Landmark: You see gold, I see dirt

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When you’re an MMO fan, it’s really hard not to jump on board every train that’s carrying passionate fans excited about some new thing.  So when Landmark’s alpha abruptly started on Friday night, I thought what the heck and got a pass into it.

Before I get to my very initial (1-2 hours) thoughts, I want to say I’m a blend of amused and exasperated by the conversation around this game.  It seems that according to many, Landmark is immune to criticism.  Oh, you may well indeed praise it and its dev team for anything you like, but any complaints must instantly be filed under the “it’s an alpha!  of course it’s [buggy/incomplete/dull]!  your opinion is invalid and you smell!”  So wait, if complaining about it is invalid, then why aren’t praises invalid as well?  After all, it’s alpha.

I don’t buy that.  Why?  Well, it’s hard to analyze anything if you can’t look at both sides of the coin honestly.  I think we all know that it’s at the alpha stage, but if SOE is confident in it enough to lift the NDA, then we have the right to say anything good OR bad about it.  I think the devs are probably the ones that are welcoming any valid feedback, far more than just the “ermigahd this is aweeeesome” squees from fans (although those are important too!).

Anyway, that’s a preface to say that I’m pretty underwhelmed by what I saw.  I wanted to see the game engine that will eventually drive EverQuest Next, and for that it’s pretty nice.  The character models are fun, the movement and travel is really well done (small thing: I like how my character’s waist would twist when she swung her axe), and the landscape is pretty if non-descript.  It’s also kind of fun running straight up high peaks at 40 mph.

I guess I’m just genuinely puzzled what people are seeing in this game that I’m not.  I go around and check out the landscape.  I see what people have created with their homes.  I get hopelessly lost because the map is garbage and there’s no on-screen radar.  I mine holes in the ground and chop down trees to vaccuum up tons of resources.  Eventually, I assume I’ll have enough to start crafting and can build a little home.

But… that’s it?  I mean, I know more is coming: combat, crafting progression, um… water.  It’s a nice wide canvas for people to make what they want out of it, but once their houses are made, what else is there to do?  What interactivity will there be between players?  I guess a lot of this is coming later and by waiting we’ll see a more fleshed-out game.  We’re just testing systems at this point.  Those systems are really exciting because they’re new and it’s heady to be a part of all of this right from the start.  But what happens on week three?  If SOE doesn’t start fleshing out this game soon, will they come to regret that early NDA lift?

Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things.  Took me a long time to figure out why I couldn’t stake a claim even if it wasn’t in someone else’s claim (apparently there’s your current claim and your potential future expansions of claim, both of which the game keeps sacred for you).  I had to travel all the way to the edge of a map to find perhaps the last little spot of green anything to claim it.  Those two palm trees are mine, darn it!

I also predict the term “claim clutter” will quickly sweep the world.

I haven’t seen anyone say anything in chat, which is definitely different than what I’m hearing about general chat spam overload.  Eventually someone pointed me to using the crystal above the hub to teleport between islands in order to find tier 1 resources.  I honestly have no idea how to get back to the island with my claim on it now.  I might be a nomad forever.

Oh, so back to a compliment.  I really loved the lengthy intro video by Dave Georgeson.  This sort of widespread alpha needed that, and there was a lot of good expectation-setting and tutorial-giving.

I don’t know what to make of these wide-open sandbox canvases, I really don’t.  On one hand, I do love to create and build homes, but on the other hand when you don’t know all of the ins and outs, it can be frustrating, boring, and seemingly pointless.  Once my pretty house is made, what can I do with it?  What will I be able to do with it?  I already have Trove, and that has combat, pets, mounts, and all the crafting I could want right now.  I’m still trying to get a handle on that, too.  And WildStar’s housing has just the right blend of design, function, and freedom that I enjoy.  What’s Landmark going to be offering that I’m not getting or going to get elsewhere?

