Posted in Gaming, Landmark, MMORPGs

Sad Farewell to Landmark & A Look Back at Alpha/Beta

Last night, Daybreak dropped yet another bomb in the form of an email that informed players that Landmark servers will close on February 21. Now, part of me had a strong hunch this was coming, but another part of me just looked on in disbelief.

I know it’s a money thing. I get it. Yet, I don’t.

EverQuest Next Landmark

I bought the $59 Explorers Pack for EverQuest Landmark on the first day alpha launched. I have no idea why as I’d just previously been burned by SOE’s floundering alpha/beta pack for Dragon’s Prophet. I really had no plan to buy into the alpha, and it was totally an impulse purchase.

I just remember I was home from work that day (sick?), I saw that the team had lifted the NDA on day one, and I had a hunkering for a sandbox world. I thought the idea of building the next EverQuest game was an amazing one. And, in the beginning, when Smokejumper and other devs were right there with us making something special, it did feel like the purchase was justified. Back then, Landmark was an amazing, sculpt-able version of Norrath.

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Norrath has Two Suns?

I blogged my experiences all through alpha and into beta (I’ll link these below). I clocked in a good amount of time as I learned the game’s systems and how to build. As a sandbox game, Landmark had a huge amount of flexibility, especially once players stumbled upon building methods that not even the devs could have foreseen.

There was a strong roadmap. The team stuck by it and kept developing a world we could alter to our own vision. I saw many new, improved iterations of crafting and building. I had several claims over that time, and really enjoyed building and exploring.

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A Landmark Valentines Poem

Then, somewhere in the midst of beta, they added caves and water. Something happened with those builds that rendered my ability to play the game almost null. Though my PC was fairly new and not a pushover, I was hardly getting 10-15 FPS no matter what I did… and that meant that I had to sit out the beta until they got it fixed.

Because of that, my posts stopped in May of 2014. It wasn’t until May of 2015 that I picked up the game again because it was honestly unplayable for me until then. I did come back to test the FPS issue from patch to patch, and did report it, but it took a year before it really got resolved. I was not the only one with this issue, but it existed for a long time.

Slow Downfall

Needless to say, that broke my momentum. I came back to a game I didn’t really recognize, and found it hard to wrap my head around all the changes that I missed. The game was no longer “EverQuest Next Landmark.” The company was no longer “SOE.”

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The loading screen, back when it was once named “EverQuest Next Landmark.”

A month later, I became very disappointed as the team threw the much-loved roadmap out the window. I already had a feeling that it was the beginning of the end. Sadly, I was right.

In March 2016, the game did launch out of beta, but Daybreak announced the end of development for Everquest Next. It was a kick in the gut for a lot of players, especially those who put their heart and soul into building what they thought were assets for their upcoming dream MMO.

I did log in a few times after the March release, but it just wasn’t the same. They had added a lot of neat systems and building options, but the magic and excitement of alpha/beta was gone. While I’ve kept Landmark installed on my laptop, I haven’t actually logged into it since March, 2016. So I guess I can’t say that I’m losing something, but in a way, I am.

Potential.

What stuns me is that this game had so much potential to be a strong sandbox contender. They did a lot of things I haven’t seen in other building games, and I know that those who love it will deeply miss it. If this game had been released towards a building/sandbox audience, rather than being linked to the failed EQNext, it may have been a small success. I still have those dreams of riding a flying mount across the inter-connected islands of wonderful player creativity… that was touted to be the future of Landmark that we never got.

But I guess at this point, that’s moot. All we’ll have are our memories.

EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha Post Archive

Landmark Beta Post Archive

Landmark Release Post Archive

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Posted in Gaming, Landmark, MMORPGs

Landmark: New Update

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While I’ve been a little down about the whole direction of Landmark and the cancellation of EQN, I decided to check out the newest Landmark update that dropped yesterday. There appeared to be a lot of technical difficulties right out of the gate for them, however. The update took 2 days to complete, they put the game up for an hour only to pull it down again for another 7-8 hours.

When it did come up, it was kinda done quietly. The Landmark Twitter announced:

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…but they never actually Tweeted again to let us know it was running. I just happened to try to log in and found it working. But, I didn’t actually get into Landmark until late last night without enough time to fully check things out.

