Category Archives: Beta

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

Now that the Overwatch open beta has ended, more of the blogosphere’s fine folks have chimed in to give their personal impressions. Having written a fairly positive review myself, it’s always interesting to see where others fall on the approval spectrum, so here’s an overview of the articles I’ve read so far:

While mileage varies here and there, I think there’s a consensus at the moment where Overwatch’s depth is concerned; it is a fun game to get into and for now, matches are very quick. This is something I like about it and I’d say team FPS generally aren’t the deepest genre to begin with but still, the question of longevity is a fair one. This being a Blizzard title however, I don’t see Overwatch remain in it’s current state for long. I expect more game modes to be added very soon (like the mandatory capture-the-flag), maybe with larger maps for one thing. Blizzard aren’t known to launch games and then treat them with negligence – we can expect more to come and I do look forward to Overwatch becoming “meatier”.

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

This is why I don’t pug a lot.

Pricing is another popular topic and I do agree that 40$ are fairly steep for what Overwatch currently has to offer. Naturally, there is a very long reddit discussion on this topic which only comes to show once more how differently different players regard their gaming investments. I think 40$ would’ve been more widely accepted if the game launched with more than just three modes and no intention to charge extra for special skins. At this point, Blizzard still haven’t finalized whether the ingame currency you gain from achievements will also be available for RMT. If so, it’s not gonna go down well considering Overwatch is b2p but likewise, the current random lootbox system isn’t very motivating to the average player. Am really interested to see how they address this particular issue for launch. And please, nerf that Genji Dragon!

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

Having jumped into Overwatch early access last Tuesday night, I’ve got myself up to level 14 since, trying out different heroes and learning the basics of the game. As Blizzard explained on their forums, all early access and open beta progress (including skin unlocks etc.) will be wiped before May 24th, and I shall try not question the logic behind an early access starting before open beta weekends.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

On the Fly Overwatch Impressions

First things first: Overwatch looks gorgeous and you know it! Blizzard never cease to amaze in the polish department and absolutely everything from the clean interface and level design to actual gameplay and animations look and behave smoothly as a baby seal. In true Blizzard fashion, players also get the guided newcomer experience with tutorials, practice ranges and optional games vs. AI included (on easy, medium and hard mode). So, even if you’re new to team FPS and slightly weary to jump in, these features will ease you in perfectly.

Having tried most of the characters now, each of them plays very differently with obvious strengths and weaknesses which is a lot of fun to explore and come to grips with. Controls are simple enough, with familiar FPS key mapping and usually up to three special abilities keyed to Lshift/E/Q.  Once I changed some of the keybinds to fit my mouse better, things started rolling and I got deeper into the nitty-gritty with Mei (must kill all the Tracers!), Farah, Bastion and Mercy which I prefer so far. Overwatch encourages playing different roles and characters which can mean the difference between victory and defeat, depending on the map you’re playing and whether your team is attacking or defending.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

There are currently only three game modes in Overwatch (capture, attack/defend and escort), although more are to come. Blizzard recently announced the removal of competitive (ranked) play mode for this open beta because there’s more to figure out and balance after receiving player feedback. General balancing is going to be an issue for a while to come yet, as is to be expected from a title like this; besides some heroes currently possessing clear advantages and some ultimate abilities feeling ten times stronger than others (hello Genji and Reaper), there are still matchmaking and team composition issues to address.

What should be good news to FPS players out there, is that Blizzard are running with dedicated servers for Overwatch’s matchmaking, rather than player-hosted lobbies. This means (mostly) stable servers and reliable ping for random matches as well as playing custom games with your friends.

Why I like it

I had loads of fun in Overwatch with my partner so far and would recommend it to anyone who’s just a wee bit interested in team-based PvP and FPS which offer more variety than traditional offensive/defensive roles. If you dig disrupting or healing only for example, there’s still a place for you in this game. Matchmaking queues have generally been short for me (1-2mins max), so you don’t need to commit to long gameplay sessions to get some Overwatch under your belt.

Overwatch makes it easy to get into (mastery is a different story) and if you’re willing to take the time and try different heroes, you’re guaranteed to find at least one or two who will fit your playstyle. Once you got the basics down, the game opens up to all the tactical group play, making use of team synergies and environmental factors – all of which should keep players busy for a while to come.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

I got some healing practice on Mercy…she’s Swiss!

