Posted in Gaming

Hatch App Review

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Anyone remember those Tamagotchis from back in the 90’s? Those cute little virtual pets on a keychain that you had to care for and train? Did you have one of those? I did. I loved that little thing until the battery died.

Well, you can relive your Tamagotchi days as long as you have an iPhone or iPad that runs iOS 6.1.3 or higher with this fairly new app called Hatch. I say “fairly new” because it’s been around for a little over three months now, and it’s seen a number of updates since launch.

App Basic Information

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My fugu, Ben.

I was an early adopter of this app, interestingly, even before I invested in my first iPhone. In fact, I had forgotten all about it until I got the email that said Hatch was releasing and I had reserved a pet. I bought the app and have been charmed by my fugu (the name of the creature) ever since.

The app itself costs $1.99, which, at first glance, feels more pricey than the free or $0.99 apps you maybe used to. However, the one time cost covers all the updates and new content. There are no real-money transactions within the game so far. Updates have been pretty regular, with several substantial feature/content updates since release.

The game is colorful, the art and animation are both endearing, and the fugu isn’t too demanding throughout the day. If you want to pick it up and check on your pet once or twice a day, that’s all it really needs to keep it going. Warning: your fugu will run away if you don’t care for it within a certain amount of time (think it’s 3 days).

What’s Up With Hatch

Like you’d expect from a virtual pet, you have to feed your fugu (fruits grow on the trees) and clean up after it to keep it happy. You can also tap on it to pet your fugu or tap and hold to see some really cute interactions. Also, try shaking your mobile device.

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You can purchase items like the camera and the fruit storage bag

As you interact with your fugu, you’ll notice a ring of white flowers begins to grow around it. When the ring of flowers complete and your fugu is super-happy, the flowers will turn purple. Tapping on your fugu will initiate the Happy Dance. This causes fruits to grow really fast, with the chance of an elusive star fruit appearing!

You can also sell your fruit to your friend Max, who runs the shop and helps you learn how to take care of your fugu. There’s two types of currencies in the game — acorns, which are more plentiful, and star coins. Both can be found in game if you search the forest with a sharp eye, from selling fruits (star fruits = star coins), or through gifts that your fugu brings you throughout the day.

Items in the store include items that unlock new features (the camera and training whistle), new decorative blankets for your fugu to sit on, themes that change the look of the ground and trees around your fugu, and images you can use as wallpapers for your mobile device.

Each time you earn a Happy Dance from your fugu, you earn trust with your pet. Once you reach a 100% trust level, you unlock new items in the store (such as decorations) and new interactions (playing games).

Your fugu can interact with you a number of ways, such as playing fetch and peek-a-boo. You can also purchase the training whistle and teach your fugu tricks by rewarding him with star fruits. The tricks feature is the newest addition to the game, and makes for a fun little diversion.

Fugu also sleep when you charge your device and dance when you play music.

Note one thing: Unlike some virtual pets, fugus don’t grow up and evolve. However, the features the apps provide continue to add new and interesting interactions, a sort of “growing up” of it’s own kind.

Is This App For You?

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Camera fun with the fugu

If you enjoy virtual pets, have the time to check in on a pet for a short time almost every day, and don’t mind taking part in watching the development of a young app, then you may like Hatch! This pet rewards the patient and committed — focused on those who enjoy pet interaction and collection.

The team seems like a wonderful group of people who really love their game. They have continuously provided fixes and features, all completely free once you pay the initial price of the app. And that’s a small thing to pay for all the fun that my fugu has provided me the past three months!

Catch the newest information about Hatch on their Facebook page!

See more of my fugu adventures on my Tumblr!

Posted in Gaming, Starbound

Starbound: A Quick Review

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Welcome to Starbound

If you couldn’t tell, a number of the writers here really enjoy the indie game Starbound. It’s currently in a beta phase, though you can purchase and support it through Steam.

What is Starbound?

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Just starting out in Starbound

That’s a hard question to answer. It’s a sandbox game in the same genre as Mine Craft and Terraria (though more like Terraria in style). However, rather than just exploring one world, Starbound features space travel with what seems to be a limitless amount of planets to visit.

