SOE Live 2014: More on Landmark's islands and combat

I think there's a consensus that you can never get too much information about Landmark, and the devs at SOE Live certainly delivered more juicy details about the game's islands and its upcoming combat system. For instance, did you know that Franchise Director Dave Georgeson revealed this little fun fact for RP: All the player characters in Landmark are actually from somewhere else and were just placed on these islands. How or why, Georgeson didn't say! We've got a slew of other tidbits for you here, everything from island rulesets to the use of grappling hooks in PvP to more info on the game master system. And that's just the beginning!

Getting deeper into islands

Players know that islands currently consist of one layer, including the caves (as deep as they are!). Soon, however, each island will have all five tiers, with each successively higher tier buried deeper down. And just as the surface of each island has set biomes, each tier below the surface will have a separate biome. Players will have to explore to find out which specific islands have which biomes in which tiers. Once discovered, this info will be constant; although every island on a world server will be different, each corresponding island among all the worlds will have the same biome map (so Abyss on Serenity will be the same as Abyss on Understanding, and so on).

Speaking of biomes, the devs were amenable to the suggestion of having a more sci-fi flavored biome, something that would feel more fitting to those who prefer that style of building and play -- like an asteroid. For those who might like a fully PvP-enabled island, islands with specific rulesets like PvP and RP are definitely possible! "We're certainly talking about PvP islands," Georgeson assured us.

With a set number of islands, how does the team plan to keep content fresh for years so players remain? One way is to shuffle the underground caves. While the surface entrances stay put, the subterranean caves will change around, offering new ruins to explore and new treasure to find. Lead Designer Darrin McPherson said, "We really want you to explore to your hearts' content." Worried about traveling once the world expands down? A layline network of portal crystals is incoming, and some of those locations will be underground. Important note: The portals will never shift, but players will have to discover them before they can access it.

A final note on islands involves a possible tease. Senior Art Director Rosie Rappaport said during one panel, "We don't have dynamic seasons... yet." So there is a possibility we will get them!

Expounding on combat

"PvP is more than just fighting each other." - Lead Systems Designer Michael Mann

In Landmark, PvP will use the terrain in ways no other game has. In fact, perhaps it should be relabeled PvTvP! But that's not the only difference in this game's combat; gear needs to be approached differently as well.

With no classes, players will identify their combat builds through what they equip gear-wise. For instance, instead of being a warrior, a player would be an Inferno Edge wielder; it all comes down to what is equipped and how it all works together. Character builds actually revolve around playstyles in Landmark. The devs scrolled through a huge list of these playstyles, way too many to even catch let alone name. But a few examples were leaping, drains, lightning, health sacrifice, and (fan-favorite) Sir Stuns-lot.

How much individualization is available using this method? Tons! Not only will armor soon be split into pieces and cover multiple slots, but combat accessories are also coming to game. Each bit of gear has a specific keyword (such as inferno, ice, etc.) that notes the specific types of abilities it grants so players can build sets. The total effect of gear involves the combination of abilities, armor bonuses, keywords, and passive bonuses. And there are tons of different items! (Special note for those who might want to look one certain way: I did get confirmation that Landmark will have appearance slots.)

The devs are really looking forward to player feedback. Mann emphasized that they want to make PvP combat a little less twitch and a little more tactile. Will there be more than two abilities for the weapons? That all depends on player feedback: Can players have a fun and tactical experience with the two abilities, or are more needed? The future might hold such things as clicking a combination of mouse buttons for other abilities or even charged shots. However, Mann noted that there will never be headshots.

There's even more on the subject of combat. Other tasty tidbits include:
  • As the game is genre-agnostic, yes there will be sci-fi weapons like blasters and phasers (we even saw some concept art!).
  • Armor stat does not negate having someone heal you. That means healing abilities are out there!
  • The team is looking at adding cost to combat.
  • There aren't many cast times in game, except for Sniper's Mark (for that sniper feeling).
  • With cast times, you must follow the target until the cast time up, then fire.
  • The camera mode will automatically change when you equip a weapon; you won't need your mouse for the camera.
  • Building will be turned off during matches, so no removing bridges or adding lava pits under rez points in the middle of a match.
  • Grappling hook use changes in PvP. A 10-second refresh timer starts if you take damage; you must be out of combat to use it.
  • Game masters can choose to disable heroic movement.
  • There is an observer mode for those who are not a part of the PvP match.
  • Eventually there will be a trigger system so things like landmines can be detonated.
  • The claim will heal once the match is over and reset for the next match.
The game master system

For those who might have passed on the idea of the game master system because it is just PvP right now, take heart: PvP is only in its first iteration! There will be the ability to play many types of games. In fact, it will even move on from games to become content. This addition of player-made content is a main goal of Landmark. As Georgeson said, "We hope that people can find ways to be victorious instead of just building."

The set of rules that control the game is limited right now but will soon expand to the point you can create and personalize the rules yourself. What are the possibilities? How about friendly fire or standing with your friends facing wave after wave of NPCs! One con attendee even suggested being able to restrict what theme of weapon (sci-fi vs. fantasy) is allowed in the game. In time players will be able to create whole dungeons and stories using this system.

And just a final note for all you pack-rats out there: All the game master items (like rez points and such) will never be in your inventory they're placed using the game master table itself!

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporter MJ Guthrie to this year's SOE Live, from which she'll be transmitting all the best fan news on EverQuest Next, Landmark, H1Z1, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.
This article was originally published on Massively.