Impressions: Landmark

By Craig Pearson on April 8th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

And not a giant cock in sight.

You can now join Landmark for just £14. Sony’s Minecraft-esque adjunct to EverQuest Next has lowered the barrier of entry into the closed beta so even a frugal Scottish freelancer can stroll in. I’ve spent the weekend wandering the worlds, admiring what’s being built and testing the tools.

I am currently not dead, but if I died and you were to look through my search history and Twitter account, you’d probably think Landmark was the killer. I’ve only been able to play it with passive-aggressive search engine queries and complaining on Twitter. There is no game here. Not yet, anyway. Landmark, has a bright future, but it’s also a honest-to-glob alpha, and probably one of the earliest games I’ve ever bought from a major company. Here’s what I’ve typed into Google and Twitter, and here’s what those searches say about the state of the game.

“How do I change the camera in Landmark?”

Currently all Landmark does is allow the players to mine and build without any worry of pain or death. That’ll change, but for now it’s about joining a sever, selecting a realm, and making things with the tools. I joined and found myself in front of a glowing portal. I wanted to be able to see as much as possible, because I love games where the community reshapes the world, so I dialled back the mouse wheel. Nothing. I hit the numpad ‘-‘ key, but again nothing happened. I hit ESC and drilled down into the options, discovering that the game is so early that there’s no keymap and there’s no way of easily redefining buttons. There’s no way of finding out what the controls are without leaving the game and Googling or asking Twitter. If I didn’t have a second monitor, I’d have found it awfully frustrating. For those interested, it is Shift+MW.

I’m glad I found it. Landmark uses the Forgelight engine–the same tech powering Planetside 2–so it has that misty look that’s built for postcard screenshots. It loses a little up close, but the voxel warping technology makes up for that. I mentioned before it’s a building game, but this is a step-beyond what we’re used to, where every thunk of a pickaxe cuts a gash into the rolling ground. It’s not realistic– it’s too exaggerated for that–but it reshapes the world in a less cubic fashion than in Minecraft. I did this in about five seconds.

I’m not very good at building things, but I love being part of a world where other players can express their creativity. Dialling the camera out as far as it will allow shows buildings clinging to rock faces and topping mountains, all made by players. I could see castles and spaceships casting lengthy shadows as the sun dipped.

There was also an elephant. It belongs to Spootyman, who was toiling away when I happened upon his build. He’d filled his claim with a giant Luggage and the floating head of an elephant, and was attempting to build his own Discworld (scroll down). It was on his claim that I learned about the builder’s palette. In every impressive building, there’s usually a room of abstract shapes. A wall will be given over to this sort of thing.

How it works is indicative of the game’s tools: you can cut and paste from the palette. With this, people can select shapes in a quick fashion without having to go through the trouble of remaking them.

“The Landmark inventory is crap.”

It is. Richard Cobbett agrees.

Your building materials are split from your inventory, which is smart because after a few moments mining you’ll have hundreds of base components. But they’re split in a really odd fashion. It took me ages to figure out the search bar was searching in my tools inventory and not the entirety of what I had on me, which is why I couldn’t find a pile of things that I was looking for. That it defaults to that is awkward, and indicative of the current state Landmark is in. I have no doubt that it’ll be noted as The Wrong Way Of Doing This, but right now it’s pretty terrible.

“Why can’t I claim land in Landmark”

In Landmark, everyone has the ability to grab land that only they can work on, and to claim it you need a flag. I had a flag in my backpack, but it wasn’t working. I could tell I was attempting to claim free land, because you can toggle claim markers and land markers, but nothing was happening. It was Cobbett who figured it out: I was trying to claim land by planting a symbolic flag. It’s an item you get in your starter pack that has no power, but appears to be a claim flag. Instead you must make a claim flag. This is where the game is in Landmark: you’ll spend time crafting a huge number of tools that’ll slice ground, loom clothes, and shape and reshape all the elements.

Before you do that, you need to mine the components. At the centre of every land is a Portal. It’s a warp-point to other worlds, and it also has communal building devices that will tell you what you need to gather to make some basic items. I already have a pick and an axe just for buying into the game, and clicking the basic workshop tells me a claim flag needs seven Elemental Iron, ten Aquamarine, and ten Heartwood.

“How do I figure what I’m mining in Landmark?”

For a game about finding the correct ore, it’s surprisingly tough to do so. You’re dropped into a random Tier One land on a server of your choice. Tiers relate to mineable ores, and higher tiers require better and better equipment for you to mine. You can move to any Tier using the Portal, and I got lucky and joined a land that was colonised by hyper-builders who placed a trunk full of free tools at the server’s Portal, including high tier picks and axes. I could mine almost all tiers immediately, and all I needed was to figure out what ore was what.

Hmm.

Ore is everywhere in Landmark. It sits at the surface, a little splat of shimmering colour. Trying to figure out which little splat is silver, or tungsten, or tin is probably the most time-consuming part. The lighting changes how the shiny metal looks, so I could never quite get a handle on what was what. I had to chip away at it to ensure I was mining the correct stuff. And though the in-game shop will sell you bags of every element, a lot of recipes will require ‘Elemental’ forms of the ore that can only be found through mining. A lot of the time when I was ore-hunting, it was simply to grab the special form of the ore because I’d bought 72 giga-Peggles of the normal form in the shop.

“Is Craig Pearson handsome?”

Er, my brother hacked me. Moving on.

“Amazing Landmark builds”

I am trolling myself. My own build is nothing more than a flattened mountain top. My plan was to take the whole top of the mountain and reform it into a mix of land and house, but the area my claim flag covered was just a touch too small, so I had to craft an additional claim flag and stick them side-by-side. The tools you get within your building area enable you to delete trees and loose rocks, and cut out large blocks and spheres. There’s also an undo.

Sony will enable builders to monetise their builds as blueprints in Landmark and in EverQuest Next, so creating things has to be hard work or people will be making a fortune with almost no work. But I didn’t expect it to be quite so tough. You can shape the raw ore into ingots in the communal workbenches, but you need a series of workbenches to make basic items. Rustic pillows require a Tin Trimmed Workbench, which is made at the Copper Reinforced Saw Table, that you crafted at the Stone Forge that was made at the Basic Workshop. All those tables need multiple basic and elemental components and then you need to craft them all in turn. It’s a little bit too much work for me.

Which means you won’t be seeing my amazing house. But then I joined the game knowing I wouldn’t be doing much mining and building much, anyway. I was here to admire the work of others, and I went on a wander. I found a small fort spread over three claims, and opposite that was a castle with its own rollercoaster snaking through the windows. There is a tree near my plot cunningly built from concentric rings and wrapped in thick vines. Pretend ruins and pagodas hide in the forests. Some people will take advantage of the views, as I plan to when I eventually turn my plot into whatever I can make of it, while others will choose to hide their creations underground for you to stumble across.

It’s also no surprise that almost everything below was worked on by founder members of the community. The long-timers all seem to know each other. Everything large and impressive has a palette room, and all have been built by people working around the current limitations (there’s a way of shaping voxels that the community has discovered that the developers didn’t intend). You can’t easily do any of this without some back-up and a willing tutor, and not even Google will help you if you need to understand the nuances of what’s been built.

And there’s dangling wires everywhere. Though it’s not a concern this early in the development, if you are a stickler for usability and stability you’re better off waiting for a release where the framerate stays above 30fps, items don’t vanish from the inventory, it doesn’t crash so hard that your PC has to be reset, and ability cooldown times are reported. I got my £14’s worth, as you’ll see in the gallery below, but I am a happy wanderer. If you’re thinking of joining up as as builder, you should probably wait.

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35 Comments »

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    Amatyr says:

    I tried Landmark for a few hours and got annoyed when I needed to cut down another umpteen trees to make a slightly better thing to cut down more trees, etc.

    Of course, that’s not really any different to killing umpteen rats to get a slightly better sword to kill slightly larger rats. Turns out the illusion of plot makes quite a difference to how much I enjoy a game.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      Context is everything.
      An old comic-strip of friend of mine http://vodomerkin.ru/comic/fulby-101
      The dialogs are mostly in Foreign, but basically on the first panel an old man asks a hero to collect and bring 20 apples in exchange for cool armor, whilst on second an old man asks him to collect and eat 20 apples to not die.

      Basic mechanic is absolutely same, but the guy hates grind and preffers survival to it.

      • hamilcarp says:

        That was pretty good. I didn’t even need to understand the language to get the joke, which was fortunate because my Foreign is rusty.

      • frightlever says:

        Yeah, that was funny!

        Anyway, I’m playing Trove, off and on, which is another game purportedly about building things – thought the plots you can build on are too small.

        We all know from Minecraft that there are some really talented virtual builders out there, but for every guy building a virtual Sistene Chapel there’s a million that built a mud-coloured box.

  2. phelix says:

    It’s good to hear Landmark is coming along quite nicely. How’s the hardware aspect, in terms of optimisation? You mentioned sub-30 FPS, on what sort of rig was that?

    • Flopper says:

      I don’t think the rig matters at this point in alpha/closed beta. I’m CPU bound with an i7 2600k. I don’t think it’s even using GPUs. I have 2 580’s SLI.

    • aircool says:

      I have my framerate capped at 45fps in the .ini file. I’ve never had any framerate problems. There’s a lot of hitching and stuttering, which is different, but that’s just lack of optimisation. The hitching and stuttering has improved as the game is continually optimised.

  3. Guvornator says:

    I quite like idea of “Richard Cobbett agrees” becoming a meme, with maybe a few seconds of him nodding from his Patreon video.

    I’ll be honest, I’m only really posting because his thing on MMOs and social anxiety is excellent, and you should read it. http://www.richardcobbett.com/codex/therichardperspective/hearthstone-anxiety-and-me/ I get twinges of this, even when playing with the mighty RPS Giraffes, who are lovely folk.

  4. geldonyetich says:

    So far, Landmark sounds like a skeleton of a game. If they could bring more “EverQuest” into “Minecraft Creative Mode HD,” that might actually quality as a game.

    If it turns out to be a game you log in to in order to see a patchwork rock garden of everybody else’s creativity on display, I’m going to be rather nonplussed. That’s artistically significant, sure, but does about as much for MMORPGs as forging mashed potato sculptures out of mom’s dinner did for advancing the state of the culinary arts.

    Landmark uses the Forgelight engine–the same tech powering Planetside 2

    Welp, there goes my hopes that it’ll manage a decent stereographics implementation. Granted, Planetside 2 was partly there, but they fudged up the aiming and the shadows were an utter mess.

  5. Eight Rooks says:

    A fair enough writeup for the most part, though I think it bears mentioning again since I didn’t see you talk about it – the current system for ores is not how the final game will work. It’s kinda dumb, the developers freely admit it’s kinda dumb, and it’s one reason why I haven’t been back since I was playing the alpha. They’re all meant to be present in each separate world and they’re meant to be way below the surface (some of them waaaaaay below) but there’s nothing else down there yet, so currently they’re just stuck up top.

    I’d be a bit kinder to it, I think, since I think even in its current state it’s arguably more interesting than building in Minecraft. But at the same time while I think there’s the potential for greatness here, right now it is plainly on a par with Day Z, in that unless you’re really, really into making your own fun and putting up with annoying limitations you’re probably better off staying away.

  6. Menthalion says:

    Can anyone explain the need of the inane ‘gamification’ of something that could have made been developed much easier and would yield more and better results as a free editor ?

    • geldonyetich says:

      Because, if all you want is a powerful, free editor, you could always just learn how to use Blender. However, creating your own content using a non-gamified editor is just a lot of hard work. It’d be much more fun to have a great game with an unprecedented imaginative scope, instead. So give us that.

      • Menthalion says:

        Not really a good comparison since the technology underneath both is quite different (polygon modelling versus EQ next voxels). The problem I have with Landmark is that the talent for creating needs to come from the tiny subset of people that have good modelling skills and can put up with grinding materials, restricted viewpoints and managing claims and skill cooldowns.

        I don’t seem to see the game qualities in a purely restrictive system either. Would Photoshop make a good game if you had to search around finding colors and brushes, had cooldowns on your tools or needed to have enough inventory space for every pixel you cut and pasted ?

    • Cvnk says:

      Somehow there’s a difference between building something in a game context that requires some degree of “effort” while constrained by game rules vs. simply firing up a 3D modeling program and building the same thing. Granted the second activity requires effort (and probably significantly more talent) but the reward is different I think.

      • gwathdring says:

        That’s precisely it–the reward is different. To look at building games and see only people who want to build things is a mistake. There are people who want to see things built, to explore, to simply mine, and who are comforted by the illusion that they are building when they in reality never get around to finishing any build projects but instead just expand their storage room and create an efficient bedrock mine.

        No one I know, of course. ;)

        In any case even the people who play Minecraft to build and build alone do it for different reasons than the same or other people would build with a 3D modeling tool. Some artists like unusual materials, and take joy in exploiting it’s novelties to overcome it’s apparent limitations. Minecraft is a very unusual material.

    • Lemming says:

      I was thinking the same and the replies you’ve got haven’t really cleared it up. I thought landmark was meant to be a minecraft-type editor program for enterprising souls to flex their creative muscle and make things that may end up in EQN proper. What is the logic behind gamifying and gating everything in Landmark? Surely you’re going to get better stuff created if there are no restrictions? I really don’t understand why anyone thought that would be a good idea.

      • Crystalis says:

        TL;DR:
        It functions as an extended tutorial, pushes people out of their area to be inspired by others, progression is fast, the mining and upgrading extends the playerbase.
        Landmark and EQN are very similiar, difference being one is pure sandbox the other is prebuilt world with lore.

        Your partially right, for whatever reason the relationship of Landmark and EQN always confused people. Landmark is basically the pre-alpha of EQN with plans for it to continue on as it’s own fully featured sandbox MMO. Basically Landmark will have most everything EQN save for a dev built world, content, or story. Just pure sandbox with it ideally one day even becoming a meta-MMO via player built content, and possibly even whole worlds. Landmark will likely get features before EQN does to serve as testbed and maybe harvest some player made stuff.

        Supposedly they plan to hand over all the same tools they use to build EQN to the players of Landmark to do their own thing with EQN being the professional product made using those tools. If they will is yet to be seen, at the least can be pretty sure will get the Storybricks AI editor eventually.

        Currently tools and crafting station progression is fast, does not character bind, and tends to function as an extended tutorial. Each tier is a new set of materials to learn the look of, and unlocking it also unlocks all the possibilities of what can build with it.

        That progression would barely be a mild annoyance to builders and could be done in a few minutes if got friends, a few hours if taking time, or just someone generous in area giving stuff away (somewhat common). But it could be a large reason many others play, who can then feed supplies to builders. Personally I am more of the digger, explorer, and tourist type so I will end up feeding stuff I find to friends as I dig to the depths.

        Personally I say EQN/Landmark is dangerously high concept, great if works but very easy to self destruct.

        Seems the digital world just keeps moving more and more towards being collaborative everything. EQN is just the first MMO to really embrace that in such a way. Who knows maybe we will reach Rainbow’s End eventually where EVERYTHING can have virtual collaboration tacked on.

        Variety of reasons why they do like this, to name a few:

        The feeling of “earning” and “progress” from games is a powerful motivator, part of why seeing gamification happening more often these days.

        It provides the structure many need, some get overwhelmed or lost without at least a little sense of direction or goal being given.

        SOE is a MMO company and thus they will do what they know.

        It is a proven model from Minecraft, Terraria, and the like. And seems to be the current fad direction for MMOs.

        Functions as an extended tutorial, no actual tutorial yet. In future most progression planned to be via achievement like system instead of levels and XP.

        Gets you out of your personal claim into the world and thus seeing other builds, which is both good for making world feel more busy and exposure to potential inspiration. (Mine came climbing a mountain when got idea to hollow it out and build a forest).

        Limitations can actually enhance work sometimes by having people think outside of the box, as mentioned in the article people discovered methods not even the devs knew of. They actually mentioned at one point holding back a few tools to see what the players come up with, if there is an easier way less innovation. Debatable if that is good idea or not but it is understandable.

        Well I should stop before ramble more, sorry if sound “fanboy” I am just used to being devil’s advocate which generally ends up putting me on the strongly positive/optimistic side for MMOs sadly. It is rare I get chance to be the negative one. Semi-mute/Lurker but once start I ramble, hope this helped some.

  7. Rincewind says:

    Hey, that’s my Luggage! He needs to be careful when working with something eldritch… err…. oblong? like that.

  8. PopeRatzo says:

    There is no game here

    That is the motto of the entire game industry these days.

  9. Shodex says:

    Landmark is confusing me. I watched a bunch of videos about Everquest Next and for the first time in a long time a free-to-play MMO was genuinely interesting me. Then I heard about Landmark and was like, “That’s a neat idea for a side project.”

    Now all I hear about is Landmark, “they’re adding this to Landmark”, “the Landmark alpha is out”, “don’t worry Landmark will be good after a few updates”, “buy Landmark now”, and so on. I guess I’ve just grown confused as to what the purpose of Landmark is since I was only ever interested in the actual upcoming Everquest game.

    • Kyrius says:

      So much this! I actually want to hear about Everquest Next, but I think it’s not gonna be anytime soon…

    • TormDK says:

      Yeah, so – we can say alot about Smedley, and half of it would likely be true in some form or another, but the man is a schrewd business man.

      He understands that players need to be able to make their own fun, because a traditional MMO (Aka, EverQuest, EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft and it’s bazillion clones etc.) content gets consumed faster than you can create it.

      So it makes more sense to build the tools that let players build the World. It’s quite clever really. The good assets can be licensed by SOE from the players using the PlayerStudio feature, so new art can easily be added to the game going forward.

      Thats also why they removed the “EverQues Next” part of the Landmark mark, because Landmark will not be about EverQuesting. It’s a builder experience through and through, which I would wager the average EverQuest’er could care less about. So to avoid the confusion they dropped the EQN name from Landmark.

      Exploring in Landmark is OK, but it’s never going to be anything that will get my wallet in gear. (Even if I did purchase the founders pack so my friends could play it)

  10. irongamer says:

    I managed to get into the closed beta (randomly). Spent most of my time rushing through the pick/axe tiers using the crafting stations of kind individuals that share them. There are a number of heated discussions about building tools right now on the forums. Some argue that there are enough tools and other believe there should be more (the lack of basic primitives offered by most 3d model programs). Most people seem to agree the tools could be better. From what I’ve seen of the tools, I haven’t used them much, is they are tedious and could be better implemented.

    “If you’re thinking of joining up as as builder, you should probably wait.”

    I’d totally agree on this point. Once you have templates you can basically have your own primitives, but spending time building those seems archaic given the tools available in modern programs.

    [Tools] A response to the last Round table
    https://forums.station.sony.com/landmark/index.php?threads/a-response-to-the-last-round-table.29956/

    I would also suggest waiting until “dangers”, mobs, and combat is added. Right not there is not a lot of adventure to be had… unless you like looking what others have built.

  11. Neurotic says:

    I don[‘t know what you’ve been playing Craig, but your experience of Landmark is about a million miles from mine. The shame is only that the world will be reading about yours, not mine!

  12. Mynkus says:

    Yeah, Landmark… if you give it only two days to do proper(?) research on it you will end up with no understanding what it really is. That message I got from your article. It was loud and clear even. Instead of writing about the community you could have used Twitter to get answers for the questions you had from them. And that inventory problem you had… Did you not realize there was a second tab in that dialog box?

    It would have been better if you spent those two days doing something else that was of interest for you. That would have saved you from having to write this incredibly uninspired article and your readers the time to read it. Such a waste of time and words.

    • po says:

      Relying on google and twitter for answers is far from proper research. Pretty much every recently made game has its own forums, and many their own wiki, where all the most frequently asked questions are guaranteed to have already been answered.

      It beggars belief the sheer number of people in games who have never even considered that the game might have a forum, and hence they are still bumbling around in the dark after months of playing, while those of us with the sense to look in the right places are zipping around after just a couple of days.

  13. racccoon says:

    Your Impressions are the similar to mine, I got a lucky invite and I really do not feel currently the game is well enough thought out to give the new player any experience or achievement at all, all it does so far is stretch out game time, the time to build and time to collect is enormous.
    A new player needs to be encourage to go forward, the mining/foresting/collecting part is great I like doing it I like exploring too, The work load needs to be 1/2th’d or at least 1/4t’d for you to be able to enjoy your building as a new beginner, other than a few walls built for a xx hours chopping and mining. Your territory should be your leveling tiers along with advancements, jumping off to other maps seemed a little out to me, I know its CB, but its close to what they seem to want, I’m sure the game will improve, I hope they will tweak it down a bit. It has potential to be something. For it to win the new player expectation, it needs a thorough re-assessment on time.

  14. aircool says:

    Here’s the bottom line… all you need to know.

    THE GAME IS A LONG WAY FROM BEING COMPLETE. ALL YOU’RE GOING TO BE DOING IS FINDING BUGS, PROVIDING FEEDBACK AND BUILDING STUFF. THERE IS NO GAME AS OF YET, BUT THERE WILL BE A GOOD ONE WHEN IT’S FINISHED.

    If you’re interested in having a say in the development of this game. Willing to accept the current limitations, are familiar with the blueprint and aren’t expecting even half a complete game, then you may want to take a punt on one of the trailblazer packs. Or getting hold of a closed beta key (I have a few, but am only giving them out to people who know what they’re letting themselves in for and won’t waste them.

    If you’re none of the above… then stay well clear. There’s bugs, random crashes, hitching and stuttering when moving around the landscape. The camera can be a pain in the arse… harvesting can be a bit tedious (however, I’ll mention that in a minute) and there’s not a lot going on apart from harvesting materials and building.

    Personally, I’ve had no problem finding my way around the UI. There’s also a ton of advice and help on the forums, plus a few basic help files in the game directory.

    Harvesting… a lot of people moan about this. Firstly, it’s not balanced. Not all the materials are included, and they’re continually tweaking harvesting and crafting to get it right. Secondly, far too many players are getting caught up in the desire for exceptional or legendary harvesting tools – you don’t need them. Unless you’re very lucky and get one first time, you’ll spend more time trying to get rarer tools than if you just went and harvested the materials to get the next tool up the tech tree.

    If you want the top tier tools straight away, then just ask in chat as plenty of people have spare mithril picks and rubicite axes to give away. Why is this?

    Because the only tools that you really want to upgrade are the top tier tools (currently mithril pick and rubicite axe). With just green tools and a few rings, harvesting is more bearable.

    I made a single mithril pick and rubicite axe every day for a week or so (you’ll get enough materials when just out harvesting for general materials) before getting an exceptional version of each (not legendary, just exceptional). Those tools, with a few rings make harvesting quick and easy.

    Harvesting is only a grind if you make it a grind. I won’t lie… harvesting is boring when there’s no mobs or danger, and everything is just lying on the surface instead of underground where it’s supposed to be.

  15. Jenks says:

    This is the most boring game I’ve ever played. I didn’t get to the building because harvesting was so awful. If building is the hook, I’ve got no interest, since they clearly designed harvesting to be so awful that you run to the cash shop to buy what you need.