Landmark: Monumental Disappointment

Okay, so the title is a bit of a hyperbole. But, I am disappointed in what I’ve read with the June 2015 Landmark Producer’s Letter.

So, last month was a big one for Landmark players. We had the big server wipe, completely new land to claim, new progression, new tutorial, new crafting, new UI. New, new, new. And I was very pleased by all that I saw, thinking that finally, Landmark was starting to come into its own.

Starting, though, is the key word. It’s not quite there yet, still being beta. Though the team has been working on squashing bugs from the newest re-start, there are still a number of things that I feel could be more polished. That doesn’t include things that were penned into the Landmark Blueprint a year ago that we’ve never seen (mounts, larger interconnected landmasses, etc).

Still, Landmark is in a lot better shape than it was a year ago (when I couldn’t even get 9-10 FPS, making the game unplayable for me). Maybe that’s why all the optimism about the direction it was going made the new Producer’s Letter feel like someone dropped a huge voxel on my foot.

Making That Shift

EverQuest Next prototype screen

We all knew that Landmark was a prototype for the technology Daybreak is going to use for EverQuest Next (EQN). That’s always been the reality of it, and something I accepted when I started alpha testing. Ever since Daybreak became not-SOE, the pressure has been on for them to prove that EQN is still in development. There’s been a lot of doubt that the game is going to come to light, especially with the loss of folks key to the EQ franchise and the sad demise of Storybricks. RIP. 🙁

But it was still a hard pill to swallow when the producer’s letter exclaimed:

As the team has wrapped up the various pieces related to the wipe and the bugs associated with it, we have been shifting our focus and resources over to work on the highest priority tasks and systems that will be used in EverQuest Next.

Okay… we knew that would come. But then the letter states:

While we do this, we’re working in areas with high amounts of creative risk. This means that while we know what we want to do, we know it will take an unknown amount of iteration, tweaking and sometimes drastic direction changes to get these in game and working the way they need to. Because of this, we simply cannot commit to any dates, because until we get much closer, even our best estimates are educated (but still fairly wild) guesses.

On one hand, I understand this. You don’t want to commit to anything you are uncertain of delivering. However, at a time when Daybreak is being held up to the light of great doubt, less communication does not seem like a good idea. It sounds like they’re just slapping a disclaimer on the whole thing to wash their hands of the weight of responsibility that came with the example of total transparency that Landmark was built upon.

They can’t/won’t/don’t want to/don’t have the resources to continue the extent of direct communication the Landmark community has been privy to since we saw SmokeJumper’s smiling face welcoming us to Landmark alpha on day one. This is only further compounded by this:

This also does mean that any features that are Landmark-only are lower in priority and will have to wait until we have time to come back to them. So, as we shift our focus and development to EQN, it just doesn’t make sense to continue with the Blueprint, since the goal of that has always been to provide short term, concrete plans of what you could expect and when, and that isn’t something we can reliably estimate at this point.

Ouch. This is like a complete 180 of what Landmark and the community has been built on. The Blueprint was more than just a timeline. None of it was a promise, but it was an overview of what the players could look forward to. We knew it was never set in stone, but it was exciting to see “Caves in August” or “Water in November.”

Basically, taking away the Blueprint is the same as telling us that Landmark is going to be rolled into maintenance mode with very few, if any, updates and no more community input and direct communication to us. It’s very disappointing, considering how very good the last update was for the game.

Now it just feels like the team was holding up a shadow box while they got all the pieces in place for that final wipe and big update, knowing that after the fact, they were going to drop the Landmark folks into the abyss of silence. Sure, the game still exists. But it now exists without promise or the interaction with the team we’ve been used to… since the team is pretty much not going to be there anymore.

Again, I feel this is a bad choice for Daybreak, especially at a time when they already have earned a lot of doubt from the community. For me, I’m more disappointed to see that the connection the team built with the Landmark community, the thing that I valued most, starting to wither.

Oh, but they sure can use those creations folks made in Landmark in building EQN. Yep.

Landmark and the player community are very important to us and will continue to be essential in the development of EverQuest Next, exactly as we’ve promised from the very beginning.

I am disappoint. And a bit soured by this. I’m very hesitant to get involved in any future buy-in alpha/betas from Daybreak. This is the second one that I felt disappointed in so far (the first being Dragon’s Prophet). I just hope H1Z1 doesn’t go down the same road.

Perhaps this will be the final post for my Landmark Beta post series… there may be no new things to cover for a long, long time. 🙁