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Everquest Next Landmark's Admin Mode is the best sandbox you'll never play in

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 6, 2014
"Do me a favor and type '/loc' into the console, will you?" the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) developer asks me. I oblige. The readout is a set of coordinates corresponding to my character's current position on the enormous Everquest Next Landmark continent.

Then you'll most likely mine for more resources, tear down your old structure, and start over again.

Eventually there'll be much, much more to Everquest Next Landmark — more items, an expanded crafting system, proper quests, the ability to claim multiple plots of land, and a full combat system complete with craftable armor and weapons.

In other words, it will be more like a proper MMO that just happens to have this voxel-based building system in it. In other, other words: Nothing like Admin Mode at all.

A world without restrictions
Everquest Next Landmark
in Admin Mode is, by game design standards, broken.

You're given an infinite amount of every resource in the game. You can toggle flight on and off. You can use the Select tool to delete entire sections of the game world. You can build anything, anywhere, at any time — you're not restricted only to land you've claimed.

The Admin Mode is exploitable, buggy, broken, crash-prone, error-prone, and — worst of all in the eyes of serious game developers making serious games — silly.

On the other hand, Admin Mode removes the question of "Can I do this?" There are no artificial hurdles to progress through, no bounds on your creativity. Want to do something? Do it. See what happens.

For all SOE's talk of player-driven design and enormous sandboxes, the development team seems set on giving users a fairly specific type of experience. Here are these areas where you can build, and here are the places you can't. Here are the resources you have to mine to progress through the different tiers of the game. Here are the trappings of a real MMO inside this incredible building tool. Now, the details of that experience are still up for debate, but the fundamentals — the "arcs" of a players experience —are set.

This conservative attitude was even apparent at SOE's preview event. In Admin Mode, Nathan and I discovered the Select tool could seize on and delete enormous chunks of the ground. Like, to the tune of approximately 800,000,000 voxels at once. This was how we made our slow but steady progress to the bottom of the map.

Select. Delete. Fall to the new "floor." Select. Delete. Fall. Select. Delete. Fall.

And then we started seeing discomfited faces. "Wouldn't you guys rather...build something?" asked one of the SOE staffers as we bored a hole into the currently-empty depths. (Mineral deposits will be added to underground areas later on in development.) This was not The Correct Way to play Landmark.

Once we'd reached the bottom of the world, we turned on flight/no-clip mode and ascended back towards the surface, our bodies silhouetted against the blue-gray gloom of "outside the level." We flew high above the surface, higher even than a nearby tower someone had built by stacking a house template on top of itself dozens of times.

 

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