Tabula Rasa was a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, much influenced by Third Person Shooters. In the game's back-story a Near Future Earth had been invaded by an Alien empire. The attackers were ruled by a race known as the Bane, an offshoot of a Forerunner civilization which had decided to guarantee its future dominance by destroying or enslaving any species which might eventually challenge it. Humanity proved unable to effectively resist the Invasion, but some survivors escaped to distant worlds through alien Wormholes (see Matter Transmission), where they joined an army of other displaced species at war with the Bane. As might be expected in an MMORPG, this conflict was effectively endless; neither side could be allowed victory, since that would have destroyed the rationale for the game. The tone was similar to that of much Military SF, and especially suggestive of a darker-hued version of the television series Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), in which contemporary US and Russian militaries are engaged in a covert war on a galactic scale.
Tabula Rasa's gameplay blended that of a combat-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game with that of more intensely action-oriented games such as Halo: Combat Evolved (2001); success in battle depended both on physical abilities such as accuracy and reaction time and on the skills of the player's character, which improved as progress was made in the game. Characters were all human, but could acquire special powers by incorporating alien genetic material into their bodies or by learning the Logos, a universal language which affected the nature of reality. Comprehension of Logos fragments left by the Forerunners allowed humans to gain Psionic abilities, converting matter into energy by force of will. As in such Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooters as PlanetSide (2003) (see Massively Multiplayer Online Games), the player's experience bore little relationship to that of members of an actual army. Instead, the contested areas of planetary surface resembled anarchic free fire zones in which characters adopted roles similar to those of bounty hunters, selecting which military missions they wished to perform. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game's design was its "ethical parables", missions in which the player had to make a moral choice, weighing ends against means. Such decisions, which were typically made in private copies of an area of the battlefield which could be entered only by the individual or group assigned to the task, allowed players to define the personalities of their characters, and determined how computer-controlled comrades would react to them. These parables attracted little interest from players, however, and the game apparently failed to acquire enough subscribers to make a profit. It was shut down in 2009. [NT]
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