You start the game by choosing one of a number of races (some alien, some machine, some human), who for whatever reason have lost or left their homeworld. Armed with  just one ship and a matter manipulator, you drop down to an alien planet that’s full of resources, plants, creatures (both friendly and not), and possibly dungeons or mid-bosses. From there, you gather materials, build a quick shelter against the monsters that come out at night, and begin crafting weapons and armor that will support your explorations for treasure, more resources, and exotic locations.

The game itself can be as leisurely or adventurous as you choose. Maybe you want to spend your time mining deep shafts under the ground and discovering why lies beneath the surface of your world. Maybe you want to see how far around your planet you can explore, searching for passages to dungeons or towns with alien creatures. Maybe you want to build up an awesome home base on your planet. Perhaps you just want to hop from planet to planet to see what you can find. Maybe you just want to kill everything that moves…. … and… that’s… fine. I’m not judging you.

While I haven’t meddled much with the mods, I know that Starbound is quite mod friendly and has a large modding community that is doing some amazing things. From creating brand new races to complete town simulation systems, if there’s something you want, you and probably find a mod for it.

Multiplay or Singleplay

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Playing Starbound With Friends

What makes Starbound really exciting is that you can host or join a server at any time. This brings your single player character to a universe where you can share the worlds and resources with friends or just other players from around the world.

Hosting a server is really simple. It requires a little tweaking to ports on your router and firewall. But besides that, it’s just a click of a button to launch your server. Friends can join by using your IP address. When they’re done, their characters retain all items and progress (as long as they keep the items on their character or ship), and can take that back to their single player game.

You can also join a server as easily. You’ll find a number of public servers available, as well as the official Starbound hosted servers, if you want to play in a populated universe.

What Starbound is Not

Starbound is not a finished game. I wave the warning flag — this is beta. The game has bugs. There will be a number of big systems and changes implemented in Starbound before the development on this game is complete.

While the team believes that they won’t need to wipe characters or ships anymore, don’t get too attached to things. You can never tell when a game is in beta.

If you want to play this game in its full glory, I suggest waiting until development gets closer to release. The beta bugs have not been very bad for me or my friends — nothing we couldn’t handle. I’ve enjoyed my time playing Starbound, even though I’m fully aware it’s beta (and I have had my character wiped twice). I know that the vision for the game isn’t fully implemented and the version I’m playing now will most likely be completely different from the release version.

But, if you don’t mind testing beta and supporting a young game, I still think there’s plenty of fun to be found in Starbound, even in the form it’s in now. I look forward to seeing what it will become, and am happy to have been a tester and supporter as long as I have been!

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Ka-boom!
Posted in Gaming, Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures: Death to Plants Edition

EverQuestNextLandmark64-2014-02-02-12-56-31-63The last two patches on EverQuest Next Landmark have brought about a lot of great changes. Small changes, but great ones. I wanted to touch on some of the patch notes goodies to continue chronicling the evolution of this game.

I also want to note that the exciting Roadmap has been posted and is full of lots of fantastic ideas! The finished game will certainly not be the game we’re currently playing… and that’s a good thing!

We found and fixed a number of issues that would allow props to spawn on your claim. If you have any left, you should now be able to delete them by using the selection volume and hitting the delete key (they should no longer respawn). This also shouldn’t happen on any newly placed claims moving forward.

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Building my house in Landmark

Yes! Take that tree that was spawning right up through my doorway! Finally! Plants, rocks and trees can be moved and no longer spawn on claims. This has kept me from being able to build, so I’m happy to finally start getting work done again. Speaking of building…

Add 12 new materials to use when building! Sand, Stucco, Plaster and 9 different Sandstones are now usable in game!

This is very nice! It gives the plentiful materials like stone, dirt and sand some neat new textures to build with. This is especially good because plaster and stucco have the white color that I couldn’t get with marble, but really need for the type of house I’m trying to build.

Fixed an issue with a tree that has been harvested would still be visible for a few seconds after the destruction happened.

This isn’t a huge deal, but it makes chopping trees much nicer. I think they may have fixed the phantom woodchopper bug as well.

Fixed the “white box” issue when dragging items from window to window in the UI.

This always freaked me out when it happened. Glad to see it’s fixed!

Evac To Safety should work reliably now.

