Sunday, January 19, 2014

Landmark: Saga of Heroes : EQN Landmark

Reaction in my Feedly stream to the recent splurge of information on Landmark, has been distinctly and surprisingly sparse. Indeed, other than Keen's post-of-record and my own linking squib I don't think I saw anything. Even Keen's detailed report didn't generate much comment.

Maybe other people didn't glean as much from it but for me the Livestream finally answered some of my most pressing questions, particularly concerning the importance and significance of Claims. When I gave Mrs Bhagpuss a brief summary of how it's going to work she said "Oh, like Vanguard then!" and that sums it up perfectly.

The similarities are quite striking.

Location, Location, Location
Are you sure that goblin was a qualified architect?

In Vanguard, all houses stand in the open world. You can't build just anywhere, there are defined housing areas, but there's no instancing. When Vanguard was very busy (Trust me, for a while it really was) competition for the best plots was intense. Certain housing locations were highly desired, either because of the facilities, which varied considerably from area to area, or because of the proximity to popular adventuring haunts.

Some individual plots were especially coveted for aesthetic reasons. There was a single plot on a small island (from memory it was just off the Dornal Coast in Qalia) we envied so much that every time we sailed past it on our sloops we'd throw stones at the house someone had built there.

I said you were cutting those beams too long but would you listen?

We spent hours exploring Thestra and Qalia for the ideal plot. My first house was in a windswept, isolated cove near Konarthi Point in Thestra. I was very happy there at first but after a while the solitude and the rain began feel oppressive and the sheer distance from anything and anywhere began to wear me down so I sold up and moved to the sunswept sands of Abella Cove on Qalia. Mrs Bhagpuss had already claimed a plot on the beach and it was a nervous Raki who dismantled his Thestran cottage, sold the bricks and traveled halfway across the world hoping all the plots hadn't gone.

Having seen the Livestream I now understand that staking a claim in Landmark is like that. It's no longer some nebulous, hazy concept but a straightforward, very comprehensible and practical proposition. Yes, the world of Landmark will be vast at the start and infinitely expandable. Yes, everyone will be able to claim somewhere to build. If you want the right place, though, the perfect place, then you'll have to explore and you'll have to compete.

All Fall Down
In Vanguard you own your house but you don't own the land on which it stands. You pay a weekly upkeep fee for the plot and if that lapses your house falls down.

Alright, it doesn't actually fall down. It disappears and the plot becomes available for anyone else to snap up and build on. You don't lose anything other than the right to that spot. Everything from the bricks in the wall and the tiles on the roof to the furniture, fixtures and fittings inside automagically flit away to Escrow, a form of storage accessible to any character on your account from any of the many escrow merchants who hang around housing areas all over Telon.

Wherever I lay my cheese, that's my home.

If you stop playing for a while and let your house fall down, all you need to do when you return is scout out a new plot (or reclaim your old one if it turns out that you were the only one who'd live there on a bet after all), pay the purchase fee, take your stuff out of escrow and rebuild.

Landmark works in a very similar similar way. There will be upkeep on your Claim. If you fail to meet the payments for whatever reason everything you've built will vanish and the spot will be free to be claimed by anyone who takes a fancy to it. All the materials you used to build it, however, and everything you had in and on it, will be retained for future use. Moreover, you'll also have the Template for the structural design safely saved away, meaning you can rebuild with ease, just as soon as you find another Claim to your liking.

Expand That Chest
My next chest's going to be this big!
In Vanguard one of the pragmatic reasons for owning a house is storage. Depending on the size of the house you can place a number of chests ranging from a couple in the smallest dwelling up to a dozen in the largest of guild halls. Chests are independent of the global storage system, so if you need something from one of your chests you have to go back to your house to get it.

For a while back when I was playing Vanguard regularly, acquiring and stocking chests in my house was a significant goal. Even with three continental banks and a generous amount of on-character storage I still never felt I had enough chest space. Now there's a surprise.

Landmark has a system of personal storage using upgradeable chests placed at your claim that sounds very similar indeed.  Vanguard also had an undocumented storage option: you could place literally any item in your inventory in your house and it would leave your packs and become a visible object in your home. If there was a graphic available you would see that. Otherwise it would display as a small, wooden goblet. It would be nice if Landmark works that way, too, although preferably minus the goblets.

Moving on... apart from the reassuring and welcome familiarity provided by the line of descent from Vanguard some other very welcome news came our way both in and out of the Livestream.

Beware Of The Flowers
Hey, I can chop this guy down to size, right, so I'm going worry about some overgrown daffodil?
The world itself, or at least the few snippets we have so far seen, looks delightful but an aesthetically satisfying surface, while vital for gaining attention, generally won't be sufficient in itself to hold interest indefinitely. My concern with procedural landscapes in principal is that by definition they lack any context that would make them worth exploring. Like a fireworks display, you can only ooh and aah at a beautiful view for so long before the experience becomes enervating.

I feel considerably re-assured that lack of meaningful context won't be any more of a problem in Landmark than it is in most other MMOs. I anticipate owning a sense of purpose as I explore, and also having to keep my wits about me.

The brief discussion on "hazards" and particularly the cameo appearance of The Chomper did a lot to convince me that there will be plenty to occupy those of us who aren't bursting with architectural fantasies just crying out to be realized, as did clarification of the need to explore, gather and discover before you can build.

I can now imagine making a role for myself as the supplier rather than the designer in this creative ecosystem, the trapper and hunter ranging deep into the forests in search of exotic pelts or the botanic explorer mounting specimen-gathering expeditions in a world where the flowers really are out to get you.  Yeah.

