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The Seven Day Landmark April 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next.
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This dropped into my in box on Friday afternoon,

Subject: Your Access to the Landmark Closed Beta is Ready!

YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN ACTIVATED

Congratulations,

You’ve got seven days of access to the Landmark Closed Beta, beginning now! If you redeem an additional Time-Limited Closed Beta key, that seven days will be added to your total. There is no limit to the number of Time-Limited Closed Beta keys you can consume. See below for information on how to download the client and begin playing

This came from the “EverQuest Franchise Team,” which amused me a bit because Landmark just had the E-word removed from its name, so is technically not an EverQuest anything at this time.

The email message was scrupulous in not using the E-word anywhere besides the “from” address.  But I know the full flavor of pain that comes with changing project names.  I have heard, “The product is named Y, but you have a sub-directory named X which contains a file named Z.config. Why is that?” or its like many times in my career.  Such is life.

My first bit of confusion was about being invited at all.

I have not been interested in Landmark at all, except in a “what does this say about SOE and its future directions” sort of way.  I certainly did not sign up to be in the beta.  I wouldn’t have bothered, if only not to waste SOE’s time as well as my own.

But I quickly realized that I probably had signed up for a beta.  Back in the heady days just after Fan Fest SOE Live last year, when EverQuest Next was the big announcement and something called Landmark was just a bullet point on the list of possible features (and a confusing one at that), and people were excited, I am pretty sure I ran off and signed up to be in beta.  I just meant EverQuest Next, not Landmark.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

THIS! This is what I wanted!

However, that was then and this is now.  And in the now EverQuest Next is just the promise of a sighting of a blurry vision on the horizon that might just be a mirage… or it might be if SOE was talking about it at all.  They have gone nearly The Agency level of quiet on it.  Landmark is what SOE is busy talking about to the point that it seems like they only have the bandwidth that topic alone.

Or so it seems in my little world, where EverQuest is pretty much what SOE does, the rest being games destined to be closed or handed back to their creators… and PlanetSide something or other.

And it was in that spirit that I decided to take up SOE’s offer.  I figured that Landmark started off being a part of the engine that would drive EverQuest Next, even as it has become the all- consuming passion for SOE, so that playing it might give me a little insight into the game I want.

So I grabbed the installer and went off to see what I could see.

Into Landmark.

The installer dropped what looks to be the stock standard SOE patcher on my system, which proceeded to download about 2.5 GB of data to install Landmark.  I think after many years of distraction with things like the combined SOE launcher, that SOE has the whole launcher/patcher thing solved now, so why deviate.

I was able to log in with my account without any issue and was presented with character creation and server choices.

Making me

Making me

The character creation options are fairly limited at this point, while there seemed to be quite a few servers to choose from.  I went with Courage because I thought I heard somebody mention that server at some point.  And then I was in the game, less than 15 minutes having elapsed since I started my initial download.

And then I needed to figure out what the hell to do.

This is clearly the pre-tutorial stage of the game.

[rant about what "beta" means omitted]

I was able to run around.   I thought character motion was actually very good.  At least, I thought what they showed us back at SOE Live was representative of how characters do move.

 

Sliding down hill

Sliding down hill

It did seem awfully dim out, making everything feel dull and washed out.

Looking up in the sky seemed to indicate that it was night out.  There seems to be a speedy day/night cycle going on in Landmark.  There were a few times when I was out in the daylight when I was suddenly engulfed in shadows due to the speeding sun ratcheting to its next point in the sky.

Colors still seemed subdued even when the sun was up.

The sun... rising or setting, I can't remember

The sun rising… or setting… I can’t remember

After running around a bit, I found the crafting stations near the EverQuest themed travel spires.  I had some trouble figuring out how to access them.  As you get close and move your cursor over them, it turns into a set of tongs as though you are ready to do something, but clicking did not always bring up any sort of interface.  I couldn’t tell if I was in the wrong position relative to the stations or too far away or simply lacked some skill.  I got the basic forge to open up and show me recipes, which included upgraded tools.  In fact, it seemed quite insistent on showing me the copper pick, as though that might be the first thing I should work on.

Subtle.

So I ran off to figure out how to get the materials required, which meant figuring out how to use the tools I had.  It turns out that the hotbar that shows your two tools, a pick and an axe, don’t… um… make them go… the way you might think they would having come from games like… oh… EverQuest.  Instead, it seems to be a way to equip said tool, after which you click to use it.

