Landmark and a Dire Vision of Things to Come… February 11, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Landmark, Second Life
Rowan Blaze over at I Have Touched the Sky has managed to sum up in one picture what I expect eventually to happen everywhere in SOE’s Landmark.
I cropped his screen shot down to the essential message. Free Donuts.
And therein lies the seeds of destruction.
Not that I object to the sign. It is just a cute example of what one can do in a sandbox like Landmark. Innocent fun. And I am sure if the person with the adjacent claim was trying to build something with a different theme that contrasted with the idea of free donuts… maybe a place where donuts were currency, or perhaps some fantasy setting where donuts aren’t really a thing… Rowan would take down his sign. Heck, his sign… and his claim… might disappear on their own at this point in development. But even if it remained, I am sure he wouldn’t prop it up next to his neighbors medieval castle or whatever.
Landmark is in alpha after all, and a pay-to-play alpha at that. Everybody who is playing in the alpha really wants to be there and, judging from what I have seen, are very quick to let you know you can get a full, no-questions-ask refund the moment you complain about anything in Landmark.
That is pretty common with pre-release communities. They tend to be the most invested in the game and are always the ones to moan about how the community for a given game went down hill after release. How often have we heard, “The game/The community/People were much better/nicer in beta?”
So Landmark is in that happy, like-minded, orthodoxy enforced, pre-release community state where everything is new and people seem to care more about the game and the idea of the game than the current state of the game. If you worry about the current state of the game… well… you can get a full, no-questions-ask refund. It is a happy time of newness and excitement.
But the game will not remain in alpha… or beta… or pre-release… forever. The happy pre-release community that cares about the game will, if things go to plan, eventually be dwarfed by the a larger community that will not, in general, hold exactly the same values when it comes to Landmark.
Landmark will be an amusement, a distraction, a toy, a way to pass the time, and a way to express themselves.
One way that people have shown they enjoy expressing themselves in the past is through griefing their fellow players. And the more freedom you give people the greater the of griefing that will occur and the hard it ends up being to stop it.
Basically, the proposition I am putting forward is that the more sandbox-like an online game is, the more there will be griefing. And, with that in mind, I made a little chart.
That is my “pulled straight from my posterior end” assessment of the sandbox nature of some online games that came to mind given a few minutes thought. Feel free to object or suggest a re-ordering or inject where other games may sit on the continuum of sandboxiness. I am already reconsidering my placements, but I am too lazy to edit the picture.
At one end is Webkinz, in which your ability to do anything is pretty well constrained and interactions with other players is severely limited. This is a game for small children and their mothers. Your ability to touch the game is limited to decorating your own house, which only a select few individuals… if anybody at all… will ever see. Arrange your furniture in a swastika or penis shape and nobody will likely know or care.
I put League of Legends down the line towards Club Penguin because, despite its reputation, it seems to me that your freedom of action is pretty limited, and saying bad words in either game will get you banned eventually.
I put EVE Online in the middle, trending a bit towards the pure sandbox end of things. The thing is, for all of its sandbox reputation, it really isn’t all as much of a sandbox as you might think. The game is quite constrained by its mechanics. What gives it the air of sandbox is more about the lack of central narrative… there is so little “game” in the game… the range of potential career paths, and the tolerance by CCP for what one might consider griefing in another game. A sandbox attitude in a universe constrained by some occasionally strange mechanics.
I compare this to Wurm Online, about which I only know by what Stargrace has written. She had a number of tales of people clear cutting her trees or stealing her livestock, or making pests of themselves, or just general drama. That all sounded much more sandbox-like and much more grief prone… at least relative to the rules of the respective games… than EVE.
At the sandbox end of my little list I put Second Life. This is the bugbear, the thing that should scare you about sandbox freedom, as things sometimes end up looking like this.
I actually find that picture amusing. But then, I don’t have to look at it every day.
That picture is from a tale of an ongoing attempt to grief a player in Second Life, which including buying up adjacent properties and filling them with things meant to annoy the player. The tale of that is over at Broken Toys, from where I swiped the screen shot. So there is that, flying penises, and… well… you have to visit the place to see the range of things. Griefing… like porn… isn’t everywhere in Second Life, but it can be brought to a level of art that would surprise you.
Just down the line from Second Life I put Landmark. Again, my own gut call, and you can argue where it really belongs on the line. But given the sandbox claims and Rowan’s sign, I have to think that it is far closer Second Life than any traditional MMO.
And while I do not think SOE is going to allow anywhere close to the amount of freedom to do… whatever… that Second Life has allowed, there is going to be a line somewhere. The sign that says “Free Donuts” might be okay, but what if it gets changed to “Free Penises?” What if Rowan builds a tower that happens to look like a penis? What if he reconstructs St. Basil’s Cathedral, only with the onion-shaped domes looking suspiciously penis-like? What is with Rowan and his obsession with phallic imagery? (Do I need to say “just kidding” here? I will, just in case.)
What happens when we get this?
At some point SOE is going to draw a line, and then there will be a group of people who will push right up to that line and dare SOE to do something about it. And people will complain about those within the letter but perhaps not the spirit of the rules and there will be arguments and rage and rule lawyering and all the fun stuff we expect from online games, only magnified by the freedom allowed by Landmark. Is it any wonder that SOE canned that other sandbox title before launch? They were not ready for it then and I am not sure they are ready for it now.
Sure, SOE might believe they can police the internet. But will they be able to handle the conflicting visions and personalities that will eventually flock to Landmark? Has SOE articulated a plan for this? Is my vision too dire, or not dire enough? And how much enforcement can they impose and still keep things happy and sandboxy?
Quote of the Day – For Specific Definitions of “Next” January 22, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Because SOE, Landmark, Quote of the Day
EverQuest Next — which is a totally different beast — has no current timetable. It could release in 2015 or 2025 for all we know right now.
Massively, Leaderboard: EQN vs. EQN Landmark
Therein lies the rub.
Last August, when SOE Live was done, I was quite excited about EverQuest Next. It was the big announcement out of the event. I wrote ~2,500 words about EQN, less than 100 of which were about Landmark, which was a Minecraft-esque tool set pseudo-game that I did not quite understand.
I did not really care about Landmark. I wanted the core game that was described at SOE Live. The one that was… well… a freakin’ EverQuest MMORPG, with emergent AI and a new class system and all the things they presented.
I worried that, after the huge splash the EQN announcement made at SOE Live, that SOE would follow past patterns and let the excitement die off through neglect.
And, I guess if I am speaking strictly of of EQN, my worries were well founded. EQN has been relegated to a series of banal survey questions that the same few people debate on their forums. Such is the Round Table. It apparently only seats about a dozen.
However, if we just follow from SOE Live, then excitement has been maintained to a certain extent… only occasionally interrupted by the usual SOE foibles… if we include Landmark in the picture. Since SOE Live, Landmark has grown to take up almost the whole of the SOE marketing and community interaction effort. At this point somebody stumbling onto the scene might justifiably conclude that EQN is just shorthand for EverQuest Next Landmark.
So I am… well… “frustrated” or “annoyed” are too strong… bemused, I guess, that SOE led with EQN at SOE Live, talking that up a great deal, only to let it fall by the wayside while all focus was devoted to Landmark, which looked like an adjunct product at the time of the announcement.
Yes, I understand that SOE ought to focus their marketing on the project shipping soonest… these days we ship at alpha and charge people for the privileged… and that there is an audience for Landmark… but dammit, they talked about this other thing I wanted and now barely acknowledge its existence. Validate my selfish needs, damn you!
I guess I just fear another outcome like The Agency.
