GW2: So What Did You Do On Feature Patch Day?

sylvarinecro

$10 and 30 gold later, I finally got around to updating my necromancer’s look for PvP and his PvE condition gear.

(Whose stat type I didn’t actually own before today, either. And I opened the two Tequatl’s Hoards I’d been hoarding, for a dagger and staff to go with my Wand of the Sunless.)

Worth it.

I didn’t really need that frost wasp axe or drum this month anyway. :(

This patch has been fiendishly devious in terms of giving new lateral progression things to do.

There’s the new grandmaster trait unlocks, which I suppose will get done over time as one does temples and such.

There’s trying to relearn and get used to all the new UI changes and whatever the hell they’ve done in the traits/profession rebalance.

I fixed my major character’s traits back to what they were using, and it’s been…hmm, different and same.

My one-hand crit guardian seems to have escaped the worst of it, and feels like he’s even gotten better in low leveled areas, thanks to the improved downscaling of crit damage (erm, ferocity.) Of course, his main purpose is to exist in open world PvE areas and kill things very fast – no group support needed and the bare minimum of survivability, so that’s not very high requirements either way.

The axe/horn banner warrior may have lost a bit of dps, but since he wasn’t optimized for super-duper-100%-efficient DPS and went the more group support route instead, it doesn’t -feel- that different. Still yet to test it out in tougher content though, which will be crucial since he’s my dungeoneering and wurm-killing main. I may have actually lucked out by going for empowered allies and group banner support before this – what was once second best and merely decent now seems to be becoming part of the new meta, now that the old meta build had its feet and DPS kicked out under it.

My thief seems to have gotten the worst hit, I kept trying to stealth-backstab random mobs and going, what, IS THAT IT? Totally unscientific since I failed to record prior damage numbers before, but it didn’t -seem- to be hitting as lethally as before. Still yet to fix his shiny new account-bound WXP traits and test him out there, nor have I gotten around to the WvW asura guardian either.

My necromancer is a total mess stat and gear wise. A month ago, I took him out of his stopgap minion master axe/horn zerker build that helped me get through the norn and his dog in the Queen’s Gauntlet, and swapped him into an experimental death shroud/well power build for PvE, running a few easy dungeons as a test and change of pace. (Did passable to fine, didn’t get kicked.) At the same time, he was in Dhuumfire/terrormancer condi PvP build for mah dailies.

Today, I said, “Ok, today is the day I get him shiny new PvE condition gear and get him all set up looks-wise like my other mains.”

Except I somehow managed to edit my PvE traits while sitting in the Heart of the Mists pondering what would be functional for PvP (I blame the trait trainer who oh so helpfully offered to bring up my traits panel.) Thankfully, the PvP build copied itself off the PvE build, so I didn’t have to change it a second time and now BOTH builds are specced towards condition and bleeds and I’ve forgotten what the hell the dungeoneering power build was.

Then all my attention ended up in the wardrobe trying to design the new look.

Naturally, the only gloves that I wanted were those I didn’t have. (I really should have bought those toxic gloves. I hope they come back some day.)

Eventually, vanity won over frugality, and the remaining $10 in the month’s gem store budget went to buying Trickster armor for a pair of really neat gloves. (Granted, the rest of the armor doesn’t look half bad and I might be able to use pieces for my mesmer some day. Having the skins permanently available in the wardrobe really nudged me over the edge. Sorry, drum. Next month.)

Then I spent 30 gold on one miserable piece of T3 sylvari cultural armor, thinking I’d gotten really lucky that the cultural armor was the rabid stats I wanted. Only when I looked at the vendor, did I realize the blasted thing only had rare stats. Gah.

I’m feeling a bit too poor to buy one more chestpiece of exotic stats today, especially since it has also hit me that his jewellery is all still zerker.  Some day, but not today, I’m going to have to sit down, rummage through my bank and wallet and see what exotics or ascended of the right condition stats I can afford and fix that up properly, stats and runes/sigils and all.

For now, he’s sitting in a PvE limbo of neither condition or power. Bah.

There’s a dreamcleaver axe and staff skin waiting in the bank for his power build too, when I get around to designing a second look, when I actually figure out what his power build should be. *sigh*

All in good time, I suppose.

Feels like being pulled in a dozen directions at once, and being completely confused and penniless at the same time.

Who needs an expansion to shake things up when one dang feature patch is all it takes, eh?

GW2: On Thieves and the Edge of the Mists

Today's EOTM lesson is on supply!

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed yet, but I have a tendency to go quiet when I’m avidly playing WvW.

One simply runs out of new topics to talk about, or runs into the fear of revealing too much about one’s own server’s habits and patterns – that can be then capitalized on by another server.

And there’s a limited amount of general things to say about mass battles and player versus player that hasn’t already been covered -everywhere-, including in real life.

Do a blow by blow battle report?

Today, we captured X’s garrison. The other day in some other timezone, they captured ours. Swap in bay/hills/towers, etc. for garrison. Today, we wiped their zerg. Two hours later, they wiped us. The next clash, we wiped them back.

It’s a yawnfest to write, let alone read.

It’s only -not- a yawnfest when you’re actually there in the thick of things, reacting to the immediacy of it and figuring out the best place to place yourself and your damage.

Which is what keeps players coming back, I suppose.

Talking about larger scale strategy and map politics brings us dangerously close to revealing server thinking, so it’s hard to know what to cover, and to be frank, each commander and player can have a different read on the situation (some more accurate than others) and you can never control all the players on a map anyway, so it’s always “sounds great in theory, may go all Murphy’s Law in practice.”

The basics, of course, is not to push on two servers at once to make ‘em both mad and coming after you.

Common mistake, fer instance, often performed by less strategic commanders in the Borderlands is to try to push the home server, fail miserably, and then pick the easier sidelong option instead, moving east or west. This makes the other invading server mad, and before you know it, there’s a rollicking fight down in the south ruins while the home server looks on, cackles and gets their yaks in.

The ideal is to have both invading servers push up into the home server and 2 vs 1 them into submission, or failing which, at least hold on to the third that is yours.

Unless, of course, the intention is to -not- play as expected and have the fight in the other server’s territory because that server is more of a longer term threat, or because some havoc group has made life so difficult that the commander gets fed up and leads the zerg into a punishment strike in the hope that the other team’s commander gets the message. (Sometimes they do, and sometimes, they’re as thick as a brick or just looking for a fight.)

On and on, play and counter-play, etc.

Whatever, I’m not a commander, so I’m not privy to everything that goes on behind-the-scenes: scouting information, intra-map communication, etc. But if you’re in the right tier, there’s a lot of it. And it elevates WvW to something a little more heady than a PvD karma train.

Speaking of PvD karma trains, the self-set goal of completing ALL of the shiny temporary achievements effectively shoved me into the Edge of the Mists, since there are two EOTM specific achievements that can only be gotten there.

My innate distaste of its design still stands.

Edge of the Mists is very asymmetric, I feel. One side builds up an unstoppable zerg, and everyone else logs out and into another EOTM overflow, hoping to find a friendly zerg on their side. Or one side has lots of roamers, a coordinated guild group or gank squads, and the same thing happens. Or two zergs form self-interested karma trains, doing its best to avoid each other while the last side tends to be nonexistent.

I enjoy WvW for its strategic PPT aspects and coordinated zerg fighting, and both are best found on the “real” WvW maps, rather than a map in which there’s even LESS incentive to defend anything.

Edge of the Mists shoves me into mixing with players that are generally of lower tiers, and generally speaking, lower tiers have a MUCH looser grasp on WvW tactics because they are not accustomed to strongly defended objectives where a coordinated map blob could waypoint in and run you over if you take several tens of seconds too long.

This means fights become uninteresting zerg vs zerg fights of the long range variety, and the few souls who -try- to coordinate a push end up demonstrating the futility of their strategy by running alone into the enemy zerg because no one else has enough confidence and trust in each other to do the same.

Until you run into a coordinated guild group vacationing in the Edge of the Mists, and then they get to play wrecking ball with the pugs, laughing all the way to the bank.

However, I have learned to tolerate it.

I’ve perhaps even come to terms with it, adapting around it and recognizing that it may have a part to play, after all.

It was during one of those everpresent offensive karma trains, trundling around doing its best to avoid the enemy zerg and capturing objective after objective (thank you, moar reactors and special objectives plz!) that this revelation came to me.

Edge of the Mists is EZ Introductory Mode.

That is its function.

Hey, WvWers, look, you’re PvEing! These mobs even have a little mechanic to learn from time to time. (eg. Troll regenerates with defiant stance – can be dazed and preventing from firing the skill with good timing, or if you’re alone, controlling your dps. Zergs can never do so, of course, so I amuse myself trying to daze appropriately. Or separate the earth elementals if you’re invading Overgrowth’s keep to damage them effectively, etc.)

