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H1Z1 … hmm

h1z1-teaser

SOE just officially revealed (sort of) H1Z1, the game John Smedley hinted at 2 months ago when he said:

 “SWG PLAYERS – OUR NEXT GAME (not announced yet) IS DEDICATED TO YOU. Once we launch it… you can come home now.”

As a former / current SWG super-fan, I think I’m qualified to address how I feel after learning a bit about the game, as well as some of my initial thoughts and ramblings on why SOE is making H1Z1.

H1Z1 & SWG

I don’t get it.  I see DayZ meets Rust in a massively multiplayer persistent world.  Don’t get me wrong… that’s sounds like it can be a fantastic game, but that’s not SWG.  SWG was about building a community and living your life in a galaxy far, far away. H1Z1 is about surviving, hiding in the shadows, and being afraid.  I think, perhaps, the only trait the two will share is a sandbox nature and an involved crafting system.

Why a zombie survival game?

Simple. SOE is targeingt a completely different market.  They were live streaming about Landmark at the exact same time they did this first-look at H1Z1 on someone’s live stream show.  This isn’t for the fans who are hyped up about Landmark, EQ Next, or heck even Planetside.  This isn’t for the people who go to fanfare (SOE Live) or post on message boards.  H1Z1 from the moment they came out of the gate has been aimed directly that that L337 crowd of DayZ gamers – the “bros” of gaming.

I get why they are trying new things.  SOE went for the kiddie market for a while, the F2P Eastern model for a bit, the shooter market, then heavily back to the Fantasy RPG crowd (their roots), and now they want a taste of the growing zombie survival scene.

There’s no accounting for taste

Personally, I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic settings.  I’m also not big on zombies.  I prefer elves, magic, swords, etc. I’m not interested in games where the aforementioned ‘bros’ run around circle strafing and looting your backpack.  I’m not a big fan of FFA PvP, so I would probably play on a PvE server or a ruleset where I have to opt-in when I’m ready.  I’m not big of dark and scary, and I really hate how most post-apoc games are all brown and gross terrain.

H1Z1 may not be the game for me, but I am intrigued by the scope of a game where Smedley claims people can build anything, burn anything, and drive or fly vehicles all over the place.  Put that on a console (like they plan) and maybe this will be a great ‘sit back on the couch for a few hours’ kind of game.

Landmark’s Business Model

Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson posted a sneak peak at Landmark’s Business Model yesterday evening. If you’re going to play Landmark you really should give it a read.  The plan follows a typical F2P convenience model:  You can essentially buy shortcuts and cosmetics.  There’s really only one item on there causing a ruckus: Resources will be sold on the cash shop.

I left my spiel in the thread, but it has already been buried where it will never be seen again.  Thankfully I have a more visible outlet.

My reaction to hearing about resource purchasing was initially (might still be) negative, but fine, I get it. Resources aren’t supposed to be progression.  Great. Then what is? This entire discussion relies on having more information, and we simply haven’t been told enough.

Let me start by pointing out the obvious:

  • If resources are in the cash shop then they can’t be the only thing used to craft items. Otherwise crafting is worthless and the items themselves should have been sold in the cash shop.
  • The in-game economy, if there is to be one, will not be based around resources.  There will be some other form of currency of meaningful use.  Hint: There are no NPCs.
  • Players (like me) who enjoy going out and gathering rare things (like resources) to sell or make things with will still need a means of pursuing that style of play or we get screwed.

I’m crossing my fingers and rolling the dice that SOE thought of those things.

There’s this whole “you define how you “win” a sandbox game like Landmark” trend among some circles of players.  That’s fine.  I agree to an extent.  If building a tower is all you care about then buy resources.  Yay, you win.  But that’s a little narrow-minded.   I don’t believe in victory scenarios for MMOs.  I believe the entire experience, especially in a sandbox, to be defined by how and why I interact with others (or don’t) to accomplish goals.  That’s deep, right?

Let’s look to a previous SOE title as an example: Star Wars Galaxies.  In SWG resources were used to craft everything.  Resources had scarcity and quality factors. Those resources were used to make items which were then in turn used by players — everything from blasters to skimpy dancing outfits.

