The World Gone By

(A ramble about the Landmark beta, among other things.)

My writing partner Jenn and I submitted a manuscript to a publisher on Monday. Project codename: Space Boys has consumed us since the beginning of February and after hitting the submit button I suffered the usual bends as I arose from the quagmire of stress that surrounds the final phase of first draft editing, synopsis polishing and inevitable push and pull that accompanies every ejection of self. If you don’t understand what I just said, don’t worry about it. Just know that my fiction is usually a lot clearer.

Tuesday marked the first day of obsessive inbox refreshing—surely our synopsis and attached manuscript had kept someone from their pillow the night before! Apparently not. But that’s okay. Jenn and I love the Space Boys and we’re sure someone else will too.

So what to do until the obligatory twelve weeks of consideration expire? Well, we could write another book and we have in fact started book two. We’ve both also outlined several solo projects and there’s this other book we finished writing together last year, the second draft of which requires my attention. I also wrote a follow up to “Perfect” before Christmas. But, it’s hard to write (or edit) when you’ve just submitted your soul, at least for a few days, so I’ve done what any self-respecting twenty first century geek should do: I’ve thrown myself into gaming.

I started the week by finally bashing my way past sequence ten of Assassin’s Creed III. On Monday I obliterated stress and Redcoats and finally mastered the combat of this stupidly difficult game. Now that I know how to kill efficiently, I have killed everything and it’s been extremely satisfying.

On Tuesday I continued to cut a swathe through American history in between inbox refreshes and bursts of stress induced email to Jenn. On Wednesday I read three books and wondered what had happened to my Landmark beta invitation. It arrived too late for me, but not for my husband who downloaded, installed and played until the wee hours.

Thursday morning I entered another sort of Liberation—a server on the Landmark beta—and began mining my way to…well, I’m not sure what.

Landmark is part of the new EverQuest, called EverQuest Next. Jenn’s husband clued me in to a few details about the game last summer and will forever retain the blame if this game interferes with any of my careers (writer, reviewer, gamer, housewife and mother). It’s hard to put the blame for eight straight hours of mind numbingly boring gaming on anyone else’s shoulders but my own, however.

First of all, Landmark is not EverQuest. My mistake, there. I thought I’d cutting my teeth on rats and working my way up to dragons. Not so. I’m mining copper so I can build myself a better pickaxe, one that will allow me to mine the ingredients for a better axe, which will allow me to fell the right sort of trees for the handle of my new pickaxe, which will enable me to mine the silver I need for my next axe upgrade.

Scintillating stuff, eh?

Apparently so. Some folks have been at it since the beta opened on Wednesday and they have already staked claims throughout the worlds and built themselves an array of abodes, ranging from hovel-like structures to my husband’s simple platform of stone to displays of oddly artistic talent.

I claimed a hilltop plot and put down a stone foundation. That took me eight hours of labour. Though I did nothing but sit at my PC all day, it hurt. My legs and back were stiff and if I to mine another copper vein my head might start revolving on my neck—the full three hundred and sixty degrees. Also, every time I got stuck in one of my own mines claustrophobia gripped me so that I had to embark on a panicked series of jumps—keyboard and body—until my husband called out instructions from the den: dig your way out. I did and then fell into another hole. I also fell through the world several times and waited, stomach hovering up near the back of my throat for the screen to stop shifting and for my hapless adventurer to land on solid ground. Then I had to wait through the inevitable lag spike as the lacklustre ping shot from 103 to 1103 and then it was back to mining copper. It’s a thrill a minute…and I’m thinking about playing again today.

Why? Well, my tummy is still twisted up like an old plastic bag and I’m still obsessively refreshing my inbox. I know, I should be doing something more productive, and I will next week. Right now, I have a vague plan for a log cabin forming in my mind, one I can build before I go for my next axe upgrade. I’ll need to gather the materials for the right work bench to furnish my new home, though, so that will likely mean about thirty more hours of copper mining. God almighty, is this the future of gaming?

I never understood my daughter’s fascination for Minecraft. Well, I did sort of? I’ve lost months to various editions of The Sims…and I do literally mean months. I sort of get it now? Landmark is prettier, though. Here’s a screenshot of my plot:

EC1

But I’m not sure this game could capture my attention for months at a time…which is a good thing as my husband hasn’t been to bed in two days and one of us needs to be the adult around here. I do love the idea of building up from scratch. Landing in a world with nothing but the tools on my belt and working my way up. But despite dreams of grandiose castles, there is something missing from the Landmark experience: peril. My little adventurer can mine through the night without needing to eat or sleep. No nasties are waiting in the ravine yonder and my platform of stone hasn’t slid off the top of the mountain due to lack of proper support. There should be some challenge to all this manual labour, something other than tendonitis in my thumb. Beasts and bands of ne’er-do-wells.

They’re coming, apparently, and all of our building—which is a game in itself—is not entirely futile. Though Landmark will likely fascinate tens of thousands of budding architects and entice money from their pockets through one micro-transaction or another, it’s not just a world building sandbox. Some of these features may make it into EverQuest Next, which is exciting. Fantasy RPGs, massively-multiplayer or not, often lack the one thing that makes a world habitable: a proper home. The Sims Medieval almost got it, adding a dash of questing to the castle building, but there was too little of either to keep me fully entertained. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had gorgeous houses and I obsessively looted every corpse and barrel in order to furnish them—with premade sets that looked good until I got bored with the sameness of them. If I’d been able to mine stone and build my own house in the land of Skyrim, I might still be there, which would have been bad news for the Space Boys, no doubt.

So I’m excited to see what elements of Landmark will be incorporated into EverQuest Next. I don’t think I’m going to be mindlessly mining copper until then, however. First of all, I have a revolution to wrap up—will Conner and Haytham join forces until the end?—and another book to write. An outline to fiddle with, some character profiles to massage into sense and, oh, yes, my family will need feeding between now and whenever then is as well.

Here’s a link to Landmark details (outside of copper mining) and are some more screenshots of my experiences thus far.

Here's Sisimka, my hapless adventurer.
Here’s Sisimka, my hapless adventurer.
I went here looking for palm trees. I found sparkly gems. Pity I don't have a good enough pickaxe to mine them with.
I went here looking for palm trees. I found sparkly gems. Pity I don’t have a good enough pickaxe to mine them with.

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