Hey, PvErs, look, you’re WvWing! You run into enemy red name players from time to time, and they will probably kill you! But death is okay! You can die a few times and go back to karma training and earning phat lootz, and it’s still a happy experience! The zerg will keep you safe! (Most of the time.) But see, PvP isn’t so bad, it’s not personal, other people die too.

You might even learn a few things that are relevant to WvW, such as catapults not doing as much damage to doors, commanders having a /supplyinfo command that you don’t have, and not to drop extra siege if the commander didn’t ask for it!

Rarely, you might even bump into the odd commander or person who loves to drop siege and make a nice defence of the place, and you might even learn about the effectiveness of arrow carts and such that way. (We will not cover trebs or mortars. That is usually beyond basic EOTM strategy. But catapults may occasionally make a showing against a wall, or some smartass might be doing something to a bridge.)

Some guy learns about the non-effectiveness of catapults, while I marvel at how barely anyone looks away from the gate.

Some guy learns about the non-effectiveness of catapults, while I marvel at how barely anyone looks away from the gate. (One has gotten rear ended by a blob way too many times to learn that lesson. Alert thieves are great survivors.)

For the experts, Edge of the Mists is a vacation spot. A place to unwind after the pressures of “serious business” WvW.

I have, unfortunately, not really gotten many opportunities to glom onto a coordinated guild group doing silly stuff in EOTM, thanks to a lack of mic and WvW network connections to get a party invite into the right overflows, but I listen in from time to time, and damn, do they sound like they are having fun. Loot showering them from all sides. Sudden laughing panic as their map unfamiliarity sometimes gets them into highly awkward positions facing the prospect of sudden drops and sharp stops. Even more loot. The occasional admission that this “PvE thing” might have something going for it from time to time.

For the novices who encounter the experts, the fun is perhaps more one-sided, but again there is an important purpose. Nothing opens up one’s eyes than losing, and losing badly.

One is suddenly made aware of more possibilities. That someone is out there accomplishing stuff at a level that you are currently not at.

Not everybody will immediately do a 180 because of this. But for the rare soul with the will and desire to do so, it may engender a drive to improve oneself and seek out those avenues by which they can do so.

For the average Joes, of which I consider myself one, Edge of the Mists has a dual purpose. It is a slightly more sophisticated champion farm and a training ground.

Want to turn your brain off? Don’t feel like improving today? Want to mingle with the unwashed lower tier masses and get some of that karma train action that is nigh impossible to get in Tier 1 (and maybe Tier 2?) Follow the blue dorito, choo choo along autoattacking with 1 from range, watch the xp/karma/badges/wxp fly in.

You see, I have learned that I can follow -any- quality of commander on a thief without feeling sour or angry at his or her lack of tactical sense.

I used to play a guardian. First in, and committed till death or victory. You try running away on a non-roaming zerg spec guardian. It doesn’t work. You keep the group strong, you are dependent on the group staying strong and not letting you down.

You are also dependent on the commander not being a derp and doing stupid stuff like running head-on into too much enemy fire without whittling down the enemy first or catching them off-guard or placing siege or otherwise giving you a chance of victory (because your job is stick with him like glue and step where he steps. If your driver is good, he takes you to the correct places. If he’s bad, well…)

Every time the group wipes, I get more and more bitter.

The neverending learning process of playing a thief has been a big wake up call.

When you play a (relative) squishy in WvW, you have dual responsibilities of staying (relatively) close to the commander to aim damage his way AND not dying.

(As a thief, one can also take this up another level by search and destroying important-to-the-zerg enemy squishies. I’m still working on this part, wrapping my head around staying at range, surviving via positioning, and contributing blasts and damage has been challenging enough.)

As a thief, the major difference that I feel is that all my deaths are MY fault.

-I- screwed up and made a mistake. I stepped where I shouldn’t have. I got caught by an immobilize and failed to react to it appropriately in time. I stood in the path of an angry melee train and failed to see it coming or react fast enough. I stuck around way too long and got greedy when I should have booked it instead.

Thieves are excellent at booking it.

If half the zerg has disintegrated, the commander has gone down and there’s three or four enemy players for every player still left standing, it’s time to GTFO.

The enemy zerg goes after the most obvious most easy targets fleeing for the horizon, whereas the thief that just shadow refuged is not the first thing on the angry mob’s mind. Then it’s time to stroll off in a nonobvious direction, preferably not in front of all those melee cleaves. (Which is sometimes easier said than done if they’re facing your exit, or turned your way for whatever reason, but at least you had the best chance of escape being unseen and all that.)

