Tabula Rasa is built on two ideas. The first is to provide a context and reason for your fighting. Garriott, when questioned, appears to take almost personal offence to the 'grind' MMOs suffer from.
"When you play a single-player game, you're the hero, the central character in a story. When you play an MMO game, the average player, it turns out, is pretty darned average." The battlefields of Tabula Rasa address this directly. Rather than offering fields of monsters randomly stalking the plains, waiting for you to bash them over the head, each sector is under constant threat of invasion. To reach quest-givers and vendors, and to accrue experience, players have to drive the Bane back.
But whenever they gain ground in one sector, the Bane will strike back in another. The battle is never-ending.
The second idea? To do away with what Garriott calls the "whack-a-mole" combat of the modern MMO. Rather than two characters walking up to each other and taking turns to hit, players in Tabula Rasa are forced to take into account position, cover, and accuracy. Its plays as a third-person shooter, similar to the Xbox 360's Gears of War. Weapons must be aimed and fired, grenades lobbed, and magical abilities super-charged. Firefights are a fizzing science- fiction firework display.
Using cover is key. Underneath the light-show, the same MMO dice-rolls and saving throws take place, but they also take into consideration the lay of the land. Pop out and shoot from behind a balustrade and you'll receive stat increases. Charge straight in, and you'll receive scorchmarks.