Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Landmark Development

When we get to those game mastering systems [after the start of the year] that means we are working on EQN full time. Because those are the systems we need for EQN, and that's what we're building when we're building those game mastering tools. So we're so close to transitioning the team almost entirely to EQN, and then we'll take the elements that we build for EQN and port them over into Landmark, but our focus will shift almost entirely to EQN after the new year.

Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson  as reported on Massively

That quote seems to have garnered surprisingly little attention in this corner of the blogosphere. Maybe it's because no-one is paying any attention to Landmark any more. Even this week's huge patch that brought with it the long (long!) awaited addition of PvE comabt didn't provoke much interest. The only blogger on my radar, who even bothered to log in and take a look was Stargrace, for whom things didn't go so well.

So, in the interests of... well, nosiness mainly, I patched up Landmark and braved the lag to see if I could last a little longer and discover a little more. Here's my fully-illustrated report:

After a 3GB patch (it may have been a  while since I last logged in) I appeared where I'd last logged out, down by the ocean at the edge of the desert. First step - find a mob. As well as bringing PvE combat to the unnamed world of Landmark, this update also added something approaching the full, tiered cave system and that's where most of the monsters are but I'd heard they also roam the surface in smaller numbers so I set off to look for some above ground.

It wasn't much of a search. No more than a few paces uphill I found these likely fellows - a White Wisp and an Abomination. In fact I heard them before I saw them. All the new mobs have a distinct audio signature (I bet anyone who's played Everquest can guess the White Wisp's already). It works very well - atmospheric and practical at the same time.

I was a step ahead of Stargrace in that I'd already made a set of weapons back when PvP was introduced and I had them on me. I only had the bow hot-keyed so I went with that for my first try.

It turned out to be a good choice. The Abomination didn't seem to have worked out how to deal with ranged attacks. It just sat there, rippling a bit, and losing hit points as I filled it full of flaming arrows of which I had an infinite supply. No need to craft or buy ammunition in Landmark. Yet.

The fight seemed to take an awfully long time but eventually the Abomination keeled over and spat out some loot. I put my bow away and strolled over to see what it was. The "box" turned out to be a visual effect only not an item you can pick up. As I got close it did that disconcerting thing logs and ore do in Landmark: it flipped up and whizzed about behind my head, then vanished.

After reading my chat log to find out what had dropped ("Ether Shards") and looking in my main inventory to find nothing, I thought to check the crafting tab. There they were, safely stashed away. What they are for I have no idea. I'm sure they're vitally important for something.

Encouraged by my success I turned for the Wisp but it was nowhere to be seen. I strode onwards and heard a strange sound I can only describe as a "chomping". Aha! A clue! Surely that had to be the infamous Chomper? Well it might have been but although I could hear it I couldn't work out where the sound was coming from. As I tried to triangulate, though, I spotted another Wisp.

Or possibly it was the first one. Do they wander about? Insufficient data. Whatever, it had no better plan for dealing with an attacker from distance than the Abomination. It also seemed to have a lot less hit points and took about a quarter as long to kill.

The wisp also had a much more interesting drop than some bunch of old shards. A recipe! And for something useful at that. Again the drop vanished automagically as I approached and it took me a bit of head-scratching to work out where to find it - automatically scribed to my Recipe Journal. A bit too much hand-holding for my liking. Losing tactility here, I fear.

Still, tactile or not, there's nothing like a good drop to put a hunter in the mood for more killing. And hark! There's that chomping sound again only this time I can see whose making it. Now, I don't know a lot about Landmarkian fauna and flora, but I do know these things are supposed to be nasty. There's that infamous video plus the anecdotal evidence from Stargrace for a start. It seemed like a bad idea to get in close so once again I stuck with the trusty bow and once again my prey had no answer.

Chomper down! Three-nil to me. It was at this point that I became overconfident. I decided that, in the interests of science, I'd try meleeing the next mob I came across - which turned out to be another chomper. Mob density overground is considerably thicker than I was expecting, by the way, and I never had to travel more than a few yards between kills.

