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Landmark Column: The Value of Claim-Staking

By Victor Barreiro Jr. on November 20, 2013

A lot of you have probably heard about the big Everquest Next Landmark announcement: For a minimum of $20, you can stake your claim in the Landmark version of Norrath. For even more money, you can get into the game even earlier as an alpha founder. For a larger amount of money, you can get additional perks and in-game goodies as you play through the alpha and closed beta of a game, with some of these remaining available after launch!

I’m guessing some of you may be cynical at the idea of paying upfront for what some would consider UltraMegaHyper Minecraft. Some of you may dislike the idea of paying upfront for the promise of a game to come.

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I’m not here to dissuade anyone from feeling annoyed, mind you. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time reading through available information and watching a 53-minute monstrosity of a livestream to get a better handle on these two games-to-come.

I’m likely not going to be your Landmark scholar, the one who knows and sees all things, but I think I get the gist of Landmark, and the types of people whom Landmark may end up appealing to.

So… Landmark is?

Call EQ Next Landmark an online social building game. It’s okay: Sony wants you to call it that, because “online social building game” is exactly what it says on its site.

If you were to compare Landmark and Next, assuming Landmark players get most of the same tools developers have for their use, then think of Everquest Next Landmark as the playground for you to build your own little game world.

I imagine LittleBigPlanet would be a fair comparison. Given the tools for doing a variety of things, you can basically build what you want within the limitations of the rules and tools afforded to you. Everquest Next is what SOE’s Dave Georgeson called in a Rock Paper Shotgun interview a “professionally developed alternative.”

Better to explain with some video, I suppose. SOE came out with a 53-minute livestream explaining how to develop, harvest, craft, and build things in the game using their pre-alpha build. Because this is pre-alpha, and because not a lot is set in stone yet, both technically and legally, they were mum on some aspects.

That said, a post by Grimwyrd on the EQNext Subreddit has most of the important bits detailed in his post. One thing to note is it seems Landmark will be without combat at launch, but if you ever felt like playing a fantasy trading sim or exploring a ton of different worlds within the same universe, Landmark should provide.

Should You Fund a Founder’s Pack?

A good number of you are likely wondering where a columnist would stand on the Founder’s Packs for the game. As you can see in the picture above, you have a three-tiered system of early adoption for a presumably free-to-play-at-launch game.

My gut reaction is a mix of revulsion and curiosity. In my case, I instinctively flinch at early adoption tactics for MMOs in development. At the same time, I’m insanely curious about the game’s potential (hence being asked to man the fort for EQNext and Landmark discussions) and I can be persuaded to pay a premium for a sneak peek and goodies with enough prodding.

I suppose buying a Founder’s Pack will depend on the type of gamer you are, so let’s define who would naturally not want to buy into Landmark early. Afterwards, let’s discuss what types of players may be interested in early adoption.

Thrifty Warmongers Unneeded

Given the links I’ve posted in previous sections, there’s a definite picture I have in mind of the gamer who shouldn’t buy a Founder’s Pack.

Because the impression I get of Landmark is that of a testing ground for the tech of Everquest Next, I think people who dislike crowdfunding games development will likely not be served by an early investment.

While Sony is an institutional entertainment juggernaut, the idea that SOE would ask people to pay for early access may rub people the wrong way despite it turning into something more commonplace. Of course, this isn’t Dreamfall Chapters or Path of Exile, and the chance that such a large marketing push would eventually end up turning into vaporware is less likely, but it does happen.

Also, people who don’t enjoy building or games that have no combat in them will likely not enjoy Landmark in alpha, beta, or early launch. There’s nothing to pillage from others and griefing, as far as I can tell, will be difficult as well, so people looking to stir up a hornet’s nest will likely find no hornets here.

Minecraft-Loving Crowdfunders Unite

As you can see, people can choose not to buy the Founder’s Packs based on principle, inherent personality, or gameplay preferences. The same applies for supporting Landmark, as the opposite end of the gaming spectrum may find a home here.

I think the strongest case for early adoption will likely come in three or four forms: crowdfunders, builders and explorers, livestreamers and pundits, and parents who love their children.

People who have no qualms about crowdfunding games will want to plunk some money down for additional perks for a game that has a high chance of successfully launching. By doing so, they also increase the chance of the game launching, and can play an active part in ensuring the game’s quality is up to snuff.

One large segment of the community wil definitely be those who want to to take the experiences they’ve had with games like Wurm Online and Minecraft and expand upon it with new experiences in Landmark. Explorers who want to visit the lands and creations of others will also find safe haven here

A subset of the community will likely be comprised of people who will be studying the game closely, waiting for the NDA to drop, and then going all out with information drops or video streams. This is entirely dependent on how SOE plays the beta access card, as Alpha will have non-disclosure agreements in place.

Lastly, I honestly believe Landmark as a social building game is meant to be something that can be played by groups of people or families working together in the game world. I imagine MMO-savvy parents may want to introduce a fight-less game as a starter MMO for kids, and while there are kid-friendly MMOs out there, one that focuses on creative use of limited resources instead of slaying enemies may make this a big draw for that particular crowd.

Am I Funding Landmark?

I’m personally torn on Landmark. I’ve never had the patience for a creation-centric game, but at the same time, I’m intrigued at the finding out what sort of community this game will create. While I won’t buy into Landmark immediately, as I’m donating some of my money to Typhoon Haiyan relief, I figure there will be enough time between now and Alpha/Beta to save up.

Till then, you can expect me to keep abreast of Everquest Next and Landmark updates from here on out, and I’ll report back weekly with new findings. Cheers!

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.


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