Naturally, Overwatch is also packed with shinies and no matter how great your FPS skills, there’s motivating progress and random unlocks for skins, tag lines and so forth. Blizzard have also taken care of honoring and rewarding “best plays” of every match, letting great players shine without naming and shaming anyone on the bottom (for non-ranked play anyway).

So much for my quick Overwatch Early Access impressions! If you’re at all curious, don’t miss the ongoing open beta until May 9th! The cheapest pre-order for the game is 39.99 Euros currently; Blizzard’s pre-order page lands you on the medium package by default, so make sure to switch if you’re looking for best bang for the buck. Have fun – and kill more Tracers!

Black Desert Online: Heidel City and Climbing the Top of the World

Yesterday concluded the last beta test for Black Desert Online before launch this March 3rd. I made the most of the time, looking at as many features of the game as I possibly could without spoiling myself entirely. And there is so much yet to grasp, it feels like I hardly scratched the surface. After my brief initial impressions, it was time to find out just how well the virtual world of Black Desert was crafted – would I be able to immerse myself in it entirely and explore to my heart’s content?

I named him Fred, he did not approve.

I named him Fred, he did not approve.

But first I got a donkey from the stable master, thinking it would speed up my travels. The beast felt awkward underneath me and even after I figured out a reluctant gallop, other players kept running past us on foot. Unwilling to deal with further humiliation, I decided to tie Fred down and let him feed on the surrounding grass, which he clearly preferred doing anyway.

I also had a brief flirt with the market place and my first ever encounter with transaction captchas in an MMO. Apparently this is PA’s answer to mass-playing the AH via macros. Since I had almost run out of cash over my unfaithful ride, it was time to blow the rest of it on housing which is a fairly involved affair in Black Desert leading to many different options for crafters. After acquiring a small shack in Velia, I had enough money left to turn the place into a residence and choose some wallpaper, flooring and a bed. Granted, it wasn’t much but it was all mine!

One can also just sit in a boat.

One can also just sit in a boat.

Onward to Heidel City

As I traveled ever further east from the original starting point, it was time to begin the ultimate litmus test of exploration and turn my UI off to allow for aimless wandering. Black Desert Online is beautiful and there are ways to make your screenshots look even more fantastic, so I made full employ of the various ingame options. On high res settings the textures are sharp and terrain is fully accessible, climbable and diveable. A sudden thunderstorm or gush of rain makes noticeable impact on your environment.

Before long, Heidel City crept up on the horizon. I could wax lyrical about what a genuine, lively and bustling place this was, but pictures say more than a thousand words in this case –

From the narrow, crooked cobblestone streets, to the lively feeling created by NPC behavior and the finely crafted details in an old archway or fluttering pennant, I loved everything about Heidel City. It is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve visited in an MMO/RPG next to GW2’s Divinity’s Reach and Novigrad in The Witcher 3. There are nooks and crannies to explore, chairs to sit on and NPC conversations to overhear (although there could be a bit more of that). It is an incredibly well-designed site as far as an authentic medieval-feeling city goes and I have been to a fair few in real life. And hooray, for once scale is working! I can only hope there are more cities like this in the game.

Climbing the tallest mountain around

Recovering from city shock, I wandered off and followed the river south of Heidel until a tall mountain range showed up. I had not really experienced forests yet in the game so it was time to find out if it could rival LOTRO’s Old Forest or Eorzea’s Black Shroud. I am not sure I actually found a forest proper but I found woods along the foot of the mountain and was generally pleased with the textures and shrubbery. There wasn’t the same atmosphere as in the other two MMOs though; the noticeable lack of critters and other creatures puzzled me. When I didn’t manage to “find” anything much, climbing the mountain to see how far I might get became a thing.

And it went on and on! I must’ve spent 15 minutes running and jumping over rocks, dodging one very angry stag lord materializing out of nowhere, before I got close to a finish line. I made it past the treeline and still further up things only came to a halt shortly before the mountain peak, where I was allowed to go no further. The view below was stunning, opening far and wide with recognizable landmarks in the far distance.