I’m on the fence whether to be patient and just fiddle with Landmark every now and then, or to go ahead and get my $60 back.  EQN is the SOE game that I really want to play and so far this is an extremely poor substitute.  Fans of Landmark probably don’t want to see me grousing about it anyway in the feeds, and I have no desire to be the sourpuss at their parade.  I’m not even grumpy about it; more just ambivalent and puzzled.

So what I’ll probably do is acknowledge the highly volatile, transitory nature of alphas and leave it alone for a week, and then come back to see what’s going on once it’s all a bit more stable.  With the money-back guarantee, the onus is on Landmark to prove itself as being worth my cash.  I’m not seeing it yet, but this is only the first couple of days, and that “aha!” moment may still come.

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24 thoughts on “Landmark: You see gold, I see dirt

  1. Stargrace February 3, 2014 / 9:13 am

    It sounds like maybe you’re a bit overwhelmed by the sandbox aspect of the game, there’s little to no themepark, and it can leave people wondering “what is there to do”. Because you have to invent that portion for yourself, and because as you said, it is alpha, you’re really limited. Right now, I’m collecting burled logs, and trading them to other players (the wizard spires is where the chat comes into play) because they’re a pain in the arse to collect. I see myself as a traveling peddler. You can also trade items that other players haven’t time to collect for – maybe for finished craft products, upgraded weapons (there are different versions, even legendary tools) appearance armor, maybe for their claim location. Maybe you craft a maze and give out prizes of awesome tools to players to are able to find their way through, run player events and advertise on the forums, etc. Honestly the game won’t tell you about any of this stuff, you have to come up with it on your own and that is the downside.

  2. Werit February 3, 2014 / 9:17 am

    Lack of function is one of the main things keeping me from the game. I need a reason to build something. If I build a castle, I want it to have a use instead of just being cool.

  3. Stargrace February 3, 2014 / 9:18 am

    Create that reason.

  4. Merecraft February 3, 2014 / 9:18 am

    Here here.
    I feel the same, “ambivalent and puzzled”. I guess by paying such large amounts for entry to an alpha those who are playing and singing it’s praises are already heavily invested in the game (both emotionally and financially). They are also probably genuinely having fun, but I don’t see it doing anything right now that Minecraft doesn’t do (and do much better).
    It has the potential to be a stunning game when finished, but there are so many systems and features left to include there is so much that could go wrong. I’m waiting until it’s actually free to play, then I’ll give it a go, but like you EQ Next is what I’m more interested in.

  5. Sylow February 3, 2014 / 9:27 am

    Alas, another thing on the whole “pay for alpha” thingie: I make good money for actually testing software. With my testing having an actual result (test report) and effect on the software delivered.

    In contrast, i see the gaming communities paying money to be allowed to test, not only beta but even alpha stages of a game by now. And alas, all “testing” i see in those games, whenever i get to observe one, of course is very unprofessional on either side (the developers as much as the players) and of little actual benefit for the game, with the exception of money already being made.

    Next step to come: developers take money and in turn allow players to code the game?

    So, for all it is worth, the game here takes money and thus is life, no matter what label they try to stick on it to have an excuse for bad quality. Would it be a tiny software house, financial problems might necessitate such a move, but with SOE doing so, i just see a big money grab by publishing an unfinished game and calling it “alpha”.

  6. Pete S February 3, 2014 / 9:45 am

    My suggestion would be to get a refund now, then maybe buy the $20 tier when beta rolls around and try that. You might feel different when combat and stuff is in. But maybe not.

    As to “Not allowed to complain” I know that when I say that, at least, it’s directed at people complaining about servers being down or queues or bugs. I think “Alpha” is a valid excuse for that, and when the team is working around the clock to fix it, AND the company offers a full refund, I don’t know what more people expect.

    If people are complaining saying “All it is, is a crafting game” then that’s a very valid complaint.

    For me the acid test is this: Did you find “Creative Mode” in Minecraft boring? If so then EQNL isn’t for you. At least not now.

    I like that “progression” is based on finding ingredients and building better tools rather than stats on my character. And for whatever reason, I get a real kick out of mining out a seam of iron ore or what have you. I’m looking forward to learning the tools to make a really nice looking house/statue/castle/whatever, but at the same time I kind of like that I have to ‘earn’ my way to doing that. (I think if they gave you all the tools you need to extrude faces and tweak vertexes a lot of gamers would be overwhelmed).

