Continuing our series of articles on the genesis of AFS at War to celebrate eight years of CoHCOMICS, in this post guest blogger Ben Biggs writes of his experiences of Tabula Rasa’s Final Countdown as originally published by Total PC Gaming.
### Incoming Transmission ###
The final Bane assault on Foreas, Arieki, and parts unknown will commence on Saturday, February 28th. Please join us to help battle back the Bane armies one last time!
The attack is slated to commence at approximately 8 PM GMT on Centarus and then later at 8 PM CST on Hydra. Servers will shut down at approximately midnight GMT and CST respectively.
Get out your best gear, load up on ammo, and raise a final cheer for the troops of the Allied Free Sentients!
### End Transmission ###
I’ve just witnessed the shut down of Tabula Rasa. It was interesting from a sociological point of view: the mood was, if anything, euphoric. People seemed to be celebrating the fact that they were part of a rare occurence in MMOs and enjoying the final onslaught of the oppressive Bane forces. Strange, considering some of those were undoubtedly hardcore players with a lot of time and money invested in the game. For me, it was a bit of an anticlimax, but being a freeloading hack who popped onto the servers today for only the second time since TR launched, I neither deserved nor expected the same experience that dedicated TR players were obviously enjoying. I had hoped that my puny level six recruit would get boosted to level 50 by a friendly dev, but no joy. I’m not sure what I would have done with all that power anyway, because my main problem was trying to figure out where the action was.
Here’s my account of the final four hours of TR, from a noob’s perspective, for posterity:
28/02/09 – 19:25
Logged on, created a character, Biggles Wort. Don’t care what he looks like, just get me into the game, dammit!
I enter the Noob area, a series of training missions instanced on the server and away from the general population and the main event. Fortunately it’s a lot quicker to get through it than I remember. Damn! Getting good XP off even basic Bane Infantry.
Finally, onto the main part of the EU server. No-one seems to be about in Bootcamp, but then someone says that everone’s gathering down at the Twin Pillars. I push on towards the outpost – it’s a bit of a trek and it takes me through several dodgy zones for a character of my diminutive stature. Oddly, the Bane has vacated the Bootcamp area altogether… it’s ominous.
Twin Pillars is rammed – two players per square metre, most level 30-50. Lots of flashy pyrotechnics going on, but not much else. People are complaining about lag… shock. Nothing’s happening. I leave Fraps running and go downstairs to make chicken dinner.
Chicken’s out of the oven, juices are running clear, TR is making loud booming noises upstairs. I rush upstairs.
Still nothing happening. People are getting anxious and start calling to the GMs. A shout goes out from a player that it’s actually all going down in Forean Base. What?! Where the hell is that? And where’s the chat key?
Not that any message I type would matter – the chat tab’s scrolling upwards faster than a printing press.
Found Forean Base on the map – not too far from Twin Pillars. Hope I can make it in time.
Five minutes yomping and I’m in a seriously fortified encampment. There’s a huge fixed cannon here, how’s the Bane gonna get past that? Also, there are HUNDREDS of players, most around level 50. No Bane incursion could get past these guys. Most of them are on the bridge, don’t know why though.
The GM’s want the players off the bridge. I still don’t know why that is, but the players won’t budge anyway, by way of protest. One guy shouts “WHAT R U GONNA DO BAN ME?” He gets banned on the spot, a Thatcher-inspired judgment call by the GMs. The bridge begins to clear of picketing players.
Reports are filtering in from bases all over Arieki, people calling for support against huge Bane attacks. Some are pitifully undermanned – one base has just five players defending it and they plea for people to come and help them in the general chat channel. They fall ominously quiet within minutes.
Control point Purgas, just south of Forean Base, falls under Bane control, but AFS recaptures it shortly after.
Some deluded players seem to think that by holding bases they can stop TR from shutting down. Sounds to me like the TR shut-down could be a good thing for these people.
Nothing’s happening in Forean Base.
Still nothing happening in Forean Base. High-level players are peeling off in squads to join the fun elsewhere. Forean Base is beginning to look like noobville.
Apparently, there are deadly creatures called Nephs with the Bane incursions that are immune to everything and deal out insane amounts of damage. Makes no odds to me though, the Bane could be armed with sharpened dinner forks and still be threat to my character. Speaking of which, I’m getting bored and hungry. Time to put the potatoes and brocoli on.
