Norrathian Notebook: Building EverQuest Next in Landmark
From the first surprise announcement of Landmark at SOE Live last year, fans have been interested to know how exactly that sandbox would tie into the much anticipated EverQuest Next. In big bold letters on the main site, the devs declare, "EverQuest Next is still in development... and you can help us build it!" So how exactly is that going to come to pass? Through Landmark.

Landmark might be a separate game in and of itself, but players can actually build structures there that might one day be gracing the landscape of EQN. At first, we knew only that those structures would be judged and picked through contests. However, with May's racial Round Table vote and the recent implementation of The Workshop, the actual process has begun. And you can get in on it right now!

Keeping it quality

Because it was such a new concept, the idea of letting players design parts of what was anticipated to be the ultimate Norrath was initially a little difficult for some people to wrap their heads around and accept. What clunky creations could players actually offer that couldn't be bested by the devs themselves? But after a few months of seeing what people can actually do with the voxels and the building tools, I think it's become much easier to grasp; the fact that amazing and intricate designs are coming from players relieves that worry that imports would be cheesy or unpolished.

But SOE is going even beyond that by offering The Workshop. Instead of just sitting back and hoping players might stumble upon something that is acceptable, the studio is guiding hopeful content creators on how to achieve the quality necessary to be considered. The dev team supplies an architecture style guide for whatever the focus is on (at this time, it is the Dark Elves) and then turns players loose to interpret the guide and build. The Workshop also provides on ongoing support and guidance throughout the creative process. (Important note: The style guide is not set in stone and is only a reference, so if your ideas are not reflected on the pages of the guide, do not be discouraged from making and submitting them anyway.)

What happens when a player decides s/he's built something worthy of Norrath? Players can submit screenshots of their creations to the The Workshop subforum on the official site. They then receive feedback in different ways. First, the players receive personalized feedback on their submissions from the art team -- as well as the community -- directly on the forums. The second is through a live stream. Airing after the official Landmark Live streams on Wednesday nights, The Workshop Show is dedicated to discussing and evaluating ideas and submissions live with players. Creative Director Jeff Butler and Senior Art Director Rosie Rappaport give feedback, letting all players know what works and what could be better.

More than buildings

Here's the good news for those who aren't quite on the Landmark bandwagon: You don't even have to be a Landmark player to influence the development of EQN. You also don't have to be a particularly skilled builder if you are a Landmark player. While having a building you physically create placed in Norrath is a very tangible contribution, there are less tangible ways to be part of the whole process. As explained in the first Workshop Show, the idea is to brainstorm with the community, to get and share ideas together. Not everyone will build something that will go into the next Norrath, but many will contribute ideas and themes. You can also lend your voice as to what props you want to see in game.

So while the dev team has an idea of how the race should come across because of its history, the exact details can be swayed by the community. Watching and talking part in these streams and participating on the forums will give you voice to help shape things. You might even find ideas and inspiration to help with your own creations. Collaboration truly is key.

It all started with the Dark Elves

By community vote, the first race that the team is focusing on is the Teir'Dal , or Dark Elves. The Teir'Dal were the elite military force that stayed behind so that the other races could get away to safety. Over the years, these elves, who maintained their military structure even as they were on the move, were physically changed as they had to adapt to living in the hostile underground land. For structures, that translates stylistically into hewn stone, sharpened edges, militaristic defensibility, and much verticality. Dark Elves also value mastery over magic as well as over nature. If you're considering trying your hand at creating a structure fit for this race, I'd recommend taking the time to watch all five of The Workshop episodes focused on the Dark Elves; you'll glean some very useful hints and tips.

What about the question of which Norrath your ideas actually fit in? And how much will previous versions of Norrath influence Next's iteration? We already know that things like names and races will carry over (though with their own historical twist), but what about building themes? The devs assure us that even though this next Norrath is an all-new place, that does not mean that there will be nothing familiar to older franchise siblings. If your ideas have an EverQuest or an EverQuest II flavor, that's not only all right but even expected. So go ahead and offer a nod to those other Norraths you know so well and love!

The current contest!

Are you interested in taking part in this community collaboration of EQN? If so, there is no time like the present! There is a current contest open now and running through July 9th (entries must be submitted by 2:59 a.m. EDT on July 10th). Called the Dark Elf Foundation Museum Competition, this contest is focused on making an example of a Teir'Dal city to illustrate the style guide. As such, there are very specific items the team is looking for. Those are:
  • A bridge
  • A watch tower, such as would be used on each corner of a fortified walled city
  • A section of crenelated wall with parapet
  • A gate house and city gate
  • A landmark/monument/statue to be a striking city feature inside the main gate
  • An open air temple or seat of power with a throne on top, no roof
  • A market area or town center courtyard
  • Various family dwellings and merchant shops/taverns, etc.
The exact size details of these structures and the official contest rules can be found on the official forums. And for those who enter, good luck!

If you'd rather wait until a new race is selected as the focus, expect it shortly. The dev team has said it will not stay with any one race until it is "finished" (can anything truly be finished in an MMO?), but it will move the community along to whatever area is being focused on. Which race will be next, however, is the question! Vote now for Dwarf or Kerran!

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.