    I put maybe 8 hours in the game so far, and I’m having a lot of fun even though, for instance, my claim poofed. For some people grinding dailies in WOW is fun. For others, joining 39 other people to take down a boss is fun. Neither of those is fun for me. But running around a world harvesting stuff and finding semi-rare bits, then crafting new gear and seeing what kind of cool stats it has? To me that’s fun. I haven’t even really touched building yet (because of the claim) so I still have a lot to look forward to.

  7. bhagpuss February 3, 2014 / 9:54 am

    Except for Stargrace I think everyone’s rather missing the point. The people for whom this game works aren’t scratching their heads and wondering “what the heck am I meant to do?”. They may be stamping their feet with impatience because of all the things they can’t do yet, but they know very well what they will do as and when the systems allow them. Those people don’t have any difficulty understanding what there is to do already and imagining what there will be to do in the future. If you aren’t already afire with ideas then quite possibly it’s not the game for you and why should it be?

    Mrs Bhagpuss is fed up with Landmark. She’s back playing GW2 as I type this. Not because there’s nothing for her to do, though. Because she’s already having big ideas and it’s too soon to get started on them because of the current problem with claims and the fact that Landmark is really straining our aging PCs and isn’t running as smoothly as it no doubt will when it gets some optimization love later in the cycle. She’s frustrated by the alphaness of it but not by what it is.

    Even when it’s finished, Landmark is unlikely to suit people who want to be entertained. It’s for people who want to entertain themselves and have something solid to show for it afterwards. Think of it as the difference between reading a book and writing one.

  8. TheHiveLeader February 3, 2014 / 10:11 am

    Sadly I can see how this game is not for a lot of people. Especially at this stage, there is not a whole lot to do. You explore, gather, build, probably get your stuff wiped, gather, build, repeat. Is it broken in places? Yup, but as someone who was just looking for a game to relax with and build some stuff, I find it fun. Is it super entertaining? Eh. But I find it fun.

  9. Moxie February 3, 2014 / 10:26 am

    I agree with Stargrace that you may be getting overwhelmed with the sandbox. Landmark is really appealing out of the box to those who have been spending their time in Minecraft and Wurm Online and have been patiently waiting for a AAA fantasy sandbox – at least that’s the case for me. 😉

    And yes, right now there isn’t a lot to do because it’s not fully fleshed out, but I see where it’s going, and the potential. Sandboxes aren’t for everyone, just as themeparks aren’t for everyone. It’s gotten to the point where if I try playing a traditional themepark MMO (WoW, LotRO, etc) I log off in about 10 minutes out of boredom, because I can’t go tunneling into a mountain for treasure. 😉

    Absolutely there are problems and Sony needs feedback about features, bugs, etc. The only complaining that I think is invalid are complaints about server issues, lag, etc. That’s standard at full-release launch, and unavoidable during a public alpha. But everything else is on the table, and constructive feedback (and lots of it!) is what makes a good game in the end.

    You probably will want to get a refund on Alpha, and wait until Landmark release since it’ll be F2P. Even at that point, just remember that Landmark really is a testing bed for Next, and think about all the possibilities that there will be in Next. If they can pull off a true sandbox/theme park hybrid in Next, that will be nothing short of phenomenal.

  10. tententacles February 3, 2014 / 10:35 am

    It’s for this exact reason I made the decision to be happy with the Settler’s Pack and just wait for the closed beta. I am a huge fan of Minecraft, but I didn’t want to color my overall opinion of Landmark by participating in a stage of development I want to discourage developers from making available to players. And especially discourage them from charging for it.

  11. Syp February 3, 2014 / 10:36 am

    But I’m not overwhelmed with it. I play Trove. I’ve played other sandboxes like Starbound. I get the basic concept of it. I just don’t see the fun of it right now or the potential for where they’re going with it.

