SOE On Why EQN Landmark Is Its *Real* Next Big Thing

By Nathan Grayson on November 11th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

EverQuest Next sounds marvelous. Maybe, finally, it will be the fountain of youthful innovation that this creaky, stuck-in-its-ways genre so desperately needs. A lot of jaded players are pinning their hopes on it, so fingers crossed. Here’s the thing, though: SOE’s EverQuest Next is actually only a very small part of the bigger picture. EverQuest Next: Landmark is the game that SOE thinks should *really* have everybody talking. It’s a tool that, in theory, will allow anyone to construct their own MMO world. EverQuest, SOE hopes, is done being a single game. Instead, it’s destined to become a player-generated universe, a rainbow sea of crisscrossing themes, settings, and goals. I spoke with director of development David Georgeson about specifics of things like classes, emergent AI, and combat, as well as trolling and why SOE is actually happy that player created content could entirely overshadow their own. It’s all below. 

RPS: You said Landmark is “effectively” a build-your-own MMO tool, but will players be able to do anything beyond building environments and structures? What about NPCs and quests?

Our version of EverQuest Next is just a professionally developed alternative.

Georgeson: Absolutely. Absolutely. Almost everything that we can do, we’re going to let the players do. There might be a few tricks that are just too grognard to put out to the players, but very, very few. We have every intent to make sure that players can do everything we can, because we really want to see what kinds of stuff they come up with. We also want to allow them to help us build EverQuest Next.

By the time we launch EverQuest Next, Landmark players will have all those tools, and they’ll have had them for months.

RPS: How robust will those tools be?

Georgeson: Very. We have to be able to do it too. The tools that we have to create quests, players will also have.

Other SOE Dev Whose Name I Shamefully Did Not Get: And we’ll be able to be more specific about this stuff in the future. Right now you’re playing with the building tools, so there’s a huge amount of concrete information there. But we’ll talk more about how the game works specifically over time.

RPS: What sorts of quests are you aiming to create on the SOE side? Are you breaking free from traditional disguise-the-grind MMO stuff?

Georgeson: Yeah, it definitely won’t be traditional quest stuff. Our emergent AI system is pretty cool, but I really can’t tell you about a lot of that stuff. We’re still making it up. But the idea is that its a big sumo match. So the orcs want something, the pillagers want something else, the goblins want something else, and they’re constantly ebbing and flowing. If the goblins don’t get what they want, they end up pushed into other areas. There’s all this kind of push-shove back-and-forth of the ecosystem of the world.

The quests are designed in a similar fashion using that as a foundation. So procedural quests and stuff like that can be generated on the fly, and in Landmark, players can use the same tools as us to craft opportunities of their own. It’s a very dynamic, very organic-feeling process. You don’t just type out a long story and have players click through dialogue. You don’t have the guy with the exclamation point over his head. We’re just not doing that anymore. It’s a different kind of game. But the end result should still feel very consistent and tight, because you still develop all kinds of lore and story in dialogue that characters can say. They just do it situationally.

Other Dev: But a lot of that is a bit further out. The launch version is mostly focused on building.

RPS: Landmark also has combat and objectives and whatnot, though? How will the combat work?

Georgeson: In old MMOs, when monsters started to attack, dice rolls had already determined if they was going to hit you or not. We’re not doing that. We’re allowing you to move out of the way and do stuff that way. With positioning of your abilities versus what the monster is doing, it’s a very fluid situation. There’s no lather, rinse, repeat mechanic that works all the time.

Other Dev: One very important distinction of it that we’re beginning to clarify is, in EverQuest Next, you will go out and collect all of these classes. We’ll have 40 different classes from launch. Landmark has only one class, but we’ve talked about finding items that give you abilities that – in another game – might be associated with different classes. So if you find or make a sword, then you could do melee, for instance.

RPS: 40 classes? That’s a lot. More so than even post-decade-of-expansion EverQuest. How do you justify having so many? What’s the point?

