Playing the EverQuest Next Landmark alpha has really started me thinking about the possibilities of a game like this. I'm really interested to see where the social game go in my mind there's a huge opportunity here create a completely new gaming experience.
Imagine for instance that you start out the game at the Portal Hub as per usual, but your task is to find a new claim in already crowded world. As you set out in your search of your first claim (the territory you’re allowed to build on), you need to hire a guide -- someone that can point you to the best prime open spots available. Knowing that you start the game with no resources, you will pay this guide with minerals that you mine along the way. He will protect you until you get to where you need to go, will help you understand the strange social structures of the land you’re about to become a resident of, will fend off the odd monster attack.
And speaking of along the way: On your way to your claim you will inevitably cross other people’s land. Some might be friendly but others will be hostile. All will exact a price from you in order to cross their territory. Some might ask for resources, others will want you to spend time building on their land. Others might even want you to fight in a tribal skirmish they're having with a nearby clan who is hogging all the timber. Suddenly getting to your claim is going to be a challenge and will require a lot of political navigation. Because you see, these people are also bound together in larger guilds and clans, and this means that in order to build next to their land you will have ally with them. This opens up an entire room of interactive social can play entirely within a building simulation.
This is my vision for Landmark -- this is what I want to see in the game. There's a great opportunity here to essentially recreate a medieval society. What would actually have happened if new settlers had found unclaimed territory in the 1600’s? Alliances would have formed, the struggle to survive would have been immensely difficult on your own and would have required banding together in order to survive. When land is scarce, resources are finite and limited to certain biomes, building your homestead becomes an exciting, and dangerous, proposition.
I would love nothing more than to see the game to add mechanics that support social gameplay like this. What if there was a way, for instance, to provide compliments to builders that were helpful to you along the way? Or tip jar for claim owners that truly impressed you with their building skill? What if players were able create a tavern and charge for protection of people that needed shelter for the night? Suddenly your building simulation game has become an MMO of its own.
I'm not saying this is where Landmark needs to be, only that there's a huge opportunity here for SOE to create something unique. I understand they are also developing a separate traditional MMO, so they may not want to provide these kind of systems in their building sim, but what a wonderful thing this game would be if they did.
For my part, I will continue to play. I won't stop playing even if there aren't social systems in the game. I love being able to build my own castle, being able to explore the world for rare minerals. But as I travel from the Hub out to my claim on the edge of the map, I just keep thinking about what it would be like if the game allowed social interaction to become as important as block placement.