So it finally happened. Really and for truly! Landmark launched into the realm of released games. I can officially remove the alpha/beta tag off this column. But other than that, what does launch mean? How did it go?
Other than the game being offline for a couple days, it felt very business as usual. There weren’t any major crashes or load queues that I personally experienced (granted I also didn’t try to play the days that there were network issues that prevented logging in on multiple Daybreak games), but there also weren’t really any mega wow-factor features. Except for having to experience character creation — and all those subsequent a Luminary was made messages each time someone else did so — I might have not been able to really distinguish launch from any other day.
Admit it: At least at some point, every single one of you had doubts that Landmark would actually ever launch. Hey, it’s understandable. I have been there, too. After such an extremely long alpha phase and a lengthy closed beta phase (but no open beta!), doubts were natural — even expected. Then there was the SOE turns into Daybreak thing. And then the loss of so many talented developers. After all that, we were greeted with radio silence. After all this, even the most hopeful and dedicated of supporters had moments of uncertainty. Who could blame them?
But launch is now real! The voxel world (yes, I still say voxels) is actually going live. On June 10th, Landmark ditches all the early access and beta monikers to become just plain old Landmark.
Since you may have thought this day would never come, you may not be ready for it. (We are not going into whether or not the game is actually ready right now). Even if you think you are more than ready for this to finally be a real live game and are wishing the launch day were here right now instead of next week, there may be some little housekeeping things you have overlooked — some prep work that you want to accomplish before the beta servers go down for good on June 7th. That’s where we come in. To find out all you need to know for this occasion, you can check the official forums, but where’s the fun in that? To help you get all set for the big day, we’ve got a run down of things you may want to check on to make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible for you. Here are the highlights you need to know about Landmark’s launch — and probably a few things you didn’t!
Have you finished up everything there was to do in EverQuest II from last week’s list? Neither have I. That first half alone is enough to fill your calendar for an extremely long time. Even so, making fully informed decisions is important when it comes to your play time. That’s why you need all the info! EQII has a plethora of things to do outside the standard MMO fare we discussed before, and some of these off-the-beaten-path activities are actually my favorites!
In that light, here’s the second half of the I’ve-logged-in-now-what-do-I-do list to help you stave off the feeling of running around, flailing wildly like a boss with its head cut off! Use this to avoid the dreaded decisional paralysis that accompanies diving into a game as rich in features and activities as EQII by homing in on just one topic or two to occupy your time before you actually start. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sampling a little bit of everything, either. So go forth and enjoy what Norrath has to offer!
If ever there was a game that gives me decisional paralysis, it’s EverQuest II. While it may technically be very much a themepark, there is no denying that EQII has plenty of things to do; so many things, in fact, that my mind spins trying to narrow down my choices whenever I log in. With so many variations of classes and races, and the opportunity to have a large number of alts, some days I just stare at my character select screen, unable to even get past that!
As much as having so much to do in EverQuest II is a strength, I have heard new and even returning players express exasperation and give up at the sheer volume of it all. Trust me, I understand. Beyond the standard fare people think of when envisioning an MMO — questing, raiding, crafting — there’s a plethora of other activities. There’s content (after all these years of expansions and updates, boy is there content!) as well as systems for players to create more content. Housing, collections, and festivals galore can eat up astronomical amounts of time as well. Many times these various activities are intertwined, and doing one will benefit another. I’ve gone on raids just to get a housing item, and crafted my gear to help my adventuring.
The trick may be to pick one aspect and focus on that even before you log in. So here’s the first half (yes, there is that much!) summary of some of the things that are available. We’ll focus today on that standard MMO fare.
With last week’s release of GU100 in EverQuest II, an interesting conversation reared its head again — a not necessarily flattering one for Daybreak. While I am as excited as the next person for new content, I have reservations about this delivery this time around. That’s because this recent game update’s content is gated behind a subscription wall, which leads me to ask: Are non-subscribing players second-class citizens? Specifically, are those who choose not to buy into membership considered inherently substandard in the eyes of developers, regardless of how much money they put into the game?