Every time I die (and I do die now and then because I am still a horrible thief-in-training), it’s been an opportunity to check back on the combat log, see precisely what the hell got me, and analyze what I shouldn’t have done and what I -might- have done to accomplish my goal next time.

I freely confess that I am a terribad thief. Killing people is not the first thing on my mind. Usually GTFOing is. My survival instinct is just ridiculous or something. Tank nature too stronk. It took a few deaths to realize that I was squishy now, and then I’ve overcompensated ever since.

I’m still learning the appropriate combo chains that good thieves seem to pull off effortlessly and score an instant down with them. Part of it is probably latency, but part of it, I suspect, is simple muscle memory and twitch that I’ve not internalized yet. I can play my guardian main blindfolded (2 to blind, F1 blind/might/vuln, autoattack or 3 to hit & reflect, 4 if I need a blind again or autoattack, keep 5 and F3 as standby emergency blocks, etc.)

I can’t yet do the same with a thief.

To me, acceptance and recognition of the fact that one is bad is the first step towards improvement. One is bad when one cannot pull off what other players have demonstrably been able to do. It’s useless to put blinders on and think, “Oh, I’m still okay. Nothing’s wrong.”

Step one: Get a good build.

When you’re inexperienced with the class, this usually means following what the more experienced have done first, and adapting to suit your purposes later.

Finding good thief builds have been rather perplexing sometimes, since everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion that theirs is the best or most functional. It took a while of comparing similarities and putting aside interesting stuff to try later (tried condi thief, couldn’t quite get one’s head around it. Sword builds seemed interesting, but since killing people 1 on 1 or 1 vs X wasn’t my first priority, I put that aside to learn later too.)

I settled for the dirt standard dagger/pistol thief variant with a mix of PVT and zerker to do a trial run on, plus shortbow for zerging because I -like- running with and around zergs, dammit.

Step two: Learn how to use it.

This at first constituted of just taking it out for spins and trying to get familiar with all the skills, but I was quite aware that I wasn’t really getting the hang of the initiative points system the thief uses.

It finally hit me that I needed more outside help when I overheard someone also mention on voice that they couldn’t get the hang of their thief and triple leaping over blinding powder for stealth.

This bowled me over. Three times?! Are you serious? I thought I was already doing it right by performing the combo once to go into stealth and then position for backstab.

I didn’t even know if I had the latency to do it three times.

I had to log in and find out.

(Turns out I can, if I get lucky/fast enough. Albeit, this was done -without- the complication of having red names around throwing me into a tizzy. But I resolved from now on to make dual leaps through blinding powder whenever possible to lock it into muscle memory.)

Next on the agenda is to find time to watch thief videos on Youtube. Yishis is apparently recommended as a good one. (I skimmed one of his videos for three minutes and the speed of his thief and analysis was already blowing my mind.)

Step three: PRACTICE till your fingers bleed.

It’s made the WvW league more interesting for me again, I can tell you.

I’m a noob and learning all over again. (This bodes well when I decide to bring an elementalist or mesmer into play some day. Changing classes appears to keep the game very fresh.)

I think I’m getting the hang of staying alive. Mostly.

I’ve started to branch away from just shortbow’ing all the things and switch to melee mode to jump on things other than yaks. (Though I suspect the elementalists I’ve picked just find me a nuisance rather than a threat. Still, it’s probably -slightly- distracting.)

Still working on picking the right opportunities and the right targets – having issues with keeping track of where they go sometimes (and still know where both melee trains are) and deciding if I would be better served blasting fields or hounding a target of opportunity.

And in case you thought I’d forgotten: here’s where Edge of the Mists comes in handy from time to time.

It’s easier to run into less experienced players and less experienced zergs to practice being horrible on, rather than always getting destroyed or forced to run away from some -very- practiced T1 roamers in comms with each other and ready to wolfpack all over you.

I have a hunch that the same probably applies to commanding too.

Edge of the Mists can serve as an introductory mode for newbie commanders. The karma train pretty much drives itself, except they’ll appreciate siege drops and a dorito that picks the next target for them.

If things go wrong, no one’s going to get all huffy about PPT or how some other commander could have done it better.

Yeah, you probably won’t be able to practice coordinated zerg fighting with an EOTM militia, but that’s the only downside.

(You could, however, bring your new-to-coordinated-zerg-fighting GUILD into EOTM and probably get some great morale boosts and practice on easy targets that way.)

Still, I think I’m going to be relieved when I finally get all those damn reactors done.

