It didn't take long for someone to create a giant, golden phallus. Everyone crowded around when it was finished. Photos were taken with the phallus; tweets were composed. People spoke prophetically about how this phallus was only the first of many more to come. When the EverQuest Next Landmark alpha begins, there will be a lot more where that came from. But the team at Sony Online Entertainment isn't worried. There's a system in place for curating objects--suggestive or otherwise--built by hand using the creation tools in EverQuest Next Landmark.
I'm sitting in a room alongside my peers, fiddling away with these tools. In its current state, Landmark is a game about collecting and crafting. Everyone here has been granted special privileges--cheat codes, essentially--that provide us unlimited resources and the ability to craft anywhere in the world. Unsurprisingly, our world looks like a modern art exhibit that exploded all over the countryside. I tried carving a bust of my head into a mountainside, but ended up with sort of a lopsided smiley face. These tools are complex, but that is by design. Once mastered, they will let you shape your creations with exact detail and show them off for the world to see.
EverQuest Next Landmark is more than just the precursor to EverQuest Next, the follow-up to 2004's EverQuest 2. For the SOE team, Landmark is a proving ground for several new ideas. Any player can enter this world and start making changes every other player will see. In its current state--which the developers stressed was still a work in progress--Landmark is all about gathering and creating. If you're familiar with Minecraft or Terraria, this is familiar ground: collect basic resources to build tools to collect better resources to build better tools and so forth. You then take these goods back to your corner of the world and try your hand at crafting a house or a dragon statue or basically anything else you can imagine.
As previously mentioned, the way you put these structures together feels complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, there's a lot you can accomplish. For my vanity project, I started by using a simple point-and-click tool to drop blocks of material into the world. Then I used the subtraction tool to chisel away small portions of those blocks. There are several menus for determining the shape of the material or what substance it should be, among others. According to the developers, they want you to be able to slap together a rough draft of your project very quickly, and then dive in and meticulously sculpt it into exactly what you want.
In addition to designing the ever-changing world of Landmark, the SOE team is working hard to create a more community-driven style of game development. They want players to get their hands on Landmark while the game is still young so that it will be easier to incorporate their feedback. There are several ways to leave feedback, but one of the most interesting is DevTalk. Hitting F12 at any time calls up little icons above certain menu buttons, the chat window, and other parts of the game. Clicking on one opens a text box with developer commentary on how this part of the game was designed. In the future, you will be able to give feedback directly to the developers through these individual boxes within Landmark.
The SOE team hopes that by being more transparent with their audience, they will be able to collaborate with fans and develop new ideas for Landmark that they would not have thought of otherwise. With its focus on player crafting and expression, Landmark is a game driven almost entirely by the creativity of its players. The developers have some ideas about what they would like to incorporate next--combat and player versus player being chief among them--but they also want to know what you think and what you want to see. In their current state, the game and the openness of its developers are similar to what you would find on Steam Early Access. Is the game still rough around the edges? Sure, but that roughness is your chance to help sculpt Landmark's future. Just make sure it's nothing too lewd.