Landmark reminds me of a never-ending game of Grandmother's Footsteps. As long as you're looking right at it nothing happens and goes right on not happening as long as you keep paying attention but turn away for a moment and everything takes a great leap forward. I do try to keep up by reading the patch notes but that only takes a person so far. Sometimes you just have to steel yourself and log in.
Last time I took a look it was because they'd added water. It was water you could walk on, granted, but at least it was there. Now you can swim in it, on it and even under it, or so they say. I have to take that on trust for now, because although I did try to get to the coast to see the miracle for myself, SOE seem to be progressively de-optimizing the client and traveling anywhere feels like pushing through treacle.
Consequently I never made it as far as the shoreline but as I waded through the thickened air of Not-Norrath I happened upon something even more interesting : A Cave.
Caves were added a couple or three weeks ago. I read about the first iteration and followed the feedback on the forums. Even the perpetual Pollyannas who make up the bulk of the presumed-minimal playerbase (every server bar one always shows "Low" population whenever I log in and my own Island now has no more than four or five active Claims) were struggling to sound sunny about the initial iteration.
Undaunted, I did log in back then to take a sounding of my own but I couldn't even find a cave before the client froze, effectively killing what little interest I'd been able to muster. Since then, according to both the Update Notes and commentary on the Forum, things are much improved. All the snipe and snark now seems to center around the quality of the contents of the Chests you can find in the no-longer-quite-so-dark depths, rather than the tedium, frustration and futility of looking for them in the first place.
I can't comment on what's in a Landmark Cave Chest because I didn't find one. What I did find was a much more airy, light and attractive complex of tunnels, drops and caverns than I was expecting. With no lightsource of my own I was able to explore for fifteen minutes or so by the glow of plants, mushrooms and those giant pineapples that serve as organic streetlights.
The cave I found was attractive, labyrinthine and large, generously appointed with veins of ore, gems and harvestable plants. After fifteen minutes I had gotten myself so turned around and lost I wasn't even certain which way was up any more. My grappling hook helped but long before it got me anywhere in sight of the surface I gave up and used the "Visit Someone's Claim" facility in the Showcase to port to another island and daylight. Claustrophobics (of whom I am not one) will not find any of this fun.
All of which makes me go hmmmmmmmm.
The gist of how gathering will work in Landmark appears to be as follows, although This Is Beta! and anything can and probably will change:
- Basic ores, gems and most wood will be on the surface. Rare ores and gems and other goodies will be underground.
- To find specific ores and gems you'll need a Device, which you will have to craft or buy from someone who crafts it for you. Reports are that it doesn't work all that well.
- There will be falling damage and it will kill you if you fall far enough. In the first five minutes I fell down a dropshaft that would, I'm sure, have been fatal with falling damage. Whether you'll have to find your corpse to get your stuff back has not, as far as I know, been revealed.
- There will be aggressive monsters in the caves that will want to kill you. You will have to fight them and win if you want to gather materials down there.
On the other hand, neither am I sure it won't. If the game was properly optimized and/or I had a PC that wasn't getting on five years old and everything was running smooth as butter, I think that perhaps exploring caves, fighting monsters and returning with my packs full of valuable rocks I could sell at great profit to Stay-at-Claim wannabe architects might be pretty darn entertaining.
However that turns out, there's one thing about which I am already convinced. EQNext, using this engine, is going to look glorious. For that, if perhaps not for Landmark, I will buy a new PC.