Today’s a big day for Landmark. Or maybe tomorrow will be. Or perhaps Friday.
Whenever the latest update goes live, it’ll represent the biggest chunk of new content added to the game.. well, ever. That includes the alpha launch, Director of Development Dave Georgeson and Senior Producer Terry Michaels told us during a press-only stream on Tuesday.
As for exactly when you’ll be able to experience that content, that was something the guys were less certain about. The servers went down for updating at 10 a.m. PST Wednesday and will be back up “in four to 48 hours,” Georgeson said semi-seriously. As he put it, the dev team worked a 31-hour day when alpha launched (impressive, with the warping of time and all) and they didn’t want to repeat that situation this time around. It’ll be ready when it’s ready, and with fewer bleary-eyed developers.
And when it’s ready, expect a whole new Landmark.
Live, die, repeat
“Overall, this update completes what we call a gameplay loop,” Georgeson said, with that loop being the standard MMO circle of life and death: going out in the world, exploring, killing monsters, and getting loot. A lot more of that will feel more natural with this update, with armor having combat stats, allowing you to better customize your character for battle.
Georgeson and Michaels also showed off some of the new weapon sets, including a dual-dagger set, sword/shield combo, and greatsword that deal poison, shadow, and lightning damage, respectively. Armor feeds into that, granting bonuses to certain weapon types or enabling different play styles. “It allows you to focus in on the kind of gameplay you’re going to want,” Michaels said, in ““letting people have the choices to go find what they want and play the game they want to play.”
If all of this sounds like an MMO – specifically EverQuest Next – that’s no accident. A lot of the elements the Landmark team is building will be further refined and implemented into EQN. Such as…
The guys showed off some of the new monsters coming to Landmark, including the slaug, a quick-moving (we assume – pathing was turned off in the build we watched, but we were assured it was deadly) goblin-like creature with a nasty blade and the abomination, a lump of slime with teeth and tentacles… and a poison cloud… and a wicked knockback attack. Also, the fiery fungus, a kind of exploding mushroom deathtrap, can now blow chunks out of the ground. Yay, block physics!
And where will you find these monsters? Some will be on the surface, but they’ll be even more prevalent in the reworked (and greatly expanded) cave system. Owing to people’s dislike of having their claims disrupted, there’s no more surface access to caves – though that will return in open beta – but there are five layers of caves underground, where players can explore, fight, loot, and probably die. Don’t worry, there are graveyards in the caves you can rez at now. I mean, you should still worry, what with the vicious monsters and all…
And it’ll be dark. Very dark. Above-ground nighttime was made darker, and caves – which they couldn’t show us quite yet because they weren’t live on their server – will be darker still. In addition to the added danger, this means player-generated light sources will pop even more brilliantly and “going solo into the caverns will be an interesting experience,” according to Georgeson.
But the most ooh- and ahh-worthy part of the presentation had to be the new linking and triggering system, allowing players to build interactivity into sets of objects.
A simple example would be putting a switch on your wall that opens a door or turns on a light. Or, you could put two switches on the wall: one opens the door and the other opens a trap door under your unsuspecting guest’s feet. Or the switch could flick on a light, which causes a series of other lights to turn on, which then links to other lights, which then link to… the possibilities are endless.
Georgeson demonstrated this with a simple perpetual motion machine. He laid out five trap doors, which I’ll call A, B, C, D, and E. He then set it up so that when he clicked on A, it opened. When it fully opened, B opened. When B fully opened, C opened and A closed. You see where this is going. Once E fully opened, A opened, and the sequence started again, with two trap doors open at all times. He then showed off a more complex “machine,” in which some of the trap doors were also linked to a bank of lights and a fire, which he compared to a spaceship’s computer banks and engines, if you were inclined to look at them that way and build around them.
But wait, there’s more! You can set areas to trigger, so if you walk into a certain space in your claim, something happens, like a light going on, which you can then set to go off as you leave – perfect for the automated house of the future or a spooky haunted house. (Or for a trap door. Really, you don’t want to visit my claim.) In the future, the team hopes to build conditionals and simple logic into the system.
(Something I just thought of: This update adds VOIP support, so wouldn’t it be neat if we could see voice-activated controls someday? Make it happen, SOE!)
And if you build your cool and complex claim and forget to pay upkeep? It’s annoying to have to start fresh in a new location, so the team is building in “ghosting” for claims, so if you miss your upkeep payment, your claim will still be “there” until someone else claims that area. If you come back before someone does that, you can take over right where you left off. Claims and characters will be wiped for open beta, however, just as they were between alpha and closed beta, so don’t get too attached. (You’ll still be able to reclaim anything that was purchased through the marketplace or Player Studio.)
There are still a lot of things the dev team hopes to implement in the early part of 2015. A real player economy and achievements are just around the corner, we’re told. The achievement system will help guide players through the early part of the game, while the economy will be bolstered by claim vendors, which let players essentially open up shops on their claims to buy and sell their loot. You’ll also be able to salvage your unwanted loot with a new crafting station, the etherstone. GM tools, allowing you more freedom to build encounters and game content, are further down the line – and were mentioned as another feature important to the development of EverQuest Next.
In fact, more than ever, Landmark is looking like the very long beta test for EverQuest Next. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the combat we were shown today and the combat videos from SOE Live, and Georgeson said that once everything was in place in Landmark, SOE could go all-out in their development of EQN. I think that means we still won’t see anything playable for EQN until 2016, but the future looks bright – unless you’ve fallen through one of my trap doors.