Invisible barriers are one of my pet peeves in MMOs. Black Desert Online appears to have very little of the sort and allows for an almost entirely persistent experience. I’ve yet to plunge into a thick, dark type of creepy forest but it is safe to say that my enthusiasm for the game was greatly improved by my two exploratory missions. Even if “endgame” should prove not to be my cup of tea down the line, it will be worth the journey on account of all the sights and places I have yet to see. Just send me that horse with my pre-order mail, please!

Black Desert Online: On the Fly CBT2 Impressions

Syl & Valor

Syl & Valor basking in the sunlight of BDO

So let’s get it out of the way before I start the nitpicking: Black Desert Online is every bit as gorgeous an MMO as the previews have made us believe. The characters I made in preparation for the second closed beta, all work beautifully and look as good and better ingame. The world is huge, detailed, vibrant and few high pop hubs aside because beta, I didn’t experience any lag on high graphical settings. The fact that this monster of a fantasy stage is completely persistent without a single loading screen ever to interrupt your travels, is impressive to say the least. The light, the weather effects, the sounds make this explorer’s heart beat a little faster.

The first towns have a distinct southern European feel.

The first towns have a distinct southern European feel.

Gameplay was not without its issues this second beta. I played my huntress past level 12, learning the ropes of a somewhat overwhelming UI that feels like a bottomless pit at first. Quest handling is familiar yet different, player resources such as karma or energy must be learned and understood. All the basics are accompanied by an ingame live action tutorial window (including audio instructor) in your bottom left corner which is a pretty neat idea (there’s also your personal Navi sprite for which I didn’t care as much). It kept me company while I was struggling to tag five quest mobs of this and that together with 100 other players and no chance of shared kills, something that made me lose the will to live quickly. There is no way this is still a thing? There were also glitches and texture loading issues I hope won’t make it past the set launch date of March 3rd.


World map shenanigans. You even see weather effects in this view.

Fussing around a few things stood out to me, namely travel, quest NPC interaction and of course the combat system. Travel commands and map handling are one of this MMOs greatest forte: other than manually going anywhere, there’s a smart point&click system at work that can be used both actively while running or from world map view. There’s also the option to just right-click your buddy on the world map (friendlists and party invites working perfectly) and make your character auto-run to that location. Furthermore there’s a command to make all of your player characters run to different locations on the map while you are offline, accessed from the disconnect menu. That is some interesting stuff.

Conversing with NPCs wasn’t quite so great. There’s an odd mix of voice-overs and written dialogue going on with quest NPCs especially, whereby they say one thing while you read another. At first I didn’t grasp both were coming from the same source. Also voice-overs are mostly terrible to the point where I wish they scratched the feature entirely. Clicking through quest dialogue was fairly boring too, usually offering just a single option to click. What’s the point?

The combat appears to be the most novel and intriguing system in BDO. I can see opinions split on button-combo-based action combat; it did feel a little like playing Streetfighter or Xenogears, for those who know it. There is an assist window to learn combos but once I figured button mashing was more or less as effective, I didn’t bother learning all the moves. I will have to retry this with a PC gamepad next time because it didn’t feel very comfortable to me at all, but then I haven’t nearly given this the time it deserves so don’t quote me on it. For now, it’s different!


50 euros = 5’000 pearls, ya rly.

Naturally I spent time in the item shop and was underwhelmed by the choices on offer and the very steep pricing. To be fair, Pearl Abyss are mostly keeping shop items in the realm of cosmetics and QoL improvements, however paying 50 Euros for one set of armor plus cosmetics and one pet is very steep for a buy-to-play title. One can also argue over things like extra bag space and weight limit increases requiring further expenditure. I would like to see adjustments here and definitely more armor and less underwear, of which there seems to be an abundance for female characters at least.


Menu settings

What did stand out to me as a big positive were countless interface options in the settings that let you tailor your personal experience. Things such as character highlight options for any conceivable target are a long-standing demand of mine. There are pet settings for turning off other companions other than your own and system notification tweaks to your heart’s content – just to name few things. The commands for taking screenshots (including cinematic modes and slow motion), adjusting the overall colors&feel of the game or camera view, are outstanding. All I really missed was a way to make my character not auto-stare at the camera, which is freaking weird.

I will need more time with Black Desert Online before I can draw any type of conclusion. I am still adjusting to the combat and how the overall gameplay feels. The cash shop aside, my biggest concern at this point is probably the PvP factor: after hitting level 50, hunting season officially starts for you and all your other characters from there. With a vast world to explore as well as some potentially interesting sandbox elements (housing, farming, crafting, taming etc.) I have yet to try, I feel weary thinking of groups of lolkids ganking me at every corner. But even if Pear Abyss did add PvE servers for BDO, the game might struggle with lack of endgame PvE content just the way GW2 has done. At least this time around, we seem to be looking at a much sandboxier title. Time will tell…but gosh, it’s a beautiful world!

Black Desert Online: My Character Templates (I’m getting better!)

So I was whining a bit the other day about how complex and sometimes fussy the BDO character creator is. While this is still true, I believe I have vastly improved my understanding of the tool by now. There is honestly very little you cannot do with the faces. I’ve sunk some more time into creating female characters for several of the classes and love how some of them turned out.

I was going to make these available over at BDO templates but the approval process is either very slow (I can only imagine how many entries they must get by now) or it’s broken for me… I decided to just make them available here in case anyone’s interested. All my characters end up looking like sisters – that’s because I am a raven haired lady in real life who’s always had a thing for the Morgana character (aka Morrigan or Morgan le Fay) from Arthurian legend. I like witches, basically smart and powerful women, I like magic in fantasy games and I like odd eyes!

The thing with other people’s templates in BDO is also that they provide great starting grounds for your own creations. So by all means, if you enjoy any of my below designs you can download them as zip-file here and customize away – have fun!

Ranger, witch and sorceress templates:


click image to enlarge


click image to enlarge


click image to enlarge

[Landmark] The Endless Beta

Two nights ago I logged back into Landmark for the first time in months, after what seemed to be the world’s slowest patch. I left Landmark towards the end of the closed beta, for lack of things to do and being fed up with the claim upkeep system and continuously losing my Inn of the Last Home. Much has been added since April: the crafting system and building tools have been overhauled completely, water and caves were added as well as fall damage and arena-based PvP.

Logging back into the game and hearing Jeremy Soule’s beautiful music made me painfully aware of the feeling and atmosphere this title is still able to create, its world’s beautiful potential. Yet, Landmark to me is a changed game, as I also mentioned to Belghast a few nights ago over at Bel Folks Stuff (Bel’s awesome new podcast for merry blogosphere banter, check it out!) – so overwhelming have been the changes that I might as well learn everything from scratch and start over. Ugh.

Thus my re-visit was short-lived. Frustrated with all the controls I couldn’t remember and the still pretty poor mailbox overflow system, I took a tour around some shards/islands only to find most of them empty. The few that still had builds on them were so large and bursting with detail that my PC got very unhappy every time I got too close. I’ve no clue what optimization SOE are still planning to do for Landmark but at this rate, it’s just as well that islands aren’t crowded. Of course that also makes Landmark a game of ghost towns and, few die-hard community builders aside, a game of non-existent player interaction. To quote an earlier Syl: “Landmark needs a purpose for all the housing, needs trade, quests, guilds and cooperative content if it’s meant to last down the road.”

Vast empty space.

Vast empty space.

To be fair, SOE never promised anything in terms of traditional PvE that exceeds hunting and gathering for resources as well as crafting. According to the latest blueprint, monsters and achievements are incoming this November and December. Beyond that, in lieu of server-based player markets / auction houses or any need thereof, Landmark remains a solo experience. All the while the beta testing stretches on with more and more players leaving to “return at a later date”.


The Endless Beta

Landmark’s alpha started in January 2014, followed by closed beta two months later. The game is yet to enter open beta and launch officially at an undisclosed time in 2015. Until then, every last person who’s been into Landmark at some point will be completely fed-up with all the pre-release play (some players don’t even realize anymore that it’s actually still in beta right now) and those that haven’t joined over the course of an entire year most likely won’t ever. That just makes me wonder if SOE haven’t done Landmark a tiny bit of disservice for having it out there in the open for so long, including players every step of the way and through so and so many rollbacks and revamps. Who wants to still play a game with such limited content after a year of beta? Who’s dying of excitement for such a launch?

I will admit, I’ve criticized other developers for not creating enough of a hype around their games as opposed to SOE. The fact that they’ve included their player base as much as they have is commendable. All too often do we see MMO betas that aren’t so much betas as they are two-week stress tests. And yet, how long is too long for a public beta? Maybe I really don’t know what I want but a year of playing early access is an awfully long time to get bored or burned out in my book!

Fun and Games in Wildstar: The Launch Recap

Few hiccups aside during hour one, this past Wildstar headstart weekend marks one of the smoothest MMO launches I have ever been part of. Having settled for the only PVE-RP server on EU side due to (hopefully) better community, everything from claiming my name to creating my character and jumping into a mostly lag-free game was easy and carefree. Adding friends? Grouping right away? No problem either! And even if you can’t afford 10 gold for a guild just yet, Wildstar lets you create custom channels for better communication with your buddies. That is extra points right there for minding the MMO core-virtue that is (or should be) playing with friends.

A few players experienced rather troublesome queues this weekend which was mostly due to Carbine’s somewhat baffling miscalculation for PVP realms. There was….one. However, it took a few hours only until the login screen already informed about further realms being added both on the PVE and PVP side of things. In general Carbine seemed quick on the ball responding to players which is not something that can be said for every developer during a launch weekend.


Meet Syl and Kirby!

Having played my Dominion Esper up to level 17 now and fresh out of her first group adventure, let’s have a more in-depth look at Wildstar’s week one, shall we?

The Gameplay – Or how it all comes together
The single most important aspect for MMO longevity, the gameplay in Wildstar is the true winner. Everyone who paid attention to Carbine these past few years was ready for a lot of polish and yet, they have taken it up three notches since the beta. Wildstar plays intuitively from level 1, the pacing is just right and takes comprehensive steps in preparing the player for higher difficulty. There are quests, challenges and points of interest in abundance, flowing naturally into one another. Rewards are interesting and varied with bigger, more satisfying upgrades ever so often. The game is responsive when interacting with the environment as well as with various interface commands. Combat has that tangible “oomph” so many MMOs struggle to create, animations are excellent and visual aids have improved loads since the beta.

In summary: Wildstar is playable in the best sense of the word; very very playable.

Questing and combat
There are more quest hubs around than anyone can handle and that’s not such a bad thing. While there are other sources for good EXP, such as PVP, the numerous and carefully laid-out questing opportunities give players a sense of direction and make for a satisfying and reasonably fast leveling experience thus far. Down the road we might worry about the leveling game ending too soon but at least this here MMO has some endgame ready.

The quests are standard fare but vary frequently between kill ten rats, fedex or escort which can be shared with others. For some undefinable reason some of them still require backtracking while many will spare you the walk thanks to NPC voice communication. These tend to be longer questlines tying into an overarching storyline (some class related too) while others are just your old farmer looking for a hand. The public events seem somewhat sparsely peppered over the first few zones and come with disturbing reset timers compared to what you’d be used to from GW2 or Rift.

As for combat, I have always liked the concept of Wildstar’s doubly-active telegraph system and challenges increase significantly there as you level up. One inattentive pull of an elite mob (which are part of every area’s monster mix) can result in a quick and painful death unless you know your moves and WASD buttons. On a slightly different note, I am somewhat missing ticking things like buffs, procs and hots/dots on my character and target frames. I’d like to see more in terms of timing with procs and using synergies but maybe that’s just the impatient newb in me.

A while back I decided that Wildstar’s Explorer path was probably not for me because jumping puzzles – and rightly so. I love the Scientist challenges for every map which require you to scan various flora and fauna, as well as to learn more about the world (I has “Bookworm” title!). My merry scanbot companion comes with a custom name as well as booster and vanity options, so paths are hardly just a gimmick in Wildstar but seem reasonably flashed out instead and different from one another while not being game-breaking, either. There is replay value here for alts.

Gold and other currencies
There’s a steady flow of cash in this game and as long as you heed the MMO newbie’s cardinal rules of starting out poor, which are a) sell everything -and- b) stay the fuck away from the auction house, you will be just fine in the long run even if buying all class abilities as you unlock them seems impossible at first. Having bought a mount at level 15 already and being close to affording that guild fee too (do check out these amazing guild holomarks!), I am not worried about unlocking all of my skills in time. In a way, it’s not a bad thing having to concentrate on one set of skills and one playstyle first before accessing too many options – we don’t want to exhaust it all by next week, do we?

As for C.R.E.D.D., I’ve inspected the ingame currency converter just a little so far and can’t say I am really interested. With Wildstar being item shop-less (which is rather uncommon under NCSoft’s wing) and me being more than happy to pay for this sub, I can’t see myself messing with C.R.E.D.D. unless there’s another reason (like sparkling ponies).

Acquiring a house in Wildstar isn’t a real feat, it’s more of a birthright. Your little airborne acre waits patiently for your arrival and the standard housing option costs a mere gold to start with. Decoration items drop from special quests or challenges ever so often but seriously personalizing your home seems to be this game’s true goldsink. All I can say is stay the hell away from those customization tabs for as long as you have more essential things to invest in!

As a homebase for storage and buffs, Wildstar’s housing seems a fair enough deal. I’m just sad they went down the instanced route rather than outdoor. I can’t see myself spending an awful lot of time up there, just the way it never happened in LOTRO or Rift. Ah well.


Skills / Talents System and UI
The action set builder is one of my biggest qualms right now. Instead of simple drag and drop, assigning or re-ordering different skills on your action bar is fairly tedious and the AMP window is a complete eye-sore for anyone attempting to manage their playstyle stats at a glance. Hovering over tiny dots to check what they do is a big nono and so is a fairly inflexible UI that won’t let you move essentials around without addons. No pass from me here Carbine, this is not 2004! At least the overall look of the UI has improved vastly since the black bar of doom early beta players got to experience.

Cosmetics and Dye System
While we should probably be grateful that Wildstar has both, neither its cosmetic tab nor dye system are making me particularly happy at the moment. Managing your look has been re-delegated to NPC visits and the system is fairly clunky and limited in the sense that single items can only ever be assigned to one outfit and need to remain with the NPC when saved. The dye system allows for up to 3 layers of color per piece but seems slightly buggy still and umm, final because no un-dyeing, so careful with that!

The Music
While one can argue about degrees of cartoony graphics for Wildstar vs. other MMOs, its music leaves no room for debate: this title comes with an amazingly accomplished, varied and memorable high-quality OST that is a true joy to uncover as you are traveling from zone to zone, taking in different vistas that each come with their own theme and mood in return. Jeff Kurtenacker has done a stellar job and as always, I urge you to turn those speakers up and have a good listen before deciding that MMO music is not for you. This one might surprise you yet!

The Overall Feel – A not so final word
Well-rounded and here to stay are the two thoughts at the forefront of my mind when recapping my Wildstar adventures since the headstart. I don’t know precisely what magic Carbine have worked in those two months before release but it’s clearly made an impact and increased my personal enjoyment of the game considerably. I am positively surprised and eager to see more high-level content and hopefully some properly challenging group dungeons.

As preached before, Wildstar holds its own within the landscape of MMOs; however to the WoW veteran’s heart, it echoes many of the standards we have gotten used to by Blizzard. The familiarity of Wildstar’s early game experience fills me with the warmth of a cosy blanket and yet, it is still different enough to keep me going. I will see where I end up further down the road – for now, I am all in for the ride.

Digging Landmark and what we may expect from SOE

So between Wildstar and ESO, Landmark is the new star on the block that everyone’s talking about – everyone with a closed beta key anyway which seem to be an awful lot of people. It’s a beautiful game, too beautiful really for voxels which impresses even those among us who are not usually constructionists. Or gatherers for that matter; Landmark is all about the gathering and an admin mode doesn’t seem likely. I was worried about this before but having sunk several hours into Landmark by now, I am with Liore that the game features by far the most satisfactory gathering experience of them all. Mining and chopping wood has an almost therapeutic, calming quality – the motions and sound effects are great and the chunks and splinters come off seemingly at random as you dig down veins to see what gem might lie at the end.