Quote of the Day – Did SOE Solve the Latency Problem? November 14, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Landmark, Quote of the Day
In old MMOs, when monsters started to attack, dice rolls had already determined if they was going to hit you or not. We’re not doing that. We’re allowing you to move out of the way and do stuff that way. With positioning of your abilities versus what the monster is doing, it’s a very fluid situation. There’s no lather, rinse, repeat mechanic that works all the time.
Dave Georgeson, interview at Rock, Paper, Shotgun
The interview linked above is interesting if you want to learn more about the plans for EverQuest Next and Landmark. I recommend it.
There is a lot about the tools that will be available to end users and the scope of what players will be allowed to do. Heady stuff, with ideas like “build your own MMO” being bandied about and EverQuest Next being referred to as just “a professionally developed alternative” to what players will be able to create in Landmark. It all sounds like many steps beyond things like Wurm Online, right down to the griefing potential.
In the midst of all of that, there was some talk about players, classes, and combat, which included the quote at the top. Again, sounds nifty!
Only reading that triggered a memory. A few years back there was a new studio… and I have forgotten the name, date, and what not, so … and one of the developers was talking about them making a zombie MMO and generally criticizing combat in all MMOs up to that point. He didn’t want hot bars and dice rolls behind the scenes, he wanted to swing a bat and, if it intersected with a zombie’s head, to score a hit and do damage.
Somebody else must remember this, right? Help me out here.
[Addendum: Talyn found it! I am not crazy... in that regard at least.]
Anyway, that was doing things properly and he was quite dismissive of the MMO industry for not having done this already.
In due course a fair number of MMO devs sighed, shook their heads, and went on about how they would love to do that sort of thing, but the realities of network reliability and latency and client synchronization prevented it and that these loud mouthed upstarts would surely learn all of this in the fullness of time. (Or maybe it was just this post, which I was able to find once I had the date.)
If I recall right, they did, balance was restored to the force, and we all moved on.
At least until I read that quote up there at the top, which brought back those partial memories along with a few question… like, did Dave Georgeson really mean that? No dice, no probability, just a check on positions and the intersection of objects in motion? In real time? In an MMO? Over the internet?
Did SOE solve some critical network issue along the way here? Or am I reading this wrong?
My alternate quote from that article, which also hits on a side detail is this:
Sometimes we ask questions that we know can only go one way. But the players are constantly having debates over stuff, so then we can go in and explain why we’re doing things a certain way. Because the more we can work with our players so they can understand why games need to be built a certain way, the better the suggestions will be.
This actually makes me feel a little better, as a number of questions that have popped on the round table have seemed to have only one possible outcome, so I was wondering why they bothered asking. Now I know.
SOE Goes Into Real Estate Speculation November 12, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next.
Tags: Ars Technica, Landmark
It is one thing when Bhagpuss mentions that you are charging money for access to the alpha of your free to play game.
But when Ars Technica runs a headline about it, you have achieved a new level of notoriety.
SOE’s Landmark adjunct to EverQuest Next has a set of offers… Founder’s Packs… up now selling access to alpha and closed beta for the project.
Yes, there are other goodies included, some cosmetic gear and storage space (no doubt there is a clue in that as to what constraints they plan to use to drive people to the Station Store), but the key seems to be early access to a free to play tool in order to help create items for EverQuest Next, a free to play game.
And the most interesting item on the list is the head start bonus for those willing to part with $100.
I have not been paying attention to Landmark, but I seem to recall something about some plots being more valuable/useful/desirable than others. Maybe not “pay to win,” but it is certainly buying some sort of preferential treatment. But that’s the business model. You have to make your money where you can.
In real estate the mantra is “Location, location, location” while in free to play it is “Monetize, monetize, monetize.” It is just odd to see the two combined.
This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I was wondering if SOE could keep the level of excitement up for EverQuest Next. Anyway, I can wait for when this free to play tool is actually free. Others seem more excited about the offer.
(Bonus points for SOE if somehow ProSieben.Sat1 access is screwed up.)