Well this stinks. Earlier this week it was being reported that Lord British himself (aka Richard Garriott) was having "discussions at very high levels with Electronics Arts" about access to the Ultima property. That tidbit popped up on Eurogamer, and if you're an Ultima fan, the thought of Garriott taking the reigns of Ultima Online would have been a sweet holiday surprise. The only problem is, no such discussions took place, at least not recently.
The game that gave birth to Operation Immortality is, ironically, about to reach the end of its unfortunately fly-esque lifespan -- but it’s giving us one last lecture on why we totally dropped the ball on this one before going upstairs and never coming back down.
Tabula Rasa will not end with a whimper, but with the kind of bang that one anticipates before hearing a balloon pop. But here’s the crucial difference: Tabula Rasa delivers.
Beginning today at 8PM CST (or GMT, depending on your server), the sci-fi MMO will tape down itsself-destruct button with an intricately planned in-game event. Said a “message” from AFS High Command:
“Special Intelligence units throughout AFS territory have been monitoring an escalation of Bane assaults and communications in the recent weeks. Some of the communications have been intercepted and decoded, and we have reason to believe that the Bane are planning a massive, multi-front assault sometime in the coming days.”
“We request that all military personnel begin fortifying defenses at every AFS base in preparation for a massive Bane assault. If enemy troop movements are as large as we fear, and the Neph are truly prepared to lead all out war against us, this may be our last stand. Penumbra has been informed of the situation and is standing by on the use of their last resort weapon.”
“We cannot afford to be complacent or uncertain, but if it is truly our destiny to be destroyed, we are taking them all with us.”
Sends chills, really. This game was too good for our undeserving world.
Ultima creator and one-time Tabula Rasa big man Richard “Lord British” Garriott may have moonwalked right out of the gaming industry, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be phoning home after his geosynchronous jaunt. In an interview with GameDaily, Garriott spoke of his intention to give game development another shot – but only after raising the bar for mid-life crises a few notches higher.
“Do I have a plan that I can tell you now? No. I'm still finishing my space flight. I am literally still in the middle of NASA and ESA medical experiments. I am literally still in the middle of my earth observation analysis, as well as the particle crystal growth stuff we're wrapping up. And that's going to take me some weeks and months to wrap up,” Garriott said.
“But, some day in the future, it's hard not to assume I will get back into gaming. I still personally believe I have lots of great ideas and desire to build games. It's just today, it's space.”
Garriott also mentioned that he might be interested in developing a new Ultima title – something we’d be mighty okay with.
When you were a hopeful, ambitious young whippersnapper, we're sure -- for the 15 minutes after you saw Apollo 13 -- you wanted to risk life, limb, and lunch by becoming an astronaut. Well, so did Ultima creator Richard "Lord British" Garriott, but he still went into game development and... oh wait, now he's abandoning game company NCsoft to live a life among the stars. Or something.
"I am very grateful to you loyal players for sticking around through what I think we can all honestly say was a rough launch. I thank the development team for pushing hard to get polish, updates and new content out every month since launch...a feat that I think is unusual in MMO development. They have a lot to be proud of," Garriott said in his farewell note.
"Many of you probably wonder what my plans are, now that I have achieved the lifelong dream of going to space. Well, that unforgettable experience has sparked some new interests that I would like to devote my time and resources to. As such, I am leaving NCsoft to pursue those interests."
Good luck, Mr. Garriott. Earth won't be the same without you.
Coming right after "guns" and just before "violence" on the list of things one should include in a non-cover-based game with projectile-firing ordinances, there's the easy-to-operate first person viewpoint. Apparently, space-faring MMO Tabula Rasa just got the memo -- plopped into its lap by a non-electronic, 1997 carrier pigeon*. Said Graphics Programmer John "Johnny Death" Styles:
"First, what is better than blasting some Bane with your trusty shotty? How about blasting some Bane with your trusty shotty in a first person view? With a FPS view, you can finally get all up-close and personal with your favorite lobster. Just wear your bib because things get pretty messy."
And there's more. If you thought Wolfenstein 3D had trusty shotty groping at the FPS market's spinal cord**, this next doozie will blow your mind. Working scopes. Bam.
Sarcasm aside, however, we have to give JohnnyD and co. props for their final announcement.
"There is nothing better than walking around in a hulking mass of metal and firepower. That is, unless you are sitting in the cockpit of one. Yes, that is right! Click zoom yourself into a cockpit of walking death and lay waste to your foes. Try not to step on your squad."
Garriot's space odyssey was probably snooze-worthy after designing that.
You won't find Lord British ruling over Britannia anymore, and after doing all that he could for the Ultima universe, Richard Garriott has started exploring ours. Literally. Garriott blasted off into space today in the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft mounted on a three-stage rocket. The $30 million flight ticket buys Garriot a 10-day excursion to the International Space Station (ISS).
While he might be the first virtual Lord to blast into space, he isn't the first in this family. That distinction belongs to Richard's father, Owen Garriott, who spent three months on a U.S. space station back in 1973, almost a decade before the first Ultima game saw store shelves. Owen, now 77, will support his 47-year-old son from mission control in Moscow.
Richard won't be collecting runes in space, but he doesn't plan to sit idly by, either. To help pay back companies who he says have contributed a "meaningful percentage" towards the ticket price, Garriott plans to carry out an experiment on behalf of the contributors, which involves protein crystal growth.