Out with my really rather ridiculous sword and in for the kill! He'll never know what hit him!

And the inevitable result ^^^. Hubris thy name is...well never mind what your name is. To be fair I wasn't one-shotted; you can see a sliver chipped off that devil-tree's health bar. It was pretty darn quick all the same. Still, gave me a chance to test the Death mechanic. Yes, that's what I was meaning to do all along; that's my story, let's go with that...

The Graveyard is odd. Firstly, its underground. Having died on the surface I resurrected in the first tier of caves. Secondly there are aggressive mobs roaming right next to where you wake up, which seems a tad unfriendly. Scary ones too. Lastly there doesn't appear to be any obvious exit. I'm guessing you're supposed to dig your own. Always bring a Pulverizer, that's my advice. Wish I'd taken it.

The Slaug intrigued me. He was tearing around at a fair old pace unlike all the above-ground mobs. He hadn't come into agro range so far but he looked as though he might at any moment so I decided on a pre-emptive strike. I readied my trusty bow and put a flaming arrow in his pasty hide. He didn't like it much and he had a better idea what to do about it than the others, too. First he ran around a lot which made him hard to hit, especially when he went behind cover. I had to move away from the graveyard to keep him targeted and after a little more cat and mouse he decided to rush me.

I didn't attempt to swap to my sword. I just kept shooting fiery arrows from point blank range. He knocked me about a bit but he'd left it too late and I finished him off without too much trouble. He dropped something nice for me too.

And that seemed like a good time to call it a day. I found my clickie to portal back to the island hub and that was that. The last fight, where I actually had to move about, had left me feeling slightly motion sick so it was a good time to stop.

All in all I rather enjoyed my little outing but mostly because I was able to stand still and kill the mobs at no personal risk, either of dying in-game or throwing up in real life. As soon as I had to fight in any way "properly" the inherent issues with the entire process became all too apparent. It's something I already spotted from the PvP patch but that's now impossible to ignore - I won't be able to engage with this kind of combat because of the way the camera swings about. Five minutes of this and I'll need to lie down in a darkened room for half an hour until my stomach settles. And I don't even suffer badly from motion sickness.

If they can get that fixed, though, then it has possibilities. Get working on that for EQNext please, Smokejumper.


  1. I must confess, I didn't see that announcement that they would be shifting their focus onto EQN. But I fear that at this point, despite all my earlier enthusiasm, the only way they're going to get me to pay attention to EQN is to actually DO something, not just ANNOUNCE that they're going to do something.

    1. I don't expect anything more than endless announcements and pontification of pie-in-the-sky ideas on EQN. It's SOE. Ever reaching for the stars (and talking about it) before figuring out if and how they can get there.

    2. If they are starting to pay attention to EQN in 2015 then I wouldn't expect to see any practical result until 2016. Which is a year earlier than I was predicting before this announcement so that's something.

      I am not at all sure I will be able to play EQNext no matter how much I want to though. If combat uses this model I probably won't bother, at least on the PC. I already have a fallback plan of playing it on console where I imagine it will work a lot better.

  2. I saw the shift mentioned on Twitter, but by this point in time, with SOE playing the "words mean what we say they mean, not more, no less... and Landmark is in beta, not pre-alpha development" game for a while now, I am very much in a wait and see state of mind. We will know when EQN is truly being worked on because SOE will introduce a set of packages so you can pay to test their code. And that will likely be at least a year before anything is really ready to play. I suppose SOE could surprise me. The often do. It just generally isn't in a positive way.

    1. Alpha and Beta seem to have lost all meaning across the whole of the genre. When you have tens of thousands of people clamoring to give you money for anything that meets a bare minimum level of functionality and keep paying you more money while you gradually fix it up around them I guess there's not much incentive to be accurate with the terminology.

