By Nick Cowen
Developer SOE | Publisher SOE | Format PC
Price Free-to-play | Certificate TBC | Release date May 2014
While World Of Warcraft may be the reigning champ of the Massive-Multiplayer-Online (MMO) genre, it’s worth remembering it wasn’t the first of its kind. The MMO dates back to the mid-90s and a sizable list of games of this type pre-date WOW by some considerable distance. You might not ever have heard of a few of them (barring current heavyweights such as Guild Wars and EVE Online), but they beat WOW to the punch nonetheless.
One of them, EverQuest, is in the midst of something of a renaissance. First released back in 1999, the EverQuest series’ forthcoming title, EverQuest Next, is currently in closed beta. What makes it somewhat buzz-worthy, is that the developers of the game have admitted that they’re having to turn to the players to learn about the tools they themselves created in order to build the game.
The reason for this is that EverQuest Next gives players access to Landmark , which is basically the creation tool-set that the developers use. Sure, players can run about questing and battling elves and orcs, if that’s all they want to do, but the game also offers them the opportunity to create new parts of the in-game world. Imagine World Of Warcraft crossed with Minecraft and you’re starting to get the idea.
What’s all the more impressive is that some of the creations that players have come up with have out-and-out stunned the game’s creators. At a preview event Screenjabber attended in the Pewter’s Guildhall in London (of all places) the developers at Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) regaled us with stories about player creations that blew their minds. One player created replica to scale of the Eiffel Tower. Another built a skyscraper and a couple of bi-planes to buzz around it. One planted an intricately detailed Gothic cathedral in the middle of one the game’s deserts while another built a massive, multi-tiered windmill with three cones of spinning blades.
The reason the developers were bowled over by this is because they hadn’t yet examined the true potential of Landmark’s tool-set. How, for example, were players creating curved, intertwining gatefolds on a wall, when the building blocks in Landmark were just that – blocks with sharp right angles. After contacting several of the players about their creations, they were told that they’d found exploits in the seemingly rigid tools.
Landmark’s tool-set is fairly easy to get your head around. Players can add and delete blocks at the touch of a button and they can also gouge out parts of the environment and repair it at their leisure. There’s a paint tool they can use to colour in their creations, but, most important of all, there’s a sanding tool, which they’re able to use to smooth the sharp edges of the game’s building blocks. This tool, we were told is one of the aspects that gives Landmark such versatility.
As we watched the demo, the developers created a block in the middle of the screen. They then cut square shaped hole right through the centre. Then, using the sanding tool, they smoothed down the edges and cut the block in half. Interestingly, this process had made the hole at the centre of the block shrink on a slight gradient. Once the sides of it had been prised away, the developer showed how they could be used to make curved building parts.
If all this sounds complicated, then don’t worry – if you choose to join the beta (and you can on May 1st) – the heavy lifting has already been done for you. A lot of the players who have been involved with the beta have copied, saved and shared their emergent improvements on Landmark’s tool set, so using the game’s copy and paste function, you can stack up a structure pretty quickly.
Furthermore, you can even make money with your creations. You can build a dungeon filled with treasure and monsters and then charge players an admission fee to raid it. You can create skins and designs and flog them; the SOE executives at the preview told us the story of a college kid Stateside who’d made close to $12,000 off his creations.
While this is all quite fascinating, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee Landmark’s success. We’ll have to wait until release until the jury’s out on that. In the meantime, though, EverQuest’s tool-set looks incredibly appealing. If you’ve ever felt you’ve wanted to place your on stamp on an MMO but that your creative juices were corked, Landmark may be the fix you’re looking for.