That took me a bit of fumbling to figure out, but once I did, where to apply my pick or axe seemed more or less obvious.  While you can dig just about anywhere… except close to the spires… the bright color patches on the ground indicate premium spots for ore and such.  Copper color yields… hey presto… copper.

Hitting a copper patch

Hitting a copper patch

You swing your pick and stuff flies out of the ground, circles you, and heads into your bag.  I was tempted to see if I could dig myself into a hole so deep that I couldn’t get out.  And I did delve a few meters down.

Into the earth

Into the earth

At that point I was treated to some tin ore to go with my copper.  But the whole digging thing ended up being not all that exciting and I was able to carve my way out by creating something of a ramp.  Still, mining did have the benefit of altering the face of the earth, at least temporarily.  I can just picture people digging deep holes around blind corners for people to fall into.

Harvesting wood though, meant just wailing on a tree… a tree appropriate to your skill level, which I never did figure out how to measure… as bits of it fly off and enter your bag until there is suddenly no more tree.

Chopping a tree

Chopping a tree

I don’t mind harvesting all that much.  Sometimes it can be a nice simple task to perform while you listen to something like a podcast or an audio book.  But I have to admit, picturing myself sitting and chopping away for hours at a stretch to harvest what I needed to actually make something was not an appealing vision.

I did, however, eventually come up with enough materials to make my copper pick.

Copper Pick

Copper Pick

The crafting is comprehensible, the materials needed clear enough, even if getting the crafting station to open up seems a bit wonky.

Of course, if you find the idea of harvesting to be as unappealing as I did, SOE has another option for you.  I understand that one of the big changes that came with “beta” was the addition of the in-game Station Cash store, the Trading Post.

Trade money for goods

Trade money for goods

Don’t want to harvest? A buck… or five bucks… will get you some raws.  I guess a bag is a buck while a chest is five, but the chest gives you some sort of benefit.

A chest full of sand

A chest full of sand

Yes, they need to monetize Landmark, and I guess selling convenience is a key way to do so.  I am just caught in the vise between not wanting to harvest for an eternity and not caring enough to spend any money.  So I stopped harvesting and ran around some more just to look at character motion and landscape and what other people were doing.

Travel over land is slow, as you do it on foot, so I did not get too far.  I saw a few structures and a proto-castle.   The most interesting thing I was a USS Enterprise mockup way up in the sky.

We should worship it!

We should worship it!

I am going to guess that those bits in the sky below it were the platforms used to get up in the sky to build it.  Either that or the Enterprise is nuking the site from orbit.

Later I went by again and somehow had turned on blue boxes in the view, which I guess show claims.

Enterprise captured!

Enterprise captured!

I started looking in what it would take to get/put/activate/<other verb> a claim, but then decided I wouldn’t actually do anything with it, so it did not seem like a worthwhile task.  Shortly thereafter, as if on cue, Liore put up a post about creating and using claim flags.  That just convinced me that I was better off not going there.  I wasn’t going to mine every day to pay upkeep and I was going to be gone in a week so any claim would be gone shortly anyway.

And that was about it for my “adventures” in Landmark.

There were some interesting and/or encouraging bits from my perspective… which as I noted, was very much “What does this say about EverQuest Next?”  My time will run out shortly, so my investment was minor.  I rather suspect that the seven day thing was just there to get me to buy a founders pack, but I am decidedly uninterested in playing or paying for a game at this state in its development.

I was interested to see that system requirements that are currently posted for Landmark.

Minimum System Requirements:
OS – Windows 7 64 bit
Processor – Intel i5 Quad Core or higher / AMD Phenom II X4 or higher
Memory – 4GB RAM
Hard Drive – 20GB Free
Video Memory – 1,024 MB RAM
Video Card – nVidia GeForce GTX 275 series or higher / AMD HD 4890 or higher
Sound Card – DirectX compatible
Internet – Broadband (3Mbit/sec or higher)

Recommended System Requirements:
OS – Windows 7 64 bit
Processor – Intel i5 Quad Core or higher / AMD Phenom II X6 or higher
Memory – 8GB RAM
Hard Drive – 20GB Free
Video Memory – 1,024 MB RAM
Video Card – nVidia GeForce GTX 560 series or higher / AMD HD 6870 or higher
Sound Card – DirectX compatible
Internet – Broadband (10Mbit/sec or higher)

I had heard the 64-bit OS requirement previously, which is fine.  I was working on stuff 15 years ago to pave the way for that, so it is nice to see it finally coming to pass.  Other bits seem a bit steep, like the Quad Core requirement and the video card.  But requiring a 3D accelerated video card was a pretty steep requirement back in 1999, and EverQuest still thrived.

