Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Landmark Decision : EQN Landmark

Ever since Sony Online Entertaiment CEO John "Smed" Smedley twittered his new estimate of the start date for Landmark's buy-in alpha this fence I've been perching on has been getting more and more uncomfortable. With a potential door-opening just a couple of weeks away the time for thoughtful, measured consideration is coming to an end. In the immortal words of Secret Affair it's time for action.

So I asked Mrs Bhagpuss what to do.

She said "Get it for me for my birthday", which kind of answers half the question. Maybe a quarter. Get what, exactly?

Dismissing the beta-only Settler Pack, the choice is between the $59.99 Explorer or the $99.99 Trailblazer. I took a while to read the full contents list for both. Carefully. That didn't help much. Without knowing a lot more about the game itself it's virtually impossible to estimate the value of any of the goods and services that go with it.

Any value the the cosmetic gear might have is entirely subjective anyway. I wouldn't pay fifty cents for all of it put together but someone else might get hours of pleasure from watching their avatar prancing around dressed like the mascot of the Freedonia Marching Band. Same goes for the titles.

The items included in each pack at least have a practical purpose. Having a single, unbreakable tool that acts both as an axe and a pick is nothing to be sniffed at in a virtual world where, we suppose, chopping down trees and digging up ore will make up a great deal of the gameplay. Anything that gives a boost to gathering and crafting or increases your storage capacity would come in welcome in any MMO.

These are unarguably items of value and no doubt something very similar will be on sale in the Station Cash Shop once the game hits Open Beta, if not before. That knowledge doesn't help much in fixing a monetary value, however, if you neither know the price point for the items nor whether such existing Station Cash as you might own will carry over to the Landmark store.

That just leaves access and ownership. No point pretending otherwise; that's what's really on sale here.

There's no release date for Landmark. Wilhelm recently prognosticated a mid-October launch, which might be on the nose for the official release. The FAQ has no truck with any dates beyond the start of closed beta "on or before March 31". I'd guess Open Beta will come in the early/mid summer and for all intents and purposes Open Beta will be launch.

The FAQ is worth reading in detail. It answers a few important questions regarding progress. Effectively you get to keep any and all design work you do right from the start of Alpha and just about everything else, including all character progression, becomes permanent from the beginning of Closed Beta. Because you can, if you wish, keep playing the same character throughout, including through any wipes, by buying one of the Alpha access packs you are effectively paying to start playing the actual game, albeit in an unfinished format, several months before it becomes publicly available.

The only thing you don't get to keep is the location in the world where you set up home - your "Claim". Again we run into the buffers of ignorance. How important is your Claim? Does it really matter where you build, especially given that you came out of Closed Beta with your forty-room Winter Palace and Boating Lake safely templated and saved? Are you reliant on running hell-for-leather back to the exact spot where you created it or could you just flatten any old bit of land and slap it down wherever? We just don't know, so the value of those two or more days Head Start that come only with the most expensive pack is hard, maybe impossible, to judge.

Thinking too much on all this could send a person over the edge. Decisions have to be made and fortunately one is easy: I will be buying the Trailblazer Pack for Mrs Bhagpuss as a birthday present. For myself I'm minded to buy the Explorer Pack to see how things go in Alpha. Once I know more about it from the inside, if that Head Start begins to look crucial I can always upgrade before the time comes.

Or I may just go for the Trailblazer and be done with it. No, I don't think it's worth a hundred dollars (and we'll likely have to pay VAT on top of that here in the UK so make that $120). It will be the most expensive MMO I've ever bought and I don't even know what I'm buying. Call that half a decision made, then. Or is it three-quarters?

Whichever version I end up with, sadly an NDA is likely to be in place throughout Alpha and well into Closed Beta so my plan to report here on what Landmark turns out to be will just have to wait. Then again, it's supposed to be a game that's all about creativity, isn't it?

Maybe we'll get to find out just how creative I can be.


  1. Ha. That last line sounds like a thinly veiled threat. Love it. xD

    This is actually my problem exactly... What is it we're paying for? How much worth does each pack contain? When it comes to the cosmetic stuff, even for those of us interested, how many other people will we encounter? If very few, that would severely devalue the worth..
    Then there's the other issue. The one where it's listed as a free-to-play game but despite this, you get definite benefits if you pay. From the sounds of things, pretty significant benefits, over those who don't. And how much will that affect everybody's ingame enjoyment? Going back to the 'how many people will we encounter?' question. At this stage, I'm clueless. I know it looks like loads of fun and I can't wait to play it but no way can I afford to pay that much for a pre-purchase pack I don't know much about. *shrug*

    1. I'm not going to break the NDA but I might bend it a little.

      The thing is, no company ever comes down hard on anyone who breaks an NDA to say how much they are enjoying something. Why would they? If I'm having fun chances are good I'll be able to find some way to convey that. If I say nothing at all... well, draw your own conclusions.

      If we both get the Trailblazer pack we'll also have eight one-week closed beta keys. There are a few friends and guildmates in other games we'll offer those to, but with luck there should be some left for a competition here. By closed beta it would be nice to think that a week's play would at least give you an idea whether or not it's something you'd be interested in.

  2. Jaedia I think Bhagpuss answered the question "What are we paying for?" pretty well. It's about 60% "I get to start playing months ahead of the general public", 35% "I get some pretty nice and game-affecting items that never deteriorate/get used up", and 5% "unique clothing". For me it was a no-brainer - my 2 daughters' favorite games are Minecraft and GW2. So being able for all 3 of us to start checking the game out later this month was worth it for me. They've had a zillion questions about Landmark since I showed them those first videos in August or whenever that was.


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