Here’s what I did see.

Character Creation Changes

Our old characters got wiped, so it’s time to roll a new one. There’s a slightly wider array of character creation options. A new height slider. A few new hair styles. Three styles of outfits (fantasy, sci-fi, western). But still not a large range of creation options.

I did like the new female hair provided, so I picked one and went with it, heading out as quickly as possible with the intention of getting a claim build site (ugh) on some choice piece of land.

Strange New World

I was dropped into this underground looking area to begin with. It seemed that’s where other folks were dropped, too, as I actually saw a good number of people there along with me. I have no idea what this place was, or if there was any sort of tutorial, as it seems the old helpful tutorial got nixxed.

I saw some people moving castle props around, but for the most part, I was standing there in confusion. There was no portal spire in sight on the map. Just this large, cold cavern with people milling around, probably as confused as I was.

After clicking through the new UI, I noticed a blue portal stone icon in the top menu. Clicking it took me to what I wanted – a way to warp out of there and find actual land to claim.

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Apparently, we no longer need stones to port (fine with me) as I was able to freely hop between servers and islands until I found one I liked. The only problem was, I didn’t have a claim flag in my inventory, so I couldn’t claim any land yet.

I did some looking on the forum, and found it was a minor bug. Restarting the game put a claim flag recipe at the crafting station. Too bad I had already run all the way out to a prospective claim spot… Warping back, I made my flag. I then hopped around the islands to see what land was available.

The islands seem smaller than I remember, to be honest. There were a few claims near to the Spire, but for the most part, the land was still quite claimable. This was either because most folks didn’t know the server was up, or if they knew the server was up, they had no idea how to get out of that first cavern. :/

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After I grabbed some land… and decided to check out this new starter area they set aside for new players. The land was intended to be flat and easily buildable. Most of the plots were already taken up, but my big beef with it is… why did they stick the new player section in a bland biome like tundra of all things? Really?

I might fiddle around with the quests and building when I find some time. Not sure yet. I was a bit disappointed that they took away the cute little house prefabs that we had before and replaced them with unwieldy-seeming castles instead. I just wanted a little house on an island. And I’m not willing to pay DayBreak points to get one in a game that I’m not even sure if I’m going to invest a lot more time in.

So far, the start felt… clunky and unstructured. We have a quest journal, but you had to go look for it. The old tutorials are gone, and I think those actually went a long way in helping someone newly spawned along. I’m not impressed with the stark, cold box-like structure of the level-land island for new players. Make it green or something, but all that tundra just turns me off.

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I sure hope they don’t force that kind of structure on all players eventually.

Give me sky and sea, please.
Give me hills, sky, and sea, please.
Posted in Gaming, Landmark, MMORPGs

EQ Next = Canceled but Landmark = Launching

EverQuest_Next_Wallpaper_-_Kerra

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And just like that, my dreams of playing a super cartoony Ratonga in EQN is gone. Sad day.

You’ve probably heard this news from other places. If you’ve been following the whole ordeal of Daybreak for a while, this is probably surprising-but-not-surprising.

I invested in Landmark’s Alpha. I knew things weren’t going well for a while. I knew the moment that they dropped the blueprint for Landmark and communication trickled down to near nothing compared to what it was before. The writing was on the wall for all of us, but there was that tiny bit of hope that EQN might survive.

Alas, not.

Interestingly enough, while Daybreak announced the death of EQN today, it also announced the official “launch” of Landmark. I know they have a big patch coming out soon, but honestly, the game does not feel finished enough for a launch. There was so much from the vision and blueprint that has never seen the light of day. The game is no where near optimized for play, IMHO.

Oh, and it’s also now $9.99 – not free to play like we were told it would be. Sounds familiar.

And now that Landmark folks are no longer building for EQN as we were told we were… I wonder if motivation will fall off even more for the few talented builders who remain. I know they are going to wipe our plots and lock down the size of claims we can have. It’s honestly going to take quite a bit for me to rouse myself to get back in there and find another claim.