    For me, a sandbox isn’t just a crafting/building simulator — I can get that in The Sims. It should be interactive and allow a much wider range of possibilities. Trust me, I can dream up a lot more ideas than this game, or really any game to date, can let me do. I’m willing to be patient and see where it goes, I just don’t see what you guys obviously do, which is how the current state of this game is anything truly different than what’s come before, perhaps other than adding a lot more people into the mix.

  12. Syp February 3, 2014 / 10:40 am

    Another thought: From reading responses and other posts on this, I’m really wondering if people are projecting a lot of wishes and hopes into this game that aren’t currently supported by it and perhaps will be or will never be. The word “potential” comes up a lot, which is exciting but nebulous as well. As in, “this WILL be the best game ever, just give it time” which sounds an awful lot like the typical train of hype that I’ve seen come before a lot of MMOs, especially while in testing stages.

  13. Pete S February 3, 2014 / 10:51 am

    Part of being in Alpha is helping to shape the game.

    But it kind of sounds like you just disagree with us disagreeing with you. We say we’re having fun and you say we’re projecting…

  14. Syl (@Gypsy_Syl) February 3, 2014 / 11:02 am

    This exactly. you echo my own words here in reference to minecraft or trove in the past, athough MC in all fairness is the biggest of all sandboxes thanks to allowing mods and private server hosting and all kinds of modes. creative mode is especially important there and a reason why MC has become such a huge canvas for so many things. if people had to actually gather all that stuff you can see in ‘wow mc servers’ or ‘mc middle-earth’….safe to say they probably wouldn’t exist. does EQNL allow for a unrestricted mode? don’t think so.

    one major sandbox issue is always the same: once the mechanics are internalized and the dream house/castle has been built, people are burnt out. what will you do with the sandbox longterm? – not a lot if it doesn’t allow for a ton more than just building things. and I mean a lot.

  15. Pete S February 3, 2014 / 11:08 am

    @Syp, my last comment reads more aggressively than I intended it to.

    What I mean is that sometimes a person will enjoy something so foreign to the kinds of things you enjoy that you find it hard to accept, and you start trying to explain why they think they’re enjoying it. I almost feel like that’s the case here.

    I can tell you that I find it fun to start mining at a glint of iron and burrow into the earth to see if there’s tourmaline or silver beyond the iron (or something else!?) and you can look at me and think “Well clearly you’re mad.” But that doesn’t mean I’m not having fun. I am.

  16. Dolnor February 3, 2014 / 12:08 pm

    Get your money back….because you don’t understand what this ‘old-time-version’ of Alpha is all about. Yes, it is boring…because 95% of the game is missing. This is the way Alpha testing used to be…server crashing every 20 minutes, nothing to do in the game once you complete the 5% of the content, waiting forever for the next update, etc.

    The game is not engaging at this stage. You can find a better use of your time. Get your money back and return when the game has 70% of the content completed. Otherwise, you’ll just be bored.

    TQQdles™

  17. Syp February 3, 2014 / 12:26 pm

    I’m certainly not intending to be hostile either. I reread and worked that post over a few times to be as fair and honest as possible while trying to convey my… well, “searching” nature of my feelings. I’m wondering out loud here and, as I said in my final sentence, there might still be that moment where the game clicks for me. That’s happened in the past, which is why I don’t always trust my first impressions.

  18. Syp February 3, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    @Syl – That’s pretty much what I’m wondering too. It’s not meant to put anyone on the defensive, either. If you’re having fun with Landmark, GREAT! I’m genuinely happy for you. I want people to love their games. I’m just trying to see what they’re seeing and wondering why few people have concerns the way I seem to.

  19. nukethesitefromorbit February 3, 2014 / 1:07 pm

    While I can certainly understand where your opinion is coming from based on my weekend of playing I do have ask what exactly did you expect from the game at this point? SOE has been about as clear and transparent as any company has in regards to what is NOT in the game at this point and telling people to possibly wait or not buy a key. Over and over again they have emphasized that there are no quests, no npcs, no combat and all other kinds of things not in the current build that they want to slowly add.