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Moonrise over the Landmark desert

I haven’t tested this, but without a proper Evac to Safety command, mining deep holes was a real pain. It forced folks to have to have a grappling hook (which I do). Hope this is working now.

Adjust lighting so that it is consistent between islands and more consistent as the day progresses.

I know this sounds like a small thing, but it was really, really annoying when the screen would flicker from light to dark to light when you panned around during certain times, like sunset or sunrise. The game couldn’t figure out if it wanted the lighting to be bright or dark and it made it tough to mine!

  • We have increased the availability of a Sapphire, Ruby, Obsidian and Alabaster and also made sure that they will spawn more often on the surface to make them easier to find. Happy hunting!
  • Aquamarine and Iron/Aquamarine veins no longer appear on Tier 3 islands, please look for them on Tier 2 islands from now on.
  • Fixed the color of rubies and sapphires in the world!

So much win here! In fact, we even have a Valentines Day poem from player to devs, and then from devs to players for the last fix. [Source]

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A Landmark Valentines Poem

With these bugs stomped, and the roadmap posted, it seems like the team is putting on their gloves to get the REAL stuff started. Now that the important foundations, such as claims, worlds and materials are all sorted out, they can finally get around to introducing new stuff, which I’m very excited to see. I’ll keep you up to date on the newest cool stuff as it comes!

Posted in Gaming, Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures: Patch 2/7/14

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The first big patch for EverQuest Next Landmark brought a number of important changes (and a fun funny bugs). I don’t want to go over all the patch notes, but I do want to talk about the ones that I feel are progressing the game in better ways, especially in light of previous posts.

Burled wood planks now require only 60 burled wood logs to craft (down from 100). Some people may wonder why this gets top billing on today’s update notes… Other people completely understand.

Ah yes, infamous burled wood. It’s hard to get, and previously, you needed 100 pieces for a single plank. Given that most tools and major items require it, dropping the required amount of wood to 60 is a step in the right direction.

How rough was it previously? Rough enough to get its own music video…

We have completely overhauled the claim placement. The previous version and display were difficult to understand when an island became saturated with claims and finding an open spot that was available was almost impossible. We will continue to iterate on the new version but wanted to get it out to everyone to help them find open claims in the world.

Definitely a huge and needed improvement here. You can now toggle a “Show Claimable Land” option that displays non-claimable land in red on the map. Here’s a before and after of this change:

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Before and After of EverQuest Next Landmark Claim Maps

 You can now type numbers (instead of having to use the up/down buttons) to set the desired number when splitting stacks of items or when crafting multiple items.

Oh, thank you so much for this! You don’t know how much of a pain it was to make 100 of anything (clicking up arrow 100 times)…

People can no longer harvest trees on a claim. Tree houses are once again safe!

This was one of those fixes that didn’t quite work. Not only can you still harvest trees on claims, now you can’t properly right-click and delete them from your claim anymore. This makes building impossible for me right now… as I have a huge tree that has decided to grow right up through my doorway. Hopefully, they’ll look into this bug this week, but the sooner the better! Chop trees down or try to remove them, and they just keep coming back! Akk!

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Tree growing up through my doorway.

I’ve run into an assortment of interesting bugs along the way, like this one…

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Norrath has Two Suns?

But I’m also starting to discover a lot of neat player creations. I found this desert home as I was mining last night (not my creation).

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Desert Home in EverQuest Next Landmark

I went inside the house to see how the camera handles indoor, confined areas. It does well.

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Inside an EverQuest Next Landmark Player-Built House

Someone is hoping for indoor plumbing soon… (Not my creation)

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Giant Toilet in EverQuest Next Landmark

A really neat “EverQuest” mural I discovered. Because they used gems, it has a glowy effect at night! (Not my creation)

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EverQuest Mural in Landmark

As for my progress, I finally build a Marble Forge for my claim. I also crafted up to a Viridium Pickaxe. I got super-lucky on my first craft to get a Swift, and man, can I tell the difference from previous tools! I’m in love!

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I’m looking forward to some of the fixes this week and will keep updating and discussing the progression of EverQuest Next Landmark as alpha continues.

Posted in Gaming, Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures, Claiming Land

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Just a word of warning, everything in this post is going to change in the future. I’ve already heard some of the plans they’re putting into place surrounding claims, but I still wanted to record what claims were like when alpha first released.