I’ve made pitches more than once for people to pony up and pay for games they like. Nothing says that has to come in the form of a subscription, though. Game models today provide various ways to pay and play, so I wonder why devs figuratively spit in the face of those who want to give them money in one of those other ways. Is sub money somehow superior to non-sub money? While I personally have kept my All-Access going basically from the beginning, why is a friend who prefers to use the offered a la carte method not worthy of obtaining the same content? I’m not talking about folks who are fully free-to-play and never invest a single dime into the game; I referring to players who opt out of subs but still fork over up to hundreds of dollars between the Marketplace and expansions (versus my measly $15 a month). Why is there content these folks can’t purchase, even if they want to? This really does not make sense to me.
I’ve come to think that how the goodies of GU100 were made available was wrong, and it worries me about content distribution going forward. Slighting paying customers is sure to drive away business. How much, I can’t say, but I have friends who refuse to spend in games they actually planned to when learning no matter how much they spend, it will never be “enough” to access content. Special perks for subscribers is all well and good, but content should be accessible to anyone willing to pay for it, whatever their method of doing so.
WoW is stupid. Yes, I said it. World of Warcraft is dumb. More accurately, I should say Blizzard is stupid. The reason? Its stance on legacy servers. This month, the studio through legal pressure effectively shut down an unauthorized, player-run WoW emulator, Nostalrius — a place where fans were getting their fix of vanilla WoW goodness. I can understand not wanting others to profit off your work, but we’re talking about ignoring a fan base that desperately wants your product! Why not get in on the action?
As much hate as people want to hate on Daybreak (and far be it from me to say some of that isn’t rightly deserved), the studio got one thing right: It respects players’ desire to play older versions of its games. Both EverQuest and EverQuest II have official progression servers, and Daybreak has even signed a supportive agreement with the fan-run EQ emulator Project 1999. Even Daybreak’s former President John Smedley threw his support behind emulators. So why don’t more companies give this notion a go?
When Daybreak drops a big Landmark patch, it apparently does so quite literally… onto hard, unforgiving concrete… from the top of a tall building. Because this puppy broke! I was still in character creation when the second wipe happened (at least I had more time to contemplate my hairstyle!), and when I finally got to log in I was bugged from the first second. And all this with launch coming sometime this spring. Not the most auspicious of beginnings.
Luckily, while much was disappointing, not all was negative. Here are my very first impressions of the post-wipe world that were garnered during the time servers were stable enough to play.
Well, then. When it rains, it pours.
After a lengthy drought of EverQuest Next and Landmark news, we finally got some. And not just a few drops, but a bit of a deluge. Except that it wasn’t all a dancing-in-the-rain kind of shower. No, some more closely resembled a knock-you-on-your-keister-and-try-to-drown-you storm. I tell you, this week has been quite the roller coaster ride of hopeful highs and devastated dreams, and I am pretty wrung out.
It all started with finally got news of a Landmark update. Yay! I wasn’t completely thrilled with the news itself (it raised some questions), but I was tickled pink that there was actual news. That led to a bit more hope for EQ Next news. Well, be careful what you wish for because boy, oh boy, did we get some news; it just wasn’t any news anyone wanted to hear. The ambitious game that had so many promising features is canceled. Gone. There is not enough boo in the world to adequately express this! Oh, and while you are trying to process that, let’s slip in that there will be character wipes in Landmark, despite earlier assurances that there wouldn’t. On the bright side, Landmark is actually getting the storytelling system. Yay!
And did I mention that EverQuest Next is no more? That’s going to take some getting used to.
