A week of Landmark and what a week it’s been. While off to a rocky start, with server down times, unavailability of land for claiming and voxel wipes, we found the fun in this new offering form S.O.E.
Mining is a surprisingly enjoyable activity. Chasing ore nodes into the ground, finding an added bonus of rarer materials at the end, digging oneself into a hole then having to dig oneself out again, all add to the satisfaction of mining. Chopping trees? Not so much. There are no awkward situations, node chasing or visual interest in tree chopping, just a boring grind of holding the mouse button for 10-15 sec while watching wood add to my bag. In the interest of my sanity, I’d like to see wood harvesting change. We could make chopping more interesting, a la mining, and I’ve seen several suggestions for that, including visuals of bleeding trees or small animals running screaming from the axe, to chasing wood nodes through the tree or using the grappling hook to climb it. Or we could speed up the process of wood harvesting so that it takes less time and button holding.
I vote for less button holding in Landmark, I’m feeling the wear and tear of harvesting from continually holding the left mouse button. I’m like the canary in the mine, first to notice the gas rising from the coal pockets, before it kills the miners. My own particular brand of disability makes me sensitive to the overuse of muscles and my muscles started protesting days ago. How about you, is your mouse finger feeling limp after hours of harvesting? Need a dose of finger Viagra to get it firm and springy again? I’d hate to see Landmark become the cause of digital R.S.I. so I was glad to see the tweet from Dave Georgeson saying this would become a toggle soon.
There are so many conversations about harvesting on the forums, it’s hard to know what to think. One consensus seems to be, ‘Mining=fun, chopping=boring.’ (Have a browse through this lumberjacking thread for ways to spice up wood harvesting).
The other most talked about topic is the quantity and rarity of material gathering. There are cries to increase drop rates of goodies like sapphires and rubies and counter-cries to make them rarer. This conversation, at it’s heart, is about how long an average player should take to progress to maximum level.
Progression in Landmark is determined by our tool level, by our picks and axes, forges and workbenches. Better tools allow us to harvest higher tier resources and build better crafting stations which, in turn, leads to better gear for our characters and better props for our houses. The gathering speed of materials determines our tool leveling speed and character ‘level’. While the rate of harvesting is an important conversation, the drop rate of individual ores, woods or gems is premature, just because so much of the game is yet to be added. Think gathering sapphires are too easy? Wait till you must kill 5, 6, 7 or more monsters for each sapphire node harvested. Wait till the only place to find sapphires is buried so far in the earth that a pulverizor is a necessity, then comment on the drop rate and leveling time. Maybe, when all those systems are in, we’ll find the harvesting drop rates only need minor adjustments.
There’s still room for talking about the length of time that a player, playing all aspects of the game for around 15 hours a week, takes to max out all standard crafting tables (15 hours a week is an arbitrary number pulled out of my … er … posterior for the purpose of this conversation). Should it take 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months? Once that time’s decided, then balance the harvesting and crafting around that goal. Then we’ll know if burled wood was nerfed too soon.
Claims And Transport
The loading screen for Landmark shows an idyllic landscape of untamed wilderness broken by a few well built houses dotting the landscape. It sure does make me want to get out there and explore.
There’s two types of exploration in Landmark, player creation and territory, and each poses it’s own challenges within the game. Now, I love wandering around the landscape looking for ores and wood, occasionally running across a plot and taking a gander at what it’s owner has built but I’m also seeing some great claims in the screenshot thread on the forum. I’d like to go visit those claims, get inspiration, ideas and techniques. The only thing that stops me is the significant time investment in running to the outback of beyond, a journey that will be made longer by encountering monsters and mountains.
I’d enjoy a quick and easy method for visiting other people’s plots, an instant teleport system. I wouldn’t like to see it used as a quick means of transport around the game, so if we cross over the plot boundary, we should automatically teleport back to our starting position. It would be great if we could access the teleport system in two ways, from the leaderboard and from the map. I’d use the leaderboard teleport to visit the claims receiving the most attention, newly added claims or, if such a feature is added, take a punt on a claim picked randomly by the board. Teleporting to claims from the map would be a convenience to let me explore claims island by island. If it needed further restrictions, to prevent people using a teleport system to escape (even temporarily) from danger, then make it only accessable from a teleport hub. A building game is all about visiting and being visited, let’s make this possible in a humane way, a way that lessons the wear and tear on players and monsters alike.
Community, some of us want to be part of one, some don’t. I love seeing a game populated with people. I also want to be close to a portal spire, it’s both a gathering spot and a location of convenience, at least for my first build, where quick access to my crafting station is desirable. Those closer to the hubs are more likely to receive visitors and votes as well. If it’s one thing the recent experiences with land grabs has shown, locations near the portal spire are prime property. Does being near a hub grant too great a benefits without drawbacks to balance it?
My other thought is that, after a week or two of play with claim density levels as they are, the land will feel very empty. It’s good to have large tracts of empty space, it’s good to have civilization, a village or community, a place filled with people, to retreat from the wilderness.
I propose, in an effort to address some of these concerns, that the urban density around teleport hubs be greater, giving us the trade off that we can be close to hubs but our neighbours are closer to us and we must accept that their concept of beauty will pollute…I mean, grace our skyline. The higher claim density need only be two or three buffer zones out from the hub and maybe 2-3 times the density, just enough to give a sense of population.
Along with this urban area I’d like to see roads going across the urban zone swiftly trailing off into the wilderness, with these roads increasing the speed of travel and providing safe egress. I like roads, they lead to adventure. Nothing says ‘Come explore’ like a road leading off into the distance.
If our landscape was zoned like this, the wilderness can remain more wildy (wilderly?). The wilderness could have more monsters, rare spawns, nodes, caves, alters, things to discover. The urban zone could contain less of these things. It gives us more choices in game, we can be convenient to hubs but crowded, or isolated in our own glorious splendor. We can harvest with more safety but greater competition and less discovery or we can venture out into the wilds and face danger with greater reward. Often we appreciate things more when there are contrasts and, to me, this contrast of civilization and wilderness would make for a more interesting landscape than a uniform spread of plots.
There aren’t many conversations about population density and how it might shape landscape so maybe it’s time we considered how it could improve the game, not just for us in alpha but for the influx of new players when Landscape is released.
One thing I am happy to see, Landmark is already developing it’s own culture. I appreciated the culture surrounding WoW and miss it in Rift. Machinimas like ‘Burled Wood’ by Jordan Neff (above) and cartoons like ‘A beautiful day in the neighborhood.’ (NSFW) give me hope that life outside Landmark shall be as rich and entertaining as inside the game.
We’re looking at the bare bones of the game right now, our job, should we accept it, is to use our imaginations to flesh out the body of the game. These are a few of my thoughts on how I’d like the game to proceed. I’m looking forward to hearing yours.