Georgeson: Well, we have 20 in EQ, and those classes are gigantic. They have 40, 50 skills. What we’re talking about here is making classes that have eight to twelve skills. That way, the differentiation between those classes can be much more significant. We can make somebody that’s really good at melee but they need to be stealthy to do it. We can have magicians that teleport versus magicians that summon pets and so on and so forth. All those things are different classes. So it’s easy for us to get out 40 classes that feel significantly different from each other because we’re minimizing the overlap between classes.

RPS: Whereas in EQN: Landmark, you’re basically multi-classing, right?

Georgeson: It’s kind of like multi-classing lite. Whereas in EQN, you’d go out and find those classes, then settle on abilities you want. In Landmark, what you’re really doing is sticking with the same class and allowing you to craft different weapons that bring different abilities to your hotbar when you use them.

RPS: Why do it differently between the two games?

Georgeson: We didn’t want Landmark to be about character progression in the same way we’re doing it in EQN. What we really wanted to do is ensure that Landmark is oriented around creation and being able to survive in a world of creation. We just didn’t want to go down that road. We wanted to keep it simple in Landmark.

RPS: Is Landmark going to be on multiple player-powered servers ala Minecraft, or is SOE going to function as the backend for all of it?

Georgeson: We’re going to run all the servers because it’s an MMO. But we don’t lock people into worlds. We want people to be able to freely move between millions of players, not thousands. Because let’s say you like building sci-fi stuff, but the world you pick ends up being heroic fantasy oriented. What we do is we allow players to package up all their stuff and move it somewhere else – even to another world/server.

So let’s say I’m pissed off because someone built a sci-fi robot right next to my medieval castle. So I package up my castle and go looking for an area that has lots of medieval stuff in it. And then when I set my stuff down there, what I’ve effectively done is set myself up with a community of like-minded people. I think over time, that’s going to become the de facto thing. People will naturally gravitate toward where the things they like are set up.

RPS: What about trolling? It seems like it’d be pretty easy to wreck someone’s Landmark creation or, say, cover their meticulously crafted fantasy kingdom in robots and dinosaurs and zompires. You just follow the person to wherever they go next. Yeah, you’ve got a bunch of like-minded people together, but one rotten egg can still ruin it.

Georgeson: That’s pretty savvy. I’m not going to cotton around it: that is possible. But you can protect yourself against it by using multiple claims. As you collect extra claims – either by buying them or earning them inside the game – and you start associating with other people, you can essentially lock down an area so that other people can’t mess with it.

Plus, the worlds are huge. There’s no reason to troll, other than to troll. You’re absolutely right, though: some people will do that. But there are mechanisms to protect yourself.

RPS: How will actually playing in player-created worlds work? Like, will we be able to switch into EQN’s progression in order to experience places? Will people still be running around and building while I’m trying to quest and inhabit this environment? Because I could see that being kind of distracting if someone, say, floated by and built a volcano. It’d be tough to believe I was in a fantasy or sci-fi world if the whole thing just felt like it was under construction. 

Georgeson: A lot of the content that people create will probably be in instance pockets. So you might have a portal that says, “This leads to labyrinthine portal of blah blah blah,” and you click on that and it loads you into an instance. That way, it’s not part of the big over-land world. So for instance, you wouldn’t want the podracers from Star Wars to be next to your medieval castles and all that. So a lot of those activities will be inside of instances.

RPS: Podracing, you say? Are there systems in Landmark that let me build propulsion and physics?

Georgeson: Actually, that’s a bad example. No, we don’t have that kind of stuff in the game yet. One of the beauties of Landmark is that it’s not gonna stop growing. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re releasing it in a modular fashion. Because as players tell us what they like and don’t like, we’re going to be adjusting our design. That’s why we’re not announcing dates for EQN. We want to hear what players think and have time to adapt.

Other Dev: Landmark will be a very different game a year from now too.

RPS: How much influence will players have? How concrete is your vision for both EQN and Landmark? Where do you draw the line in terms of player suggestions or complaints?

