Landmark's PvE arrives today; SOE shifts to EQ Next full-time in 2015

We've waited a long time for the chance to have our faces eaten off by vicious monsters in Landmark, and now that opportunity is almost here! After a bit of delay, the infamous PvE patch is heading into our favorite sandbox today. This is seriously going to be a game-changer. Of all the patches throughout the whole year, this one is the biggest -- surpassing the August PvP update and even the original alpha launch, at least according to Creative Director Dave Georgeson. And he's not kidding! I got to check out Landmark's new mobs, linking and triggering, armors, props, and more with Georgeson and Senior Producer Terry Michaels. I didn't think it was possible to be even more excited for this patch, but I am! Can I hear a squeeeee?!

Oh, and for everyone who is waiting anxiously for EverQuest Next news, here's a tidbit from Georgeson you might enjoy:

When we get to those game mastering systems [after the start of the year] that means we are working on EQN full time. Because those are the systems we need for EQN, and that's what we're building when we're building those game mastering tools. So we're so close to transitioning the team almost entirely to EQN, and then we'll take the elements that we build for EQN and port them over into Landmark, but our focus will shift almost entirely to EQN after the new year.

Completing the gameplay loop

It's been hard for many players to grasp that Landmark will be a full-fledged MMORPG when it didn't have all the basic components of one. This massive update fills in a main missing ingredient: PvE. It's more than just monsters, though; it includes loot as well! Georgeson described the full gameplay loop as "going out in the world, satisfying the adrenalin seekers, being able to kill monsters, explore through the world and be able to get something for it... which basically means loot." Loot, he emphasized, can be taken and salvaged into components to make better/different loot that players can either use to go get more or trade with others. All of these elements are being introduced into the game today. Georgeson noted that one gameplay loop element, however, didn't make it into this patch: "The player economy elements won't be out until after the new year." That means that personal vendors on claims will be more of a New Year's gift than a Christmas one.

Achievements, which were also slated to launch today, didn't make it into the update either. "Achievements are the mechanism that we're going to be using to basically lead people through learning how to play the game," Michaels explained. More than just a "good job" pat on the back, these clues and hints will direct players where to go next when they do something; they could even suggest you go make a tool after mining some ore (to fulfill a new achievement, of course!). Michaels told me, "We want to use achievements as the replacement for what you see as tutorials or tutorial quests. We want to do it in a more organic fashion."

Seeing is believing in monsters

As awesome and fun as it is to talk with the devs about Landmark, it is even more so when you get to see what they are talking about -- cue Georgeson and Michaels bringing on the monsters.

There are a couple of important points players might find useful. One, monsters are respectful of claim boundaries. They will not wander on any claims and threaten the lives of builders and guests. Additionally, to help facilitate travel between claims, the devs made sure monsters are not in as high a concentration above ground as in caves and caverns. That also means that if you plan to explore caves, you'd better be very careful or take some friends, as encountering a group of 10 will likely not end in your favor!

Let's discuss the mobs. They are pretty cool! As this is just the first iteration of PvE to help test the mechanics and different behaviors, only five species are being introduced in this patch. The Wisp, the Fiery Fungi, and Chomper were already known from their introduction at SOE Live. However, there are two new ones joining the fray: the Slaug and the Abomination. A Slaug looks like a cross between a goblin and Gollum himself, and unlike the aforementioned stationary or slow critters, it's very fast. (Luckily, mobs do have leashes, so running away is a valid response.) The Abomination is just that -- a conglomeration of a blob with a tentacle that whips out of its mouth all Alien-like along with a skull-looking face... you just have to see it to understand.

Mobs don't have to be mobile to be challenging or deadly. The Fiery Fungi looks innocent enough, but it is essentially a landmine for caves. If you venture too closely (perhaps because you are running away from something chasing you), you trigger it and have only moments to move before the explosion. This little fungi also best illustrates the fact that, in the words of Georgeson, "monsters can destroy the world just as much as players can." In fact, in can blow a hole in both the terrain and you! And as for Chomper, all I can say is watch out for plant puke! If you survive your encounters and even defeat the monster, then you're in store for the next big addition to Landmark: loot!

Phat loot

Vanquishing a formidable foe is rewarding, but it's even better when doing so also scores you treasure! We all know this, and that's usually why we go on these homicidal wildlife killing sprees, right? And there's going to be new items in the loot table for players to collect, use, and even salvage in order to create more items. For those who are wondering, all dropped loot is personal, just as in harvesting and chests; anyone eligible to receive loot from a fight will get her own bag of goodies.

