Wow, after five weeks of the most amazing game I’ve had the pleasure to test, I have lots of observations to share. My initial player reaction quite simply recaptured that original EverQuest rush of awe and wonder we have yearned for since the launch of EverQuest itself in 1999. And kudos to Dave Georgeson, Terry Michaels and the rest of their merry band of pirates for blowing us away with the launch of EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha. So, here are some of the highlights and observations I’ve compiled…
My first hour of Landmark was filled lots of goose-bumps. With hundreds of people crowded around the landing zone at the spires on the Basin Island and hundreds more running around looking for a spot to plant their claim flags, I couldn’t help but think of my first days in EverQuest on Druzzil Ro. There were a hundred of us chillin on the beach in the Oasis watching the Sand Giants wreak havoc near the pier, watching people killing crocs and spiders, watching a necro pull Spectre after Spectre and the occasional Aqua Goblin. This was an amazing world that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I couldn’t wait to see the new friend’s I’d made and go on death defying adventures together for the first time. It was new. It was exciting and it was ours.
Now, back to Landmark…
On Courage (where I first logged in) I heard many people saying that claims were buggy and disappearing, so I figured I’d take my Founder’s Pickaxe for a spin and worry about planting my flag in a couple of days after some of the bugs were fixed. To my delight, I discovered I could build anywhere and began making sculptures and structures with every piece of material I had. It was new. It was exciting and it was ours.
My earliest analytical observations were of the number of players on each server. Quickly, I realized the server’s initial capacity was 2500 players. With just 2 servers (Liberation & Courage) available at the launch of Landmark’s Alpha, it was clear that SOE had underestimated/under-prepared for the volume of players wanting to experience the “rush” of day 1 in the Alpha. After several days, SOE added a third server, Serenity (which had been misspelled initially as “Serinity”). It quickly filled to capacity and all three servers had ques to wait through during prime-time (that’s 7,500 simultaneous players + hundreds in the ques). MY second observation, shared by many, was Alpha wasn’t ready for Alpha. Basic communication, community and social features had not been written.
However, despite Alpha’s challenges, some players were starting to amaze us with ingenious creations on their claims. It was clear, Georgeson, Michaels and their merry band were seeing vindication of their vision. The dream was coming to life in front of our eyes. Players were creating their own worlds in Landmark’s world. At week five, we are still at the very beginning.
Pages of notes…
After my first 3 days of testing, my notebook was filling up with notes on bugs to fix, features to add and things to improve. I’d log into the forums and see threads that were less than 24 hours old with 50 to 70 pages of posts. How do you communicate meaningful information when in the midst of info overload. Quickly, I realized many of the posts were merely an effort by some to rack up as many posts as they can as if it was some kind of contest to see who has the most posts. As a result, I’ve avoided the forums and stuck to testing Landmark and catching the weekly livestreams.
Two days ago, Dave Georgeson posted SOE’s business model on the SOE Forums. Bold and honest as it is to post such a thing from a big company like Sony, I hope they aren’t putting the cart before the horse or counting their chickens before they hatch. Day 5 in the Landmark Alpha saw 7500+ players focused on EQNL. Saturday and Sunday this week (now beginning week 5 of the Alpha) saw less than 1100 players logged in across all servers. What happened to the thousands of players who paid to participate in this Alpha? Who knows… Possibly, they are in the Elder Scrolls Online Beta stress test weekend. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on the Landmark server numbers. To see an 80% drop in activity in just 5 weeks on the Alpha is disconcerting.
Lastly, my initial impression/reaction of EverQuest Next Landmark Alpha still holds. For me, it is the most amazing game I’ve ever played. My 7-year-old son, my 25-year-old nephew and even my video-game-hating wife are all impressed with Landmark. My son and nephew are obsessed with Landmark already. My son has a refreshing perspective and sees the game from a perspective free from the confines of seasoned MMO gamers’ experiences and expectations.
In the mean time, enjoy our videos and screen-shots of our experiences in the Alpha. and feel free to login and share your thoughts.