Landmark: What’s the Point?

I have been following certain threads with interesting titles in the Landmark forums (“Ummm.. so what’s the point of this game?“,  “Progression is frustrating and not very fun“, “Very Unrewarding” ) in the search for various perspectives, while pondering the point of Landmark.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.

I play GW2, a game of lateral progression, and we encounter a great many people who find it difficult to understand the point of GW2, especially after being trained by WoW or other traditional MMOs.

I willingly played A Tale in the Desert, a literal crafting sandbox of -significant- grind which had progression on a mandatory to optional spectrum via a levels unlocking skills system. It appealed to a very niche audience only because other folk couldn’t figure out what to do with themselves in a game with no combat, and which took forever to walk anywhere.

I fully expect there to be a subset of people who will walk into a creative building game, be it Landmark or Minecraft, and go, um… where’s the game? What’s the point? What do I do?!

Some of them will get it if it’s explained to them. A few of them might try it and like it. Still many others will fade away from the game, having decided it’s just not their cup of tea.

I understand that Landmark is more of a “software toy” – if anyone is ancient enough to remember Will Wright and the original Sim family of games and the term as used then. You played with the software as it was, tinkered with whatever parameters you wanted, created your own goals and “what ifs” and then when you were done, you put it down and forgot about it until you got the urge to mess with it again.

Thing is, putting it down and forgetting about it is not a concept that sits very well with MMOs and the desire of its developers to be paid (though other free to play games like League of Legends, TF2 and Dota 2 seem to be doing just fine with a broad base of folks who do that, perhaps since they have a very hardcore cohort who play ‘em daily and pay enough to keep development going.)

And that sort of unsettles me and makes me want to lay a finger on what specifically makes me feel that way.

I think I am less worrying about what the exact point of Landmark is (since it can be many things to different people – a place to build, socialize, craft, gather, roleplay, tell a story, design for other players or for future Everquest Next, be creative, indulge in artistic expression, make a virtual home, play with a virtual dollhouse, have an adventure, explore, learn, etc.)…

…but more trying to answer a burning question with incomplete information and stuff that is yet unknown, undecided and/or undetermined.

And that question is: Should I be investing my time or money into this game?

Of course, that answer is different for different people.

Some people have even willingly spent $100 on its Alpha stage. They were happy to pay for the privilege of being involved in the game’s development from the ground up, have a voice (such as it is) in where the game is going, to playtest with unpolished tools and systems and be the first guinea pigs (or *ahem* first to get to play around with the game or have a headstart), to create and design and maybe, just maybe, have it included in Everquest Next. They’re dedicated fans of the franchise and the studio.

I mean, if you asked me if I would do the same for ArenaNet and Guild Wars, I’d -seriously- give it some thought. (Though the initial payment would put me off.)

But here’s the thing, I’m not them. And since this is my blog, we’ll dig into my perspective today while I try to get it sorted out in my own head.

I didn’t pay for Alpha. I didn’t pay for Beta. What kind of game would I pay or not pay for?

WoW’s design is primarily a raid endgame centred around vertical progression of gear. Eve Online encourages very dubious player behavior and morality in its design. For me, the answer to both is no. Because I don’t want to support games whose design I’m not in favor of.

Other people play them, and pay for them, and keep both games going just fine. To each their own.

I paid and played games like City of Heroes, Guild Wars 1 & 2, A Tale in the Desert, Minecraft, but not games like Wurm Online or Darkfall or Fallen Earth.

I generally support games that foster friendly and cooperative groups and social experiences in their design, but also give leeway to solo at one’s choosing. I’m drawn like a moth flies toward light to games that show off innovative design and interesting novel systems to play with and learn, but I’m turned off by games that have room for nonconsensual PvP, take forever to progress or get anywhere (aka too much time grind) or are sluggish and buggy.

My fascination for grokking systems may see me knowingly put up with some annoying game design choices. at least for a short while.

Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra is one example. I played it religiously for a month, logging in every day, doing all the stuff, incrementing numerically for the sake of incrementing numerically, but one day I just decided to skip a day. It stretched to two. Three. Then I didn’t bother logging in anymore. The addiction/compulsion was gone. Gimmick design works for a while, and then it loses its hold, especially when you break the habitual pattern formed and find other more prioritized things to do.

