Virtual reality, SteamOS, fiber broadband, 4K displays, holodecks (you know, maybe)—the next five years of PC gaming will radically transform our immortal hobby. What new experiences will the PC games of the near future provide? How will technology surprise us? This April at PAX East 2014, we'll look into that glowing future with the innovators and PC gaming stakeholders shaping it.
EverQuest Next Landmark
EverQuest Next Landmark has finally gathered enough materials to craft a claim flag for the verdant closed beta countryside—right on schedule—taking a continent-sized destruction tool to the alpha period's constructions to prepare for the next phase of Sony Online's sandbox MMO. It's also taking on a new name for its travels: just call it Landmark now.
On Wednesday SOE will take EverQuest Next Landmark out of alpha and into closed beta, in the process taking a wrecking ball to the painstaking creations of its users so far. (The reason you haven't seen an angry petition is 1) this was always the deal, and 2) the users get to keep templates of the stuff they've made.) What better time, then, to look back at the weird and wonderful creations that the community has built so far. Beginning with this AT-AT homage made by Pharoso Fluoroso.
EverQuest Next Landmark will leave alpha and enter a closed beta on 26 March, SOE told us at GDC this week. Anyone who has purchased one of the founder's packs, now including the $20 Settler option, will be able to play the game as it reaches this stage—SOE promised it would be happening before the end of March, and here that day is.
After I reached the highest level in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I ran into a problem: I had seen and done everything the endgame had offered to me. I completed all the dungeons, conquered all the available raid encounters, and then I was essentially stuck in a content drought until BioWare released something new—and then the cycle would repeat again. It's a pattern most MMORPGs of today run the risk of falling into as players tear through at a faster rate than ever before. In a blog post, Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedley examines these content-driven tendencies of the MMO genre, calling them "unsustainable" for the industry in favor of more sandbox experiences.
The EverQuest Next Landmark alpha—which I've been playing a ton of—introduces the MMO's voxel building tools with patient restraint. By pacing players with a crafting game (advanced resources and building tools must be earned, and not quickly), it encourages a lot of observing and dirt block prototyping, giving its architects time to establish a sense of scale and plan out their first project. When Cory and I visited SOE in San Diego a few months ago, we didn't have that benefit, as you can see in this timelapse video of an apparently drunk construction crew building a pub.
SOE have released a new Building Blocks video, rounding up the foundations of their construct-'em-up MMO alpha. This time, it's to introduce the desert environment; "environment" being the oldey-timey word we used to use before "biomes". As you can see from the video, deserts are big fans of cacti and weird looking trees. I'm sure it won't take long for players to put their own spin on the theme. As I type, someone's sure to be drawing up the blueprints to a raggedy RV, to be placed inconspicuously in the badlands.
The EverQuest Next Landmark alpha packages—$60 and $100 Founder's Packs—don't buy a complete game, and Landmark hasn't been a very functional incomplete game until the most recent patch. But despite four days of server outages, crashes, bugs, and wiped data in the voxel building MMO, EverQuest Director of Development David Georgeson is optimistic about Landmark's first public play test, and even wishes it had started earlier.
SOE have deployed the alpha for EverQuest Next Landmark, which you'll remember is the crafty/Photoshoppy prototype-type thing for their super-voxelly sequel to EverQuest 2. It's not the sort of alpha you can just download, however - you'll have to purchase a 'Founder's Pack' first. The cheapest tier of Founder's Pack with alpha access will set you back a whopping $60, so it's worth having a bit of a think before you decide whether or not to dive in. (Our hands-on preview from way back when might help.) EverQuest Next Landmark will be free-to-play when it eventually releases for real.
SOE haven't yet set a date for Everquest Next Landmark's upcoming alpha test (it's due sometime in the next two months), but they have released a pile of system requirements so you can see whether or not your Personal Computer is up to the task. You'll need an Intel i5 Dual Core / AMD Phenom X3 or higher, plus 20GB of hard drive space and at least a 10Mbit/sec net connection. Do you have those things? Then you are permitted to cross the break. Oh, you don't? Then I'm afraid it's off to the Bog of Eternal Stench with you.
