Norrathian Notebook: How to improve your Landmark building skills

MJ Guthrie
M. Guthrie|08.07.14

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Norrathian Notebook: How to improve your Landmark building skills
What goes through your mind when you come across show-stopping Landmark builds? Do you just admire them, or do they also pierce your confidence and remind you of your own less-than-phenomenal skills? Some folks see another player's masterpiece and are inspired. while others get discouraged. Don't let it discourage you! Previously, I offered a few hints on how to avoid discouragement; remember, it's perfectly natural and OK to not have uber building skills. Besides that, you don't even have to build because when all is said and done (and released), there will be game enough for everyone, regardless of construction prowess.

But what if you really want to improve your skills? In that case, the first thing you need to do to restore hope in your skills is to stop comparing your abilities to others. Trust me, there will always be someone who can create circles (literally) around you in Landmark. Instead, focus on what you can do and on improving from there. If you really desire to make some specific awesome creation that you can see in your mind's eye but can't it make work in voxels, take the time to hone your skills. You may never join the upper echelons of the truly constructionally gifted, but that doesn't mean you can't make something great that you can be proud of! This guide will help point you in the direction of polishing and practicing those voxel manipulation skills.

Anyone can improve -- yes, even you

We've already covered the "stop comparing yourself to others" lesson, so the next step is to believe that you can increase your skills. It honestly doesn't matter which stage you start at; there is always room for improvement. In fact, with so many changes as closed beta progresses, even those who feel near the top of their game building-wise continue to develop new skills. So decide where you are at in your skill progression -- be you complete novice, amateur, pro, or anywhere in-between -- and go from there.

Important note: Keep in mind that the evolution of the game throughout beta also means that more things are bound to change. Even Franchise Director Dave Georgeson's own introduction video to building from alpha is out of date in relation to available beginning tools. Therefore, this guide is far from comprehensive, but it should cover enough to get you going on the right track.

Zero to 60

For those who feel they are totally lacking all skills when it comes to building, you will want to start with the basics. Go get yourself a claim and dig in... literally! If you feel self-conscious, just use your delete tool to dig a huge square pit in the ground and then cover it up so no one can see you while you work. Bonus: Secret underground lairs are totally cool! Even if you plan on doing your work on a friend's claim, you'll need your own because with the exception of add, which is present from the get-go, the other tools are granted only when a claim is placed. Once you get your delete, selection, smooth, paint, heal, and line tools, you can actually dispense with the property and reclaim the flag.

Overwhelmed by the thought of learning everything from scratch? Take heart: You already know some building commands! If you've ever used the basic keyboard commands of copy (ctrl + c), cut (ctrl + x), and paste (ctrl + v), you already have mastery of three key building functions. Combined with the selection tool, these commands -- or even just the delete key itself -- are actually used quite frequently. For a nice look at the basics of Landmark's building tools, take 15 minutes and check out this tutorial by Tobashi Hirano:

My personal recommendation is to start off getting the feel for the tools by terraforming. Don't worry about structures yet; become familiar with the tools by making yourself a mountain out of a molehill or just changing the basic layout of your land. For a quick rush of accomplishment, use your delete tool underground and make a quick maze!

Going to the next level

So you already have a mastery of the basics and you are ready to branch out. Right now, you probably have wanted, if not attempted, to make shapes that aren't directly supported by the available building tools. After all, there is definitely more to life than cubes and spheres! You might want a cylinder for a turret or a peaked roof for your home. Maybe your structure wouldn't be complete without arches. Whatever the case may be, there are a variety of shapes builders can take advantage of -- if they acquire the know-how. And the know how is gotten through either personal experimentation or tutorials.

There is actually a decent list of tutorials on the official forums. Unfortunately, not all of those links lead to updated guides (remember the comment about things changing?); some don't even work at all anymore. However, you can still get a taste of new shapes using many of these. Try out this really easy, three-minute arch tutorial by DayOnePatch (just be sure that your tool circle is showing as blue, not red, to get a smooth line). Want a giant hollow spire? Check out HowToVoxel's video. How about a dome? Obzzarver shows off his pizza slice spiral staircase.

Got the hang of those? Maybe you want to move on to inlays! Fyrel offers a quick tutorial that takes advantage of healed air to make inlays. This method has an advantage over the ground method because it can use materials that would normally bleed into the ground and lose shape.

The advanced degree

Before stepping up your game even farther, you need to know the lingo. You've probably heard the terms micro, mega, anti, zero-data, and zero-volume voxels and voxel strings thrown around, and you might be wondering what exactly they are. Well, these are the advanced whatsits that gaining a mastery of will net many wonderful things in Landmark. To get a handle on all these terms, read Nithel's comprehensive glossary -- complete with some videos -- on the official forums. It also covers stamping, welding, warping, and framing. Trust me, this will decrypt this new voxel language and help you become more fluent. For another reference, visit this wiki page, which adds putty voxels to the mix. Even those who don't want to tackle this level of skill yet should still become familiar with the terminology.

To be completely honest, I think the easiest way to get access to all the shapes is to find someone with a full board of them and just make a template that you place on your own claim. Then you can actually just copy the desired shape and paste. Some tutorials, like the floor tile mosaic by Sapphirius, even count on players having the micro-voxel board. However, knowing how to make the shapes yourself can be rewarding, and experimenting is what leads to the discovery of other methods for shape building! So don't shy away from learning the basic techniques for these various voxel manipulations if you have the time.

As far as perfecting your technique, remember that practice makes perfect! Before long you, too, might become an accomplished voxelmancer.

Ongoing education

With all the changes that are happening as Landmark develops, it's a good idea to keep up on the latest techniques. The best way to do that is to follow those folks who continue making tutorials, doing livestreams, and holding live workshops in game. Producer Emily Taylor should be at the top of that list; she regularly streams tutorials on Tuesdays at 11:00 p.m. EDT for fans on her personal channel. Of course, every Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. the dev team streams Landmark Live, which often gives little hints and tips for building. And then there are the different players who spend their time helping teach others, like InfinityofLight, who holds classes in game and streams them on Twitch.

With so many online tutorials online and even in-game workshops presented by different groups, don't make the mistake of trying to learn all the things at once! My advice is to pick one topic or one skill and work on it until you feel you have mastered it. Remember, this isn't a race; there's no endgame you will miss out on if you go at your own pace. Landmark is still in closed beta, so just think of your skills as being beta too. Want to practice in private? Make that secret underground building facility and close it away from prying eyes to practice without worrying about any negative comments from others. (Not that any of us have room to judge!)

With such a long beta, you have plenty of time to either build your skills or to come to terms with what you have. Heck, you might even begin to revel in your mundane mediocrity; I know I do! Don't give in to the notion that the only valued stuff is elaborate, ornate, and fancy. There are a good chunk of folks who still find beauty in the simple. I can't tell you how many times I hear players lamenting the lack of the small cottages and hovels dotting the landscape that would make the world feel more real. And hey, I am proof that anyone can make an underground maze!

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!
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