I put up with quite a bit of crap in A Tale in the Desert. The endless running across large tracts of land, for one. I avoided doing that as much as possible, and credit to the game, it wasn’t excessively forced. Mostly because the multiple systems and minigames in ATITD just kept blowing my mind. Each required days to learn and probably months or more to master. Observing the social interactions and conflict between cooperation and competition was so fascinating that I was willing to put up with a few not-so-comfortable things, since there was nowhere else to get the same experience in more convenient form. And there were always many lateral progression options and ways to get regular feelings of accomplishing something too.

As for Landmark, well, I can’t quite get a proper grip on what kind of a game it is and where it intends to be going, leaving the existing Closed Beta experience sitting smack dab in the middle of the Play-Don’t Play spectrum.

You see, for MMOs, I want to know that the game is still going to be around for a bit and popular enough to have some people playing it, for me to want to invest time, money and energy into playing it. How is Landmark going to work, exactly?

I’ve kind of read the Blueprint. But it still leaves me with questions as to what exactly the game is going to entail.

Harsh death penalty and PvP are big twitching red flags for me, for example. Waste too much of my time, threaten me with resource loss, and your game goes right into the Eve Online pile. It may be a great simulationist sandbox in the vein of all those others, but Trammel killed Ultima Online for a reason. If you can still find your niche to play and pay, all power to you. I’ll just not be there.

(The Everquest brand is not particularly promising on this front. Time-wasters and harsh penalties aplenty. And Landmark is already actively showing signs of time-wasting.)

How is the payment model of the game going to work? What kind of economy is going to drive this game? What types of playstyles and gameplay niches are we expecting to see?

The Bartle model may not be the most ideal one to use, for this sort of game. This is pretty much unexplored territory for triple A MMOs – it’s more the purview of games (*ahem* “virtual worlds”) like Second Life and Neverwinter Nights (the old one, with the Aurora toolset that players created content with) and maybe multiplayer Minecraft.

Here’s my best guess on what playstyles we might see in Landmark:

  • Adventurer – resource collectors, explorers, seeking thrills, adventure, exciting experiences
  • Builders/Designers – artist builders, artisan builders, home builders
  • Roleplayers/Storytellers – using the world to create and tell stories of their own choosing
  • Crafter?

I am a so-called Adventurer. In truth, I’m probably a harvester-gatherer. I collect resources and enable the larger game to function. I may have to put up with some grindy aspects via number accumulation and vertical progression tiers. I ought to be able to walk in and play for free in Landmark because I pay in time. (Caveat: I am not SOE, I do not come up with their payment models.) I exist as content for the other more dedicated players because I bulk up the game with more player population to socialize with, to admire their constructions and perhaps run their scripted dungeons/adventures/experience the stories they want to tell (assuming those systems come in.)

My payoffs? I should be able to sell or trade resources to the other players who need them… but in exchange for… what? I need an in-game marketplace or auction house or trading exchange. Perhaps I can trade for some amount of currency or Station Cash that enables me to keep a small-sized claim and cross over to the other playstyles. I should be getting in return the thrill of adventure, the fun of exploration, some sense of accomplishment, the excitement and novelty of seeing what’s over the next hill and around the next corner, etc.

Builders are a pretty broad category, since this is, after all, a building game:

I am an artist builder. I want to make large towering works of art out of voxels. I need large-sized or multiple claims. I need lots of resources. I have the option of buying templates from the Player Studio like windows, railings, decorations and more to copy-paste stamp them into larger pieces. My payoffs? I get to express myself artistically and show off works of great beauty. I develop a name and reputation for myself.  I perhaps contribute to parts of scenery in Everquest Next (assuming that’s a plus in your perspective, having paid $$ for the privilege.)

Seabiscuit's Blackheart Castle is an example. (Image taken from screenshot on forums thread linked.)

Seabiscuit’s Blackheart Castle is an example. (Image taken from screenshot on forums thread linked above.)

Big question is: Am I going to have to pay real life money out the nose for these things? If so, why should I be choosing this game to build in? Minecraft is looming as the equivalent of WoW in the creative building genre, and it’s buy to play. More such games are on the way as competitors.

I am an artisan builder, I make works of art that can serve as templates to be used in larger pieces. Besides all the regular perks of the artist builder – name and rep, EQN contribution, creative expression, etc., my payoff is potentially selling them in the Player Studio (assuming you live in the correct country for it), or the satisfaction of giving them freely away to others to see them used in larger works of art.

Image from forum poster Gizeh - Alpha Thread on Template Swap meets.

Image from forum poster Gizeh – Alpha Thread on Template Swap meets.

