Hands-on with EQ Next Landmark: Building my castle of dreams

If they can build it, they will come.

When presented with the opportunity to get my hands on EverQuest Next Landmark and build something for myself, I leaped at the chance. Who hasn't been sitting back, eagerly awaiting the moment he could dive into the wilds of Landmark and let his creativity run rampant? As one half of the Some Assembly Required team, I knew it would be no great sacrifice to try out this upcoming beacon of player-generated-content.

And man, was it worth it! I met with EverQuest Franchise Director Dave Georgeson to talk shop and check out Landmark's tools in my own personal hands-on pre-alpha experience. Instead of just gazing longingly at a screen while watching a demonstration, I got to test drive all the various building tools as I obsessively constructed my own amethyst castle. The only real problem I ran into was that my time ended all too soon, and now I must wait until February for the alpha to play again.

So is it better to have built and lost than never to have built at all? I may have to get back to you on that when -- and if -- my withdrawals subside. Until then, here's the scoop on my experience along with a new video and some juicy tidbits of new info straight from Georgeson himself.
Gallery | 101 Photos

EverQuest Next Landmark alpha

Handson with EQ Next Landmark Building my castle of dreams
More than Minecraft

Before Georgeson let me have at the game (he knew he'd lose my attention at that point), we talked a bit about what players can expect in Landmark. And one thing that he emphasized is that the game will ultimately be quite literally a "build your own MMO" experience. Pointing out that developers said from the start that Landmark will have all the tools that were used to make EQ Next, Georgeson reiterated that the game will be about more than just construction, and players will have more than just those building tools at their disposal. He explained,
"When we do the AI editor, when we do the scenario builder, and the NPC editor, and all that other stuff, we're going to be putting it in Landmark. So as we develop for EQN, we're putting stuff in Landmark... You'll be able to do everything we can do. All of it.
That's right, folks: Not only will players be able to terraform their claims and build to their hearts' content, but they'll actually be able to introduce mobs and story arcs to their creations. Anyone who wants to ride the player-generated-content train non-stop will definitely want to hop into Landmark.

I did ask just how customizable these systems would be -- can players adjust mob loot tables, and will there be loot tables at all? -- but I was told those answers will be coming at a later time, which was probably for the best as too much talking was keeping me from building!

Handson with EQ Next Landmark Building my castle of dreams
The tools for the job

I won't deny that I was eager to test-drive the building tools, so Georgeson offered a short tutorial before setting me loose. Tools were divided into two parts of the interface: The actions were on the familiar hotbar setup, and materials and objects were in a side drop-down menu.

Actions: Actions included select, delete, heal, smooth, paint, and line.
  • Select is the base for the other actions; it's basically highlighting a specific spot. After choosing the shape (cube is default, but there is also sphere), players can adjust the size of the shape with the mouse to cover a large or small area to work within, be it filling in with material, deleting, smoothing, painting, or making beveled shapes with line. The cube's parameters can also be adjusted after placement by dragging the different faces with the mouse.
  • Delete is pretty self-explanatory; the DEL key works the same.
  • Heal will return the area to the original parameters, like the ultimate undo button.
  • Smooth is your basic blur tool without the blurring -- it sands down rough edges.
  • Paint applies whatever material you have selected to the shape you've chosen. It is not a surface-only cosmetic change; it changes the entire selected space to that material. This allows players to build the structure they want, even if they don't yet have the material they wish to use, and they can easily switch materials later on. (You can build your diamond tower out of stone, then use the paint brush to switch it to diamond after you've mined enough of them. Paint also works on Player Studio structures, whereas delete does not.)
  • The line tool, like paint, is one of the more advanced tools that players will have to earn. This is the one that allows players to make arbitrary angles and inclines. Beginning and end points can be adjusted to different sizes to make beveled areas.
Handson with EQ Next Landmark Building my castle of dreams
Materials and objects: This menu accesses building materials, props, and the shape template (for select).

Once you have selected the shape you want to build with, you have to select a material. The interface holds a sample swatch of any material you have access to separated into categories like stone, wood, gem, and water (liquid). When you right click your mouse, that material will be inserted into the world in whatever size and shape you have selected.

Any props you have available -- decorating items like lights, wagons, chairs, etc. -- will be included in this menu. Size can be adjusted, as can placement on all three axes. One cool note here is that the lighting actually reflects off of the surface, so if you have a multifaceted gemstone (as I did), the light will bounce off all the different angles and make quite a display.

Flight: Flight might sound like an odd tool, but until you earn this one through gameplay, you are grounded and have only the single vantage point available when building. With flight, you can get up into the air to see and work on your creation from a variety of angles.

Keyboard shortcuts: As mentioned earlier, the regular delete key works on your keyboard, but the standard commands of copy (control + c), paste (control + v), cut (control + x), and undo (control +z) also work with the selection tool. This allows players to make one perfect template and mass produce it to make building go faster. Unfortunately, right now undo goes back only one step, but Georgeson told me that plans are in the works to make it multi-step capable.

Handson with EQ Next Landmark Building my castle of dreams
Your imagination's the limit

As far as restrictions, here's the rule: If you can think of it, you can build it. Want a treehouse? Get a tree, build a house! What about a lava moat? Yup. Although the system is surprisingly simple and pretty intuitive, I was granted dev-level access to everything all at once. That meant I didn't have a chance to really familiarize myself with the tools as I would have if I were just beginning and earning my skills. As such, it took a bit of getting used to, and I was just getting into the swing of things when my time was up. But even during that way-too-short session, I was able to terraform a bit of a hill and construct a nice little amethyst castle, complete with turrets and a wooden floor. (And I must say, I am pretty proud of it; I'll show it off as soon as I get the screenshot!)

Building in EQ Next Landmark

With a little more time, I know I could have gotten much more detailed and really gone all out. In fact, you would have been blown away by the massive spire that one dev did in just 15 minutes while I was toiling away on my own creation. As Georgeson said,
"It's incredibly easy to craft the rough outlines of what you want to build, and then you can spend all your time on the cool details -- the smoothing out of areas, adding props, and all that other stuff."
Honestly, I seriously can't wait until I can get back in and continue my building escapades, letting my imagination run wild. I love building and decorating, and I am totally stoked to create full-on adventures for my friends and others. At least we know that Founders with the Trail Blazer or Explorer packs will be getting into alpha by February 28th, 2014. Now, if I could just hold out that long!

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.