gaming veterans, and were catering to the old-school gaming crowd. We ‘over 30s’ enjoy games that are different, and TR was most definitely that. WOW doesn’t have a cyber-punk atmosphere, a first-person shooter, and almost zero role-play. I think that TR’s audience just wasn’t there. The younger gamer (which in hindsight is the mass market) wants to gank the noobz, dance over their corpses, and basically treat everyone like dirt. It’s no crime that TR did not achieve the popularity of a WOW–it never wanted to stoop to that level, and for that, I applaud them. Unfortunately, it’s a PWNED market out there, and this will end up being bad for gaming in the long run–no more innovation–no more fresh ideas. Someday, the kids of today are gonna get older, and want something different, and there won’t be any alternatives, because the ‘kick ’em when they’re down’ attitude will prevent publishers from taking a chance.

    As for Garriott, he doesn’t deserve the reaction that he’s getting. He no longer designs games, and hasn’t for more than 10 years. He sees the big picture, and has his team design games that he (and they) think would be fun. His role is more that of promoter, melding game worlds into the real world. Regardless of what people may say, noone else in the industry has ever done that, and it’s the coolest thing ever! Richard brought the game Tabula Rasa to the edge of space-LITERALLY. With his Project Immortality, he took gamer’s DNA to the ISS. He blurred the line between gaming and reality–a feat that noone else has accomplished, or even thought of!

    He’s the last of the eccentric millionaires, guys–he should be praised for that–not crucified for it. Building a castle, doing million-dollar haunted houses, visiting the Titanic, discovering new sea life, collecting meterorites at the North Pole–these are all things that are the artifacts of an amazing life. Is it weird? Yes…and I for one think it’s awesome.

  12. I agree in part with your 2d paragraph. It is a different world and its clear that TR missed the/a/its market. All the design decisions throughout those 6 years need to be looked at, including the decision to continue with the development of the game at all.

    I disagree (not surprisingly) on the RG backlash. It is deserved IMHO. If everything you say is true, it simply justifies my perspective– he hasn’t designed games in 10 years, yet his personal brand was at the center of all of the marketing for RGTR. If he’s the gods’ gift to game design, then why wasn’t he involved? He was certainly visible enough and building his own personal brand and net wealth on it.

    I can’t think of a more shamelessly grandiose and craven undertaking that the so called Project Immortality (announced well after RG had decided to go play in space). I can only assume that by creating a marketing tie in with the game that RG was trying to get NC Soft to subsidize a portion of cost of the trip.

    Not to mention the hubris associated with the concept of RG “saving humanity” by storing DIGITAL DNA (i.e. 1s and 0s on a thumbdrive) on the ISS.

    Last of the eccentric millionaires, perhaps. I reserve the same scorn for those who have had the great good fortune he’s enjoyed yet choose to pursue such equally wasteful, frivolous and otherwise unredeeming endeavors yet all the while building his own cult of personality.

    Artifacts of an amazing life, indeed.

  13. p@tsh@t,

    The whole ‘branding’ thing for Tabula Rasa, even the entire reason for NCSoft in America was the idea of NCSoft itself. When Garriott left EA in 2000, he waited 1 year until his non-compete ended. The entire year, he was hatching the concept of Destination Games–creating a new game company. A week before his non-compete finalized, 2 things happened:
    1-EA laid off 75% of the Origin staff. This little happy accident gave Richard his old team back
    2- NCSoft was looking for a presence in America, and actually contacted Richard directly with the idea of using him as a marketing tool to break into the American market. Until this time, they had unsuccessfully failed to attract an interest in the US, even tho Lineage outsold every MMO to date. The story is that noone could believe that over 1 million active subscriptions was even possible.
    Richard jumped on this chance, and agreed to sell his company to NCSoft on it’s opening day, and be the spokesperson–by design. So, using Garriott as a marketing tool was NCSoft’s idea, and not RGs.
    It is a fact that NCSoft did not sponser the space trip, and did not pay a single cent toward Richard’s space travel. Richard (admittedly) did use money that he earned from his ownership in NCSoft, I assume in selling some of his stock shares, but that’s a bit different. The Project Immortality concept did come after his trip was in full swing. Shamelessly grandious? Absolutely! But that’s the beauty of it, in my opinion. This blending of fantasy gaming world and reality is unheard of in the history of gaming, and perhaps any other form of artistic expression. The only other thing that I can think of is the Blair Witch project, or the Beatle’s ‘Paul is Dead’ thing. Like it or hate it, it’s an amazingly innovative idea. I think it’s cool.
    As for the digital-vs-real DNA on the ISS–if you’re disappointed and angered that there is not true DNA up there, in order to actually have the potential for being replicated in some far-flung distant future, perhaps you’ve just proven my point, and actually bought into the concept! If someone drives up in the Batmobile, you don’t examine the entire vehicle, and dismiss it completely because the parachute on the back is just a prop–Who cares? it’s the concept, and the big picture that makes it fun!

    As for your scorn on his lifestyle–Wasteful? Friviolous? Unredeeming? Where is it written that if you have a lot of money you are required to spend it on what the general public wants? His crazy exploits are almost always humanitarian efforts. His million-dollar halloween extravaganzas were always free (except for the tickets that were sold by radio stations–that money was for charity). He has discovered 3 new species of marine life while exploring thermal vents with the Kaldesh–advancing science. The theatre on his property (based on the Globe) is open for use by Shakesperian theatre groups to raise money for their causes–all for free. His new castle which is being built–along with it’s 60 acres of land is already in his will to be donated free-and-clear to the city of Austin as a public park upon his death. His efforts to start a videogame archive at the University of Texas were done all on his own dime, and his donations of artifacts to that cause are priceless.
    Love him or hate him–you cannot deny that he is an interesting character–and I still think he’s great.

  14. Well, regardless of who’s idea it was regarding branding, a) no one held a gun to his head to sign on to that concept and b) anyone with a planet sized intellect like Mr. G should be able to entertain the possibilities and implications that flow from being involved in such a manner in that kind of project– all the upside and all the downside– including the perceptions that I and apparently many others have been left with (rightly or wrongly).

    Ask C. Everett Koop whether he would do again.

    I respect your opinions and appreciate your your thoughtful posts, but they tend to reinforce my own opinion, which is that at some point it seems to have become more about Mr. G than about what Mr. G does/did. That doesn’t preclude the ability to do and support good works and noble things, but they do sit in the shadow that the man has allowed to be to cast over them.

  15. “mr. g” knew the risks… and I guess he knew, also, that in case of failure he would be crucified as he is being crucified now…

    it is a game after all.. it is like a good soccer player that never passes the ball to his colleagues, but always scores the goal.. he will be crucified if he doesnt score, but he will be praised if he does…

    potshot, you and your opinion are nothing but expected… because you are the audience, you are the market… as we all are.

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