Holy moly, it happened! As you might surmise by the not-so-subtle surprise in my voice, we’ve finally got a chunk of Landmark news. It’s been a long while. The silence that has been surrounding both this game and EverQuest Next has been deafening, and I am very glad to see the wheels of progress are actually turning — at least for Landmark. And I can certainly hope that translates into the same for EQN. Even though that will remain to be seen, I celebrate the continued development of Landmark; I am still looking forward to this game and the enticing features that will put the power of storytelling into the hands of players.
Sadly, the news has nothing to do with the AI or the storytellng system. The announcement was focused on new landscapes, expanded claim sizes, and underground caverns. Today we’ll concern ourselves primarily with the claim aspects. Once once you get past the shock and joy of new information, you find that there are now way more questions. I have a ton, and many other Landmark fans do as well. To be fair, Daybreak has come back with the response that this update is really huge and more information will be forthcoming. Hopefully, some of these issues will be addressed when it does.
One of the reasons new players find it so difficult to get into older games is because there is so much to do that you don’t know where to start. Few games exemplify that better EverQuest II; there is literally so much content that many newbies — and even returning players — have thrown their hands up and surrendered. Even if you take out everything else (housing, player dungeons, crafting, collections), there are so many different zones, how do you know where to go just to adventure? What you need is a handy guide. And here it is!
Anyone familiar with EverQuest II knows that Norrath likes to celebrate. The game is filled with so many holidays and festivals that it can be really hard to keep up with them. Sure, there is an in-game calendar that lists everything all out, and you look up individual festivals, but you have to be actually logged in for the former or recall the name of the festival during the right time of the year for the latter. And then you have to actually remember to do something about it before it ends. Maybe it just slips your mind. At times real life takes ahold of you and won’t let go; work, family, travel, meals, and sleep all can interfere with your gaming. Or, you could just procrastinate a bit and then have to scramble at the end to try and complete things on 18 different alts.
The point is, there is so much to keep track of that it’s totally easy to miss out on a festival or two. I should know: I’ve missed a couple already. And I am still kicking myself because it means I have to wait another year to get the housing items and recipes that I wanted. And that’s why I’ve created this easy-to-reference event calendar. Feel free to use it to schedule your vacations, either to devote your vacation days to your favorite festival, or so you can be sure to be back home from your travels with enough time to log in and enjoy.
Music has been on my mind a lot lately. OK, so it is always on my mind! From skipping down the streets belting out showtunes, cartoon theme songs, and parodies of other assorted songs (now you know what I did last weekend!) to signing on livestreams, my mind is always aswirl with music. So when EverQuest II Audio Manager/Composer Mark MacBride made his Terrors of Thalumbra tracks available on soundcloud, I knew I had to go and give them a listen.
As much as I appreciate the art in a game — as much as I love the vistas, the beautiful backdrops, and the intricate details — it’s music that can truly be the heart of a game experience. It’s the music that truly brings out feelings and emotions that connect you to your surroundings; the right music can add things to the picture that your eye can’t see. There is a reason the saying is “the sights and sounds…” The two really do work in concert (OK, pun may have been intended). Music’s ability to elicit images in the mind through sound alone is powerful, and coupling that with visuals is just a one-two punch of immersion. Without one, your experience with the other is lessened. That’s precisely how I feel about these musical tracks. After sitting back and just listening, I realized that as much as I really enjoy the art in EQII’s new zone, it’s these tracks that bring it all to life.
We’ve looked back at 2015 for the launched games EverQuest and EverQuest II, the long-lasting beta of Landmark, and the MIA-and-presumed-dead (by some) EverQuest Next. Now it is time to look ahead at 2016. Instead of noting what we know, we get to speculate on what could be. What is on the horizon for this franchise? How will Norrath weather the next four seasons? Obviously a working crystal ball would be ideal right about now, but without one, we are left with trends, hopes, and outright wishful thinking. In 12 months we’ll see just how many of these were accurate predictions! Here’s what I see happening, what I want to happen, and what needs to happen in this next year for my favorite franchise.