It's not all bad news in the court of Sony Online Entertainment. Following the announcement that four of their MMOs - Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and Wizardry Online - are soon to be Old Yellered, the MMO makers have revealed the existence of another: the original Planetside. To clarify: the 2003 predecessor to the impossibly huge Planetside 2 is going free-to-play this April. If you're worried about microtransactions, don't be - an SOE FAQ reveals that "PS1 has no Marketplace and will not see further game development".
SOE wants to change the way you play MMOs—by letting you build them. Our newest issue of PC Gamer US features Tyler's hands-on report on how EverQuest Next Landmark's tools work, what you can build with them, and what it all means for EverQuest Next. Plus, print subscribers and print newsstand readers will get exclusive, one-week access to EverQuest Next Landmark's upcoming closed beta!
SOE have asked and answered their own question with the following video, which explains in exquisite detail just what Everquest Next Landmark is all about. If you've been living in a massively multiplayer cave for the last few months, it's the pretty Minecrafty prologue to the ambitious Everquest Next, which will let you build and decorate and even alter the terrain of the world/s as you see fit. You can apply for the beta here, if you've room in your life for another crafting game, or scroll down for the five-minute trailer.
If you've been eagerly consuming every EverQuest Next morsel, you'll already be aware that SOE are posting timelapse videos designed to flaunt the power of EverQuest Next Landmark. To my shame, this latest video in the rapid construction series was the first I'd bothered to watch - my own hideous inability to do an art having led me to assume that the MMO's creative counterpart should be reserved for people with talent (or basic levels of competency).
Having taken the time to see what's possible, I'm now experiencing a feeling best described via that Keanu Reeves face. Basically: if you've not been paying attention to what Landmark is doing, now's a good time to take a look.
Sony Online Entertainment today announced a Founder's Pack for EverQuest Next Landmark, its upcoming MMO-meets-sandbox building game and spin-off of the in-development EverQuest Next. Starting today, you can purchase one of three packs for the game, two of which include early alpha access when the game launches early next year, plus a whole bunch of in-game items and tools.
There's EverQuest Next, and then there's EverQuest Next Landmark—two different MMOs linked by Sony Online Entertainment's unusual development process. Landmark will come first, sometime in early 2014, as a free-to-play MMO focused on exploring and Minecraft-style building, except with tools that go far beyond block stacking. Later on, however, Landmark will grow into the platform for EverQuest Next, and players will get all the tools SOE is using to build its flagship fantasy MMO.
EverQuest Next Landmark, the free-to-play world-builder that Sony Online Entertainment is releasing as a sort of playable proof of concept for EverQuest: Next, inches closer to completion. Signups for the beta test started a couple of weeks ago, and now a new dev diary walks us through some of building materials players will have to work with.
Look at this and start dreaming. Director of Development David Georgeson has been playing with EverQuest Next Landmark's voxel building tools and tweeting the smooth results: a lovely little keep he says he built in "a few hours."
It's a bit like Minecraft, quite a bit not like Minecraft, and it sure sounds like it's going to be big: earlier this month, SOE announced EverQuest Next Landmark, a surprise voxel building MMO releasing this winter as a precursor to EverQuest Next. Today at PAX we learned some new things about it—female dwarves can have beards, for insistence—which we've condensed here into an easily digestible info pill.
EverQuest Next's entire environment—hills, forests, deserts, and cities—will be made of voxels, little bits of matter which can be smashed apart by explosive spells and giant Golems. Before we start breaking things, though, SOE wants us to start building—the developer is announcing today that it will be sharing its voxel building tools in EverQuest Next Landmark, a separate free-to-play MMO going into beta before the end of the year.