It at least gives me a chance to post some brief thoughts, based on my extensive and deep understanding of the game gleaned from almost two hours of aimlessly running about and occasionally digging holes.
- The World
The pristine, natural world will very quickly be built over by up to 10,000 players per server. Unless and until players have the ability to place NPCs and set their AI, I can't see that there will be any context. Until then the whole place is going to look like the end-of-year show at architecture school.
- Beauty and Deportment
Mining is ridiculously enjoyable. The way the tunnels develop is extremely satisfying, as are the raws and rares that pop up while you dig. Standing inside a deep hole you've dug and looking up at the moon overhead is disturbingly entertaining. Even so, digging holes would be about a million times more enjoyable if I was a ratonga. Just sayin'.
Chopping down trees, by contrast, is completely pedestrian and dull. Whack, whack, whack, flurry of woodchips, progress bar winds down, tree vanishes. Also you can't hack into a cactus or forage from a bush. Yet. I am guessing that will come because for now cotton, jute and all kinds of inappropriate raws come flying out of the trees.
A lot of people are saying things like "This alpha really is an alpha". Is it? The few alphas I've played before this were considerably less, well, playable than this. Yes it's buggy, but betas used to be buggy, it was what you expected. In terms of playability I'd put Landmark Alpha on a par with my experiences in EQ2 during mid beta (and much better than late beta, when they broke everything that used to work) or Horizons late beta (when the systems worked but most of the world was empty still). I've played MMOs that launched buggier and less feature-complete than this, but maybe I just have very low expectations.
The whole Claim mechanic needs a rethink. Not just because the claim UI is dreadful, which it is and which SOE have acknowledged it is, but because it makes no sense. I can understand having a competitive element for claiming the "best" spots but at the moment the competition is to grab any spot. The game should begin by placing you on a default plot, a home base where you can begin to learn and practice with the tools. Once you've got the hang of those and the desire to build something more ambitious, then you should set out to explore the world and stake a claim. I foresee many five minute uninstalls at launch if they make you go miles and miles to find an out-of-the way spot no-one else wanted before you can start doing what you thought you were going to be doing as soon as you logged in. I know Wurm Online works that way but WO is a tiny, niche game for a reason.
Haven't tried crafting yet. Apparently it requires a prodigious quantity of raws and crafting your own tools is the progression mechanic for the whole game. Can't see that working long-term. I'm guessing we will eventually get a full range of crafts and recipes to go with them and that will be the real progression. The economy will thrive if required raw material quantities are vast, too. Quite looking forward to that stage. I fancy being the guy out in the wilds with the axe and the skinning knife, getting rich selling to all the crafters grinding away at their stations.
That's about it for now. Servers still down. I hope they're adding something good.