Everquest Next: Landmark – The Minecraft Killer?

Everquest Next: Landmark was a surprise announcement last year at SOE Live. Gamers were expecting an announcement on the future of the Everquest franchise and what they actually got was two announcements in one. While Sony is still making a fully fledged, more traditional MMO in Everquest Next, Landmark promises the sort of world-building and exploration more common in smaller multiplayer titles like Minecraft.

Like other world-building games a large part of the appeal is designing and constructing your own creations, whether that’s a crude hut to live in, an exquisitely detailed castle or a meticulous recreation of the Starship Enterprise. People have been quite ingenious when it comes to using identically sized cubes to build in Minecraft and those same skills will transfer readily to Landmark.

Yet Landmark isn’t restricted to identical cubes. You’re not even forced to build in straight lines with sharp edges, not if you don’t want to. Edges can be smoothed, or chunks sculpted out anywhere you like. Smooth a cube down far enough and you can create a sphere, egg or any other kind of curved surface. Build an archway, an igloo, a lighthouse and it will actually be smooth, not roughly carved out in cubic units. While you or I may not make best use of this, the potential for some smarty pants artists to dig in and create something magical is immense.

And because it’s an MMO you don’t have to make do with screenshots, video walkthroughs or hope the save file is shared alongside it. You find out where it is, on which server and you go visit it for yourself. And if you really, really like it you can buy the blueprint and construct it on your own plot, with the original creator retaining credit for the initial design, thanks to systems in the backend to track all that and more.

Your personal plot might be by the seaside, so you decide to build a bustling fishing village on the shore, complete with wharves and ships and rickety shacks. But you really want a nicely built lighthouse to put on the nearby point. You could just create one yourself, or maybe you search other player’s creations and find the perfect one. You can then buy that design, if the creator has made it available, place it on your land and now your little fishing village has a lighthouse.

Someone else might really like your fishing village plus lighthouse but would prefer it located closer to home. They could then buy a blueprint of your creation to plop on their own plot, with the proceeds being divided between both you and the lighthouse creator.

At least, that’s the theory. With the game still in development it’s still subject to change and, of course, maybe players won’t want to buy blueprints off other players.

Everquest Next: Landmark

Everquest Next: Landmark

Ahh, but SOE has thought of that, too. Some of the best-designed buildings and landscapes and other creations will be included in Everquest Next. So the orcish looking hill fort you create and are quite pleased by may become a place to raid, or your little hamlet may be a small human settlement you can defend from the orcs coming from that same hill fort.

This is an area in which SOE has quite a bit of experience, having run the Player Studio scheme for many years now. Players can create weapons, armour and clothing for Everquest II and submit them for review by SOE. If accepted they become available to purchase in-game. More recently games like Team Fortress 2 have followed suit with Valve accepting item submissions from the public, with astounding results.

And all that’s just the building side of the game. To acquire the materials to build Barbie’s Dream House you have to explore the world, find veins of ore, trees to chop down, animals to butcher… or trade some of what you’ve got with someone who has what you need. Or refine some raw stone into cobblestones or polished marble with the crafting system.

This is just the basics of what SOE have planned for Everquest Next: Landmark. Later they’re hoping to let players tinker with AI, quest design and other tools they use to create Everquest Next. Potentially the tool set will be so expansive players will be able to create their own MMOs within Landmark.

Nothing but apathy and attrition will kill World of Warcraft, but might a free-to-play title from a top quality developer topple Minecraft from its throne? Time will tell.

Everquest Next: Landmark is scheduled to begin alpha testing by the end of February with a closed beta to begin by the end of March. Interested gamers can buy a Founder’s Pack to get in as early as alpha, along with some nifty in-game goodies and a headstart for the open beta that will precede launch.

I’m already mentally planning my lighthouse, complete with living quarters. What would you build?

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