Butler noted that the goal is to make the entire process of voxelmancy easier for players. Besides having new shapes -- and more claims -- to work with, players will see a host of other features aimed at making building a better experience for all. These include dynamic fluids, voxel physics, a new UI that's more intuitive and easier to search, personal palettes, and more.
There are certainly players that find the intricacies of creating elaborate shapes and builds quite daunting. In fact, Butler equated voxelmancers to Jedi back in the very beginning of Star Wars Galaxies: They're powerful but very rare. But he'd like to see everyone who wants to be a master builder become one; he wants "to bring the power of the voxel to the people." He said, "That's always been our goal: To give the power to create anything that you see in the game to as many people as want that power." Instead of having to watch tons of tutorials on YouTube, you'll play with in-game tools that create the same result. One incoming example is that once air voxels are introduced, players will never have to use anti-voxels again!
Another way to promote this is through a new dynamic UI where all tool functionalities will be visual. This new UI will show what is available for each tool, so no more trying to remember which key does what. (Did you know that pressing P makes a prop toggle between following the contour of land or be set perfectly vertical? Most players don't!) Additionally, the UI will support individual player pallets, so props, materials, and shapes could be grouped together for specific types of builds.
Georgeson also discussed the collectable shapes the team wants to introduce. While there will be basic shape templates such as circles that every players get, special unique shape templates can be found out in the world in chests or as loot drops.
One of the coolest things I saw at SOE Live was a demonstration of gravity on voxels. In a nutshell, the system can detect when the voxels become isolated because all supports are destroyed around them. That piece then responds to physics, falling to the ground and even bouncing around. This is accomplished by that item turning into a mesh as soon as it is broken free from its supports. Eventually people will be able to break the broken fragments even further. Will these broken fragments have weight and hurt players that they fall on? The devs are still researching how to make that work.
We also got to watch fluid materials move with physical properties when a block of water was dropped on top of a fountain and flowed down. This same system can be used for flowing fire, smoke, and lava, and other fluid materials.
One thing that drags down the visual experience in Landmark when exploring is the fact that player-made structures can look extremely warped from a distance. An entire tech panel addressed this; devs explained that this occurs because the engine is approximating what the voxels' original shape is with less information. However, optimization is really high on on the list of things to do. Research is focusing on two ways to improve the LOD (level of detail), one involving increasing accuracy of details using roaming vectors, and the other relying on more traditional mesh-based technologies. Likely, a mixture of both will be used. Another possibility for increasing visual quality is a property publish process.
Want to hear even more? Here are other tasty tidbits that came out over the course of the convention.
- In discussing items facilitating heroic movement, Georgeson let slip that ledge grabbing is coming soon.
- For those with really tall claims who are getting nervous about death coming to the game on August 27th, the devs offer some hope: They are discussing the removal of fall damage in building mode.
- Teleporters can span across all attached claims.
- Even more building toys are being researched, but those are being kept under wraps for now as some may make it into game and some may not.
- Just as in EverQuest Next, the materials will have different toughness factors, but builders can make indestructible or hard-to-destroy areas.
- Voxel Farm's procedural generation system saves on data cost as most of it is clientside.
- Players will soon be able to utilize Player Studio to make and sell props for decorating.
- Bundles are coming to Player Studio August 27th.
- There are plans to allowing building with modular pieces, but the devs don't want to discourage building with voxels.
- The "follow" function (by keyword or creator) is coming on the 27th as well, so players can receive notification of any claim added to gallery or item to Player Studio.
- Later, the map interface will also include an overlay that will show at a glance where to find things using specific keywords.
- Destructible props are coming!
- Movement items will soon come in different themes and looks.
- Fabrics are also in the works, so bye bye rubicite bedspreads.
- Props like editable signs and locking doors are also in development.
- Content manipulation (AI, PvP games, etc.) will all be done through the game system props.
- Terrain tools for shaping large areas are under development; they include flatten, average, raise, and lower to quickly create mountains, riverbeds, etc.
- Fun fact: Since alpha launch, there have been 4.5 billion resources mined.