The quality of the material determined the quality of the item.  The quality of the item determined what the end-user would could do with the item as it pertained to their particular play-style of choice.  Better blaster= slay harder monster = get better resource components = in turn get better weapon by going back to the crafter for an upgrade.   If resources were removed from the question, the link would be severed. That’s circle of life stuff, folks.  I want to hear how SOE plans to address the gap they’ve created in the circle, or if they plan to skip the entire player interaction game.

Some of my questions:

Are ALL resources available for purchase or will some be withheld to make gathering meaningful?

Will players (like me) who enjoy going out and gathering rare things (like resources) to sell or use have other mediums for pursuing that style of play?

What activities (other than building) rely on resources?

Is crafting meant to make items used by other players with other play-styles?

Given the impending excess supply of resources, does the act of crafting even make sense? Why not just sell every item instead?

What plan is in place to avoid making the gathering part of the game feel completely worthless? Personally, I hope it’s not “Mine 5,000 Marble to unlock X.”

What forms of progression will exist that will not be touched by or influenced by players who buy resources?

Bottom line, if Landmark is to stand a snowball’s chance in a very hot hell then SOE already has answers and something planned.  It’s not until then that anyone can give real feedback on the game.  All we can do now is watch the knee-jerk reactions (positive and negative) to a business model without context.  When you give me context, I can do more than ask questions.

I like the New SOE

Sony Online Entertainment deserves enormous praise for what they’ve done recently.  I’m not even talking about any of their games.  Let’s set the games themselves aside completely and just talk about the way in which I feel like they are taking the MMORPG (and gaming) industry to an entirely new level of communication, customer service, marketing, and just… this crazy sense of being real people working on games they love.

Every single day I can go on Twitter and see a dozen or more SOE staff tweeting about everything from what they are working on to being candid about problems they’ve encountered with a patch during downtime.  When you tweet them, chances are they tweet you back.  Even John Smedley, President of SOE, is on there actively engaging with the players, answering questions, and being helpful.  Their forums are full of staff assisting players and communicating the processes they are going through.  Seriously, Dave Georgeson tweeted at 2am that the devs finally left the building.

SOE is being really transparent.  They bring down servers for an update and if something goes wrong they don’t just give the “sorry we’re working on it.” They say, “Turns out we screwed up something in the database that handles X and Y because of Z.”  Heck, they recently decided to make a bold move and state EQN and EQN Landmark will be 64 bit only, and PS2 will be making the transition.  Alpha testing Landmark has been one of the best real game testing experiences I’ve ever had.

They are doing outside of their games, in the real world, what I love doing IN their games: creating a community.  They put on big events like the Year of EverQuest to create a bond between players and these properties.  Yes, that’s marketing, but that’s okay.  That’s the type of marketing I want.  I want a company focused on delighting fans and creating memorable experiences they can share over a company trying to figure out how they can make a game look good in a CGI trailer.

SOE, thank you for reminding why I’ve been a loyal SOE customer since 1997, why I chose to be a founder for Landmark, and why I will be first in line to buy just about any product you announce in the future.  You are setting the bar high, even for yourselves, but that’s what it takes to be great.  I like the new SOE.  Keep it up!

EverQuest Next Landmark Initial Impressions

eqnl-mining

The NDA for EverQuest Next Landmark was officially lifted this evening via tweets by the dev team.  Let me just get right to it and say what I’ve been feeling for the last 24 hours: Landmark is AWESOME!  Within the first 20 minutes it was easy for all of us playing to agree that Landmark is a winner with unimaginable potential.  Well, that’s a lie;  I can imagine the potential!

eqn-new-artMy coverage of Landmark, like all MMOs, will be ongoing.  I can’t possibly tell you everything in one post that I’m writing while the servers are down for maintenance, but I want to run through a few of my first impressions and key details that I feel you as a reader of this blog will want to know.

SOE wasn’t kidding when they said this was a real alpha and the game wasn’t optimized.  I haven’t ‘tested’ something this rough in a while, and that’s so incredibly refreshing (minus the lag).  Landmark is less polished than I thought it would be, but 10x more impressive in scope.  There are dozens and dozens of bugs, lots of imperfections in the UI, and an obvious lack of features waiting to be turned on.  What does work, however, excites me beyond words.

