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.

  • The resources thing seems very minor to me. EQ2’s SC store sold resources for years. It made no noticeable difference to the value or cost of those resources in the in-game economy. A lot of EQ2 players, particularly the kind of people who do a lot of crafting and therefore need a lot of resources, also find gathering very enjoyable and relaxing so the idea of buying them with real money seemed faintly ludicrous – why pay to avoid somethng you actively enjoy doing?

    No, I’m not worried about that. I’d be a lot more concerned about this mine in SJ’s post:

    “Tool and item progression will be limited by activities completed and achievements gained”.

    That raises a LOT more red flags for me than putting anything in the SC store could ever do. Gating content via an achievement system is a horrible mechanic.

    The thing is, though, as you say, even at this stage, even while we’re already playing the game and the devs are supposedly sharing their ideas and plans with us, we know next to nothing about how Landmark is going to function as a game.

    For example, you say boldly “There are no NPCs.” How do you know? Has that been conformed somewhere? In the most recent Round Table update that I mentioned on my blog yesterday Jeff Butler and Dave Georgeson yet again discuss and confirm that the intention is to put ALL the tools used to make EQN into LM. That includes StoryBricks and the AI and the means to produce content with them including quests. Which presumably means LM will have NPCs eventually, even if they are all speaking words written by players.

    If they actually have a clear understanding of what the “game” part of Landmark is going to be I wish they’d publish some kin of discussion document on that and let us all in on the secret because it’s next to impossible to make meaningful suggestions on other topics without knowing.

  • “When you give me context, I can do more than ask questions.”

    It’s bizarre reading your long list of questions from someone who already payed $50-100 for the game.

    ” Tool and item progression will be limited by activities completed and achievements gained… not by resources. ”

    Yeah this sounds less and less like a sandbox every time I read about it. Can’t wait to spend $5.99 to speed up building my megacastle to get the megacastle achievement and progress to the next level. Sorry, but this is not the sandbox I’ve been waiting for, this is the usual cynical f2p shit with a cute Disney skin.

  • @Evalissa: Let’s hope not. 🙂 I think they’ve moved past that era.

    @Bhagpuss: I do agree with you. As of now, and the foreseeable future (Roadmap), there aren’t NPCs.

    @Jenks: I may have questions about resources being sold and how that plays into several elements of design, but that doesn’t mean I do not still know and enjoy what is currently available. Landmark is phenomenal building game.

  • Well without more info I am not getting upset about anything they said. Selling resources is something I did not expect but I am also not overly surprised to see them considering. Until the game has some sort of economy to speak of I really do not care if the guy in the next claim over buys 100,000 stone instead of spending the time to collect it. Of course I view EQNL as a building game first and hardly consider it an MMO at all so my views are probably different then other players.

  • One hypothesis you made is that the sell price of the ressources will be low enough to suppress the player economy. My feeling is that real money price of the ressource will be high enough that most players will prefer to harvest or buy it from harvester more than buy it for real price.

  • @Ettesiun: Smokejumper said this in the thread I linked above:

    There are players that will play this game without building a single thing. They will fight monsters, explore, socialize, play PvP, or whatever…but they won’t build. Those players are going to accumulate a lot of stuff…and they’ll sell it.

    So, for example, obsidian just won’t *stay* rare. It’ll always be more rare than stone and dirt, of course. But it won’t take nearly the amount of time it takes to gather currently. Other players will make it readily available. (And as a matter of fact, it’s not even supposed to take that much time right now! It’s just that we don’t have the T4 islands yet, where Obsidian and Alabaster are supposed to be a lot more common.)

    They’ll be priced to move if resources are easy to get.

  • It’s funny to me that the discussion of the business model behind the game has become as important as the game itself.

  • It’s funny that the discussion of a game’s business model has become as important as the game itself.

  • I’d rather pay $15 a month and stick to things being built with time, effort and creativity.

  • “It’s funny that the discussion of a game’s business model has become as important as the game itself.”

    Right to the point man! 😉

    I personally have no more faith in the monetization practices of SOE than for EA, and even less so for charging a premium macrotransaction fee ($60/$100) for participating in an alpha for a F2P game that will also eventually have free beta.

  • I assumed the entire purpose of the game was to gather and build. Allowing players to bypass half of the game with a cash shop is unacceptable. All interactions with resources should be player driven, either with an auction house of player made shops.

    I’m really not sure how they plan to monetize the game so i’m waiting to hear specifics before i make up my mind. There just isn’t enough info yet.

  • Yesh, glad I got my $60 back due to a junky PC. If that’s the item store, I’ll pass on this one.