I’m questioning if it was wise of SOE to drop the NDA so quickly. Waiting another couple of weeks may end up having been a safer decision. I will preface this at the start by saying, YES, the game is in an alpha and anything can change between now and release.
The zones look and feel procedurally generated. They’re rather blah from a terrain perspective. Sarzan thinks they will feel more distinct once NPCs and NPC manned structures are added. To that I say, I’ve been in unpopulated zones in a game before that at least felt interesting. These don’t at all. I am making allowances for the fact that a good chunk of the landmass must be reserved for player structures which leaves wide swathes of barren landscape. Regardless, all I can say is how a game feels or doesn’t, and at this point it doesn’t feel visually inspiring.
One of the things that made MineCraft fun was the ability to quickly build as you go. You don’t have to harvest for hours before seeing the fruits of your labor. So far, the harvesting is a bit of a grind in Landmark. The number of subcomponents needed is too high in my opinion. Needing a 100 pieces of stone to build a single stone block is a bit much. Similarly, you have to gather multiple components to make your tools and unlock building skills. You end up needing 1500 pieces of this and 1000 pieces of that and 15 of this-that-and-other, to make a single tool. I do realize that this is their progression gate but in the doing, it feels like a lot for a single tool, let alone the tens of thousands of pieces needed to build a small structure.
Uh where’s my Stuff?
Yep, it’s alpha but losing what you build multiple times without recovering the raw materials is discouraging. Part of the testing should be about building structures, using the various build tools and crafting stations to create more sophisticated elements. I don’t see how I’ll get that far sustaining repeated loses of progress. I think the alpha might be better served to provide players with a repo of the base materials everyday or at least after each time the server crashes. I’ve seen VERY FEW player built elements of any kind on claims outside of plopping down the crafting stations.
Recovering from the second loss of my base structure, I decided to build underground and use the raw material blocks ala MineCraft. In doing so, I was able to tunnel out a structure and add external dressing in a couple of hours. However, the next time I logged in, once again it was all gone. I don’t know if this is a bug. I’m really hoping that it is. I don’t like the idea of not being able to build structures from the base/raw cubes of materials. If it’s intentional, I think that it should be revisited. Starting your structures from base raw materials lets you experiment more quickly and easily. It lets you get to the fun part of the game.
I’m glad that I picked up my crafting stations off of my claim last night. When I checked on my claim this morning, my whole complex was covered over - again. I see the smoke billowing out of the sand from the torches I’d placed on the interior walls, the tip of my flag pole jutting out and flapping in the wind. My Void Vault or whatever that thing is called is buried again and I have no intention of digging it out.
Empty Claims Abound
More servers are coming for people who didn’t get in the game lickety-split to snap up a claim. Every zone is full, all claims taken, yet mostly barren. I’m WAY OUT IN THE BOONIES!! Quite a haul from the portal but it was the only space available. I don’t think that will matter as much once each zone is populated with the various nodes. For now, however, it’s a long walk back to the portal to jump to the different zones where I need components.
Things I hope are quickly addressed:
- We need a mini map or at the very least a compass.
- Like other games, I should have some way of knowing if I can harvest a node before wasting time on the attempt. I don’t want to see the “you’re too low” after the fact.
- Reduce the number of raw materials needed per component. 100-to-1 is feeling too high.
- Until structure wipes stop or the issue causing them is fixed, grant players a stock of the T1 raw materials. How much testing of digging and hacking needs to be done?? We can get on with trying the crafting stations, tools, recipes and building structures.
- Fix or support building from raw/base components ala MineCraft to allow experimentation – I can upgrade when I have supplies. Right now, my structures using these are gone the next time I log in.
- Fix or support living in tunneled out dwellings – they’re getting covered over.
- Include the ability to see known recipes without interacting with crafting stations. I often need that information while I’m out harvesting, especially when uncommon components are needed.
- Increase the size of the zones – they feel very small even in their mostly barren state.
I Expected More
Right, wrong or indifferent, I expected more. I hold EQ2 as the best crafting and housing system of any MMO I’ve played, bar none! There’s an element of mystery and wonder missing that was captured in MineCraft. And when the MMO acronym is attached, I expect even more inspiration to be part of that world.
Even playing original MineCraft on the Xbox in safe mode (no NPCs or structures) there was a sense of wanting to explore a zone. The landmass was more visually diverse – mountains, caves, pools of water, etc., than the Landmark biospheres we’re seeing right now. I know there are more biospheres in store. The problem is that like a trailer, I think you'd want a more impressive first showing. Not your most complicated zones during an alpha but a taste of something more than what was introduced as our first setting in alpha. But that's just me.