I’ve been logging in about once a month to hold on to the island that I claimed. But since I’m going to lose it anyway, I might just let it all go.

To me, it really feels like they said, “Well, EQN is dead. Let’s just boot Landmark out the door with a few new features as a ‘finished’ product so we don’t have two failures on our hands.”

Posted in Gaming, Landmark, MMORPGs

Landmark: Monumental Disappointment

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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
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.

disappointOh, 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. 😦

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, H1Z1, Landmark, MMORPGs

Gaming Weekend Highlights: FFXIV, Landmark, H1Z1, Windward

Midgardsormr is my new gathering/crafting buddy.
Midgardsormr is my new gathering/crafting buddy.

How was your weekend? Got much gaming in? I did a little bit of a lot of things, I suppose, and here’s my highlights!

FFXIV: Crafting, Crafting, Crafting

craftingprogressI’m continuing to make that push to finish up as much crafting as I can before Heavensward drops. I’m moving slowly, but surely, to getting all of my classes to 50. The gathering classes have been much easier than the crafting, but as of last night, I’m at least level 40 in all disciplines! Yay!

I was also in the middle of indecision with which healing class I wanted to finish to 50. I had been working on Scholar, but I’m a little intimidated by the thought of trying to micro-manage the healing pet, heal and DPS all at once. I’m not a healer by practice, so I thought that maybe I should concentrate on White Mage, which was actually the first class I ever began leveling, and get a feel for healing before I try something more complex. I have a ton of ilvl 100+ gear waiting for me to finish leveling one or the other (I’ll likely do both since Scholar is at level 38), so I’d like to start working on some of that in between crafting when I can.

Otherwise, things are pretty quiet in the game. It’s getting to be that lull time as summer rolls in, and a lot of FC folks are taking breaks or logging in far less than they used to. Only have a month to wait until early access for Heavensward, and I’m ready for it!

Landmark: Finally A Monster!

OMG! I found one!
OMG! I found one!

I hopped in Landmark briefly this weekend, looking to see if I could finally finish that “Kill a Monster” in the caves quest objective. As I noted before, this isn’t as easy as I’d hoped because it seems the monster respawns are broken. So they’re almost impossible to find unless you can drill down deeper and stumble upon hidden caves.

Only, you can’t do that easily without the pulverizer. And you don’t get the pulverizer unless you can kill one monster to complete the achievement. So it’s a vicious cycle of getting nowhere.

I logged in early morning Saturday and hopped to different islands searching out a monster to kill. I finally did find a few, and was quite happy to complete the objective. Only to find that the objective that follows it is “Kill 10 Monsters.” Thanks. I would if I could find that many.

Instead, I went ahead and crafted a new sword (because that’s an objective, too). Killing monsters in Landmark with nothing but starter gear is tough. I always get really close to death every time I try to take down anything there. Of course, I’ve only seen chompers and abominations, which I remember being the tougher monsters. And this probably changes once you get some gear, which I don’t have.

I’ll keep trying to make progress bit by bit, and hope they fix the spawning thing soon.

Mwahahah!
Mwahahah! Pulverizer!

 

H1Z1: Base Building

Things have been pretty uneventful in H1Z1. The team has manage to stay alive for the most part, and we continue to build up our base. The newest patch has given us the gift of “Max Number” crafting, which means we no longer have to craft one painful thing at a time. So, things are getting better there.

We’re working on setting up two adjoined metal bases on two upraised platforms side by side. This takes a lot of metal, but will be worth it when it’s done. We already had a run-in with a couple of jerks who thought it was okay to come and steal metal out of our furnace while I was trying to melt it down for crafting. They were running around in a car already, so it wasn’t as if they really needed it. Getting those walls up will help prevent stuff like that, so I’m working hard at getting that done.

Don't I look like I'm working hard? Oh, right. It's night. We don't do things at night.
Don’t I look like I’m working hard? Oh, right. It’s night. We don’t do things at night.

I was interested in the Reddit feedback thread where Smed announced:

We had a very interesting report run just now. It shows a much higher percentage of people log out when it gets to night. We play the game too, and we’ve tuned it as best we could to be fun and not too dark, but the data is quite stark. We are considering experimenting for a few days with no nighttime on the core PVP servers (hardcore would still have it).

