We spoke to Terry Michaels and Darrin McPherson about Landmark's next major update.
Landmark has been in closed beta for quite some time now, and recently developer Daybreak Games announced several changes to the game that they hope will improve the new user experience. We chatted with Senior Producer Terry Michaels and Lead Game Designer Darrin McPherson about these modifications and how they will impact the game.
The update will come as early as next week now, and with it is also a full character and claim wipe. This has been postponed a couple of times as the team tries to ensure everything will run smoothly, and is currently scheduled for Monday, May 11th (UPDATE: it was re-re-rescheduled to May 5th). Terry commented that this is expected to be the last character wipe.
Landmark's achievement lines are being revamped, with the updated version giving new players "a gradual introduction to the game" and the UI receiving some improvements. The tutorial achievements have been streamlined to give better focus, recipes can now be tracked via the achievement journal, combat progression is being added and some rewards can be obtained from the non-progression achievements. These changes are expected to help give players direction and freedom of choice as they're introduced to the game, not have them clutching onto a rail the entire way.
Terry: "It's not like a canned tutorial sequence that you see in plenty of single-player games."
Darrin: "That's why we went with achievements to begin with. We have achievements in the game primarily because we wanted to have this ability to direct players without forcing them along a path."
The crafting system is receiving some clean-up and consolidation, along with modifications to some of its systems. Salvaging is being removed; Darrin said that it's "a pillar for the EQNext economy", but isn't for Landmark. They'll be taking the feedback they did receive from its time in the game and will be applying that to development on EQN.
The Founder's Pick will be upgradeable, a feature that players have been asking for, and the Mastercraft Bracer now grants more yield for refined materials when used. The crafting tables have been consolidated so that the Forge and Workshop are the only two for crafting; the Sifter and a new station called the Replicator will be used for bulk refining raw materials.
Terry: "This is all based on feedback from the playerbase. We found that over time we had overcomplicated that system to the point that it was cumbersome to players. We took a step back from that. There's lots of ways to play the game, and we want to make sure that players can play the way they want to."
Ether shards are no longer a required component in the majority of the recipes; these resources will still be used to create aspects and essence to make weapons, however. The team didn't want to remove a lot from crafting, and was aiming more to make what was becoming a bloated system more understandable.
Building is at the heart of Landmark, and the upcoming update will include improvements for the tools and materials that players use.
The five "basic materials"—dirt, ice, sand, snow, and stone—are going to be free to build with. Placing these materials will not consume them, and in return you won't get them back when you remove the material from the world. These materials can still be collected, as they're still used in some crafting recipes. Biome-specific material has been greatly reduced, though there are still some resources that are only found in certain types of areas.
Claim counts for building will also be increased; the current limit of 2 root/8 attached claims will be raised to a maximum of 8 root/24 attached, though not without investing some money into it. Players will now begin with 1 root/3 attached claims, then can purchase additional root and attached claim slots from Daybreak's Marketplace. Current players who are around prior to the update will also receive a free grant of 1 root/5 attached slots.
More biomes will be introduced along with revamped continents. The biomes are Deciduous Surface, Deciduous Cavern, Volcanic Surface, Volcanic Cavern and Ocean; these will be found across the 20 new continents. In addition, surface caves will make a return, underground caves are now larger, and combat NPCs will no longer appear above ground or in surface caves.
Combat will see some changes as well, which Terry described as a constant ongoing process. Things are being refined as progress is made on EverQuest Next, and Landmark will reflect those changes as well. Internal feedback, as well as that from players, helped the team make the combat experience feel more solid.
"When we're talking about changes to combat, we're talking about making that very core experience more entertaining," Darrin explained. Terry also commented that the current changes are "just an iteration" of combat. "We're going to be continuing working on other aspects of it where we've gotten feedback from players, and once everybody gets their hands on this version of it, we're going to take feedback as well and see if we [got] closer to the goal that we're aiming for, if it feels more fun to everybody, if there's additional issues that came up."
Players will also have a new playable race to enjoy: the large human. We assume that this is just a fancy way to describe the classic Barbarian race. New props, materials and so forth will also be coming with the update.
Thanks to Terry Michaels and Darrin McPherson for taking the time to speak to us. Keep an eye on the official Landmark forums for announcements on when the new user experience update will be hitting servers, read the FAQ about the upcoming character wipe, and make sure you give your feedback after everything goes live.
Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor