Monday, November 11, 2013

The Landrush Begins! : EQ Landmark

Details of the Alpha and Beta programs for Everquest Landmark have just been announced. They may not be quite what you were expecting. Even though they began to take beta sign-ups months ago, rather than go with any kind of traditional closed beta that ramps up over time or for a modish series of beta weekends, SOE have gone full-bore for the classic pay-to-play option so beloved by F2P publishers the world over.

There's even a video.

In short, there are three nested options, the more expensive containing all of the more inexpensive.

The Settler Pack costs $19.99 and grants you guaranteed, unlimited access to "Closed" Beta which will begin on or before 31 March 2014.

The Explorer Pack costs $59.99 for which you are guaranteed unlimited access to both the beta and the preceding Closed Alpha, which will start on or before February 28 2014.

The Trailblazer Pack weighs in at $99.99, bagging you exactly the same access rights as the Explorer, plus four time-limited (one week) Beta keys to hand out to lesser mortals your friends.

All three packs, of course, come with a range of in-game items, Titles and other perks.

Smedley said we'd have a new EQ game to buy this winter and he was telling no more than the bald truth. Okay, we probably weren't expecting we'd be buying an Alpha build, but money will change hands and there will be a game and it has EQ in the title so there you go...

And what, I hear you ask, about all that signing up we did back in the summer? Was that a complete and utter waste of our valuable time? Well no, not exactly. Signing up entitles you to a shot at a Time-Limited Beta Key as explained below:

I'm in several minds about all this. I don't have any particular objection to the concept of paid betas and the terms "alpha" and "beta" have long since lost their value in this context so that doesn't really come into it. Moreover, some of the items included do look genuinely useful, the kind of thing you might well choose to buy from the Cash Shop - extra bank space, bonuses to gathering and the like. Added to that, it's a game I will certainly be playing and which I would certainly have bought had it been offered as a box or Digital Download at the same price. Those are all good reasons to pony up.

On the other hand, there's the nature of the game to consider. It's a building game, primarily. I'm not even sure I'd want to spend much time in the Alpha or Beta of a game based around building structures, all the while knowing that any structures I build are themselves, in SOE's words, "Time-Limited". It's one thing to run around in a beta killing monsters and reporting bugs but entirely another to spend large amounts of time and creative energy on building something that will return to the void in a matter of weeks.

And then on the gripping hand, as Larry Niven or Zubon might say, there's the whole "help build Everquest Next" thing. Some people have already expressed considerable suspicion about the entire concept of players making items in their own time on behalf of a large commercial company that might or might not reimburse them for their trouble. Now we have moved into the area of players paying a huge corporate entity for the privilege not only of testing its current product but of supplying intellectual property for its next one, too.

It bears some thinking about. I'm not rushing to get my credit card out just yet. I'd like to see a bit more about just how persistent the progress we make in Alpha and Beta might be, for a start. And when the finished game might actually launch. February and March, though, are very good times for me and gaming. I always have a lot of holiday to use up around then.

And that Explorer Pack does look rather nice.


  1. Hrmm... cannot say I am surprised by this turn of events. "A studio has to make money!" is the all-purpose retort to any complaints.

    I do not see it here, but I am wondering if, in the landrush view of the world, if there are advantages to people being first on the scene, as in a real landrush, or if all virtual real estate is equal in Landmark?

    Also, I refuse to call it EverQuest Next Landmark. Landmark will do.

    1. I wondered about that, too. Then right after I published the post I spotted a mouseover right at the bottom of the Trailblazer Pack details. It reads:

      "When we wipe between Closed and Open Beta, everyone will lose their claims. As a special perk, Trailblazers will get a 48 hour or more head start into Open Beta, ensuring they have time to find amazing new claims."

      So it does indeed appear that, as they have more than hinted already, there is a competitive element to all this, and what's more that you can pay to get an advantage within that competition. Some people might call that Pay To Win.

      I don't believe we yet have anything like enough information to make any authoritative statements on how this might all turn out, but already some of the indicators are looking decidedly worrisome.

  2. So the $100 tier gets a head start, but those $60 slackers get nothing? Hah! Just $40 more or those trailblazers will take all the good spots before we let you in!

    And the things they are giving away may be a clue to how they will be monetizing things. I foresee inventory constraint issues driving sales.

    Well, if they are going to play actual real estate games, I suppose I will wait and see which local schools have the best test scores. That is what drives land value where I live.

  3. All of that just sounded like pay to win. :P And this is just for the beta? Do you have to pay again when it launches properly?

    1. It all depends what you call pay to win. In a game about creating the most amazing things being able to claim key areas in terms of traffic or aesthetic value may mean that.

    2. If you aren't impatient and don't mind waiting until Open Beta, presumably sometime around next May or June, it will be completely free. I'd guess that a lot of people will be happy just to potter around and won't ever pay a cent.

      The money will come from those people who have more money than patience or sense. That's how the model works.

  4. Ugh, there's going to be a huge first mover advantage when claiming land. Definitely pay to win, or at least pay to be rich.

  5. A time-limited closed beta access only says "Look at our game and hopefully you'll buy it when it releases". To me, closed beta is about testing the game for bugs/issues/exploits and reporting them...not a preview of a game. Unless I play 7 days straight with minimum sleep and no job (sorry, I currently have an 8-10 hour job), I won't be finding too many bugs...and can't really help this project.

    I'll pass on a 7-day closed beta access. If they offer me Five 7-day CB codes that I will stack, I'll jump at the chance. Otherwise, please remove my name from the Closed Beta tester list.


    Dolnor Numbwit
    Eternal Testing Newbie

    1. I used to take my beta-testing duties very seriously. Not to the point some did, where they treated it as something akin to voluntary work, putting in hundreds of hours looking for places to get stuck in scenery and highly unlikely combinations of commands that would crash the zone, but seriously enough to submit dozens of detailed bug reports and participate in any specifically requested testing activity even if it was unmitigatedly tedious.

      In latter years, however, betas have moved further and further towards being marketing tools and I now treat them accordingly. When we hit the point where the company is selling not just access but gear and services, I'm going to be treating the betas like a limited form of release and behaving like a customer.

      Of course, I'll still be bug-reporting because I have difficulty keeping my mouth shut at the best of times!


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