Getting a Claim

Having a claim is probably one of the most important aspects of EverQuest Next Landmark. It’s your own spot of land in the world where you can create to your heart’s content. The only problem was, the team underestimated the number of claims required for alpha testers to do their job. Not only that, but the initial claim system was somewhat confusing, leaving people to claim in haphazard ways, which didn’t utilize all the land that is actually out there.

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My First EverQuest Next Landmark Claim on the Map

The good news is that SOE created a lot more space, starting with the first released new world, Serenity. They then added 39 new islands across all the servers and removed any double claims and claims made by now deleted characters. This added lots of room!

So how do you get a claim? You start with a claim flag, which is an item in your inventory. Update 3-27-14: As of closed beta, you have to craft the claim flag from one of the stations at any island hub. Then I checked the map for area that seemed open for claiming.

You can see other people’s claims on the map as a small square surrounded by a larger square. This larger square is some sort of buffer area, which (if I understand rightly) reserves the extra land around your claim for you to add to your claim and make it bigger in the future. The buffer seems huge to me, and it’s sometimes confusing if an area is open for claim or not because of it.

Update 2-9-14: This has been changed. You can now see claimable land and other player claims much more easily on the map!

Once I arrived at the location that was open for claim, I used my flag from my inventory. This places you on a 3D overhead map to make your claim. While on this map, you can raise or lower the location of your claim (if you want to get that claim up on a mountain top, for example), then left-click to confirm.

For my first claim on the day of alpha release, I spent an hour or so running over the islands, looking for a spot to plant my flag. Somehow, I ended up on a Tier 3 island, caught sight of a clear area on the map, and made for it. While was closer to the hub than some claims, progress to it was blocked by a huge mountain. Every time I wanted to run to my claim, I had to make my way around this mountain and over some rough terrain, which was probably the reason why the spot was unclaimed when I discovered it.

I just tried to plant my flag a few times, found a sweet spot between buffers, and lucked out.

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My Second Claim in Draw

After they added a new server, which interestingly has become the high population server, and the new islands, I pulled up my flag to hunt for a new spot. I was a bit worried about deleting my first claim — maybe I wouldn’t get my flag back or maybe I wouldn’t find a new claim at all — but both worries were unfounded.

I easily located a new claim on the Draw island of Courage server, not too far from the spire. I’m extremely pleased with this location, which is a Tier 2 island, because it finally gives me a chance to build and place machines that I visibly see other people using. I got many waves and “hellos” as others deforested the area around my claim in search of burled wood.

The claim map is not very intuitive to use at this point. The team knows that, and has put out their ideas of how to fix the issue so folks have a better understanding of what land is open to claim. That, along with new worlds, will do a lot to ease the trouble testers are having with finding their own spot in the world.

About Claims

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EverQuest Next Landmark Claim Borders

When you have a claim, several things (should) happen:

  • The server list on login displays a number 1, indicating you have a claim there
  • The island list also displays the number 1, indicating which island your claim is on
  • You can find your claim on the island map, most easily by unchecking all filters except My Claims

Again, all this is going to change in the future.

As you approach your claim in the world, you’ll see this pretty little box that shows you the claim’s borders. Everything inside of that box is yours to command!

When you walk into the claim, your name and welcome message pops up at the top of the screen. You can customize both of these to your liking. If you visit other people’s claims, you’ll see the same on theirs.

Currently, none of the claim privacy settings are in place. However, this is the UI for claim settings as of this point in alpha.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Claim Settings

As you can see, there will be upkeep management eventually, based on the size of your claim. This means that you can lose your claim if you’re gone too long and don’t provide upkeep.

You can also delete, reset and even sell your claim. I’m curious and slightly concerned about the idea of selling claims, but since there is no in-world currency right now, I’m not sure what it can be sold for.

Apparently tags are going to be an important part of claim searching in the future. Sorta like tagging on Tumblr or Facebook, this allows other people to find your claim based on a theme or topic.

At this moment, that’s all there really is to know about claims. Again, I know large changes are coming and I’m looking forward to documenting these changes over the life of the alpha.