Building is… hard.  I guess I thought I would have the talent of the SOE artists who build during those streams.  I am clearly more akin to a finger-painting toddler.  One of my friends told me, “That’s nice Keen but you made a hole in the ground.”  I told her I would fix it, after which she replied, “Keen, you just made the hole bigger.”  There are many subtle nuances to how you can manipulate the building tools by pressing tab, shift+tab, and using the mouse wheel.  Every single little detail, angle, and embellishment can be tweaked.  I’m out of my league, but I’ll get there.

Effort will be rewarded.  I built an Iron Pickaxe but it took over an hour of farming trees to get the rare wood I need to craft one.  Just building a tiny little piece of a wall took me 18,000+ stone.  I feel like this is close to UO’s gathering where it’s not difficult to find the resources, such as mining in a cave, but it takes a long time to gather a lot of them.  I like this.  I like knowing I am going to see a reward not by something random happening, but through my dedication.

eqnl-castle

My biggest complaints so far:

  1. My graphics look white-washed like the gamma is too high.  I had this EXACT 100% same issue with Planetside 2.  I’ll give serious props to whoever figures out how I can make it look crisp and the colors pure.  Seriously, it’s why I quit PS2.
  2. The world is too small right now.  I can see how it will be easy to expand and procedurally generate more room, but right now the playable area is tiny compared to the number of people playing.
  3. Claim buffers are too big and there’s nowhere left to claim.  I don’t need that much space between me and my neighbors.  Maybe this will be fixed by increasing the size of the playable areas, but the space is really, really big.
  4. I want to log in where I logged out.  Currently you are placed in a random zone at a wizard spire and have to teleport back to the zone (island/continent/whatever) you were on then find your way back to the exact spot.
  5. Input delay while playing is weird and off for me.  I click and 2-5 seconds later I swing my pick.  This gives me and almost motion sickness feeling.

Landmark is as fun as you want it to be.  You are going to have to make your own fun at times.  If you like digging holes, chopping trees, and using your imagination to bring things to life then Landmark is the right game for you.  If you’re patient and can look forward to eventually having combat, underground biomes, commerce, and even more reason to explore then that’s just icing on this already delicious cake.

That last sentence is really key.  Landmark right now is lots of fun, but seeing what it is now lets me know that what’s coming is going to make it so much better.

Well done SOE.  Polish it up, add the rest of the features, and you’ve made a masterpiece.

More to come!

EQ Next Landmark Claims

EverQuest Next Landmark Claim Live Stream

SOE released a lot of great information about EverQuest Next Landmark yesterday via a live stream.  My favorite part though was watching Darrin.  I had fun captioning him throughout the video.  In the beginning: “God I need a beer.”  A few minutes in: “They are still talking.  Yep.  still talking.”  Fifteen minutes in: “Do you think I can just have one beer?”

Okay, all joking aside, I really am excited to play Landmark now.  The more I hear the more it sounds like it’s shaping up to be exactly the type of go-to game I can play on and off or all in one sitting for a very long time.  Gathering resources, avoiding dangers, claiming land, exploring a world, building whatever I want… that’s what I need right now!

A few of the things shown during the video have already started to create debate on the forums.  The biggest one is Claim Size.  The general consensus is that it’s going to be too small.  I disagree.  Landmark is going to be F2P which already means finding a spot to build is going to be somewhat of a challenge.  Make the plots too big and suddenly it becomes insane.  They are also going to want to make money on this somehow, and I think the cash shop is going to come into play.  I have a feeling the vertical height (100m) will be expanded by the end of alpha.

My biggest question for them was whether or not we would be able to make claims on behalf of a guild.  My group in particular likes to build together and we’re hoping we can somehow earn/buy/whatever a claim for all of us.  I think they avoided the question altogether since it was asked 3000 times in chat.

Around 16:52 is where you should start watching if you want to skip all of the chatter in the beginning about the community event and general tomfoolery.

[Update: Video removed.  Will add again when they post a new one.]

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, I took notes on everything that matters.  Read on! [Read more...]