(There can be, of course, plenty of overlap between artisan and artist builder playstyles in the same person. Or the other playstyles, for that matter. The more playstyles one enjoys, the closer match Landmark is going to be for one – though I don’t know how much more money you’re going to end up paying. But we’re separating them here for clarity.)

homebuilder

I am a home builder. I have a vision of something I want to build – likely a house or a castle or something cool for me to stay in. I likely value environmental immersion of some kind. I may not be that great artistically. I might be able to supplement my not-so-great artistic skills with a few choice templates bought off the Player Studio, or trading in-game resources with artisans and artists, or even getting them free off social interaction (providing value by being there as a player.) I will probably be willing to foot a small upkeep for a small to medium claim, though having the option to pay in in-game resources might be better for a subset of these players.

What happens though when I am “done?” When I have created the house I want? What do I do next? Stop playing? Move to another playstyle, assuming I can find one that matches?

I am a roleplayer/storyteller. I tell stories and make them up using the game’s voxels and props. I interact with other players in some fashion, be it via chat or posting on the forums. (See a great example in progress here with a builder/immersive roleplayer combined in one person, creating some very natural constructions to tell a story in time.) My payoff is the stories I create and the people that see/view/experience them.

Eventually, assuming scripting and NPCs make it into Landmark, we’ll have crossover designer/builder/storytellers that will be similar to GameMasters of tabletop roleplaying games, designing adventures for others to experience – probably similar to how existing player-created content in other MMOs like Neverwinter Foundry or adventure mods in Minecraft work.

Crafting is the part that still puzzles me at this point. It seems to exist for the sake of existing and time-wasting. Here’s a bunch of technology trees. Go get the required number of resources and then come back and click a button to make it. You need to do it to unlock other things, like the tools you want for other playstyles.

Maybe, just maybe, one might have a dedicated crafter niche who pretty much goes out to collect resources and bring them back to craft, and then trades the finished, desirable products to others? Like those elusive Legendary picks and axes?

I dunno though. There is one danger of trying to add such niches though, taking lessons from A Tale in the Desert, there is the possibility that time-plentiful veterans will learn how to do it all, and do it much more quickly than newbies. This leaves newbies with nothing of value to offer veteran players.

How does the food chain function here?

Are there going to be enough players willing to pay for convenience and shortcuts to make up for playstyles that they don’t want to crossover to?

Are the rich folks on the very top willing to pay lots of money for what? Vanity? Prestige?

On one hand, lots of cosmetic options in other games say yes, there might be sufficient people willing to pay for pretty dresses. On the other hand, Glitch did die from lack of participation in the clothing shop and insufficient thought about a viable payment model…

I guess what I’m wondering at this point is… what’s the Landmark demographic going to be like? How much of each playstyle is there? Is there going to be a viable monetization strategy, and how acceptable is that strategy going to be for the various playstyles? And is it going to be enough to keep Landmark afloat and/or making oodles of cash?

And even, -does- Landmark need to stay afloat or make oodles of cash, or will it be shielded by SOE as the parent company, bundling the game along with its All Access Pass and/or profiting from whatever is designed in Landmark going into EQ Next?

Back to me. I’m not much of an artist builder, I can tell you that.

Nor am I much of a home builder. I can’t seem to understand the compulsion to build a pretty virtual house to stay in.

Seriously, everywhere I go, the early beginnings of a house of some kind.

Seriously, everywhere I go, the early beginnings of a house of some kind.

Further thought reveals that I am more of a -functional- builder. I build stuff to fulfill some kind of in-game need.

Zombies going to eat my face at night in Minecraft? Well, I better hack a hole into a cliff and hide in it. Or build walls to surround myself. And I may as well put a door in it so I can get in and out more easily.

frontdoor

Eri can tell you that in Terraria, my hobbit hole is good enough for me. Design and decorate a castle? Umm… no.

Landmark may not fit that building playstyle as well. Perhaps only mining for ores and designing those temporary tunnels into cave systems might fit.

Yeah, caving for mines has some promise. Though a) desert underground gets weirdly colored - bug? and b) if it's going to take forever to find enough ores for stuff, then that's not fun either.

Yeah, mining tunnels for ore, in conjunction with upcoming caves, has some promise. Though a) desert underground gets weirdly colored – bug? and b) if it’s going to take forever to find enough ores for stuff, then that’s not fun either.

Or for example, hacking a hole into the ground because I want more studio space but don’t want weird geometric creations floating in the air ruining my nice wilderness desert landscape immersion.

Not so secret hidey-hole. I made some steps for the unwary, in case they fall in.

Not so secret hidey-hole. I made some basic steps for the unwary, in case they fall in.

