The drought has finally ended: Water has come to the parched shores of Landmark. After a day of torturing fans with some not-so-subtle teasing on Twitter involving beach songs, links to life vests, and musings on slow garden hoses, SOE Director of Development Dave Georgeson finally outright admitted that the first phase of water was indeed headed into the game. And as of yesterday's update, the long-anticipated liquid is a permanent part of the landscape. No more shall players stare off over the edge of their islands, eyes skipping over the sand whilst seeking just a hint of moisture. No longer must the faithful beta testers dream of the day the sun's rays would reflect off the rolling waves. Oceans are here! And while there's no need to grab a towel on your way to the beach (you can't actually get in the water), players are still rejoicing. Why? Because it finally feels like beta, baby!

When a beta's not a beta

Not too long ago I remarked that even though the beta has been active for over a month, it still felt like an alpha. Sure, updates had produced a larger world filled with more people, introduced more props, and even refined systems. But everything that had come felt like just an extension of stuff already introduced in alpha. Even the item upgrading, as awesome as the system is for expanding customization and crafting, it's still another layer of crafting. Nothing felt really new. The aura of alpha 2.0 hung over Landmark, dimming some enthusiasm for the game. I knew it wouldn't feel as if a change had come until a major change was upon us, until brand-new features were actually implemented. Water was one of those features.

True, water is not implemented in its entirety. The water that is currently lapping at the shores around each island is fairly static: It can't be harvested, and it can't flow down a mountain. But that feeling of "Wooo, now we're getting somewhere" is just as strong, even if all I could do is run across the waves whooping with glee -- which, of course, I did the moment I could log in!

Luckily, it turns out that we can do a bit more.

A beachfront Hi!Playing in water

While you can't dive in and splash around, you can still play in the water. Currently, interacting with the water is restricted to digging along the coast and watching the ocean fill up the crevices you left behind. So why is it so fascinating? Secret coves, sandcastles with moats -- these are all possibilities that open up with the new feature. You don't even have to have beachfront property to enjoy these activities as long as you don't mind their temporary nature. Of course, if you have a coastal claim, it gets even better because your creations can be permanent! And that's certainly not all you can do; water really does unleash a whole new facet of creativity, even in this restricted state. Can you imagine how much more we'll be sloshing around when dynamic water is introduced?

It wasn't long after logging in and gawking at the beauty of the sea that I began chipping away at the coastline with my pick and just marveling at the water creeping along in my creation. First, I left a momentary message. Then I worked to see how far inland I could make the water travel. You are supposed to reach a point where the water stops seeping inland, but as of this writing, I haven't found it. Ultimately, I made quite a nice little inlet to a secret cove where boats could moor safely away from prying eyes. If ever there was a reason for me to nab a coastal claim, I just found it! That, and the Massively golden yacht is just begging for a sea to actually sail in.

Technically, you can't go into the water yet. In both the most recent Landmark Live video and the patch notes, the devs reported that the surface tension of the water is unbreakable at the moment. That means you can't really go under the water without having a claim there to teleport to or you burrow up from the land underneath. As I explored the ocean, however, I found yet another way. Due to a bug, there was a large square chunk of ocean surface near the edge missing that allowed me to jump in and run to the claim that sat underwater. it's a good thing I got my screenshots because it has since been mostly fixed, although the seams of the fix and the rest of the ocean don't match up yet.

Although it too, is a bug, the devs demonstrated what painting with the water effect looked like during last night's Landmark Live stream. The effect was quite fascinating, making the building visually roll in and out with the waves! It's a bug now, but devs assured players that the ability to paint with water will be coming later. I just hope that the ocean waves will be available as well as waterfalls, rivers, and still water. I like variety in my H2O.

New horizons

Other than giving long-time testers the feeling that the game is advancing, the biggest effect that the oceans have on Landmark is just the visuals. So how do they look? I have already heard some complaints about the water texture, but in my opinion it is actually pretty attractive. It really gave me a sense of rolling on the high seas as I ran out on it to check things out. The color was vibrant; the foam crests were dynamic. I'm happy with it. And I definitely am looking forward to the addition of underwater plants and swimming. But don't take my word for it: You can see it all for yourself during the livestream at 6:00 p.m EDT tonight on Massively TV.

Could it be that the oceans are also a hint of larger maps made of connected islands coming soonish? When I first pulled up the map, I noticed that the ocean extended more than twice the width of the island on the west, but was very small on the east. What does all that extra blue mean? Is it indicative of where islands will merge together? Contiguous islands creating larger continents is still a feature I want very much! On a more immediate note, was the additional ocean enlarging the map as a whole? Nope; I found that the map ended in the same spot it did when it was dry ground, the invisible barrier blocking me from traversing farther across the deep blue waves.

Keep it coming!

I am so glad that SOE did not wait until water was completely done in all its forms to put it in game. Having this taste of something new is invigorating. It's these moments of reawakening our wonder that will keep us hungry for the game. We understand that development is a slow process and that we have been experiencing the process much earlier than ever before, but that understanding doesn't prevent players' attention from wandering when much-anticipated features are too few and far between.

With oceans, attention is snapped back to the game. And with more phases of oceans coming along with more stages to water in general, there will be more opportunities to be wowed by this feature before it feels common. Hopefully by that point, caves will be ready to go. And after that, mobs and combat, the questing and AI systems... the list goes on. I, for one, look forward with great anticipation for each of these fundamental features that will turn our game into a virtual world. Which feature are you looking forward to most?

The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running biweekly on Thursdays, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II. And keep an eye out for MJ's Massively TV adventures!

This article was originally published on Massively.