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People Using my Crafting Machines on my Claim
Posted in Gaming, Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures, Building Stuff

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I was able to slide into game between the server ups and downs just long enough to look for my claim (it was still there!) and explore the very basics of building.

The Building Tools

In alpha, we start with three building tools: the Add tool, the Delete tool and the Heal tool. These are items in our inventory, and are dragged to the skill bar, just like you’d expect from an MMO.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Building Tools

You can build in any area that isn’t a private claim (right now, no claim is private). So, the open world and public-permission claims, as well as your own claim, are all good to go. Stuff that you build in the world that’s not on your claim will only remain for 1 minute, based on the newest patch.

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Welcome to my Claim

When you are inside your claim, I learned that you can’t use your mining tools to remove earth or trees. You can, however, use the delete tool to change the area around you. I had more luck selecting an item, such as a tree, and pressing the Delete key on my keyboard to move it off my claim.

Add and Delete are pretty self explanatory. The Heal tool patches up the ground and heals the world in cases where you deleted ground you didn’t mean to.

You can eventually craft other building tools, such as the Selection tool, just like you craft other items.

Placing Props

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Placing a Prop

Props are items, such as torches, barrels, and other decor, that appear fully-formed when you craft them at a station. Basically, decorative items, some which have specific interactions.

We were given several torch props for our claim from the get-go. The first thing I explored was placing one on my land. You select the item in your inventory, then click on where you want to place it. Don’t drag it out of your inventory and attempt to drop it on the land as that will delete the item!

Once it’s there, you have the ability to rotate and resize it. Clicking Shift + Tab toggles different customization modes, such as rotation, Y-axis and scale. Scrolling the middle mouse button allows you to resize or rotate.

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Editing a Prop

After you’ve placed a prop, you can right-click the prop to edit it. A new menu appears, providing options such as rotate, move, scale, delete and pickup. I’m not quite sure what the duplicate option is all about — maybe it’s meant to be a building command with the Select tool (which I don’t have yet).

Once you have the prop in place, you can left-click on it to interact with it, if such an option exists. That’s how you light the torch or craft using a crafting station (which isn’t a prop, but works the same way).

I found the placing, rotating and scaling systems fairly easy to use. My plot was somewhat hilly, and I haven’t taken time to smooth out it, so sometimes that made placing objects odd. I’m sure there will be plenty of refining done to these systems in the future.

But that’s not what you’re here to read about, is it? You want to know about the actual building system!

Building in EverQuest Next Landmark

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Building Materials

So you’ve gathered a million pieces of stone and dirt, wood and what have you. Now you want to do something with that material! It’s time to explore building!

In alpha, the building tools interface hangs out on the left side of the screen. When you click on it, a menu slides out that allows you to choose between shapes, materials and templates.

Materials are broken down into types, such as metals, wood and stone. The interface indicates how many of each type of material you have in your inventory, and allows you to choose what the building material will look like. For example, the wood section allows for wood blocks with different styles of wood grain.

Once you choose your material style, you can choose what shape you want to build with.

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Building Shapes

There’s, of course, the regular cube shape, as you’d expect. There’s also a sphere, a pyramid, a triangle, and other multi-sided shapes to explore.

You can use these shapes with the Add, Delete and Heal tools. So, you could create a large cube with Add, then remove a sphereical shape inside of it with Delete.

Using the Add tool is exactly the same as placing a prop. You can toggle between modes with Shift + Tab to rotate and scale objects. Scaling allows for small and large shapes, though none that I saw as tiny or totally enormous.

The only way to remove an item you build on your claim is to use the Delete tool. So no mining structures you create there!

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Building in EverQuest Next Landmark
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Using the Delete Tool

I played around with the tools for a while, just to get a feel for them. As of this moment, you won’t have tools that are as robust as, for example, Second Life building tools, as they don’t allow for all the tiny details that system provides. However, for building structures, I feel the interface is straightforward and easily approached even by people with no experience with building. I’m sure time will flesh out this system, as well!

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My First Masterpiece!

Next time, I’m going to explore the claims system. So stay tuned!

Posted in Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures, About Crafting

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In my previous post, I discussed the opening day of alpha (which is currently undergoing the expected server woes — we deal with it so you don’t have to later!). This time around, I want to talk about crafting.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Stone Forge

This game is essentially a game about gathering, crafting and building the world around you with other people. It’s like a blend of Second Life and Starbound with an EverQuest look and feel. Once you’ve gathered your materials, it’s time to do stuff with those materials. Namely, crafting.

