Landmark Closed Beta is here, just don't get too comfy...
As I'm sure many of you are aware, EverQuest Next Landmark began its closed beta phase this week, and had a little name change to celebrate. Now it's just Landmark; SOE really wants people to know it has two games coming out, not just EverQuest Next. As time and development move on this will become increasingly apparent, Landmark is about to start coming into its own.
As everyone who bought a Trailblazer Founder's Pack should now have four beta keys to give away (keys that now grant unlimited closed beta access), giveaways are everywhere and anyone can hop in for $20, we can expect a large influx of new players. What can they expect to find?
Well, Landmark is in beta, and it shows. The system is more solid and the game features are becoming more robust, but we're still far from the finished product. 'The tip of the iceberg' was how Lead Designer Darrin McPherson put it, while Technical Director and Hero of Alpha Steve Klug said we'd 'barely scratched the surface' of what Landmark will offer.
As the whole development team have been remarkably transparent throughout the development process so far, I'm inclined to believe them. Just how deep the rabbit hole goes is still up for debate, and the topic of rampant speculation, but we can be sure there is still a long way to go.
So while the team is eager to spread the message that Landmark is its own game, they also want us to be acutely aware that it's not finished, it's still being made and the players are driving the development of the game. The day after closed beta launched, Senior Brand Manager Omeed Dariani and Darrin McPherson appeared live with popular streamer CohhCarnage to talk about what we can expect in the future. You can watch the hour-long interview here.
Alpha participants created some amazing things in a short time, creating techniques and wonderfully creative builds that the Landmark team didn't even know were possible. We're going to see more and more as new crafting and building possibilities are introduced, and it'll be amazing, but I'm ready for the new opportunities that will reshape Landmark entirely.
Beta is beta, and everything is still subject to change, but there are a few things that I'm really looking forward to. For simplicity's sake I'll lump them all under the umbrella term 'contention'.
So far we have been able to shape the world at a whim, everything we need is at our fingertips, and we’re living in the Garden of Eden. When the underground is developed and the notorious caves are introduced, we'll be putting in a lot more effort for our rare resources, and with procedural generation, the exploration is infinite. I love spelunking for resources in Minecraft, and I'm hoping Landmark can replicate the delightful feeling of discovery it gives.
It's also been confirmed that we'll need to progress through the resource ratings of tools to even access the lower levels of the world, and that high level materials are going to have serious value. I'm hoping that a player with a top tier legendary pick will be a real commodity for their guild, rather than an expected end to the 'leveling' process. When we have to make meaningful choices to specialize in one direction, player interdependency can emerge. It won't be necessary for those who just want to jump in and play around, but for the people who want to create something really special there'll be no choice but to work together.
We'll be happy to have allies of course; while we're down there poking around we'll be up against things that poke back. With dangerous entities in the deep dark, we'll not just be looking out for ore veins, we'll also be keeping our eyes open for the nasties who want to take a chunk out of us. With a basic weapon based combat system we'll have to be ready to defend ourselves, and we'll be able to go looking for trouble. Hopefully with an early version of the Storybricks based AI system, our NPC enemies will have their own needs, wants and goals.
This is what I mean by contention—when different agents in the game world are working towards conflicting goals and the game can become fluid and dynamic through the action or inaction of players, it's no longer the work of the developer to shape the world—the world shapes itself. This is really the essence of what a sandbox game is, and hopefully it’s going to keep Landmark fresh and challenging long after the first mega-builds have been relegated to templates.
The world pushing back against players is going to change everything in Landmark. Not just with the mechanics—it’s going to change how we interact with each other, how we spend our resources and even the fundamental way we approach the game.
The best part is that there are still more game changing features coming after that.
If you are coming into the game for the first time or talking a friend into accepting one of your beta keys, remember that when they say the game isn't finished, they really mean it. In a matter of months the game will be radically different. So if you're new around here, sit back and enjoy the ride, because we have a long way to go. Welcome to Landmark.