So I had my peek.  Now back to waiting for SOE to say something about EverQuest Next.

Comments»

1. tsuhelm - April 8, 2014

Have yet to find a sandbox game I am even bothered to try…this looks boring…

2. Eric Schoneveld (@ericscho) - April 8, 2014

I got the same invite last week. The UI wasn’t very intuitive, and got frustrated with it after about 15mins. People do manage to build beautiful things somehow ! I am not one of them ;).

3. bhagpuss - April 8, 2014

When I got up this morning I found Mrs Bhagpuss, with ten minutes to go before she was supposed to be leaving for work, doing something fiddly with an archway. I can hardly complain since I come to this thread fresh from spending almost four hours building something that looks like a small 1970s touring caravan, only hanging half way up a 50m tall tree, when all I logged in to do was spend ten minutes mining copper to pay my upkeep (and I never even did that).

You are very wise to get out before you get in, so to speak. I am deliberately not logging in to Landmark any more because I find it almost comically addictive. All those articles back before WoW, when Evercrack was considered by some to be a serious health risk, come back to haunt me every time I think about “playing”, if play is the word.

The issue of gathering has been a divisive one since the beginning of alpha. There are a lot of people who actively love gathering. I know quite a few in EQ2 who would rather gather than just about anything. Below that are a lot more who quite like gathering and don’t mind spending quite a few hours on it quite often – I’m in that camp. For either of those groups, Landmark’s gathering, far from being onerous, is good, solid gameplay.

Once we get further into the development cycle, though, there won’t be a stark choice between hour upon hour of gathering or getting out your credit card. It’ll work exactly how it works in WoW, GW2, LotRO and all the rest. There will be in-game currency that you get from adventuring/questing/crafting etc and some kind of player-to-player sales mechanic (at the moment that’s looking like UO-style personal vendors but I’d bet on a Broker/AH sooner rather than later). Adventurers, obsessive gatherers and poor players looking to become rich players will go get the mats and everyone who doesn’t fancy dong the spadework will buy them for excessive amounts of “gold” or “credits” or whatever imaginary currency we get.

One thing that’s becoming quite obvious, though, is that there are huge risks to opening up a major project to public scrutiny at such an early stage. The MMO that finally goes Live under the name of Landmark is almost certainly going to be virtually unrecognizable in terms of gameplay from the glorified tech demo they are calling a beta right now, but many, many people will have tried it before it was fully baked and found it…well, you can finish that thought readily enough.

I think this trend of inviting the world in for Alpha is going to come around a bite a lot of developers in the backside if they aren’t very careful on how they manage it.

4. Wilhelm Arcturus - April 8, 2014

@Bhaguss – Indeed, it looks like there is a decent foundation laid for whatever Landmark is and will become… and EQN dammit.

But right now it is a very Minecraft-like game, and I have the same reaction to that. It never really hooked me, though I know that somewhere, deep down, I could get hooked… I just turn away since I know it has the possibility of consuming all waking hours.

5. zaphod6502 - April 9, 2014

I am in the Landmark beta and to be honest I find it an incredible bore. Which is strange as I have played and continue to play Minecraft and that never bores me. The building functions in Landmark are incredibly frustrating and limited compared to Minecraft.

6. Jenks - April 9, 2014

I built a copper axe, saw that it mined at almost the same snails pace as my stone axe, and called it quits. I have to assume this is because they want people to buy materials in their store, but either way, awful.

Minecraft mining is enjoyable because you’re moving through the earth at a somewhat steady pace, exploring the underground as you mine. The amount of earth I dug in 30 minutes of landmark is about 10 seconds or less in minecraft. It’s just… bad, unless you like holding left click for minutes at a time while not much of anything happens. Massive disappointment. I’ll try it again when it releases but my expectations are now lower than ever.


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