Georgeson: Well, it’s basically based on experience. I mean, I’ve been making games for 25 years. And so, sometimes players will propose something that’s just ridiculous. That won’t work. That’s why we have the roundtable feature on our website. Sometimes we ask questions that we know can only go one way. But the players are constantly having debates over stuff, so then we can go in and explain why we’re doing things a certain way. Because the more we can work with our players so they can understand why games need to be built a certain way, the better the suggestions will be.

It’s like when I talk to programmers. They say, “Well, the code will be able to do this, that, and the other thing.” Then I have to fit my design within those fences. This is a whole process of getting players to understand how games are put together. In a way. It’s mostly just playing a game, but as a side benefit of playing the game, they’re also going to learn a lot about the game creation process.

That’s not going to stop the wild-and-woolly craziness, but we do that too!

RPS: Do you have any concrete plans for PVP yet? Anything on how players will interact beyond creating stuff?

Georgeson: Yes. That’s all I can say right now. You can imagine, though. You can break up the world and stuff. So the PVP can be really wild. We also have a really cool housing system, but not in the traditional sense. These are PVP houses, like schools of thought behind… it’s hard to describe right now.

But there’s all kinds of stuff we can do. Obviously in Landmark, people can build their own areas. When we roll over the PVP systems, then they can build battlefields and actually play against each other. That’s where we’re going.

RPS: Due to all of this, your version of EQN is just one of potentially thousands of worlds players can go inhabit under these systems. 

Georgeson: Yep. Ours is just a professionally developed alternative.

RPS: If your version is totally overshadowed, will you be disappointed? What will you do if people play EverQuest Next and say, “Eh, this is kinda boring. I’m just going to stick to user-created worlds”?

Georgeson: It will only be because Landmark is a success, and I refuse to cry in my beer over that.

RPS: Will this approach and mentality roll over into other games you’ve made or are making? For instance, something like PlanetSide 2? 

Georgeson: Not existing ones. Newer ones, we could talk.

Well, OK, it’s not hard to think of this happening. SOE doesn’t have plans for what I’m about to say yet, but you can imagine a PlanetSide world where you can actually blow stuff up. Or a superhero world where you can blow stuff up and be able to throw things and stuff like that. Obviously, those are attractive ideas. But those are just thoughts.

[PR motions that we've run over our allotted time slot]

RPS: Thank you for your time.

__________________

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53 Comments »

  1. SillyWizard says:

    That girl-graphic in all these pictures thrusts her pelvis out so aggressively. :/

    That’s all I have to say about that.

    • The Random One says:

      She looks indolent to me.

      “Yeah, these are screenshots for the next SOE MMO. What of it?”

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Clothing is a bit revealing too.

      • Jalaman says:

        What, that she’s showing her arms? Is this 1913 or 2013?

        • Flopper says:

          People on RPS are prudes and never touched a girl. And if they did manage to touch one they immediately married her.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          Arms are okay, it’s facial skin that concerns me.

  2. Wurstwaffel says:

    I just hope that EQN won’t bee too cluttered with ill-fitting player created stuff. That would kinda ruin the experience for me.

    • Vardas says:

      I doubt it will be cluttered. They will choose the player-created content that will go into EQN, they won’t just throw in everything.

      Having said that, this is the first time in YEARS i get excited about an MMO game (talking about EQN). Everytime I hear about it it just makes me all giddy and bubbly inside. Is this finally the MMO that we’ve been dreaming about, the one that we wanted Wow, and WAR and LotrO and all the other mindless grinders to be? PLEASE BE GOOD EQN :(

      When I found out about MMOs in my early teens the notion sounded romantic. Adventuring in an open world with an Avatar and casting magic, fighting monsters and epic battles, but reality of grind and people just acting like people changed it very fast. I so wish I can get that feeling back.

      Aion managed to capture a small amount of that feeling for me in its early times, (first few months). Which has led me to believe that there is NO better time to start an MMO than when it’s fresh, because that’s when everything is new and exciting and everyone is discoverign the world together, but EQN sounds like it may make away with the staticness of the MMOs. Fingers crossed.

      Also one of the reasons I’ll be diving with both feet in Landmark.

  3. Lateris says:

    I would love that as well.

  4. daphne says:

    Interesting. The initial impression I had gotten from EQN: Landmark was it being the side dish to the main course of EQN. This interview appears to notch its significance up some more.

  5. Neurotic says:

    I’m so wet for all of EQN. EQ was the reason I bought my first modem, and I see no reason to end the love affair now. Bring it,. Georgey!

  6. Michael Fogg says:

    What’s this SOE? Special Operations Executive?

  7. skittles says:

    This does look interesting.

    I am saddened by the fact that it entirely relies at the moment on the classes and whatnot that Sony creates. This is build-your-own generic fantasy land. Rather than channeling something similar to Tad Williams online multiverse.

    • tyren says:

      I don’t get why you mention classes in connection with what you can build. They’ve talked about how you can build things other than what fits in a fantasy world.

    • halcyonforever says:

      I doubt we will see a “classless” MMO again soon. SOE went through that with the origional Star Wars Galaxies. Some of us loved that, but it was one of the things that made the game prohibitive to players.

      Although in the post-minecraft world I can definitely see how a build your own class system may come back around. I’m just thinking that SWG was too far ahead of it’s time to try that in the early 2000′s

      I for one liked the fact that my character progressed based on what skills I used. I hated having to kill rats to become a better crafter.

  8. MrSean490 says:

    I’m a bit confused now.

    My understanding was Landmark was a simple (or complex) demonstration tool to show off what is possible in the main game, in addition, I thought it also allowed you to “sell” structures that you really like, and then they’d be imported into the main game. Now I don’t know if I get it at all. It seems to be completely a game of its own?

    Also, in relation to combat. I read the questions here, but will combat be free style (Think Skyrim) or your average MMO target lock?

    • Stompopolos says:

      They haven’t released details about combat yet. It’s running off of PlanetSide 2′s engine, so hopefully it will be capable of supporting real time combat on a massive scale.

      • Crane says:

        “Not if it’s running on Planetside 2′s engine it isn’t!” [Canned Laughter]

  9. GamerOS says:

    Oh great, another big budget game made by a big name developer with multiple different ‘early support’ packages or what ever you want to call them.
    I’m probably not alone in this but I’m really starting to hate them, not because it’s a bad tough…

    But because I got this horrible thing of wanting ALL pre-order collectable and them now being so fricking expensive that I can’t actually get them :(

    Also I was hoping for more of a EVE online… IN THE MIDDEL AGES WITH MAGIC but sadly that is not going to happne.

  10. irongamer says:

    Well, landmark is way more then what I first believed it was. The quotes and conversations in this article and from the Massively interview make it pretty clear that Landmark will eventually be a build your own adventure framework with hosting. Including quests, npcs, mobs, scenarios, etc. EQ:Next will basically be a professionally designed world with more classes and more character progression… interesting approach.

    ——————–
    RPS Interview
    ——————–
    “RPS: Due to all of this, your version of EQN is just one of potentially thousands of worlds players can go inhabit under these systems.
    Georgeson: Yep. Ours is just a professionally developed alternative.”

    —————————-
    Massively Interview
    —————————-
    “And one thing that he emphasized is that the game will ultimately be quite literally a “build your own MMO” experience. Pointing out that developers said from the start that Landmark will have all the tools that were used to make EQ Next, Georgeson reiterated that the game will be about more than just construction, and players will have more than just those building tools at their disposal. He explained,

    “When we do the AI editor, when we do the scenario builder, and the NPC editor, and all that other stuff, we’re going to be putting it in Landmark. So as we develop for EQN, we’re putting stuff in Landmark… You’ll be able to do everything we can do. All of it.

    That’s right, folks: Not only will players be able to terraform their claims and build to their hearts’ content, but they’ll actually be able to introduce mobs and story arcs to their creations. Anyone who wants to ride the player-generated-content train non-stop will definitely want to hop into Landmark.”

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2013/11/11/hands-on-with-eq-next-landmark-building-my-castle-of-dreams/

  11. h4plo says:

    I’m excited for EQ: Next beyond words, but I remain troubled by its art direction. One of the things that I think made the original Everquest so compelling was its attempt at literal, accurate graphics using very limited resources. It led to a visually singular experience that really hasn’t quite been replicated, with the exception of maybe Vanguard.

    I guess what bugs me is that the visuals, in particular the character visuals, are cartoony in a good way, but animated kind of poorly. It’s easier for me to accept middling animation if the models look godamn weird and start sliding down uncanny valley, but when the approach is so cartoon-driven? They really need to be /animated/, damnit, not this half-way garbage. I know that a lot of people here didn’t dig Guild Wars 2, but damn if that company didn’t get player model animations dead-on. I think the asura models in particular are great: run forward, and stop suddenly, and your /forward momentum doesn’t stop/. The upper half of the player model carries the momentum forward until it can be absorbed by the rest of the body. It’s such a minor thing, but it made movement feel more fluid than really any other game I’ve played.

    Anyway, I’m still really looking forward to EQ:N – let’s just hope that they put more effort into those models.

    • boats says:

      Kerran character creation menu. Please choose one:
      -Tony the Tiger
      -Chester Cheetah
      -Somewhere in between.

    • Keymonk says:

      It’s worth keeping in mind that the game isn’t anywhere close to finished or polished – there’s plenty of time for improvement.

  12. boats says:

    People who pay get to harvest more resources and craft better items. It has been hinted by SOE that there are going to be another set of P2W packs for the main EQN game when it launches. With games like Path of Exile and Dota 2 offering such fair approaches to F2P, I feel like this payment model is a step backwards.

    Settler Pack – $19.99
    Unlimited Closed Beta
    Settler Flag Item
    Founder’s Pickaxe (Top Tier 1 Pick + Top Tier Axe combined!)
    In-Game Title: Founder
    Forum Title: Founder

    Explorer Pack – $59.99
    Everything in the Settler Pack
    Alpha Access
    Explorer Flag Item
    Ring of Bounty (+10% resource gathering)
    Mega Pocket (+inventory or vault space)
    Courtier’s Regalia
    Tech Sergeant’s Gear

    Trailblazer Pack $99.99
    Everything in Settler & Explorer Pack
    Alpha Access
    Trailblazer Flag Item
    Mastercraft Bracer (+crafted quality)
    Void Vault
    Noble’s Regalia
    Tech Commander’s Gear
    4 Shareable Closed Beta Keys (Time-limited)
    Your name in the EQNL Credits

    • irongamer says:

      Yeah, I’m wondering about their f2p model as well. In one of the videos they mention that the void vault can be built by players in game. I’m going to float the idea that the ring and bracer may also be crafted in game but not have the exclusive look.

      What I’m more curious about is the 48 open beta head start. They mention that there is a wipe between closed and open beta. If there is a wipe between open beta and release that seems like an odd perk.

      Anyhow, I’m not really interested in their early funding offerings. They do seem to be teetering on the edge of what is acceptable in the f2p arena. I can’t speak for Dota but I hear they’ve done right. PoE has done a good job with their f2p store.

      • boats says:

        “I’m going to float the idea that the ring and bracer may also be crafted in game but not have the exclusive look.”
        I hope that is what happens. I would feel much better about things.

    • jrodman says:

      Whenever I see a “pack” on offer for a free to play game that costs more than any sane game should ever cost, it makes me not want to play that game.

      Does anyone else have a similar reaction?

      If I see “Founders pack!” for 200 dollars or whatever, it just makes me want to avoid that thing. I couldn’t say why Kickstarter doesn’t bother me in this way. I THINK this is because the kickstarter seems more about how much you personally want to support that thing, with the trinkets a mild bribery, wheras the 200 dollar game package makes me think that they’re going to try their damndest to drag that much money out of me through obnoxious game design manipulation.

  13. Ivory Samoan says:

    This has failed to impress on so many levels.

    Maybe it’s because I missed the whole Everquest phenom from the beginning….
    Either way, it seems like a minecraft clone mashed up with the worst parts of Guild Wars 2 (a game I mostly loved however)..

  14. waaaaaaaals says:

    Graphically It’s making me think “Orcs Must Die”.

    The way they’re doing the alpha crap is part of the fad I’ll be glad to see the back of but at least they’re not calling it a beta.

    Mostly I’m just glad to see the back of the “Minecraft” pretend giant voxel theme (which should at least be the “Infiniminer” .etc theme) with the multitude of games that use a much more varied object system.

  15. goettel says:

    Indy devs doing triple A looking games, giant evil corporations doing indy sandbox-y things. I’m just so confused right now.

  16. Lobotomist says:

    Ready Player One ?

    • effervescent says:

      My thoughts exactly!
      But seeing as this is already created by a corporation I don’t dare to hope for the same kind of easter-eggs.

  17. Nurdell says:

    I haven’t seen a single drip of water in any of the pictures they shared. I’m getting worried that they haven’t worked on water yet. (the first big thing I wanted to build is a flooded hamlet with a briken dam)

  18. GallonOfAlan says:

    @Nurdell

    I also am concerned about the water modelling. Also – I’m unclear as to whether you can just get this and mess around building offline worlds and having a few friends join you a la Minecraft. If so, it’ll be great. If not they are missing out on a vast, vast audience of kids whose parents wouldn’t let them onto an MMO in a fit.

  19. KAlothIV says:

    I’m told that EQN uses a modified version of the Voxel Farm engine which was developed almost entirely by Miguel Cepero. He has an extremely interesting blog here.

  20. mauzed says:

    I’m really interested in EQ landmark, but after reading the hands on on the building tools, I’m bothered by the fact that it seems more a tool than a “natural” way to build things, like it is in minecraft.
    Palette showing up, photoshop like? Uhm no thanks, I’m already looking at that f*kin palettes all day. :|

  21. bstard says:

    The first tradition of this stuck-in-its-ways gerne is being honered properly: hype the game years before it’s released. I am not very optimistic this title will actualy rise above kill-10-boarings.

  22. Reapy says:

    Another exposed game engine game, except they want you to grind out the ability to use the clone tool in Photoshop. That full toolbar I have is like, level 80. Sarcasm aside, it is worry some they didn’t stop to think about common griefing problems that second life or minecraft can have in them, essentially implying “it’ll just work itself out”. Honestly it must be this guys first time in the internet.

  23. engion3 says:

    So this game has a Minecraft mode that’s separate from the main game.

    • Metr13 says:

      A mix of Minecraft and Terraria, apparently.

      As well as some terrifying “LOOK! We can SMOOTH our voxels!”

  24. zachdidit says:

    “Sometimes we ask questions that we know can only go one way. But the players are constantly having debates over stuff, so then we can go in and explain why we’re doing things a certain way. Because the more we can work with our players so they can understand why games need to be built a certain way, the better the suggestions will be.”

    I thought this is just downright brilliant. I noticed some of the questions and later developer response to the question seemed like they were going to do what they had decided all along. But the added insight that these were posed to spark debate and educate their userbase makes it all the better.

  25. Caleo says:

    “There’s no reason to troll, other than to troll. You’re absolutely right, though: some people will do that. But there are mechanisms to protect yourself.” “…either by buying them or earning them inside the game”

    What I get from that is… griefers get free rein unless you pay SOE protection money.

    And uh.. all this stuff about creating content for EQN? Basically, SOE wants us to make their game for them.. and pay them to do it?

    I was really excited when information about this game starting coming out… now the more I hear, the less interested I get.