Sunday, February 2, 2014

Very First Impressions : Landmark

With the exquisite timing SOE have always been known for, no sooner did they lift the NDA than the servers fell over. It was gone two in the morning when I finished the previous post so I went to bed. This morning the servers are down again. Not sure if they've been down all night.

It at least gives me a chance to post some brief thoughts, based on my extensive and deep understanding of the game gleaned from almost two hours of aimlessly running about and occasionally digging holes.

  • Appearances
It looks pretty enough but I wouldn't go overboard about either the art design or the aesthetics just yet. Keen complains that the colors look washed out. They are certainly not as vibrant as, say, GW2 or Firefall but they seem quite rich to me.

  • The World
The environments are reasonably convincing. There are no zones as such (although the islands are completely separate, which is much the same thing) and the transitions from one type of terrain to another aren't too jarring. It's far from naturalistic though.

  • Lore
Don't think there is any. I can already see that, as I expected, I am going to have a problem with context. The world has no indigenous sentient race so there is no pre-existing built environment, no culture, no history. Although, come to think of it, just where did that Combine Spire come from, eh?

The pristine, natural world will very quickly be built over by up to 10,000 players per server. Unless and until players have the ability to place NPCs and set their AI, I can't see that there will be any context. Until then the whole place is going to look like the end-of-year show at architecture school.

  • Beauty and Deportment
The character models are much better than I was expecting. I generally don't like playing humans, which is currently the only choice, but I found I could connect with my character quite easily. Movement is nice and fluid. Sliding down hills is fun. They really should get climbing trees in somehow.

  • Mining

Mining is ridiculously enjoyable. The way the tunnels develop is extremely satisfying, as are the raws and rares that pop up while you dig. Standing inside a deep hole you've dug and looking up at the moon overhead is disturbingly entertaining. Even so, digging holes would be about a million times more enjoyable if I was a ratonga. Just sayin'.

  • Logging

Chopping down trees, by contrast, is completely pedestrian and dull. Whack, whack, whack, flurry of woodchips, progress bar winds down, tree vanishes. Also you can't hack into a cactus or forage from a bush. Yet. I am guessing that will come because for now cotton, jute and all kinds of inappropriate raws come flying out of the trees.

  • Playability

A lot of people are saying things like  "This alpha really is an alpha". Is it? The few alphas I've played before this were considerably less, well, playable than this. Yes it's buggy, but betas used to be buggy, it was what you expected. In terms of playability I'd put Landmark Alpha on a par with my experiences in EQ2 during mid beta (and much better than late beta, when they broke everything that used to work) or Horizons late beta (when the systems worked but most of the world was empty still). I've played MMOs that launched buggier and less feature-complete than this, but maybe I just have very low expectations.

  • Claims

The whole Claim mechanic needs a rethink. Not just because the claim UI is dreadful, which it is and which SOE have acknowledged it is, but because it makes no sense. I can understand having a competitive element for claiming the "best" spots but at the moment the competition is to grab any spot. The game should begin by placing you on a default plot, a home base where you can begin to learn and practice with the tools. Once you've got the hang of those and the desire to build something more ambitious, then you should set out to explore the world and stake a claim. I foresee many five  minute uninstalls at launch if they make you go miles and miles to find an out-of-the way spot no-one else wanted before you can start doing what you thought you were going to be doing as soon as you logged in. I know Wurm Online works that way but WO is a tiny, niche game for a reason.

  • Crafting

Haven't tried crafting yet. Apparently it requires a prodigious quantity of raws and crafting your own tools is the progression mechanic for the whole game. Can't see that working long-term. I'm guessing we will eventually get a full range of crafts and recipes to go with them and that will be the real progression. The economy will thrive if required raw material quantities are vast, too. Quite looking forward to that stage. I fancy being the guy out in the wilds with the axe and the skinning knife, getting rich selling to all the crafters grinding away at their stations.

That's about it for now. Servers still down. I hope they're adding something good.


  1. While I'm really impressed by the building tools, my question has always been how the servers can take this amount of activity. I mean, most other MMOs will instance stuff or keep it really restricted - even leaving loot lying around in the world for a limited amount of time, is a massive concern for sever performance in most games. debugging that must be an absolute nightmare. is 10'000 per server the official number then for EQNL?

    1. I *think* that's what Dave Georgeson says in the "You do know this is alpha, don't you?" video that plays before you get in. I'd have to watch it again to be sure and I'm not sure I can take another round of punishment like that :P

  2. I think the whole claim thing could be a big impediment if not looked at as you suggest. The idea of there being only crap or unusable claims left on a world... and that will be the one where your friends have settled... could really hurt them. I realize that they used claim scarcity to get people to buy the "play our Alpha" founders pack, but that could be a stopper for me.

    Well, it would be a stopper for me if I was otherwise interested. What I have seen so far hasn't moved me. But I've gone on about my very narrow views on house in the past. I want a place to hang my trophies from the real game. Housing as the real game... not so much.

    1. They will have to get the Claim thing sorted out before launch. Possibly via the SC store, which is ok by me. They need to show the Playstation bosses that they can turn a decent profit or we won't have SOE to kick around any more.

      I'm not much of a builder either, although Mrs Bhagpuss is. My main interest is in the possibilities Landmark has as a "build-your-own-MMO" toolset. If, as promised, we eventually get all the tools used to build EQNext then we can build EQNext-but-One!

      Or rather someone else can build it and I'll play it. I might volunteer to write some quest dialog and lore...

    2. The "build your own MMO toolset" is what excites me. Building is sweet, and supposedly these are the exact tools they use to build EQN (without the gathering timesink). Possibilities...

  3. I also have no issues with Station Cash model for claims. They have to make money. They just need to work this out better. We also need streets or something. Who wants to /loc to tell people where you "live" but that's minor in comparison to mass claims locked and so little activity on them. Who wants to build in the trailer park side of town? :-)


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