IGN has published a set of three Tabula Rasa walkthough videos, where Richard Garriott talks about the features of the game. It is a good set of videos, which runs for about 40 minutes in total. They are a good source as any for information basic information about Tabula Rasa with in-game video footage.
Richard Garriott and NCSoft are clearly aiming at experienced MMOG players with their marketing message for Tabula Rasa. At least at this point, they do not seem to be aiming to be another World of Warcraft or gaining a whole lot of new people that has never played MMOGs before. The five main features of Tabula Rasa are described in the context of someone that knows how other MMOGs work:
- Tactical RPG combat. RPG style combat, but with more tactical elements to it (e.g. cover, movement)
- Dynamic battlefields. Mobs do not respawn on the same spot over and over, but may change according to current conditions
- Storybased instances. A clear story connected to instanced areas, not just a spot for farming and grinding
- Ethical parables. There is not always one choice or path in a mission and the choices made will have consequence
- Character class progression through specialization and cloning. A character will not select its final class from start, but specialize at certain points in its life. Characters can be cloned so if one wants to start a new character to explore a different path, one does not have to start from scratch again, but at the point of cloning.
Richard Garriott labels Tabula Rasa as what they hope is a start for a second generation MMOGs, obviously impying that the previous MMOGs are first generation and that their ideas and their realization of those ideas will inspire future game designs.
One can certainly find some of these features or some variation of them in various other games. But in my opnion, whether a single feature exists in a game is not that relevant and does not automatically make it innovative of successful. The relization fo a set of coherent feature that fit in a specific context is more what matters. Whether Richard Garriott and Tabula Rasa will succeed in that remains to be seen – reading or hearing about features is not the same as actually experiencing them and also experiencing them for an extended time.
The game is still in closed beta and an NDA is in place, so any further elaboration here will have to wait. But later this autumn when it will be released (hopefully), it certainly will be a topic for discussion.