    The game is at a point where it needs to be experienced in spurts. Play with it a bit then take some time off and come back later when new things have been added. Some people take issue with that concept when a company is charging for a key but again I think they could not have been more clear… this is an evolving process.

    On the point of refunds I am still conflicted over it. SOE is offering them so by all means take advantage of it but I have to admit I would be hard pressed to justify it in my mind. Even with games like Dead Linger (which I have been very unimpressed with) I knew full well I was buying a key to a game still very much in development and tons of features were not active. I think they are doing the right thing by offering people a refund because unfortunately to many in modern day gaming buy on impulse (which you clearly said you did for this) instead of having a bit of patience. As of today there are several Lets Play videos out there showing the game in its current form which would have saved you the time and money.

    I do think there is room for criticism though in an alpha… that is the point of opening the gates in the first place. Get fresh players in there to see what they think and fix what needs fixing and also get ideas from them about how to move forward. A beta is more about tweaking the decisions that have already been made (or at least that is how I see it).

    What I think will be important is not this past weekend, but perhaps in about 2 weeks time when the initial rush is over and those that were just curious have stopped logging in or claimed their refunds. Then perhaps those that remain will start to really discuss things that can be added in to make the game better. This is what has happened with other games using this model. Starbound being the best example. So many of the mods in the previous build have been or are being integrated into the game now and those are from really involved and passionate players… not players that just bought a key to check it out and were down after a few hours.

    Oh and btw… you have off and on played Fallen Earth. Now that was a horrible alpha. I was in one of the earliest access stages of that game… probably 6-8 months before they did beta and omg was that bad. There were periods sometimes of 1-2 weeks were I could not even log in!

  20. rowan February 3, 2014 / 1:45 pm

    Heck, I’d just like a chance to get in and stake a claim. When the workaround/fix for the claim display glitch (where all the claims you’ve ever seen are visible on the current map) is to log out and then back in again, but when that involves a multi-hour queue, it’s not really a workaround. I’m not really sure why server lag, server stability, and long queues are somehow off the table, other than that the devs are likely already aware of the problems. Of course, there needs to be constructive reporting. Crying about how you couldn’t even get in (kinda like I just did) is not helpful.

    Having said that, I am looking forward to seeing much of the potential of EQNL come to fruition. I haven’t played Minecraft, and Trove does not interest me either. 8-bit graphics, simulated or otherwise, simply hold no appeal. Call me spoiled, but I like better graphics pure and simple. EQNL promises to provide the sandbox experience of those other games with something pretty to look at, and that’s important to me. But for those people that through nostalgia or some other factor like that style or like old games for that matter, more power to ’em.

  21. Moxie February 3, 2014 / 7:32 pm

    I guess what make Landmark different from anything before it is that it is a AAA sandbox. That’s new and different. Minecraft & Trove both have that retro 8-bit thing going on. Wurm is better, but it’s complexity and the sluggish speed of the game have kept it as a niche game. The Sims, well, it’s a sandbox of sorts, but not exactly in the same space or genre.

    I get you Syp, I really do. There needs to be more in Landmark, and according to Sony there will be. Whether that “more” falls short, meets, or exceeds our expectations remains to be seen, but the fact that it’s been so strongly latched onto so far indicates that there is a definite market for this type of game. After all, we’ve all been armchair developers at some point. 🙂

  22. Belghast February 10, 2014 / 5:00 pm

    I guess my question is… did you get as lost in Minecraft as most of us did? if you didn’t then chances are this is the reason why you aren’t really “getting” Landmark. It is like a giant lego set, that you can build anything you can imagine with. That in itself is enough for me, the ability to build really nifty things just by putting tools to the canvas set out in front of me. For me that is game enough, considering the insane number of hours I have spent doing just that in Minecraft. It is that game but improved in every way.

    Folks seem to either be into that or not into it… and both are completely fine points of view. I have a friend that is a game designer, and he just doesn’t get why people like minecraft… because it is like using the world building tools he does every single day. For me it allows me to be the designer and build the game around whatever I want it to be.

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