Landmark, for now, is also making things considerably more easy for you than let’s say Minecraft, which features tool decay at pretty irritating speed before you reach higher tier tools and weapons. A single mine or tree in Landmark yields a respectable amount of materials which makes the process feel rewarding. Besides that, Landmark lets you create all the basic and necessary crafting stations for little effort; it may have taken me four hours altogether once I understood where to find the required higher tier materials. It so happens that all you need to do is hop island.

For someone like me who is not into tedious gathering with steep progression nor into complex (aka grindy) crafting systems in MMOs, Landmark is exactly right. Unfortunately therein also lies mild apprehension because SOE still plan to overhaul crafting entirely until launch. Given how easy things are at the moment, I can’t imagine this going any other way than up towards more restriction and difficulty. Alas.

Remember the classes of EQN where you collect a whole bunch of them and you specialize? We’re going to be doing that kind of thing with crafting also.” So players who have learned specializations will be able to craft different and better things than players who haven’t. Additionally, players will have to work together to craft some really great things, as players will have different specializations. [Dave Georgeson]

So quo vadis, Landmark?

Two weeks ago SOE revealed their comprehensive roadmap for Landmark’s future, inviting players to help shape the development process of the game. MMO players rarely need such invitations – the forums and other social media platforms are bursting with wishlists and suggestions for the future. The game feels very playable right now but it’s lacking more practical and intuitive building tools along with many announced features in the roadmap.

What nobody really can say at this point is in which ways Landmark will truly be more than a very pretty and atmospheric building sandbox with a few social features. Even if the community is happy to visit and explore other claims at the moment, the game in itself isn’t particularly social yet, nor ‘massively multiplayer’. SOE have seperated Landmark from Everquest Next with the recent name change but they are still essentially selling an MMO idea here, while presenting EQN as the traditional MMORPG with y’know, character development and group content and endgame. Or whatever developers mean nowadays when they distinguish between MMOs and MMORPGs –

So what will be the state of Landmark at launch? For now, the roadmap plans for the following major closed beta implementations: introducing dangers (damage and death), combat, quests (journal) and achievements, a guild system, the crafting overhaul and PvP along with various additions to the landscape (caves, water etc.). I must say, the addition of PvP strikes me as the most dramatic and somewhat curious of the bunch; what kind of motives could drive players to kill each other in Landmark I can hardly guess. Special loot or resources? Claim rights? A PvP-related currency?

I’m sure that Landmark is also going to feature an economy of sorts before launch along with the Player Studio, which for now is reserved for American players but will add more regions come May 2014. However given the complicated tax situation, I have no hopes that this feature will make it to my place anytime soon.

That seems about it, as long as SOE don’t have any more undocumented tricks up their sleeves until official launch. One might speculate about the community’s longevity until that time – after all speculation is the province of the MMO blogger. Personally, I’m not too worried about Landmark but I still believe longterm, it will have to offer a lot more than social platforms and deeper crafting in order to retain a longterm player base. I look forward to see what else SOE come up with. For now, I am quite happy to potter (pot-hole) around.

EQN Landmark First Impressions: Landrush Stress and Location, Location, Location!

Yesterday’s EQN Landmark kick-off was a bit of a mixed bag for me and I’m almost hesitant to write about it. As far as the invite, install and intro movie to closed beta were concerned, the staff at Sony under Dave Georgeson couldn’t have done a better job. What a quick and smooth experience, what contagious enthusiasm. If for no other reason, you must believe in Landmark because of the people behind it. What’s currently going on on forums and twitter in terms of community interaction and communication puts everything I’ve experienced in the past to shame. Can’t find the bloody thistle trees in this closed beta? Why, the Director of development is happy to draw you a picture! We should probably not get used to that.

I went for one of the two EU servers called “Satisfaction” mostly because “Understanding” struck me as an odd name and I’m not sure how wise it would be lagwise to go for an US server this stage of beta. That said, you can constantly switch islands or server to gather mats and visit friends around the globe.

