I’ve been playing with Landmark, an upcoming free-to-play online game of exploration and building. When I need to relax before going to sleep, I’ve been escaping to an ancient forest surrounded by mountains to build a New England-style ice cream stand, depicted above. Landmark gives you the tools to shape the landscape like clay and build things out of little blocks, called voxels, like a supercharged Lego® kit. The closest analogy, gamewise, is Minecraft with better graphics.
I’ve been fascinated by computer-generated worlds for a long time, from 1981’s computer role playing game Ultima in its original incarnation on my beloved Apple II (screenshot right) and “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games” (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft (WoW) in 2004. Then I took a long break from games in general, only getting back into it when I started playing Star Trek Online in 2010, and discovered that they were fertile grounds for contemplative storytelling. I liked making up backstories for different characters in the Star Trek fictional universe. I even tried role playing (RP) as the characters in group play, but I found this tedious.
I have a very specific goal with Landmark, which is to look at the pretty graphics and try to build an ice cream stand. No storytelling. No attempting to find other people to “group” with. Every so often, I just log-in to the game to access my parcel of land, squint at the building, and try to improve it in some way. Emotionally, it’s more of a design exercise / fishing trip than a game. Actually that is a half-truth; the name of the character is “Sri”, which is a character I also had in Star Trek Online; one of her character traits is an obsession with ice cream and the means to obtain it, which coincidentally is one of MY traits as well. Write what you know, right?
Anyway, I started my ice cream stand by framing out a simple structure out of wooden beams. You don’t have to do it that way, but I found it interesting to think about: how DO you frame a structure in a real buildling? I approached the building from that angle.
I also dug an underground workshop that’s not visible here, containing the necessary equipment to build tools and craft decorative items. There’s an ice cream freezer too, which is under construction. Currently the progress is looking like this:
I’m feeling a bit stuck at this point, not really pleased with the direction. I have two choices: raze the building to the ground and start again, or work it until it starts to work. I like the location I found, but I may let the claim lapse and go exploring again now that I know there are multiple “islands” on each server with different environments.
It sounds cool but I feel like it will be like SecondLife or Worm where you are not interacting with people just exploring. I could say the same aboyt WoW too.
SecondLife and WoW can be pretty interactive when grouped, but Landmark right now is pretty much a solo game. But that’s why I am liking it, as it’s a retreat where I can just be by myself, building stuff in a virtual world.