A closer look at the planned Free-to-Play model of Landmark.
With a torrent of news and announcements about EverQuest Next Landmark this week I was spoiled for choice when it came to choosing a topic to discuss, though one stood out as a foundation of the game's potential success.
This week, Minecraft passed 100 million registered users, with over 14 million paid accounts, so it's safe to say there is a market for voxel based sandbox games.
Minecraft caused a seismic shift in the gaming industry; it totally changed the landscape of how games are made and viewed. Many games have seen great success that may not have even been possible without the foundation laid down by Marcus 'Notch' Persson and Mojang, but the question remains whether SOE can build on these foundations with EverQuest Next Landmark or if it will fall into the traps set for the Free-to-Play developer.
Director of Development Dave Georgeson took to the official forums to give us a first look at what to expect from the business model for EverQuest Next Landmark, causing an emotional rollercoaster worthy of an Oscar nominated film. At least, that's what you'd think reading the comments. With the exception of a few standouts and hints at features to come, it's pretty standard fare, the good and bad of what we expect from a current Free-to-Play title. So read on for the ups and downs of the post, keep your hands and arms inside the column and remember that this is subject to change.
Very soon we'll see the beginning of the long term monetization strategy for Landmark. By the end of March, SOE is planning to give us the most and least controversial items on our future shopping lists.
Item 1: Outfits
Cosmetic outfits were a given, really. With Landmark being a canvas for players to paint with their creativity, it makes perfect sense that we should be able to dress our characters as we see fit. Hopefully in the future we'll see additions from the Player Studio to complement SOE's catalogue.
Item 2: Resources
Buying resources is certainly the hot button issue at the moment—it’s even been called Pay-to-Win. Exactly what you win is yet to be seen, but with the possibility of making real money from the Player Studio every hint of an advantage is bound to be scrutinized. Dave Georgeson did his best to smooth any potentially ruffled feathers by reiterating the point that the final model for progression will not be focussed on amassing large volumes of resources, and hinted at an achievement based progression system that could be rather interesting. This has been more interesting than a debate about how much a game needs to resemble a Skinner Box before it can satisfy the compulsive behavior of certain 'hardcore' players, at any rate.
While I was fairly nonplussed at the thought of buying resources, one phrase that set my jimmies rustling was 'Point of Need interfaces'. To me that says 'UI button with SC on it'. While we as consumers must remain aware of the need for SOE to make a profit, I believe it to be in poor taste to lace my interface with reminders that I could pay money to skip aspects of an experience I'm meant to be enjoying. To me, this smacks of the awful 'social gaming' monetization that has become so ubiquitous in mobile gaming.
Ultimately the question is: Will players buying resources with real money negatively affect the game experience of players who choose not to? If it affects the design and balance of the game the answer could still be 'yes'.