We've played EverQuest Next Landmark and spoken with SOE about their mad (yet not entirely impossible) ambitions for the game/world creation Photoshop thing as it grows and evolves, but now it's your turn. Well, maybe. If you're willing to pay and also not talk about it for a while (hip-hip-hurrNDA, etc). EQNL's roughly 60 percent complete paid alpha will launch later today, but it won't be without its bumps in the road. We spoke with SOE about how it'll handle progression, character wipes, and other growing pains typically associated with bouncing baby entire universes. Tunnel to the chewy, nougaty center of this post for everything you'll need to know.
First up, here are the key bits: EQNL will ultimately be F2P, but for now you can only access it by way of purchasable founder's packs, which will cost you a handful of your prettiest pennies. The lowest tier that offers alpha access is $59.99, so think carefully before shelling out, lest you slip on a puddle of your own regret tears, fall down a flight of stairs, and miraculously emerge with only minor bruising.
The initial alpha launch will contain building and crafting progressions - which are advanced by way of achievements instead of traditional level-ups - but not combat. That'll come in a later update. For now, though, you'll begin with only three tools (add, delete, and the option to restore a surface to its server-fresh state), and you'll have to craft the rest over time. Crafting all of your tools and building abilities should take around nine hours, which isn't terrible in the grand scheme of MMOs, but I do worry that it'll be a bit grindy - especially for people who just want to jump in and build.
But what about the ever-looming alpha specter that is character wipes? Well, the bad news is that SOE does plan to call down a few from the e-heavens, but it has a clever way of circumventing a lot of the heartbreak that's typically involved. Also, the majority of wipes will affect the game world, not your characters, and you'll be able to save your built objects and redeploy them once the world is done vomiting new parts of itself into existence.
"We'll use character wipes very, very rarely," SOE told RPS. "Only when absolutely necessary. We know, for instance, an example is that we'll have two biomes when we first enter alpha, but we'll have two more coming online soon. When those two biomes come in, we're gonna want to recreate the continents so people have a more representative play experience. That will be a time when we likely do a continent wipe."
"But in terms of wiping your characters and their templates [for constructed items], there's only one time I can think of where we plan to do that, and that's at the end of alpha. Just before closed beta. And before continent wipes, we'll give you a warning so you can template [everything in your claimed land area]. That'll only happen once during alpha."
Templates are bound to accounts too, so even in the event of character wipes, they'll likely persist.
As for when alpha will roll over into beta, expect SOE to pull the gigantic Lever Of Increasingly Arbitrary Game State Designations in "not many months." The current plan is to begin beta no later than March 31st, but you never know with these things. SOE's going extra big on player feedback for this one too (there's an in-game "Devtalk" feature, among other things), so it could rearrange the puzzle pieces quite a bit before primetime.
Alpha's the first step, though, and it'll begin later today. There's no specific time yet because SOE is still crunching on a few last-second issues, which is, um... game development! Are you considering getting in on Landmark's ground floor even though it might cave in on you, or do you think you'll wait a little while longer before trying it out?