[Landmark] The Endless Beta

Two nights ago I logged back into Landmark for the first time in months, after what seemed to be the world’s slowest patch. I left Landmark towards the end of the closed beta, for lack of things to do and being fed up with the claim upkeep system and continuously losing my Inn of the Last Home. Much has been added since April: the crafting system and building tools have been overhauled completely, water and caves were added as well as fall damage and arena-based PvP.

Logging back into the game and hearing Jeremy Soule’s beautiful music made me painfully aware of the feeling and atmosphere this title is still able to create, its world’s beautiful potential. Yet, Landmark to me is a changed game, as I also mentioned to Belghast a few nights ago over at Bel Folks Stuff (Bel’s awesome new podcast for merry blogosphere banter, check it out!) – so overwhelming have been the changes that I might as well learn everything from scratch and start over. Ugh.

Thus my re-visit was short-lived. Frustrated with all the controls I couldn’t remember and the still pretty poor mailbox overflow system, I took a tour around some shards/islands only to find most of them empty. The few that still had builds on them were so large and bursting with detail that my PC got very unhappy every time I got too close. I’ve no clue what optimization SOE are still planning to do for Landmark but at this rate, it’s just as well that islands aren’t crowded. Of course that also makes Landmark a game of ghost towns and, few die-hard community builders aside, a game of non-existent player interaction. To quote an earlier Syl: “Landmark needs a purpose for all the housing, needs trade, quests, guilds and cooperative content if it’s meant to last down the road.”

Vast empty space.

Vast empty space.

To be fair, SOE never promised anything in terms of traditional PvE that exceeds hunting and gathering for resources as well as crafting. According to the latest blueprint, monsters and achievements are incoming this November and December. Beyond that, in lieu of server-based player markets / auction houses or any need thereof, Landmark remains a solo experience. All the while the beta testing stretches on with more and more players leaving to “return at a later date”.

Maybe.

The Endless Beta

Landmark’s alpha started in January 2014, followed by closed beta two months later. The game is yet to enter open beta and launch officially at an undisclosed time in 2015. Until then, every last person who’s been into Landmark at some point will be completely fed-up with all the pre-release play (some players don’t even realize anymore that it’s actually still in beta right now) and those that haven’t joined over the course of an entire year most likely won’t ever. That just makes me wonder if SOE haven’t done Landmark a tiny bit of disservice for having it out there in the open for so long, including players every step of the way and through so and so many rollbacks and revamps. Who wants to still play a game with such limited content after a year of beta? Who’s dying of excitement for such a launch?

I will admit, I’ve criticized other developers for not creating enough of a hype around their games as opposed to SOE. The fact that they’ve included their player base as much as they have is commendable. All too often do we see MMO betas that aren’t so much betas as they are two-week stress tests. And yet, how long is too long for a public beta? Maybe I really don’t know what I want but a year of playing early access is an awfully long time to get bored or burned out in my book!

9 comments

  1. The game still isn’t feature complete enough to interest me, though I’ll admit I’m waiting on EQ:Next more than Minecraft with modern graphics. The EQ2 launcher was trying to tempt me with a beta code for Landmark but the game still lacks some of the basics that would make me even consider downloading it (e.g. PVE content).

    The beta does seem to be dragging on but then is that just a consequence of the slowish pace of feature release? I do think the game was announced/opened to the public too soon, almost a year of anticipation and alpha/beta and we still don’t have any monsters to fight?

    1. It does seem a long time to add these elements but there’s still so much to tweak and fix. I’ve a feeling SOE called alpha/closed beta what would still be pre-alpha and non-public testing phases in other games. Comes to show how terminology means nothing nowadays.

      I definitely also look forward to EQN a lot more than Landmark.

  2. I stopped logging in to check progress several months back because whatever they are doing has made Landmark literally unplayable on my PC. I can’t even reliably move around and look at things let alone try the combat.

    I think allowing people in at such an early stage has been an interesting experiment and one that can only benefit SOE. They would be doing all the development they are doing anyway so by opening it to the public and charging admission they get at least some unpaid QA work done, gain some publicity and, of course, take several million dollars in cash.

    I don’t even see that it will harm the eventual launch. By the time that happens almost everyone who lost interest along the way will be curious enough to take another look to see how it all turned out while the vastly larger audience that never paid attention to begin with will just see it as a new game with no history.

    One thing the whole experience has taught me is that I’m no longer sufficiently interested in how MMOs are made to find it worthwhile playing the early builds. It has nothing to do with whether they call them alphas or betas or whether I get in free or have to pay. I just can’t be bothered any more.

    There’s a myriad of great MMOs available in a “ready to play” sate and I’m happy to stick with those from now on. I’ll get to the unfinished ones when they get to something like a genuine open beta that directly precedes an imminent launch. Well, unless I just want to pop in earlier to get a blog post out of it, of course.

    1. I am very very over early access myself. So many games on Steam available during EA nowadays and I avoid them like the plague. I don’t think this is a good direction for us to go down as gamers but as you said, it’s an early money booster for the developer.

      What I wonder most of all is how Landmark will hold up once EQN is out. How much will SOE really get out of this in terms of players creating models and who will want to play it instead of a much more cooperative game? We’ll see.

  3. It’s not free to play, nor open beta, yet.

    I’m pretty much just logging in to pay rent and check out the meager updates/downgrades.

  4. I still don’t think Landmark is even close to what a beta should be. And that’s not some silly, complete but running a marketing event kind of beta but the regular kind where your testing your main mechanics. Getting data and adding polish.

    In my mind they just started it all way to early. Everyone’s become bored of the endless cycle of nothing now whcih has really ruined any kind of marketing buzz it might have had. The times between changes and updates were far too long as well which meant people got bored and left, never to return.
    I just don’t understand the process. I get they wanted more feedback in the process but did it really need to happen more than a year or two earlier in it’s development cycle.

    1. Yeah I agree. Like I said to Telwyn further up, there is pre-alpha / non-public testing going on for same games atm that are about as playable as Landmark or even in a better state, heh…..these labels just don’t mean much anymore.

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