Digging Landmark and what we may expect from SOE

So between Wildstar and ESO, Landmark is the new star on the block that everyone’s talking about – everyone with a closed beta key anyway which seem to be an awful lot of people. It’s a beautiful game, too beautiful really for voxels which impresses even those among us who are not usually constructionists. Or gatherers for that matter; Landmark is all about the gathering and an admin mode doesn’t seem likely. I was worried about this before but having sunk several hours into Landmark by now, I am with Liore that the game features by far the most satisfactory gathering experience of them all. Mining and chopping wood has an almost therapeutic, calming quality – the motions and sound effects are great and the chunks and splinters come off seemingly at random as you dig down veins to see what gem might lie at the end.

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Landmark, for now, is also making things considerably more easy for you than let’s say Minecraft, which features tool decay at pretty irritating speed before you reach higher tier tools and weapons. A single mine or tree in Landmark yields a respectable amount of materials which makes the process feel rewarding. Besides that, Landmark lets you create all the basic and necessary crafting stations for little effort; it may have taken me four hours altogether once I understood where to find the required higher tier materials. It so happens that all you need to do is hop island.

For someone like me who is not into tedious gathering with steep progression nor into complex (aka grindy) crafting systems in MMOs, Landmark is exactly right. Unfortunately therein also lies mild apprehension because SOE still plan to overhaul crafting entirely until launch. Given how easy things are at the moment, I can’t imagine this going any other way than up towards more restriction and difficulty. Alas.

Remember the classes of EQN where you collect a whole bunch of them and you specialize? We’re going to be doing that kind of thing with crafting also.” So players who have learned specializations will be able to craft different and better things than players who haven’t. Additionally, players will have to work together to craft some really great things, as players will have different specializations. [Dave Georgeson]

So quo vadis, Landmark?

Two weeks ago SOE revealed their comprehensive roadmap for Landmark’s future, inviting players to help shape the development process of the game. MMO players rarely need such invitations – the forums and other social media platforms are bursting with wishlists and suggestions for the future. The game feels very playable right now but it’s lacking more practical and intuitive building tools along with many announced features in the roadmap.

What nobody really can say at this point is in which ways Landmark will truly be more than a very pretty and atmospheric building sandbox with a few social features. Even if the community is happy to visit and explore other claims at the moment, the game in itself isn’t particularly social yet, nor ‘massively multiplayer’. SOE have seperated Landmark from Everquest Next with the recent name change but they are still essentially selling an MMO idea here, while presenting EQN as the traditional MMORPG with y’know, character development and group content and endgame. Or whatever developers mean nowadays when they distinguish between MMOs and MMORPGs –

So what will be the state of Landmark at launch? For now, the roadmap plans for the following major closed beta implementations: introducing dangers (damage and death), combat, quests (journal) and achievements, a guild system, the crafting overhaul and PvP along with various additions to the landscape (caves, water etc.). I must say, the addition of PvP strikes me as the most dramatic and somewhat curious of the bunch; what kind of motives could drive players to kill each other in Landmark I can hardly guess. Special loot or resources? Claim rights? A PvP-related currency?

I’m sure that Landmark is also going to feature an economy of sorts before launch along with the Player Studio, which for now is reserved for American players but will add more regions come May 2014. However given the complicated tax situation, I have no hopes that this feature will make it to my place anytime soon.

That seems about it, as long as SOE don’t have any more undocumented tricks up their sleeves until official launch. One might speculate about the community’s longevity until that time – after all speculation is the province of the MMO blogger. Personally, I’m not too worried about Landmark but I still believe longterm, it will have to offer a lot more than social platforms and deeper crafting in order to retain a longterm player base. I look forward to see what else SOE come up with. For now, I am quite happy to potter (pot-hole) around.

4 comments

  1. Eh, I’ll have to disagree with you on the Landmark gathering being easier than Minecraft. MC’s early tools break easily but are made in bulk cheaply, and past wood, don’t feel clunky. And more importantly, Minecraft offers options to alter the vanilla game, be it through creative/admin mode or a modpack that sprinkles more obvious ore into the world.

    Landmark, since they offer resources in the cash shop, has a vested interest in making resource gathering time consuming. Collecting enough for a mithril pick RNG roll, for example, involves 4000 mithril ore. At around 30 mithril ore a swing, and being generous to assume 200 mithril ore comes out of each pothole, that’s ~20 veins to locate. Before we even get to the spindle cones and heartwood, which means finding tundra and going after at least 10 special trees plus normal ones.

    The promise of group reliancy and PvP makes me nervous about the future of Landmark for me personally. The good news is I can play it now and mess around with it before further inconveniences arrive. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.

    1. I did only refer to unmodded, normal mode MC here. :) else it’s a bit of an unfair comparison. I am really surprised how trivial gathering and crafting is in Landmark right now, obviously it’s not meant that way. but the fact that I only need to farm a little and can then create a tool that lasts forever is pretty nuts imo. very convenient. I never even made it to the higher tier tools in MC whereas in Landmark even mithril and diamond are just lying around in tier 4 biomes. you’re obviously right though that SOE wants players to depend on the shop. I haven’t really looked at that yet.

      As for PvP, am not really interested myself but then I am sure it will be a server mode.

  2. I think it’s important to remember that this is an SOE game. “Gathering” has a long and deep history across most of the MMOs they’ve made in the last fifteen years.

    Everquest doesn’t have gathering nodes per se but it has always had a plethora of dropped crafted materials which needed either to be farmed in huge quantities or purchased from other players. The economy ran largely on that for most of the time I played up until 2008 or so and still does to a degree even now. I spent countless hours farming spiders for silk for Tailoring and as a guild we ran regular guild runs through Plane of Innovation to farm cogs for Tinkering, just to give a couple of examples.

    EQ2 moved to a more node-based form of gathering, which has always been very popular activity for many. I frequently went gathering for pleasure and so did people in my guild. Conversation in one of the cross-server chat channels I’m often involves chatting about gathering while actually gathering. EQ2 even has an exceptionally long and much-loved (or ironically “hated”) quest sequence that consists entirely of gathering and of course both versions of EQ have the Coldain Shawl quests, some of the best-known and most popular quests ever put into either game, both of which feature a very large amount of gathering.

    All this long pre-dates SOE’s move to F2P. From an SOE developer’s point of view, players *love* gathering. It’s widely seen as a fun, relaxing, welcome way to spend time in game. If you read the Alpha and Beta forums, you can see this effect clearly in many of the posts from EQ/EQ2 vets, some of whom clearly think Landmark doesn’t yet have *enough* emphasis on gathering!

    Whether the anticipated masses arriving with no prior experience of EQ MMOs will feel the same way we shall have to wait and see but I doubt its something the Landmark devs will be worrying too much about given what they have seen so far.

    Personally, I don’t think the gathering is onerous all. Compared to what I’ve experienced in other games the amounts seem quite trivial and as Syl says the gathering process itself is fun. How much fun it will be when most of the resources are deep underground in caves filled with creatures trying to rip our heads off I’m not so sure.

    1. Hmm yes I see, thanks for the insight. what you’re telling me about EQ’s gathering tradition does worry me personally heh…I do not like that myself. then again, it might fit Landmark a lot more than other MMORPGs because there, I just can’t be asked to spend that much time on what I perceive a side activity. this would be different in Landmark obviously. I will definitely miss the trivial crafting at launch, that much is for certain :D

      And yeah, I can’t wait to see the mobs! I wonder if they’re also gonna introduce more professions such as leatherworking or alchemy which depend on loot from monsters.

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