Having such a convincing world means that missions also become more meaningful. It’s not always a case of a simple wrapper around “Kill 10 boars.” Following on from Garriott’s work in Ultima, missions can be “ethical parables” where you actually have to decide whether it’s something you want to do.
The importance of instances at the end of story-arcs was also stressed. Working our way through one of these, toting a chaingun, our finger spent most of its time floating ominously over the voice-chat key, fighting the urge to say things like “Is this a stand-up fight or another bug-hunt?” The Aliens quote that didn’t come to mind was “How can I get out of this chickenshit outfit?” It’s fun. It’s immersive. It’s a whole new sci-fi world, but it’s also accessible enough for us to understand and want to spend time there. After all, there’s planet Earth to avenge.
A few unanswered questions remain: is this game deep enough? Is it varied enough? But they’re questions which only time can answer. In a post-World of Warcraft game, Tabula Rasa’s greatest achievement right now is coming across as neither reactive (trying to ape WoW’s success - like Lord of the Rings Online) or reactionary (trying to turn back the clock to what WoW jettisoned - like Vanguard) but rather, proudly trying to write its own story on the still mostly-blank face of a young genre.