Tabula Rasa let players planWhile I spent an entire post yesterday talking about how TR let players remain in the action with very little downtime, the little downtime it had was very efficient, especially when it came to letting players decide what do do next.
Tabula Rasa's UI always provided players with lots of easily accessible information, which always left me with a feeling of purpose. It also made me happy that I didn't need to constantly tab out of the game to webpages with guides and databases.
Detailed class/power info - I've posted before about how TR let players specialize gradually over time, via several sub classes and sub-sub classes. Also, the preview UI showed examples of powers and gameplay for every class, allowing an educated decision. This was a great example of the kind of thing that most games would make you go to a webpage for, but TR included directly in its UI.
No fog of war - When players entered a new zone in TR, its full content was fully revealed, complete with landmarks and connections to other zones. In some games, the choice to explore would have been more enjoyable, but with TR's self-contained maps and goal-oriented gameplay, I think it was a much better choice to reveal everything immediately. Also, it fit very well with the fiction of the game, as an invading military would have extensive intelligence.
Instance maps and cutscenes - Similarly, expository cutscenes at the beginning of instances and the full instance maps felt like more military intelligence. The cutscenes in particular were sold as military briefings, and really made me feel like I was being sent on a mission, as opposed to a quest.
Great Icons - Tabula Rasa's map and minimap system was one of its strongest features. It was key to both keeping players on the move and helping them make a plan. In particular, the variety of icons it was possible to show and hide on the map were especially useful.
The map icons showed trainers, teleporters, control points and their status, map exits, hospitals, crafting stations, and just about everything else. The added functionality of showing and hiding each of these icons individually was also very useful. I just wish the map would have let me zoom in further.
Quest locations - Speaking of informative icons, nearly all quests in the game displayed special indicators on the map which revealed their general location. This was another good choice, given that the game's zones emphasized action rather than exploration, and the military fiction. It was also a way to keep players in the game, rather than reading quest database webpages.
Information about zones - In addition to its many icons and markers, TR's map also had a list of all the maps in the game, which players could examine whether they'd been to them yet or not. Each map and instance was marked clearly with its level range, and even instances were included. Again, this availability of information fit in with the fiction of military intelligence, and was yet another way to keep players from needing all sorts of extra webpages as a supplement to playing the game.
Built-in coordinates - If even the map icons weren't informative enough, the map's coordinate system easily indicated the location of the mouse cursor. This made meeting up with friends, finding a specific mob, etc much easier than it would have otherwise been.
ConclusionWell, that's all I've got for now. I'm glad I didn't try to cram this all into one post. Post more comments! It's great to hear some other opinions, and people have pointed out more than one great feature that had totally slipped my mind.
I think it's very important for game designers to have some sense of history, and my own isn't quite as developed as I'd like it to be. I'll probably be posting more eulogies like this for games that have died or that die in the future. When games close down it's a horrible waste of work and love, but it's not a total waste if we manage to learn from them.