Daybreak Closing Landmark

In the most shocking news heard since WildStar announced they were going free-to-play, Daybreak revealed they will be closing down Landmark in February.

I bought one of the $99 Founder’s packs. I don’t exactly remember why, but I remember seeing that video showing them digging holes in the ground and thought that was pretty dern cool. It turned out to be the most ill-advised game purchase decision of my entire life to date. To this day it informs my Early Access buying decisions. Thanks to Landmark, I made a rule that I won’t take a chance on an unknown Early Access game unless it sells for $10 or less.

Now that I think about it, I came up with the $10 mark because of H1Z1, another Daybreak product. H1Z1 consistently sells for $20, so I knew I had to make my dollar amount less than that, because I did not want to take a chance on another Daybreak product, even at only $20. All indications were that H1Z1 would be another unfinished prototype disguised as a game. It turns out I made the right decision there, because H1Z1 still looks awful, years later. (I don’t understand much German, but I get the impression they aren’t pleased with the game in that video–I picked it because it was recent.)

I saw some concern on Twitter about Daybreak’s new role with LotRO. I can understand that, but I’m also of the opinion that Turbine was getting ready to shut down LotRO completely, so even if Daybreak does shut down LotRO in a year, it will be one more year that LotRO survived. But I doubt that Daybreak would get involved with LotRO unless it was an easy money-maker for them.

I always thought the first versions of Landmark were their best versions. I actually had some fun wandering around mining resources to make stuff in those first versions. I liked the crafting progression for the most part. It was pretty relaxing, and digging through the terrain was some pretty cool tech.

Unfortunately, every time they released a major patch, the game seemed to get worse. They were using Landmark as a testbed for the systems that would go into EQNext, but those features weren’t that great, most notably the combat. I never did any PvP, but fighting mobs in the countryside was horrible. I actually started working on a post titled “EverQuest Next Will Be Terrible” but then they went and cancelled EQNext. Honestly I’m glad they did, because it’s better for the MMORPG industry to have no EverQuest Next than to have an EverQuest Next that’s a massive flop.

I always got the impression that the features planned for Landmark and EQNext were simply beyond the skill set of the developers working on it. I felt like the changes were very slow. I imagined there were two old EverQuest programmers in a basement furuiously working to patch Visual Basic 6 spaghetti code, maybe reading books on modern coding techniques on their lunch breaks. If anyone ever sees that code base I bet it would be a mess of Daily WTF material.

I know I’m making wildly unfair and unfounded accusations here but after spending some time in the software development industry, you sort of get a feel for the development process behind a product based on watching the changes in the finished product. The point is that watching Landmark’s progress did not inspire me with confidence in its development process. Compare Landmark with something like Trove, which pushed out huge, sweeping changes very quickly in their early days.

In retrospect, I think their building system was too complex for a consumer product. It was practically Blender-level of detail (a gross exaggeration, I know–using Blender is like trying to juggle while riding a unicycle on a tightrope and recite Shakespeare in Chinese at the same time). The point is that it was work to build something. Some people loved that (many of whom probably want to make games :), but I think most people found it inaccessible. Then again, it had to be complex because it was also the tool they were using to build assets for EQNext.

I will now show you the video I recorded shortly after Landmark’s big March 2016 Update last year (the one right before the “launch”) where I tried to give it another chance. I wasn’t going to upload it because I thought I was unfairly harsh and critical of it. But hey, I lost $99 on this game, so here it is.

Here are all my posts on Landmark.

3 thoughts on “Daybreak Closing Landmark”

  1. I would have linked you in the post i wrote this morning had i read your post in time. I agree with a lot of the above, most particularly in how likely it is that the project was just too technically challenging for the team tasked with completing it. That said, with good project management and Sony’s deep pockets that’s a problem that could have been resolved.

    The problem that couldn’t be fixed was the mindset of the people in charge. These things always become clearer in the rear view mirror but even at the time it was happening it was obvious that no-one was steering the ship. Most of the time it looked like no-one even knew where the ship was supposed to be going.

    I spent $99 on an alpha pack for my wife’s birthday and $49 (or whatever it was – I can’t actually remember) on the cheaper one for myself. Unlike you, though, I was, and remain, very pleased with the purchase. It solved my “what to buy” problem for Mrs Bhagpuss’s birthday – she was keen to get in and try Landmark, she spent about two months playing almost nothing else, then decided that it wasn’t a game she’d want to play long-term. She thought it was a good present and she certainly got more out of it than several other things I’ve bought (at her request) that never got used at all.

    I also played it a lot in those early days and then on and off ever since. I’ve had a lot of fun, certainly $50 worth. I agree with you that the first few months were the best it ever was and I’m very happy to have been able to experience and enjoy that time with the game. I found things to enjoy in all the later iterations but it was always evident that there was no clear direction and the whole thing was flailing around in search of something to be.

    As for EQNext, like you I feel we’ve dodged a bullet by having it cancelled before it ever got started. If there was a backlash against that you can only imagine the reaction had it limped on and finally emerged as a pathetic, unplayable laughing stock, which could easily have happened. It’s certainly happened to plenty of other highly hyped MMOs.

    As it stands, with the decks cleared and the losses accounted for, financial and emotional, there is now at least a possibility that, some day, another Norrath-based game might emerge. If that ever happens I hope it will be on a much smaller scale and with far more achievable goals than EQNext

    1. I’d certainly love to see another Norrath game, because to this day I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten to experience it. I never really played the first one, and I’ve only dabbled in the second. They don’t even have to do anything revolutionary with it. If it plays just like Rift and World of Warcraft but is the Norrath world and lore I’d be fine with that.

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