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Tabula Rasa

There are at least a dozen major genres of offline games; so why do most massively multiplayer online games stick to the massively over-trodden fantasy RPG genre? Enter Richard Garriott, also known by the modest moniker Lord British. He's the father of the classic RPG series Ultima, which old-school PC gamers revere the same way today's console players worship Final Fantasy. Now, he's crafting his most ambitious project yet, due out late this year: Tabula Rasa.

Saying Tabula Rasa's name is easy. Describing it is hard because the few details Garriott has let slip thus far make it tough to compare Tabula Rasa to any previous game. The setup is a sci-fi retread: Earthlings fighting off sinister alien invaders (didn't see that one coming). But the planned gameplay is far from common. It shoves elements from both massively multiplayer online RPGs and first-person shooters together, then gives the result a laser-sighted wedgie.

Tired of the way combat takes a back seat to character development and inventory management in most MMO games, Garriott is claiming to be different. "Tabula Rasa is all about tactical awareness," he says. So forget about just standing there, mindlessly spamming your opponents with "special" attacks, as you typically would. To be effective in Tabula Rasa, you'll need to keep moving, aim accurately, and attack by pulling the trigger manually, just as you would in a first-person shooter. However, there will still be an RPG-style roll of the proverbial 20-sided die behind the scenes to determine if your attack actually hits the target.

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