You may recall that I mused last December how EQNL might just redefine player-generated content, comments based my own short personal experience and perusing developer concoctions. However, now that alpha is going strong, I can say with surety what I only postulated before: Landmark has set a new standard for supporting and showcasing creativity. And players have really stepped up to the challenge.
Just exactly how much creativity are we talking about? Have you seen some of the stuff folks are coming up with? It's not just about houses (though I've certainly seen some amazing abodes); players are taking the tools and raw materials and sculpting impressive statues, designing mazes, and more. During my own wanderings and my two Massively TV tours, I've come across creations that leave me wavering between speechless and gush-central. And that's barely scratching the surface of what's out there! Add in the posted pics on Twitter and the official forums and that still doesn't cover it all. My mind boggles to think what will happen when everyone can lay hands on these tools at launch.
The secret is in the sharing: Unlike other MMOs before it, Landmark gives players the basic tools and turns them loose. There are a number of games that have offered a few systems that players could exercise their creativity in, such as mission architects and housing, but none has basically handed the entire set of world building tools over. Players in EQNL are placed on a nearly blank slate, handed tools, and offered access to raw materials -- what happens next is completely up to them. So what has happened so far? Let me show and tell you!
I have wandered through simple little huts and glorious ornate castles. I've stumbled across mausoleums, giant chess boards, impressive statues, tree houses, hidden underground treasuries, and dungeons filled with traps. I've gotten lost in mazes, hopped around jumping puzzles, and zipped through grappling hook parks. I've seen folks build intricate and beautiful furniture like jeweled planters or rustic pieces like moose heads out of raw materials. The creativity doesn't stop at shaping raw materials, either: I've witnessed creative uses of props, from making stove tops to traps. If you can think it, you can build it here. The phrase "The only limit is your imagination" is pretty spot on. Except for the skill part of that equation, that is.
One unfortunate side effect of all these amazing displays of creativity is a lot of discouragement relating to personal skills. While I can certainly understand the sentiments of comparing your plot to a gorilla's handiwork when held up to these jaw-dropping creations, I hate to hear people say they don't want to try anymore because they can't equal the skills of others. Please please please don't be dissuaded from your own creations! Just because everyone can't be Picasso or Monet doesn't mean no one else should paint. Do it because you enjoy it and get satisfaction from it.
You know how in life we hear you shouldn't not compare yourself to others? Well, I'll apply that to Landmark. If you want to use others' work to inspire you, then please do. If you want to hone your skills to reflect something you've discovered, awesome. But don't throw in the towel if you feel you can't compete. That's like someone quitting running just because s/he isn't a contender for winning the Boston Marathon or competing in the Olympics. For all the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks creations, there are tons more that are perhaps less remarkable but are no less interesting and unique. And besides, you never know when something you create will inspire others; perhaps it is your idea that one of the super builders uses in his next project.
What if you aren't the creative type at all and don't have any inclinations toward building -- does that mean EQNL has nothing for you? Nope! At this stage of alpha, the game is still pretty build-centric, but other roles are already presenting themselves. Those who craft massive structures are dependent on having the resources to pull off their projects, and unless they have more spare time than there are hours in the day, a number of those super-creative folks will be depending on the collection skills of friends, guildmates, and even strangers. When I had unlimited resources during my hands-on, I could just let my creativity run wild; not so now. But this isn't a detriment to the game. I see it as a plus as it brings into play a player economy.
Honestly, as much as I like to create, I have been pretty content to gather resources. Once the game launches, ore and gem nodes won't be littering the surface like an exploded cotton candy machine; instead, they'll be buried down in the layers of the world. It's going to be harder to find and gather the precise materials you want in the quantities you want, making people (like me) who like to spend all their time digging in the earth finding all the shinies valuable commodities indeed.
Of course, once other systems get in, there will be more for others do was well. What if you have creative ideas for stories and experiences for others but no skills to create the dungeon you want? Find a builder who has the skills! Talented at entertaining folks? Run a tavern! Good at organizing things? Create a union of skilled laborers for others to call on. There are definitely more roles for people to fill besides just shaping the land. And the fact that these are player-dependent is wonderful!
Implications beyond Landmark
I can see mechanics in Landmark that reach beyond this game and into EQ Next. While I was showing off the picture of the especially impressive statue shown here, the first response from my sandbox-loving friend was to ruminate on the possibilities such a creation meant for EQN. We all already know about the ability to make templates and sell those in the marketplace, but what about commissioning specific work on houses or whatnot? Maybe you can hire a player to do work just for you! What would you pay to have a giant statue of Antonia Bayle gracing your property there? Architects and sculptors in EQNL and EQN are more valuable than just someone who learned a recipe and can click a few buttons in-game. Here, personal player skill and creativity is also an actual commodity!
To those who expressed no interest in Landmark and are waiting solely for EQ Next, I say give the game a try when it hits open beta or launches. Even those who feel no particular draw to building can find value in Landmark; it's the only place you'll see this level of creativity expressed. And I expect it will just get better! Come launch, it's definitely worth the price of admission to come in and see what fellow players are up to. Who knows, you might even decide to give the game a spin anyway.
The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!