A starter crafting station, the Stone Forge, is located at the hub spot in the middle of every island. Click on the forge to see a list of beginner-type recipes. Some recipes refine raw material into usable material. Some create props for decorating your plot. Some even create better tools and other workstations.

Different workstations can create different items. This is important to remember because the basic crafting station at the hub can’t craft everything. For example, it can’t refine wood.

How to Craft

Crafting at this point is very straightforward. I don’t know if there will be any game-like mechanics added later, though I’ve heard hints about it.

Visit the Stone Forge and browse the recipes to see what materials are required for the item you want to make. Keep in mind, some items require you to refine raw materials into useable materials, such as ingot.

The crafting window shows you how much material you have and how much you need to craft the item. You simply input the number of items you want to make and craft.

Starting Tips for New Crafters

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EverQuest Next Landmark Bronze Pick Crafting

If you’re just starting out, concentrate on creating the Copper Pick, so that you can build on that to create more powerful mining tools. Once you have a Copper Pick, you can upgrade that through crafting to the Bronze Pick, for example.

Because you need refined wood for the Bronze Pick, next concentrate on crafting the Copper Reinforced Saw Table. This is an item you can put on your plot that allows you to refine wood. If you’re lucky, you may be able to use saw tables placed by other players on their plots. While I’ve done that, I still want to craft one for my own home, so I can begin to build a place to craft on my plot.

So you see, there’s a natural and logical progression of crafting that allows you to build better items, which in turn, allows you to gather better items, which in turn, allows you to build yet more better items! Pretty clear, right?

The one note that I want to make is that the official FAQ states that each time you craft a tool, the stats on that tool are randomized. So in order to get the tool of your dreams, keep crafting!

So far, this is all there really is to know about crafting. I’m waiting for the servers to calm down a bit before I try my hand with building. That might be a tonight-project if all goes well.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Saw Table on my Plot
Posted in Gaming, Landmark

EverQuest Next Landmark: Alpha Testing Adventures, Day 1

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EverQuest Next Landmark has just launched it’s alpha testing phase to players — which is the first alpha of its kind! It’s also unique in that SOE dropped the NDA the very first day of alpha launch! Because of this, I’m going to be journaling my experiences with EQN Landmark, allowing you to see how the game grows and changes over time.

First Impressions

First, let’s start with the download and the installation. Both were quick and simple. Landmark uses the standard SOE launch pad, just like other games, such as EverQuest 2. Currently, the game is small, so I saw a download time of about 45 mins before I was in.

The game itself greeted us with a video that described the purpose of alpha and set expectations for the experience. It also gave us an idea of how they hope to integrate user feedback within the game in the future — ideas which seemed pretty cool to me! It pointed us to the forums and a tutorial folder as pretty much the only references we have, since there’s no new-user tutorial in game yet.

Character Creation

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EverQuest Next Landmark Character Creation

Character creation is pretty straightforward. At the moment, we’re only allowed one character on the account — not sure if character slots will be a thing in the future, or if they’re even needed.

Characters can only be human, male or female. Also unsure if this will change, but I’d dearly love running around this world as a Ratonga!

Creation options are limited, obviously, since we just need to test the system, make and avatar and get in the game. Sliders allow you to choose between pre-determined faces, hair styles, and colors. Pretty simple. Had me in game in a minute or two.

A Whole New World

So, once the character is made, you choose from a server and spawn randomly within one of the worlds. It doesn’t seem like the server you choose matters all that much, as servers and the worlds within them are all mostly there for organizing land to claim.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Starting Point

Very near the spawn point is a large structure (Portal Spire) that has a huge crystal and a common crafting workstation. Clicking on the crystal allows you to select another world or server to travel on the fly. Islands have a population cap, and we are placed in a travel queue if the island is full. I didn’t have issues with these queues, but I know that the first patch they implemented increased the size of the worlds.