Some brilliant building expos and screenshots aside, I haven’t really paid much attention to Landmark’s alpha and so I went into this whole experience the way I always do – like a closed beta player without starting information. It is rather hard to ignore all the guides spam on the internet right now or the sometimes not-so-optional words of advice by passionate alpha players. I understand Landmark has lit a special spark already but the idea of “this is our game, please tread lightly beta players” is a bit much (not to mention territorial) in places. I hate breaking it to any of the early players but Landmark is still going to change. A lot. And the community is bound to change too as more and more of that free-to-play audience are going to join and ask for all kinds of features.


Anyway, landrush. That was pretty much most of my yesterday afternoon experience and I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. Missing Bel’s cool alpha composure, I eyed the rapidly shrinking landmass with hectic worry as I was scanning for claimable spots that would accommodate both myself and my best friend and Minecraft buddy Val. Navigating both our accounts since he couldn’t be there, I logged on and off the game trying to gather mats on two characters until at some point I realized “wait….same server, NOT the same map?!”. I didn’t manage to friend us by myself so essentially several hours of play went down the drain because it still required him to get online in the evening and join me on my instance….shard…..island.

That could’ve been the end of it until we realized that just because there were no claims around my area, that didn’t mean he could place one next to me because buffer zone. Which makes perfect sense and is likely to get a friend fix soon – still, imagine our frustration when there were no more free claims close to me after all.

Of course that’s the glorious beta experience. I can’t recall how often I’ve had the “what shard are you on, I can’t see you!”-conversation in past games, so by now it’s quite humorous. To be fair, Landmark’s friending and teleport-to-friend feature work perfectly fine already and so we decided on expanding and sharing my claim instead which has the most fabulous location – a criteria I was under pressure to fulfill.

Location, location, location

Every island in Landmark looks different and within the first few hours, you could already tell a majority of players are going for the same thing: mountain tops. I don’t blame them, I want a wide, nice vista as much as the next person in a game that I expect to spend a lot of time in . If we can’t afford that ocean-view condo in real life, or in my case the castle in the sky with thick fog around it, let us at least create our dreams in virtual reality. For now, Landmark is all about your personal home and neighborhood, so understandably the landrush puts strain on some individuals. I’ll admit I don’t like timers and first-come-first-served features in most games even if it can’t be helped in this case. If all fails, you can always build your own mountain.

My claim announced itself with a huge tree in the distance, somewhat off the busy spiral center and yet close enough to easily get there by foot. It’s a small peak between the snowy tundra and old forest biomes which for me is absolutely perfect. I love standing there and looking down into the valley or watching the moon rise. After all the afternoon gripes, it was saintly to just be there and listen to Jeremy Soule dousing the world in his magic.

That’s when I finally remembered why I was here.


Of course things aren’t gonna stay that way. Now is the time to build and bicker with my buddy because we can’t ever agree on the same style of building. I want a tree house, he wants an entire town in Fable / Harry Potter design. We’ll end up not pleasing either one of us and build another castle the way it happened in Minecraft before. That’s probably why I still feel reluctant about getting back to the game and why I’m not overflowing with ooooohs and aaaaaahs over the awesome building tools; this is my Minecraft experience all over.

Or maybe not. Maybe this time around I’ll manage to be cool and not give a toss about how our claim turns out. After all, Landmark comes with a great copy-paste feature so you can always dump and restart with ease. And else…..well, I can always join the circus like Bel and become a wandering minstrel, visiting other folk in Landmark and marveling at their homes while my own remains the road forever. Maybe I would like that.

(No really, am just gonna have my damn tree house. Sorry Val!)

Wildstar Panoramania

As a passionate screenshots taker in MMOs, I love the first few weeks when that folder is swelling on my hard drive because there are so many things to see and love. Back in August 2012 I did a series of GW2 panorama pictures and now that Wildstar is finally out of its beta-overlay phase, I had another shot at some of my favorite vistas in the game so far. I used to eye Wildstar’s cartoony graphics with worry but having seen the game live now, I am a sucker for the whimsical aesthetic and detail of the Nexus which outdo other cartoony titles by far.

All panorama pictures were created by myself and photoshop (I insist on not spoiling these by slapping on a fat mmogypsy banner or something). You can click individual images for a full-HD version. Enjoy! (as always all screenshots are best enjoyed while listening to Louis Armstrong!)

Sylvan Glade


Whitevale (my favorite zone!)



Farside (new!)