There is a selection of new armors and four new weapons, each with different aspects (noted by the keywords) that grant different abilities. Players who like to dual wield will enjoy finding the obsidian daggers; tank enthusiasts have the new darksteel sword and shield combo. Magic users may enjoy the one-handed lucent wand, while melee fans can use the two-handed crescent-bladed broadsword. All of these weapons must be found in-game but can be brought back to the Etherstone crafting stations located at hubs to break down into components for use in gear recipes that will be added into game later.

Unfortunately for the sci-fi crowd, I didn't see anything particularly sci-fi in the appearance of the armor or weapons; however, that doesn't mean it isn't there, as I only saw a small sampling of what is available. But I don't think it is very likely this time around.

A quick note on weapon and armor aspects: These become important as players try to match their gear to funnel power into their weapons. They also facilitate hunting, exploring, and even trading. Need more shadow gear? Hunt for, salvage, and/or trade to acquire what you need. Three aspects that were mentioned directly are shadow, poison, and life-steal, but others are in the game. The aspect is noted by an icon just under the name of the item on the tooltip. If you see primal listed there, that means it's got a a little bit of multiple aspects.

Though not happening with this update, mobs will eventually drop templates (specifically awesome things players have been making!!) as well as recipes.


Exploring the deep, dark recesses of the new caverns that run down to the very bowels of the earth is another much-anticipated activity that will be opened up with this update. Players will finally get to mine deep into each island (10,000 voxels deep) to find the various tiers of resources -- all while dodging ravenous beasts, of course! Unfortunately, I didn't get to physically see the caves because the cavern regeneration last night broke caverns on the server we were touring, so I will be right there with you all experiencing them for the first time when servers come back up. In fact, you can join me in a Stream Team tour as soon as they do! I can't wait to run into all the team-up ruins that players and devs created scattered throughout the caves.

To get to these caverns, players need only to go to a teleport hub and port in. Don't worry, this is only a temporary measure for testing purposes; finding cave entrances on the surface or tunneling down will be the final method of cave-finding. Once you are in the caverns, you'll have to discover the various ley-line travel points yourself. However, in order to avoid any claim wipes right now, the devs have ensured that all surface caverns have been removed until open beta. (If you didn't catch that, it's pretty much a statement that yes, there will be a wipe for open beta.)

Speaking of claims...

All about the building

If you happen to be more focused on building, don't think this update is not for you. There are some amazing updates coming to construction. There are tons of props, including curtains and working shutters. There are even props that offer particle effects, such as fire. But probably the most exciting thing is the linking and triggering system. I got to see this system in action and WOW! The possibilities!

Basically, linking and triggering is a system where anything with a behavior can be linked to one or more other items with a behavior. More than that, players use a selection-type tool to make trigger zones that act like a prop. Why is this a big deal? Because now you can have switches that open hidden panels, lights that automatically turn on and off, and so much more. Georgeson gave me one example: "You can have a button in your space ship that turns the engines on." It's astounding, really. He also demonstrated perpetual motion/automated systems that can be done by looping a series of links and triggers back to the beginning. Talk about being limited only by your imagination.

And there's also a little something special for the builder who forgets to pay upkeep in time: claim ghosting. Prior to the update when you missed paying your upkeep, your claim was picked up and a template was made. Now the claim will be there in ghost form, allowing players to instantly (and easily) re-place it exactly how it was -- as long as no one else has claimed the spot! Boy, this would have sure helped me out a while back when I was trying to line multiple claims up.

Odds and ends

Along with these big-ticket items, the patch also includes some smaller quality of life improvements and bug fixes. One that I personally appreciate a lot is the fact that the tool tips do not pop up on your inventory items until you hover the mouse over an item for a time! One glorious bug fix is that your selection wont disappear when you move your mouse to select a new material.

In addition to these fixes, voice will be enabled. To start, there will be guild, group, and proximity chat channels, with the ability to create custom ones coming later.

And now, for the most important question: When can we get in and enjoy all this? Michaels gave a downtime window of "four to 48 hours," emphasizing that SOE will let players in as soon as it is ready. Of course the team is hoping for a shorter downtime, but Georgeson explained that the team will not relive the experience of 36-hour days that it had at alpha's launch. Instead, if the devs reach a point where they need to sleep, they will sleep and get right back to it in the morning. I am sure we all understand and will try to be patient! Now, let the waiting begin...

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!