Sony Online Entertainment has made no bones about the fact that EverQuest Next: Landmark is going to be something special and a true sandbox title that will cater to a huge variety and type of MMO player. We had the opportunity to spend time as the first alpha group in EQN:L and for a chance to chat with the developers about the game that kicks off the Founders Alpha later today. That's right: the Founders' Alpha for Landmark begins today! The most pervasive thought is that there truly is something for everyone in SOE's most ambitious game to date.
The day kicked off with a short talk by SOE's John Smedley who reminded us all that the EverQuest franchise is getting ready for three big events this year: EverQuest's fifteenth anniversary, EverQuest II's tenth anniversary, and the launch of EverQuest Next: Landmark. There's no question that this is a huge year for the property.
Smed introduced Dave Georgeson to speak more about our real purpose for being here: EverQuest Next: Landmark and the impending alpha for those who purchased the Founders Pack.
"We are changing our development process." he told us. "We want to involve players in every decision we make. Transparency is important."
"Beta testing can be frustrating for players and developers," Georgeson said.
Further, he stated that a beta client is largely the finished product with little time to make significant changes, thereby creating that frustration among both groups.
"We want players in the game at a point where developers can actually make changes, to give them time and opportunity to make their voices heard."
"It's not a bug hunt." Georgeson said later in the day. "It's a 20,000 person development team."
To that end, Georgeson took obvious pleasure in announcing that the Founders Pack alpha is slated to begin on Friday, January 31st sometime in the evening. So begins the journey.
Alpha: Gathering, Tools & Progression
During alpha testing, players will be treated to a "vertical slice of gameplay" in that 60% of the assets are finished and players will be able to take part in several key game systems. Players will have the opportunity to try out crafting, gathering (mining, harvesting minerals, trees and earth), make property claims, all features that will be expanded upon as the alpha progresses.
In addition, players will be able to get a small foreshadowing of the progression system that will be present in every game feature. Each inventory will contain basic tools with which to begin the most basic gathering tasks. Tools, including picks, shovels and buckets, will progress as materials are gathered and a new, better version is forged which also allows for the gathering of additional materials to create new, better versions and so forth. To do so will require traveling to "hubs" that feature the forges needed for crafting, though players can craft their own forges for placement on their claim as well. Each piece of gathering is intertwined with the other so that as one progresses, so do others if crafting is done at the appropriate time.
"It's an OCD nightmare!" Dave Georgeson said.
Lucky players will also have a random chance to forge an item with higher than normal stats, sort of a gambling roll.
Those are just the systems that will be in place during alpha. Over time, armor, weapons and more will be added to the game and each of those will feature their own progression as well.
To put it succincly: Everything in EverQuest Next: Landmark progresses.
One of the most exciting pieces of EQN:L for many is the ability to jet out into the world and stake a claim in the world. Think of the Oklahoma Land Rush of the late 19th Century. It's easy to imagine that, as the alpha commences tomorrow, players running at top speed to get that mountaintop with a view.
Once claimed, the property is yours, both what's on the ground, under it and over it (to certain depths and heights). There is a buffer around the claim as well that keeps those neighbors a bit further away but, if guildies or friends grab a nearby plot of land, not too far away if desired. No one can destroy your structures either. Each landowner has the right to grant permissions to those who can make changes to structures. Even entire guilds will be able to be invited, though this is not in the alpha.
One interesting feature the team announced is that players will have to pay a certain amount of in-game currency to maintain their plot of land. If funds aren't received on time, all that is on the claim is essentially folded up into a package that is placed back into a player's inventory. The land is put back up for grabs. Interestingly, when a player returns to the game, that package can be "unfolded" and placed on a new claim and all will appear as it did in the original without having to rebuild. Pretty cool!