You Sure That's Real Money ?
There was financial news too. Firstly Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson popped up to quell a growing insurrectionist rumor that upkeep would require real money payments via Station Cash.

His reply that "Some things have an SC *option* but currently there's nothing that is SC *only* except Player Studio items" does feature the ever-popular get-out clause "currently" but I think that's just standard self-protection. I'm happy to take it that Landmark will be Pay To Skip not Pay To Play.

Better yet came the confirmation that Player Studio will be rolled out to European players. Smed's twitter comment was definite if limited: "...on EU Player Studio – we had to figure out the relevant tax forms and legal regulations. This has never been about anything other than annoying taxation and legal things we had to get buttoned up.". Whether that really means "EU" or whether it includes the non-EU states bundled up in the PSS1 deal I guess we have to wait and see, as indeed will the rest of the world.

With the whole ethos of both Landmark and EQNext predicated on Player Studio, universal access will have to be made to happen somehow or the games just aren't going to be viable for whoever gets left out. Not, at least, if haves and have-nots are all playing together on the same servers. This is a step in the right direction although how far down that road we will be by the time Landmark goes live is anyone's guess.

And Finally
Happiness is a flat roof and no more plots between you and the horizon.
Terry Michaels, Senior Producer on Landmark, rolled out a short video . Mostly he summarizes things announced and discussed at greater length elsewhere but towards the end he mentions a forthcoming Dev Diary on crafting. With luck that should fit enough pieces into the jigsaw so we should at least have the frame finished even if we can't yet see the completed picture.

One Trailblazer and one Explorer pack purchased. Roll on Alpha.

[Sorry if anyone's seeing what look like half-finished versions of this post that keep changing. Blogger's Preview function has been broken for me for a while now and I'm reduced to live editing for the final cut. Finished now. I think...]


  1. Thanks for this thorough briefing on Landmark - I haven't kept up lately with EQN. I am still really struggling with pro7sat....last week I made a SOE account and was then forced back to also make the pro7 account, which didn't work for some reason so now I am stuck at authentication. not a great start.

    1. I have lost track of what is going on with SOE/PSS1. The whole thing is a tangled mess now. Well, even more of one. How it is going to work with Landmark specifically excluded from the PSS1 deal and being handled exclusively by SOE but Next being only available through PSS1 even for those EU players currently still able to to keep their SOE accounts via grandfather rights, heaven only knows.

      Factor in the feed process of assets built on your Landmark account to your characters on your EQNext account and the real money and taxation issues that will bring up and I just can't see it working. I would not be surprised, if Landmark is a big success, to see SOE decide to keep full control of Next.

      I was on the English-Language Allaplaya website today. It's embarrassingly cheap and badly translated. I'm still amazed Sony are willing to be associated with it. All other factors aside, surely it can't be an appropriate brand match for them?

    2. Haha you were able to access an English site? lucky you! I was forced on the German version with no way whatsoever to change to English. that alone wants me to turn my back on the game forever, I was so horribly annoyed by it.

      It's still beyond me how they thought any of this oddball marriage with PSS1 was a good idea. blarGH.

  2. I'm steering clear of the hype and even the hope for this pair of games. I'd be much more interested in playing Next rather than Landmark anyway so it's not a 'thing' yet for me, but the PSS1 mess is a big red stop sign for me to even try the game anyway. No point me getting invested in Landmark at all if I'd be forced to play EQN through PSS1.

    I've looked at the Alaplaya website too, it's just terrible!

    1. I sympathize but I decided a long time back that I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my face and refuse to play EQNext because of the PSS1 involvement. Once I found out they take payment by PayPal I even decided I would be prepared to pay them if I have to. The deal-breaker would be if I have to give them credit card details. That's not happening (although given Sony's track-record of looking after that sort of thing I really can't say that's a rational place to draw a line).

  3. Wait, if you have to pay rent on your plot of land, and there will be options other than Station Cash, doesn't that then require there be some sort of in-game economy with ways to earn another currency aside from selling things you made, because presumably nobody will have this in-game currency... or enough of it... to get the ball rolling? I must have missed something along the way.

    1. I've been under the impression there would be an imaginary money economy as well as a real one from the start although now you point it out I'm not sure what my evidence for that is. I'd have to go re-watch and re-read everything to prove it, which I am very definitely not about to do, but I seem to remember something being mentioned about having the option to sell crafting materials for real money. I think I took the implication to be that the other option was selling them for in-game money, not "or you could not sell them at all", but I may have misunderstood.

      If I'm right and there is a "gold" economy then in alpha I would bet they just waive fees or give us a stipend. By beta there will probably be both mobs and combat. SOE keep re-iterating that Landmark is a full-feature MMO. Certainly no-one has said there *won't* be NPCs. Or quests. Mobs drop stuff. It's what they do. NPCs buy it. Ditto. Voila, in-game economy.

      So that's one possibility.

      Another is that the in-game method of paying upkeep requires materials not money. Either pay 100sc or deposit 100 gold ore, for example.

      There must be lots of ways it could be done. I could sit here thinking them up or I could go play GW2 and wait for alpha :P

  4. I think my mind keeps blanking on the idea that Landmark is going to be a full MMO, complete with all the cash extracting free to play options, because that pretty much moves "EverQuest Next" into the realm of "EverQuest in the Next Few Years."

    Back at SOE Live, Landmark seems like a minor adjunct to EQN. Now Landmark is everything and EQN has been relegated to endless silly polls on how many color choices should dwarven beards have.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide