My account cost rather less and without revisiting the terms and conditions I really can't recall whether it allowed me to slip under the velvet rope or not. Makes no nevermind because I was working all week and didn't have time for such fripperies, what with dailies to do and keeps to defend in GW2 and what-not.
Thus it was that I didn't get around to scoping out Landmark Live until this morning. I was put in mind to get on with it by Wilhelm's post-of-record regarding the launch, which I read immediately after waving Mrs Bhagpuss off to work.
I started to comment on the thread at TAGN, which at the time consisted of one disgruntled complaint from Scree. He was representing yet another division of the ever-growing army of grudge-bearers with axes to grind in the faces of either SOE, DBG, or both. In this case the bad feeling comes from the sense of betrayal or abandonment felt by that group of players who bought into Landmark purely on the basis that it was, or would be, a feeder app for EQNext.
|Go on, rub it in...|
My own view is very different. I reserve my ire, lukewarm though it ever was, for the old regime. Indeed, I look back on my latter days as a customer of the Smedley/Georgeson era SOE with something of the bemused confusion of a partially-recovered sufferer from Stockholm Syndrome. (Somewhat bizarrely, one of the very first songs I ever wrote as a teenager was about Patty Hearst...).
As I commented at Wilhelm's, "The change to DBG has been an absolute breath of fresh air as far as I can tell. Communication is smarter and clearer, decisions make more sense, and above all things that are promised are actually completed....I feel quite confident in believing that where DBG players are now is a much happier place than where they would have been had the previous management team remained in control". The caveat is always that this could all end tomorrow if Columbus Nova decide the time has come to cash in their chips but until that dark day comes I intend to enjoy the late Autumn sunshine currently warming the franchise while it lasts.
My dilemma over Landmark has always been that even though I've never been sure what it's supposed to be, I still like it far more than is good for me. From the first minutes in the tech demo they called an alpha I was hooked in a way I have rarely if ever been hooked in any MMO before or since. I can't think of any MMORPG in which time simply evaporates the way it does in Landmark. As I've said before, I don't not play Landmark very often because I don't enjoy it - I don't play it often because I enjoy it far too much.
This morning I logged in just to take a few screenshots for this post. That was not long after 8 am. I finally pulled myself clear more than three hours later, having spent the last hour cutting and pasting the same short section of wall a couple of dozen times, trying to get it just right. That way madness lies.
Before I got to that state of distress I first had to patch the game, and make a new character, following the full pre-launch wipe. Not fancying yet another multi-gigabyte download I tried just logging into the beta build. That didn't work. I considered, briefly, going through Steam but I find Steam a very poor substitute for a standalone client and try to avoid using it wherever possible.
A quick trip to the forums solved my problem:
open the .ini file and replace the line reading environment=beta with environment=live
Anyone who's played an EverQuest game for any length of time will be very familiar with making manual alterations to the .ini file. If nothing makes Landmark feel like an EQ spin-off that will.
With that done it was just a short patch to Character Creation. The options there remain as criminally limited as ever they were. I understand a lot of the limitations of Landmark but why we only get to play extremely dull human characters with fewer customizations than the rankest chop shop F2P beats me.
Once into the world itself things improved. As a brand new character I landed on the flat plane of the default Newbie
For once, in the interests of science, or at least blogging, I chose to follow the tutorial. It's very much improved, as indeed is much else about the game.
It's what I'd call a "soft" tutorial. It takes place entirely in the world, not in any special instance or zone, and there are no compulsory exercises to complete, nor any aggressive pop-up windows or commands. Mostly what happens is a small window shows a list of tasks you can complete at your leisure and as you finish each one it ticks a box and more appear.
|Achievements. If we're talking about Stockholm Syndrome...|
Sometimes, often, you gain an "achievement. Whoever wrote the text for these is a big fan of puns. A big fan. Also, I would guess, no younger than their early forties. Quite possibly fifties.I wonder if that's the target market - GenX and Late Boomers with a propensity for rearranging the building blocks of landscape and language? If so it's no wonder I feel at home.
The instructions are clear and the tasks are straightforward. I don't believe it's possible to make the controls of any kind of building game entirely intuitive but the UI has been polished far beyond the arcane mysteries of the early days and I can't imagine, in a world where Minecraft rules supreme, that many will struggle to understand what's expected and how it's to be managed.
Oddly, when you click on the travel option to visit another player's build for the first time the game minimizes and you find yourself back at the Landmark website on the Showcase page. You even have to log in, which seems a bit redundant given that you are already logged in - to the game. I'd smooth that out.
The Build I visited wasn't technically one created by another player. I went to Domino's Winter Wonderland. No prizes for guessing it was gingerbread themed.
From there I was sent underground to fight some of Landmark's extremely limited selection of off-site monsters. The tutorial had already had me place a training dummy and some skeletons on my own build and practice killing those so I knew what I was about. Combat in Landmark is unbelievably simple but I rather like it. It has a certain minimalist elegance that appeals. Definitely don't come here for the full-fat fighting frenzy though.
After that it was back to my Build for some pointers on building basics. All the time I'd been playing messages had been popping up across the screen telling me that so-and-so had become a Luminary and now it was my turn. The steady drip of congratulations as players complete the tutorial, like the ever-scrolling general chat, suggests that the game has found an audience of some sort.
|I feel so...erm...give me a minute, it'll come to me...|
As indeed it deserves. For an "MMO" at launch it seems to be well set up. You can get in, it works, it's not lagging or crashing, there are things to do. It looks attractive, it plays comfortably and for my psychology at least the "gameplay" is dangerously addictive.
Is Landmark all it could have been? Not nearly. Is it what was once promised? Nowhere even close. Is it going to appeal to anyone who only really paid it any attention because it supposedly had some connection with EQNext? I very, very much doubt it.
But I like it. I always liked it. And I'm going to go on playing it. Only not too often. I'm not safe to be left there without adult supervision.