Personally I love the night, but data is data and it’s you, our players doing the logging out when it gets dark. You are literally voting with your feet on this issue. We may also end up with a compromise..

I thought it was pretty interesting, though I personally don’t go roaming around at night in H1Z1, and am more likely to log out or hug camp when it gets dark. For my monitor, it’s just too dark at night (see above screenshot) to brave the one-hit-kill-bears and annoying wolves. There’s no gamma adjustment, so I adjust with my behavior and don’t take stupid risks. Instead, I do my building, crafting, cooking and sometimes nearby tree-chopping come night. Come day, my team heads out to scavenge and explore.

That’s just how it goes until we can see better. It looks like that might be coming, too, as per Smed:

We’re also going to make night shorter and maybe try to brighten it up a bit more.

Thank you!

Windward

Syn got me Windward as a birthday present, and I’ve been playing this on and off when I find the time. I’m having a lot of fun, actually, and almost have my first little ship up to level 10. While some of the quests you do are repetitive in nature, it’s really a pretty cool game to just relax and chill with. Navel battles can kick it up a few notches, but those are pretty fun to play, too.

Once I get a few more hours under my belt, and explore a little more, I’ll write up a proper post for it. Until then, look at this lovely ship and ocean! This game is really pretty!

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Ahoy there little town!
Posted in Gaming, Landmark, MMORPGs

Revisiting Landmark

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Last year, I took part in the Landmark Alpha and Beta, and covered a lot of the initial changes to the game as it developed. I actually enjoyed trying to build quite a bit, even though I’m not one of those leet builders who know how to use all the weird, unexpected voxels.

The new island is much more populated
The new island is much more populated

However, when Landmark released caves and oceans last year, my FPS dropped to a painful 9-20, making it impossible to do anything in the game. I couldn’t move well, couldn’t mine well, and definitely couldn’t build. On top of that, the upkeep system started to weigh heavily on me. So, when I accidentally lost my claim, I gave up on struggling with the game for a while.

Every time the game pushed a big update, I patched and logged in to see if there were any performance improvements. For a good half year or more, there wasn’t. So, I’m really behind on all the changes the game’s gone through last year, but that’s really not so much my fault. Also, whenever I logged in, the world just seemed so bare. Compared to launch days, there were so few claims, and getting to those claims was more trouble than it was worth.

Server Wipe, New World

When I heard that the servers were getting a full wipe last week, I knew it was a good time to jump back into Landmark to see what had changed. Luckily, I was off from work the day the servers came back up, and saw the announcement on Twitter about 14 mins after it was posted.

My New Island Home
My New Island Home

I jumped back in, made a better character (I really didn’t like the look of my first beta character, but couldn’t bring myself to delete all my progress), and headed out to the Emerald Vale map on Courage. Thankfully, my FPS issues have been fixed, and the game is once again running smoothly as it did in Alpha/Early Beta.

So, I struck out to find myself a place to set my flag, which was my first objective anyhow.

Just about everything in Landmark has changed. Everyone is given basic tools for harvesting and gathering. Everyone is given a land claim flag, instead of struggling to gather the material to make one as quickly as possible to get a claim.

New Quest Tracker
New Quest Tracker

Landmark now has a quest tracker sidebar that helps to guide you through your first steps in the Landmark world. These are simple processes that build on each other and unlock new achievements, tools and items as you move through them. For example, as you work through the building quests, the game slowly unlocks each of the building tools. This might be a slight annoying to Landmark vets, but for new players, this may be less overwhelming… and much nicer than having to craft all the building tools like before.

All of the islands have been completely revamped and re-created. I was able to plant my flag at a little island just off the main continent. The next big change I found was when the game prompted me to place a template house. I checked out templates, which still remembers my old templates, but also includes a number of Daybreak-created stuff. This includes important shapes like arches, cylinders and the like, which are much appreciated for basic building. This also included fully-built and functional houses, complete with a forge and workbench prop.