During this phase of alpha, islands are broken up by tier. Tier 1 has the entry level materials, while Tier 2 and 3 has stuff you can’t to mine until you upgrade your tools. I read that this is only an alpha setup since the underground aspect of the game doesn’t exist yet. The idea is eventually, every map will include all tiers, with more rare materials found the deeper you dig.

The most confusing issue I ran into was the fact that you don’t know which island the game tossed you into, nor the tier of your world. I spent 30-45 minutes hunting for non-existent copper in a Tier 3 zone, with no idea what I was doing wrong. Thankfully, the newest patch will take care of that, too, indicating on screen what island you’re currently logged into.

Once I realized what was happening, I warped into a Tier 1 area and happily mined away.

Staking Your Claim

Staking your claim is an important part of the Landmark experience. This is where you put your flag down, claim your own land, and start to build your home. In fact, you almost have to stake a claim in order to progress with making your tools since, for example, you can’t (currently) craft wood on the public crafting station. This requires you to either craft your own wood station, that you put on your land, or run across one on someone else’s plot, who allows public interaction.

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EverQuest Next Landmark Flag

This was the most confusing and frustrating part of the alpha so far, though I know they’re going to lengths to get this fixed.  I know several people who hunted out plots and didn’t find them. Land in Tier 1 was non-existent by the time I logged in. I managed to snag a piece of land in a Tier 3 area, which I’m holding on to for now.

Several issues cropped up on day one, which were addressed by the first patch:

  • Since there was no indication of what world you were in, you didn’t always remember where you put your claim, and could lose track of it easily
  • Since there was no indication of what world you were in, you didn’t know what tier of land you were claiming
  • The warp station was supposed to list the number of claims  you owned in each world, but it didn’t always do this correctly, causing you to lose track of your claim
  • The world map was bugged and sometimes showed the shadow of claimed plots from all the worlds you just recently visited, making it so you had NO idea if there was open land on the world you were currently logged into (logging out fixed this)

Of course, there were other issues, such as not enough space for the number of players, but that’s being addressed as additional servers are added.

Mining and Gathering

During alpha, we only have two of four tools available to us. Without a sickle, it seems stuff that would normally be gathered from smaller plants are dropping from trees, which is fine. We need that stuff.

Mining felt good. It was satisfying to punch holes in the world, to find a vein of copper and follow it through the ground to a hidden trove of tin underneath. It was fun hunting the world and the map for splotches of color, with no other indicator of what the resource was. I do think the game needs some sort of directional mini-map, but I agree with folks who feel like such a map shouldn’t highlight resources and make things too easy to find. This is about exploration, of course!

When you run across a metal you can’t harvest, you’re told so. But it doesn’t tell you what kind of metal it is. Not sure if that’s going to change in the future.

Look and Feel

Overall, I like the art style and feel of this game. We all look quite a bit alike at this point, but the characters look good and animations are well-done, even for this stage. Sometimes you get a little bit floaty, as if your character doesn’t weigh much, especially when leaping around and trying to climb mountains. But nothing that won’t be addressed eventually, I’m sure.

There’s some texture issues with resources, where you might see a huge vein a mile away, and run up to it only to see it vanish or be much smaller than you saw before. I’m sure these will also be addressed.

The world is well-crafted and nice to look at. There’s great ambiance, even at this stage, which can only be improved once you get creatures and water into the game. There are several biomes represented, all with their own feel, with more to be introduced.

Overall

I think SOE is doing several things right with this alpha so far. First, the amount of communication within forums, Twitter and other social networks has been astounding. Players have been asked for specific input every step of the way.

If you bought into the alpha and don’t like it, SOE is offering a full refund, no questions asked. That’s not something you say about many games these days.

Dropping the NDA was a surprising move. I don’t know if they just saw fighting the streamers as something impossible that would garner bad blood, or if they planned on dropping NDA from the start. No matter, it was embraced with a positive reaction from every fan source I’ve seen so far.

As I write this, the servers are down for the new patch and for addressing issues with how the worlds connect. The team is making every effort to keep downtime minimum, and prevent wiping data, even though we’ve only been in game for less than a day.

I’m looking forward to testing Landmark, and will continue to write updates here as the game grows and changes throughout alpha. Once the servers come up, I’ll experiment with my claim and see what I can learn about crafting and building! Look for that post soon!

If you have any questions about the alpha experience, I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my knowledge!