Is it time for Landmark to leave the RPG to EQN?
As I write this, my country is finishing sorting out who gets to form a government, the Landmark servers are still down, it’s the 70th anniversary of VE Day and I’m less than an hour away from playing Black Desert for the first time. It’s been a real rollercoaster of emotions already and I haven’t finished my first cup of tea.
Maybe it’s the raw emotion of the situation, the fact I’m still getting over a stomach bug or some manner of delirium caused by lack of tea, but as I sit here in my dressing gown a feeling is creeping over me, a thought I never believed I would entertain.
Since the surprise announcement of Landmark, rapidly approaching two years ago, I was shocked but extremely pleased that it was intended to be its own game, rather than an addon on module or satellite product of EverQuest Next.
One aspect I could never reconcile, however, was what to do with all of those people who would have preferred Landmark, with its incredible voxel technology and astonishing potential as a building tool, to exist as a ‘creative mode’ experience outside of an rpg-like game environment.
It was a totally understandable position, and a desire I could really sympathize with. Unfortunately, at the end of the day it was not something that could have been reconciled with the core principles of Landmark.
It was a shame, but I believed the goal of Landmark was much grander, and would ultimately include those people in a more satisfying way. By creating a community of players with different goals but mutually beneficial partnerships, perhaps the game could recapture the magic of old-school MMO community while providing modern, innovative and forward thinking gameplay.
Happily (depending on your perspective), my vision of what the game would be is not going to come to pass. It’s become very clear that Landmark is now about building first and everything else is of secondary importance. Daybreak had good reasons for these changes, and I resigned myself to the likelihood of this some time ago.
What’s important now is that Landmark becomes the best building game it can possibly be. Right now the game is trapped in a kind of limbo between its original purpose and its new mission; it’s neither here nor there, somewhere between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes I like to double-up on idioms so everyone knows I’m being clichéd on purpose.
I believe the best chance the game has to achieve its new goal is to focus on its biggest assets—namely the extraordinary talents of its players, and its connection to EverQuest Next.
The builders of Landmark began creating amazing things right out of the gate. From the first days of alpha we’ve seen things no one would have thought possible in a voxel engine, let alone made by a player. The standard and quality of builds has increased with incredible consistency; the players continue to raise the bar and support each other in reaching new heights.
Why is it still necessary for such skilled artists and technicians to jump through RPG hoops in order to do what they want in the game? I don’t think many players are planning on roleplaying a magical builder, and with the new core gameplay being much more about individual ability than communal effort, what purpose do the RPG systems serve?
These elements have to exist for the game to fill the role as a development tool for EverQuest Next, but now they feel like obstacles rather than opportunities. There’s no sense of reckless adventure like Trove, no environmental pressure like Minecraft, and no peaks to carry the momentum or create a satisfying gameplay loop.
Remember back when people were confused about the relationship between Landmark and EQN? It seems like only yesterday, probably because your general video game and MMO enthusiast still doesn’t seem to get it, even today. There are even people who have played the game that will commonly refer to it as ‘EverQuest Next Landmark’, the name by which it was originally known.
Previously this was a bit of a weakness, as the true nature of Landmark was difficult to squeeze into a soundbyte or references to existing games. Now, as the marketing ramps up and the hype train gets moving for EQN, the link between the two games is a strong selling point for Landmark.
At this point, I’m not sure how successful Landmark can be on its own, in terms of attracting new players. While I’m sure the hardcore community will be around for some time, player churn is a fact of life and stagnation is poison for a game like this.
There are so many ways that EverQuest Next and Landmark can benefit each other in a symbiotic setup, not just in terms of population or gameplay, but in giving the Landmark players an audience for their work. They deserve it, and they won’t get it otherwise.
So times change, the world turns, and things happen that are often outside of our control. The best course is usually to re-examine and adapt, to take the change as a new opportunity and make the most of it. If we cling to old ideas that no longer have a use we’re just wasting energy and time.