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Monsters and Linking and Caves, Oh My!

Jean Prior Posted:
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While the folks at Sony Online Entertainment had to delay the launch of their biggest update to Landmark until Wednesday (today!), they still went ahead and invited press to a private livestream to give a preview of all the new goodies coming in the update, which was originally slated to either take only four hours to load and get the servers open again, or it could take up to 48 hours.  They later clarified to state that the game would not be available until at least Thursday at noon Pacific.  The livestream was hosted by Director of Development Dave 'Smokejumper' Georgeson and Senior Producer Terry 'Fairan' Michaels, and they wasted no time in getting down to business.  The first thing they stressed was that this update to the game is even bigger than the original Alpha launch, and it was clear they were prepared for potential issues, hence the relatively vague downtime window.  However, Georgeson stated that they didn't intend to pull a 31-hour day like they had for the Alpha launch.  If they were moving beyond a 12 or 15-hour day, they would call a halt and send people home and come tackle it the next day. 

Getting into the nitty gritty, we were shown several different new armor sets.  Much like the ones already in the game, they each were focused on a keyword and had stats based on those keywords.  We were also told that the Achievement system would finally come into play.  Unlike games with traditional quest-giving NPCs, Landmark intends to use Achievements as a means to lead players through content, like breadcrumbs through a monster-infested forest.  For example, Georgeson and Michaels explained that a player might mine some minerals underground in a cave, and their first Achievement would then unlock the next Achievement that instructed them what to do with those minerals.  They espoused a discarding of traditional tutorial experiences and intended to use Achievements as a means to teach players how to play.

Another new update to the game includes the long-awaited claim vendors that would allow players to hawk their character's wares, be it collected crafting materials, templates, or finished gear.  The vendor would be accessible to anyone who visits the claim, but it wasn't clear what mechanism or currency would be used for transactions, although Station Cash seems like the easiest possibility due to how it's already used for Player Studio transactions.  However, in-game currency is on the books for January, according to Dave Georgeson's Twitter feed.

Finally, the game will also have loot, loot, and even more loot.  Armor items and weapons will drop with various stats assigned to them that will allow players to adapt to their preferred style of playing.  If the armor doesn't drop with stats you like, you can salvage it and take the results to a crafter to have something new made (or craft it yourself!)  Loot-dropped armor can never be crafted exactly as-is, but they will have an icon near their name called a Primal that drops modifiers if the item is salvaged, so players can endlessly modify their gear until they get a setup they like.  Terry Michaels made a point of noting that collectability is going to be huge for this feature, and later in the stream, it was confirmed that there would also be a Personal Loot system in play.  What this means is that if a group of players fought a monster, every player eligible for a loot drop would get their own personal loot.  This will definitely cut down on the number of fights over who got what that many other games have with rolls, DKP, Master Looter, and other such complex systems in play to determine who receives an item.  The cool thing about Landmark is that hardly anything is ever soulbound or even bind on equip, so players can trade their personal loot items willy-nilly.  We were also told that in the new year, templates will also be a part of loot drops, and they too will be tradable just like nearly everything else in the game. 

There are also going to be bug fixes in the new update, including one I wish had died in a fire many weeks ago: the sticky tooltips from hell that would never go away until you moused over the item again.  Speaking of tooltips, an expanded version will be available on weapons and armor if one hits 'alt' while mousing over said item.  Also, speaking of weapons, we were shown a trio of new weapon types going into the game: a pair of daggers for those of us who like to dual-wield, a wand for the caster sorts, and a big honking two-handed sword. 

Unfortunately, they couldn't show us actual caves or any of the monsters in them, but we were treated to some spawned monsters that didn't have their pathing code turned on, so we could see how the Slaug and Chomper appeared compared to a player and some of their FX.  Dave Georgeson commented offhand that monsters liked caves, and we were later told that they would both utilize specific spawn points and also some basic AI to congregate, and it seems the deeper one goes into the caves, the more monsters would be found, and also the more dangerous ones as well. 

The entire world will get darker too, as nighttime in Landmark will not be the huge full-moon bright it has been since Alpha launch.  This will allow for more shadows underneath objects, and also enforce more of a pitch-black setting within caves, which will make the use of Lightstones and the crafted Bottled Moonlight item very valuable in the new update.

Transportation from place to place in the game will also be changing.  A ley-line system will be accessible in caves to allow players to jump between positions they've already discovered.  Caves will also be limiting some of the options for Heroic Movement to ensure proper engagement with monsters.  Also, Portal Shards will change a little bit, with a 10-minute cooldown if used to jump to a portal spire, and 30-minute cooldown if used to jump to one's alternate claim. 

We were then shown a Fiery Fungus, one of the new cave-dwelling monsters.  A vegetable masquerading as a proximity mine, getting too close to it is slightly dangerous to players.  The cool thing is that with Landmark's destructible world, it will make a crater when it goes boom.  We also found out that while monsters are tethered (they won't chase you all over the world after you aggro them until someone or something dies), each kind of monster will have its own different basic behavior.  Some monsters will zerg rush you, others will chase for a bit and then give up, and still others will maneuver in ways unique to that monster.  SOE's goal here, explained Terry Michaels, was to avoid having them all act the same.  In answer to one of the questions asked in the chat, we were informed that monsters are not currently able to be captured, so no one's going to be plopping them on their claim to eat people during PVP.  However, it was eventually on the books to allow that to happen, the capturing that is, not necessarily eating people, although the Chomper does give me flashbacks to Little Shop of Horrors.  For now, however, monsters will not cross into claims and will, in fact, actively avoid them.

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Jean Prior