Food’s ready and the prospect of whole grain mustard with my chicken seals the deal: to hell with TR for the next ten minutes. One pathetic level six character certainly isn’t going to turn the tide of battle for the AFS.
It’s sod’s law that Richard ‘General British’ Garriott would make a surprise appearance while I’m stuffing my face. But he doesn’t. Forean Base is still boring despite the chat channel being drowned in people calling for help. I’m going to play HOMMIII for a bit instead and catch the last half hour…
I log back in and I’m zapped to a place called CELLAR area. Unfortunately there’s no vintage booze down here, just a load of players and a boxing ring. Thanks, but no thanks – I’ve been sparring once today already. There are lots of teleporters to different locations, but they’re all out-of-order and repeat the same message when I step onto them: “This region has been lost to Bane forces!” I can’t find a way out of this hub.
A yellow admin message pops up in general chat: “In 30 minutes Tabula Rasa will go down for daily server maintenance. The ‘downtime’ window is two hours long, but maintenance may or may not take that entire time.”
This is universally unacknowledged, but then a another admin message appears, “We will have the game back up and running as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!” Is this is a sick joke? It makes me chuckle anyway, so it must be pretty sick. ‘lol’ starts to appear in general chat a lot, but some people sound confused. The admin message is repeated in German and French. Someone says “That’s great news! I’m so glad it’s coming back up!”
…it’s the final insult. Someone calls for the devs to play Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give you up” in-game.
Another admin message goes up, sounds genuine this time, “The admins responsible for the incorrect error messaging have been chopped up and fed to skitterin. NOM NOM NOM.” Someone claims that the devs are drunk. I still can’t find an exit.
I finally find a way out of CELLAR to Earth: Final Stand – New York, apparently. 23rd Street Station. I follow a group of level 50’s up the steps and have a brief glimpse of an urban ruin infested with gaudy-coloured Bane creatures I’ve never seen, before I’m vaporised in a single bolt of purple. I don’t think the level 50’s lasted much longer.
I appear near the bottom of the steps again, I run up the steps and get sniped again. I respawn and the process is repeated five times more. I can’t understand it… the Bane don’t seem to care that I’m filming the final annihilation of the AFS for posterity. It would make a great propaganda video for their army recruitment.
Five minutes to go and I’ve managed to last longer than five minutes on ground zero by shadowing a heavily armoured squad. I’m not sure whether this area was made especially for TR’s final event, but it’s an appropriate swan song.
People are thanking devs and other players. There’s some speculation as to how this will end – someone suggested we might be nuked. What a romantic notion. I reckon we’ll all see a disconnection message.
Barely any Bane around here any more, I think they’ve actually invaded CELLAR. That’s what everyone’s saying.
Earth is all mine and I’m wondering how I’d like to go out. I probably haven’t even got enough firepower to take on a Bane toddler and there are no babes to… err… talk to. Sitting and watching the chat tab seems like a good option.
People are counting down the seconds now
The Chat panel’s going wild…
Some are suggesting that everyone moves onto EVE… have some respect, folks.
“9? Someone calls Richard Garriott a bad name.
“7? Someone else mis-quotes something vaguely Dylan Thomas.
“5? Stroller starts spamming “THANK YOU FOR THE BEST MONTH EVER.” Apparently he’s a freeloader too and has been for a month. I don’t feel so guilty about watching this sinking ship.
“4? URLs are appearing for TR tribute sites – how is anyone supposed read that when the chat panel’s flying upwards at the speed of light?
“3? An optimistic gold farmer is trying to sell TR items.
“2? In my anticipation, I start to consider whether the devs are going to lay on a light show for us or not.
“1? I am now officially excited.
“You have been disconnected from the server.” Oh. How disappointing. My avatar could have at least been given a mercy killing and by that I mean, spontaneously combusted in a giant ball of green and orange flame. Instead he’s consigned to floating in virtual oblivion.
The final message to appear in general chat came from Mafakka (sounds Greek to me), “BYE BEST MMO!!!” I couldn’t disagree more, but Tabula Rasa was important to some people. I wonder how I would feel if LOTRO was shut down… gutted, I suppose. Even though I was never really a part of the TR community, I’m still left with a pang of nostalgia. I feel honoured to have been a part of its final hour.