Oh boy. Here we go again. I guess by now most have read the unflattering reviews of Tabula Rasa with the recent lifting of the NDA. Richard Garriott's statement from last week "I think we´ve created something that´s really groundbreaking" doesn't seem to gel with the reports coming in. Many beta testers did indicate that the game did seem to try to break MMO design molds, but that it felt half-hearted and didn't quite deliver.
Two of the issues that stood out to me were poor character creation and steep computer requirements. Another issue is lack of end game options. Players are expected to clone and replay the content with a new class. I'm sure though they will still have a market for Tabula Rasa. There are plenty of players tired of the fantasy mmo's and just looking for something different.
So what is it with the hype involved when someone has already put out a successful game? It's starting to feel like all games are just recycled versions of previous mmo's. Gaming companies want game designers who've already brought a game to market. So designers shuffle from company to company and we get the same stuff. Yeah I know they need people with experience but do they ever hire just creative idea guys?
Once upon a time, I worked for a surgical device company. More specifically, I worked for the department responsible for creating new devices. The guys there had been with the department for 10-25 years. They were great people but they just ran out of ideas. They would approach surgeons and ask what kind of instruments they might want. If the surgeon had an idea, usually the engineers would think on it and say "no, that can't be done." They would acquire patents of devices that other people created and then spent a year or two trying to make them actually work.
Then one summer our department hired a guy just out of school It was just a temporary job mainly to do some drafting type work. He had observed several surgeries, and rather than asking the surgeon for ideas on instruments, he had several of his own on how to make the surgery more efficient. He pitched the idea to the engineer he reported to and he didn't think it could be done. But he made it work. And the department developed their very own surgical device from scratch for the first time. The surgeons themselves hadn't even thought of that type of device and it was a huge success. Of course he was hired on full time.
I know there are people out there like this who would do the same for the MMO industry. I worked with this guy for four years. If he were involved in making games, he'd be the guy pulling 18-hour shifts creating a new gaming engine because the same one that everyone else uses won't accomplish what he wants to do. He'd be observing existing games and coming up with completely new ideas, rather than asking players what they want in a game. Because frankly we don't know what we want, especially if it hasn't been done yet.
Looking back on how that department worked, it has me wondering if some gaming companies might work the same way. We had Team Leaders who pretty much got the credit for the entire project, even though the people under them contributed just as much and sometimes more.
So attaching a name to a game certainly is no guarantee for any second success. Odds are they've already used up their good ideas and spent too many years listening to what players think they want.