I suppose I -could- learn to be a bit of an artisan builder. Experimenting with microvoxels and seeing what kinds of odd geometric shapes get produced is pretty much the only thing keeping me hooked to Landmark at present.

Other people build houses. I build... um...phallic structures. They're wannabe obelisks, I swear!

Other people build houses. I build… um…phallic structures. They’re wannabe obelisks, I swear!

I probably couldn’t produce anything worth selling – far more skilled players could probably recreate them in no time flat – and besides, I bet Player Studio will never quite open for my country, with all those legalese concerns.

Problem is, the tools and various controls as they exist in Beta are somewhat awkward and not very smooth or intuitive to use.

One example and big culprit here is Shift-Tab to switch between translate, rotate and scaling, plus Tab for the directions. Having twisted my wrist far too often to the left to reach Shift+Tab one too many times, I gave up and wrote an AutoHotkey macro to keybind them elsewhere.

If you’re interested in it, it’s here:

r::Tab

q::
SendInput {LShift down}{Tab down}
SendInput {LShift up}{Tab up}
return

You can replace R and Q with whatever keys you want.

I have an entire profile on my mouse dedicated to Landmark, just to give myself two buttons for left-click (Button 5 uses the thumb and spares my index finger when it starts to scream), and to bind Numlock (Autorun? Who puts that -there?- Obviously I don’t play Everquest!) to the middle mouse button and button 4, which I use in GW2 and has become natural.

Proper keybinding cannot come soon enough in Landmark. No idea how Alpha players put up without it.

Said building tools have quirks that some dedicated builders are learning and sharing. Apparently all I had to do to fix my misshapen arch which was bumpy on one side, was to just copy the good side and mirror it. But how did I get a misshapen arch in the first place? The circle used to cut the arch and the smoothing tool used to round out the arch wasn’t consistent on either side.

The line tool acts funny. Hours are spent by players trying to work around it – avoiding holes in conical roofs, while some other player shows off how they got a straight one-voxel diagonal line from manipulating and cut-and-pasting microvoxels…

It all begs the question: Should I invest my time learning to build here, with its unique idiosyncrasies, or spend my time learning how to use a free alternative like Sketchup or Blender instead (which admittedly uses polygonal modeling, not voxels) or locating voxel modeling software or just build for fun in creative mode Minecraft when I can spawn all the blocks I desire without paying real money or grinding hours for it?

How about the other playstyles?

I confess to being weird and not minding mining or chopping wood. I find it oddly meditative.

But I don’t like feeling forced to go get them in order to get the next tier and the next tier of stuff – that just feels like busywork. I’m not really fond of game design that just exists to waste one’s time – it’s a carryover from subscription-based MMOs that shouldn’t exist in free-to-play ones.

Also, my system is truly on the low-end of the spec pool when it comes to Landmark, and starting and stopping with crashing framerates, falling through the floor and just plain crashing, or getting stuck on loadscreens and having to force the client to re-draw by hitting ctrl+alt+delete and canceling makes me think that I simply can’t participate in an Adventurer playstyle until I have the funds to upgrade to a better computer.

(Pushing the envelope is all very well, but that does restrict the playerbase some. EQ2 was reportedly less popular due to the need for high graphics capability at the time, whereas WoW’s popularity took off into a cult phenomenon – one of the foundational reasons being that people with low end computers still could play and enjoy it.)

I still have big unanswered questions about PvP, griefing and how other players are going to be able to affect you. Big questions about death penalties and potential resource loss, microtransactions and planned payment model. Other questions like:

Will my favored playstyle(s) be available for free, or low to reasonable cost?

Otherwise, why should I start now and invest the time to learn this game?

Well, don’t start now then, some people will reply.

Fair enough, I could just pack up everything, let whatever’s on my claim save into a template (assuming it does, apparently anti-voxels and negative space don’t?) and let the upkeep expire to make room for others. Log out and wait to log in later.

But fundamentally, I’m a little antsy about what the answers to the following questions are going to be:

Why should I spend a good amount of time on this game?

Unnecessary timesinks. Is that valuing my time? (I want to build creative designs unhindered by said timesinks, would be a better answer.)

Why should I keep playing?

Upkeep. In order not to lose stuff in 5 days?  (Or, because there are fun things to do that cater to multiple playstyles in-game?)

If SOE swings one way, Landmark would be dropped like a hot potato. By me, at any rate.

The other way has more promise.

But it’s all a big uncertain gamble right now, isn’t it?