EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha Preview

Being able to count on your hands (and toes) how many people have played EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha is pretty special.  And hopefully I can portray to you some of the feelings we all shared with our Alpha preview.

To begin with, the EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha begins today, January 31st.  Players who purchased the Trailerblazer or Explorer Founders Packs, which are still available now, will get to play the game on day one.  What’s significant about the Alpha for Landmark is that this marks the first time in SOE’s history that they’ve allowed players to play the alpha version of one of their games.  You may think to yourself, why is Landmark the first?  By its very nature, Landmark is the building blocks behind EverQuest Next.  The team created the tools found in Landmark to create their next-generation MMORPG and giving the public access to these tools is a natural progression in the genre.  Think of it as a sort of crowd-sourcing tool.  Sony Online Entertainment is using Landmark to have players give their input, use their creativity, and help shape what EverQuest Next will be in the future.

SOE is giving players Alpha access, because typically, when a game reaches beta, most of the elements are done.  Dave Georgeson, Director of Development for the EverQuest franchise, knows that when players get a chance to play in an Alpha, they get a chance to make an impact, make the changes that they really want.  During beta, a game is nearly 95% done, players are really only there to squash the bugs, but SOE wants players to help shape their game.  

[heading]What’s in the Alpha?[/heading]During Alpha players will find that the core gameplay, the features you need to play the game, are there, but not fully fleshed out or fully robust.  Players will be able to build anything to their hearts desire (expect penises), chop down trees, mine for minerals and gems, make claims on territory, build with their friends, communicate in-game and craft basic items.  You will have access to two biomes at first, the jungle and desert, but more more will be added ‘soonish’.  Emotes are available in-game, with the most notable example being /onod, which is an homage to Omeed Dariani, Global Brand Manager at SOE, who was immortalized in a meme with a snarky nod during a roundtable video.  You will be able to customize your avatar, however the customization is limited at first.

[heading]What’s Not in the Alpha (initially)[/heading]Speaking with Dave Georgeson, one of the things I wanted to uncover was what was notably missing from the Alpha.  During the initial launch players won’t have access to a sickle or bucket, meaning they are not able to harvest plants or bushes, and won’t be able to mess with any liquids (there are no liquids in the game at this point either).  While players can make claims and build with their friends, the friends list is not realized yet, and while there is a text chat feature, it’s global, there’s no way to PM friends yet.  The world is robust, however it’s mostly only surface level, there are not deep caverns or higher level tiers available yet.  There will be an in-game currency, but that is also not available in Alpha yet, nor is the Player Studio.  The developers have a great idea for an in-game journal, that will essentially eliminate the need for players to ever leave the game to find a Wiki, or to do an internet search for how to create items, the journal will allow you to do all your research in-game, however that is not available yet.  Oh, and PvP is not available during the initial Alpha, but sounds awesome and we can’t wait for it to be added!

[heading]My Impressions[/heading]Gosh, it’s difficult to express in words how excited I was to try out Landmark.  I’ve spent my fair share of time in builders like Minecraft, and with all promise and hype surrounding Landmark, there was no doubt a feeling of giddiness on being able to play.  I’ll say that our (the press) first foray into the game will be quite different from yours.  We got access to ALL the tools available to the developers, which are extremely powerful.  Imagine skipping flight school and jumping in to the cockpit for your first flight after your initial welcome orientation, it’s like that.  Luckily we had the developers behind our backs telling us how to use these extraordinary building tools.  If you think the game is like Minecraft, it is not.  It’s incredibly more detailed and the things that you can imagine and build in-game are far going to exceed what we’ve seen in a game before.  

Alpha players will be treated with a tutorial, and will gradually unlock more powerful tools by crafting, mining etc., which will be extremely helpful.  I am so much of a perfectionist, that anything I attempted to build in Landmark, quickly failed to impress me, especially because I was able to walk around the world and see some things that developers have made, beautiful cottages surrounded by quaint forests, a mountain-top retreat with an incredible view of the valley and more.  I tried to build a tree-house, which initially proved nearly impossible, because I had a difficult time building a stair-case to even get into the trees to build.  After several trial and error efforts (because perfectionist) I finally reached the tree-tops and had what I thought was a valiant attempt at a tree-house fortress.  In the end, it probably looked more like a 10 year olds attempt at a tree house, than someone with such high architectural aspirations. 

My crown jewel may have been the ENORMOUS block of stone that I built floating in the sky.  The size of the block so large, so full of voxels, that it froze my computer.  However, upon re-boot, the block was still in the sky, for everyone in the land to view.  In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the game, however there were many frustrating points trying to get the voxels (blocks) to line up just right.  The general joke around the SOE campus regarding Landmark is that you’re always “one voxel off”, which definitely held true.

Watch my Interview with Dave Georgeson on what players can expect in EverQuest Next Landmark’s Alpha.

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