The Template House
The Template House

There are handful of house styles, including fantasy tower, desert home, and futuristic type buildings. I picked the more neutral villa and plopped it down, happy that I didn’t have to struggle to build my first home from the get-go. There were some issues where placing the house on a hillside left part of the building floating and uneven ground all around it. But that was nothing I couldn’t fix, once I fiddled around with the building tools and go reacquainted with them.

It was kinda nice to have the standard crafting tables from the outset, instead of struggling to build them and hovering around the main portal to use those tables. The tutorial also alerted me to the fact that we can now fly on our claims, which does a lot to help build taller objects, which used to be a pain.

Travel is also much, much nicer. From the outset, we’re given a travel stone, which doesn’t seem to have a cool-down at this point. I can warp to my claim at any time. I can also warp to ley lines and to the main portal quickly, which makes it less of a punishment to folks who want to build their claims far away from the center of the map.

They’ve dropped all costs for claim upkeep, as well. Instead of being forced to mine tons of copper to pay upkeep, claim upkeep now refreshes the moment you log into the game. This is a good thing as it encourages folks to log in to keep the claim, and also encourages folks to build larger and more elaborate claims, since it’s no longer such a timesink to pay upkeep on additional claim expansions.

I found a neat player-made temple, but no monsters.
I found a neat player-made temple, but no monsters.

The one snag I’ve run into so far is monster respawn… or the lack thereof. My next objective I need to complete (in order to obtain my pulverizer) is to kill one monster with my sword. That sounds easy, except there are no monsters in the underground areas to kill. It’s a known bug, but pretty annoying, because my quest progress is stopped until this is fixed. I keep checking back, but I’ve yet to find a monster since the servers opened Friday of last week (it’s currently Wednesday).

Crafting and gathering have also seen major overhauls, making it much less complex than before. Instead of having to mine up tons and tons of stone and dirt to build with, the common materials are now free, allowing us to build without being hindered by lack of materials. Some folks may not like the “dumbing down” of the game, but seeing the population drop that I saw before the wipe, I believe something did need to be done to encourage people to stick around.

Overall, I feel this patch has made Landmark much more accessible to the general player. If you aren’t a wiz at building, you still get a decent looking house to start with and decorate. Those who have the time and ability to do more elaborate things can still wow us with their creativity.

As soon as the monster respawn gets fixed, I’ll continue to explore what the new Landmark has to offer.

A sunrise from near my claim
A sunrise from near my claim
Posted in Everquest 2, Gaming, H1Z1, Landmark, MMORPGs

Dismayed and Torn: Daybreak Layoff Response

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So, as most folks probably already know, it was announced today that Daybreak (formerly SOE) will be laying off a number of staff. For money reasons, of course. Only, the folks on the chopping block are some of the most passionate people I know on the team, such as Dave Georgeson (Smokejumper) and Linda Carlson (Brasse).

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI may not have written a lot about Landmark lately, but Smokejumper has been a huge part of this beta experience for me. From the moment you launch the game, he welcomed the community and set the feel for the Landmark world. His passion, and the passion of Brasse, shown through in all the games they were a part of. They made it welcoming and inclusive. It was part of what I loved about the community… and their loss will be widely felt.

And while I don’t wish evil on anyone, I marvel that someone as sharply sarcastic as Smed still remains. You can call me out for holding a grudge, but I still haven’t forgotten his snide comments on the “disgusting PVE carebear servers” that would launch with H1Z1, and how he’d just have to deal with the fact that casuals who don’t like KOS PVP are playing his game. That was a total turn off, an absolute contrast to the welcoming feeling I got from games such as Landmark.

The part I’m torn about… do I continue to play Daybreak games?

I know these people put so much of themselves into these creations. I’ve put lots of money and time into some of these games myself (EQ2). Do I leave the games they worked on in frustration of the company’s direction? Or do I continue to play (even if I play very casually) because they did put so much of themselves into these games, that they’d want people to continue to enjoy them, even if they’re not on the team anymore?

Even Smokejumper requests:

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It’s rather hard… Where to stand on this? Either way, it’s crushing news and a really bad move (IMHO) for those in charge at Daybreak. I wish the best to those who are being forced to move on. 😦

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Sunset. Not Daybreak.