      I'd love to say I'm above all that but when it comes to EQNext I'll almost certainly be waving my wallet in their general direction and asking them to help themselves at the earliest opportunity.

  3. I also tried out the new PVE patch this weekend. However, I wasn't involved in the PVP patch at all (the frame rates for me were too low at the time, and have since been fixed), so all I had was the starter armor and starter sword you get for free.

    Let me tell you, it is HARD. What's worse, I couldn't tell the difference between a monster that I could kill and a monster that was going to hand me my head in a bag. Even after upgrading armor a little bit from drops, I could go from one creature that I killed with no problem to the next slaughtering me in two or three hits.

    Is there ANY way to tell monster difficulty? Or is melee just that terribly borked? I went to the forum to see if anyone had any tips, but I couldn't find any info on this. : /

    1. Hmm. I didn't see any means to "con" mobs and it wasn't mentioned at all in the introduction to combat post on the forum. Since Landmark has no concept of levels at all it hadn't occurred to me that mobs would vary in difficulty. There would seem to be no reason that they should.

      My guess is that they have different (and by the looks of it wildly varying) special abilities or attacks and that players will need to learn them and counter them with either moves/skills/tactics or specific gear. That would seem more in line with how Landmark works. It is purely a guess although the combat intro guide does mention one type of mob that you cannot kill but which can be induced to explode and kill itself, which would be an example of the kind of thing I'm imagining.

      I wonder just how many people who still play regularly are even interested in fighting mobs? Surely almost everyone but serious builders and designers must have dropped out long ago. My guess is that they will be looking to attract a lot more EQNext-oriented "testers" into Landmark as they backfill LM with content they design for EQN during 2015. The combat will probably get firmed up a lot then. Let's hope so!

  4. Thanks for this update, I missed it as well on Massively.

    While I like the idea of mobs being less predictable in strength etc., the whole action combat thing is seriously putting me off. That big MMORPG's will never be turn-based/pausable like Temple of Elemental Evil or even Dungeon Siege/Neverwinter Nights (both the original single-player games) I can understand, but tab-target was fine by me.

    A glint of hope might be that one of the reasons some people give for why they left WildStar is that the 'tell' combat system was just too tiring for hour(s+) on end, and a MMORPG that doesn't lend itself to long periods of playing is rather iffy (IMO).

    So perhaps flooding the EQ fourms with negative feedback regarding it might help :)

    OT, but do you play Eldevin? At times I see a character with a very similar name to your blogging handle running about being busy (like pretty much all players; I love the fact that with that game you're never stuck with 'nothing to do').

    1. I don't play Eldevin. The name rang a vague bell but I had to google it to remind myself. It's on the long list of MMOs I was going to get around to trying some day but as yet that day hasn't come. My blog name, of course, comes from the Bagpuss t.v. show that was voted favorite British children's TV series of all time just around the time I was trying to come up with a name. I was sitting around at work trying to think of something when both Bagpuss and Bhagdad were mentioned in the same news bulletin (this being back in the happy days when I could sit in a room on my own and listen to the radio and claim to be working). I jammed the two together and that's how Bhagpuss was born.

      I bet the guy in Eldevin spells it the proper way!

    2. You're right, he spells it Bagpuss.

      To be honest, I had never heard of the show before (*bows head in shame*), though it's interesting to see how many older players Eldevin apparently seems to attract (then again, by Nick Yee/Daedalus research, more robust crafting tends to attract a.o.more older players, so that may not be too surprising after all).

      If EQ Next is going F2P, it seems that it (and hence its combat) will almost well with consoles:

      Console gamers are also hardcore fans, and they are more likely to buy more. That was the theory behind adapting the online game to the consoles, and it is paying off, Smedley said. In fact, the additional monetization with the console players is one of the reasons that the entire game is considered successful, he said.

      He said that PS4 players have created almost 3 million new superhero characters. Smedley said that the results are so good that the company will likely launch all of its future free-to-play massively multiplayer online games on both the consoles and the PC.



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