Social Features and the Future of Landmark

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Note: this article was originally posted to EQNexus several years ago. Sadly, that website is no longer with us, so I am reposting my content from back then to The Errant Penman for preservation. 

Having finally gotten some experience with Landmark, I have to say I’m quite impressed with how much fun I’ve been having while playing it. I’m not even particularly interested in building games; in fact, this is my first foray into one. I’m one of the many MMO players who ventured into Landmark looking for a taste of Everquest: Next, only to be unwittingly tricked into enjoying myself along the way. It’s not that surprising in a way. Landmark isn’t just a building game, after all; it’s an MMO as well. However, it does have a long way to go on that front.

It’s no surprise that the MMO features in Landmark are currently lacking, and this is by no means should be taken as a criticism; it would make no sense for them to have developed those features first without the game’s core building mechanics in place. That said, the building aspects of the game are starting to look pretty good, so at this point, I’d like to take a look at what the future may hold for Landmark‘s guild and social features – these are the parts that will really bring it into its own as an MMO, and take it to a level beyond that of an overcrowded building game.

At its core, there are two components to encourage player socialization in an MMO environment. Players need a way to come together into communities, and they need a reason for doing it. The way players come together is nothing new, and MMO systems of old are more than capable of fitting right in with Landmark‘s gameplay. Friends list, groups, guilds, forums, and fan sites all come into play here, doing their part to encourage player interaction and the formation of communal bonds.

The reason to join those communities is where Landmark will require a bit of innovation. In a traditional MMO, guilds and other communities give players access to partners with whom they can complete content, be it dungeons, group PvP, or raids. While Landmark almost certainly won’t be getting raids any time soon, will there be large group content? I sure hope so, and I know I’m alone. In fact, through clever abuse of game mechanics, some players managed to create it in the Landmark Alpha.

The video above shows a tour of Lethality’s mega-claim, a conglomeration of claims which allowed its owners to create a massive, sprawling city through collaborative building. The city is truly impressive both in terms of scale and execution, and given the interest it has garnered from both players and developers, there is little doubt that this exploit foreshadows the future of social building in Landmark.

So why isn’t this already a feature in Landmark? The game just doesn’t have the social systems in place to support it smoothly at this time. While 20 people can certainly drop all of their claims on top of each other’s and manually add every person to their claim’s permissions, for an official implementation this would be extremely clunky. If mega-claims are added as a supported feature after guild functionality has been added to the game, it could be as simple as ticking a box to allow guild members to build on your claim. It could even be further simplified with the addition of a single massive claim for guilds, allowing guild leadership to drop a single claim instead of requiring members to line theirs up one by one. This would also simplify upkeep, and eliminate the risk of a single member’s negligence creating a hole in the center of the claim. In addition, a guild claim would help to minimize trolling, as a single claim would enable the leadership to simply roll the build back to a previous template if a member decides to level their creation out of spite. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of good reasons to wait before implementing official mega-claim functionality.

However, this only covers the building aspects of social activities, and in a game like Landmark, there’s a lot more potential to be had. Building those cities is a start, but what if they could be given a further purpose? What if player cities in landmark could really be brought alive?

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Not literally alive though, because portal spires would be horrifying.

Currently, there are few reasons to visit another player’s claim in Landmark aside from tourism, and while that’s worked out alright so far, what if players’ creations could be given function? There are many ways this could be brought about and while I won’t attempt a comprehensive listing, I would like to throw out a few ideas for city features that could be implemented to bolster Landmark‘s social scene.

    • Public Crafting Stations – These could be implemented in such a way that would make them worth visiting over simply using one’s own. I’m envisioning these as being bigger, more efficient, and prohibitively expensive such that only a dedicated guild would be able to create one. Perhaps they could be faster, have a better chance of a critical craft, be more efficient with refining, etc… While their existence could mess with the personal progression grind, I do think it would be worth it to help create social hubs, and if SOE doesn’t agree, there could be a certification required to use the machines that is obtained by crafting your own small personal tools.
    • Player Stores – Perhaps the most obvious feature for a city, player stores selling resources, tools, and more would be a great way to get players to visit each other’s claims. The game needs an economy, and this would be a great, sandboxy way to bring one about. I’ll admit that my Star Wars Galaxies nostalgia is showing right now (on that note, buff classes would fit in well too, but that’s pretty far out).
    • Transportation Hubs – Player cities interested in being frequented by more than just members could, at great cost, build their own portal stones to allow easy access. This would make it more convenient than ever to patronize that town for your crafting or shopping needs.
    • Enhanced Roleplay Support – I’m hardly an avid roleplayer, but even I can see the potential in an MMO where you can build anything you want. Adding further support for roleplay, notably through the inclusion of more races and customization features, would go a long way to attract one of the groups most prone to hanging around player cities.

With the ability to create fantastic cities and a reason to visit them, Landmark would have amazing potential as not just a building game, but as an MMO in its own right. For MMO players, Landmark is a fun layover while we await Everquest: Next, but if it wants to become a destination, this is the path it needs to walk – and I have no doubt that it will.

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