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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.

Here amongst the clouds we founded Sky City — a new continent, far removed from the toils of life below. Once again using the Select tool, we created enormous platforms in the sky, thousands of voxels long. It was a crude structure, a patchwork of grass and copper and riveted metal and ice and obsidian that looked more like a child's failed Lego creation than a place befitting the regal name we'd adopted, but it was home.

Here, high above the Landmark surface, I built a sixty-foot-tall Mountain Dew can out of emeralds. Nathan built an even-larger ice cream cone — so large he had to copy and paste the various portions in three different parts to avoid triggering an error. In other words, so large that Landmark's systems hadn't been programmed to even handle an object of that size.

And that was the theme of the day: take these systems and prod them. Break them apart. Ask that seemingly silly question "Is this possible?" and then force your ridiculous dreams into existence.

Crashing down
"You guys do realize nobody playing the real alpha will be able to do what you're doing, right?" another employee asked towards the end of our session. I do. And it's regrettable.

Herein lies the rub. What I experienced with Admin Mode is incredibly different than the Alpha you can go access right now.

The actual Landmark Alpha is not bad by any means. There's much to be said for gating player progression — psychologically it's a powerful motivator to keep users coming back for more. And regardless, I can't say Admin mode is at all ready for public consumption. I crashed the game client on three separate occasions during the few hours we played, each time requiring a force stop and re-launch.

But wow, what a sandbox. Admin Mode is probably the best example I've seen of the potential for an MMO in a long, long while.

Landmark's mission is to take advantage of user-created content to keep the game fresh over time, and I think it's going to succeed. The building tools are intuitive, there's high potential for selling your creations via the in-game Player Studio to make some real-world cash on the side, and there will still be enough emergent gameplay silliness to set it apart from other community-driven online games.

Or, to put it another way, Landmark's appeal in the actual release is the same fundamental appeal as Admin Mode — except Admin Mode removes all the artificial roadblocks and just lets people go crazy. It's a giant psychology experiment inside a game, watching the dumb stuff people create when all the limits are removed. It's...well, it's my type of game.

 

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