Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Underground, Overground : Landmark

And so to the MMO no-one mentions any more. I logged into Landmark last night in an effort (and it was an effort) to pay attention to something other than GW2. Rather hard to do when you've got "Woh! I'm going to Maguuma" playing on a loop in your head to the tune of Typically Tropical's Barbados . (As do you, now, if you followed that link. No need to thank me!).

Landmark reminds me of a never-ending game of Grandmother's Footsteps. As long as you're looking right at it nothing happens and goes right on not happening as long as you keep paying attention but turn away for a moment and everything takes a great leap forward. I do try to keep up by reading the patch notes but that only takes a person so far. Sometimes you just have to steel yourself and log in.

Last time I took a look it was because they'd added water. It was water you could walk on, granted, but at least it was there. Now you can swim in it, on it and even under it, or so they say. I have to take that on trust for now, because although I did try to get to the coast to see the miracle for myself, SOE seem to be progressively de-optimizing the client and traveling anywhere feels like pushing through treacle.

Consequently I never made it as far as the shoreline but as I waded through the thickened air of Not-Norrath I happened upon something even more interesting : A Cave.

Caves were added a couple or three weeks ago. I read about the first iteration and followed the feedback on the forums. Even the perpetual Pollyannas who make up the bulk of the presumed-minimal playerbase (every server bar one always shows "Low" population whenever I log in and my own Island now has no more than four or five active Claims) were struggling to sound sunny about the initial iteration.

Undaunted, I did log in back then to take a sounding of my own but I couldn't even find a cave before the client froze, effectively killing what little interest I'd been able to muster. Since then, according to both the Update Notes and commentary on the Forum, things are much improved. All the snipe and snark now seems to center around the quality of the contents of the Chests you can find in the no-longer-quite-so-dark depths, rather than the tedium, frustration and futility of looking for them in the first place.

I can't comment on what's in a Landmark Cave Chest because I didn't find one. What I did find was a much more airy, light and attractive complex of tunnels, drops and caverns than I was expecting. With no lightsource of my own I was able to explore for fifteen minutes or so by the glow of plants, mushrooms and those giant pineapples that serve as organic streetlights.

The cave I found was attractive, labyrinthine and large, generously appointed with veins of ore, gems and harvestable plants. After fifteen minutes I had gotten myself so turned around and lost I wasn't even certain which way was up any more. My grappling hook helped but long before it got me anywhere in sight of the surface I gave up and used the "Visit Someone's Claim" facility in the Showcase to port to another island and daylight. Claustrophobics (of whom I am not one) will not find any of this fun.

All of which makes me go hmmmmmmmm.

The gist of how gathering will work in Landmark appears to be as follows, although This Is Beta! and anything can and probably will change:
  • Basic ores, gems and most wood will be on the surface. Rare ores and gems and other goodies will be underground. 
  • To find specific ores and gems you'll need a Device, which you will have to craft or buy from someone who crafts it for you. Reports are that it doesn't work all that well.
  • There will be falling damage and it will kill you if you fall far enough. In the first five minutes I fell down a dropshaft that would, I'm sure, have been fatal with falling damage. Whether you'll have to find your corpse to get your stuff back has not, as far as I know, been revealed.
  • There will be aggressive monsters in the caves that will want to kill you. You will have to fight them and win if you want to gather materials down there.
Even with all the materials needed for Claimbuilding just lying on the surface as they were in Alpha and Pre-Cave Beta, the sheer grind of gathering them was frequently presented as a potential problem for the game. I'm not entirely convinced that making the more sought-after mats much, much less accessible while at the same time adding severe risk to virtual life and limb is going to give Landmark the immediate mass-market appeal a F2P game centered on building structures would wish to have.

On the other hand, neither am I sure it won't. If the game was properly optimized and/or I had a PC that wasn't getting on five years old and everything was running smooth as butter, I think that perhaps exploring caves, fighting monsters and returning with my packs full of valuable rocks I could sell at great profit to Stay-at-Claim wannabe architects might be pretty darn entertaining.

However that turns out, there's one thing about which I am already convinced. EQNext, using this engine, is going to look glorious. For that, if perhaps not for Landmark, I will buy a new PC.


  1. Few things in gaming compare favourably with a good MMO cave, I could expound on this at great length, but I'm the commenting guy and not the blog-writing guy.

    Anyway caves are ace. That caves looks very good. First I've seen of Landmark that has piqued some interest in fact.

    1. I was quite impressed. They felt more cave-like than most MMO caves. They are, of course, procedurally generated and there were complaints on the forum that first iteration of caves were all identical but I'm sure that will get fixed if it was ever true.

  2. I'd love to check out the caves and water updates in Landmark, but ever since the update, my FPS has dropped to 5-10 at best. I'm not sure what's going on as it was all running smoothly before, and at this point it's become unplayable. My PC is fairly good, only a little over a year old, and runs everything else without trouble.

    Makes me sad because I'd love to see what's new -- I also wanted to try and build a new ocean-based claim. Hoping maybe a few updates will clear it up.

    1. Yes, what the heck is it with the current client? Landmark has never been what you'd call sprightly but it was always playable. Now everything feels like its happening in a thick, viscous fluid. If they'd sort that out I'd be spending more time there than I am.

    2. Ah, so it's not just me. Not that I'm happy you're having troubles, but it's good to know that I'm not the only one. Hoping updates will straighten this out. As it is, it's really hard to do even the simple things, such as mine.

      It probably has something to do with the game rendering that underground layer of caves -- my best guess. It's something the team is going to have to work out.


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