twittered his new estimate of the start date for Landmark's buy-in alpha this fence I've been perching on has been getting more and more uncomfortable. With a potential door-opening just a couple of weeks away the time for thoughtful, measured consideration is coming to an end. In the immortal words of Secret Affair it's time for action.
So I asked Mrs Bhagpuss what to do.
She said "Get it for me for my birthday", which kind of answers half the question. Maybe a quarter. Get what, exactly?
Dismissing the beta-only Settler Pack, the choice is between the $59.99 Explorer or the $99.99 Trailblazer. I took a while to read the full contents list for both. Carefully. That didn't help much. Without knowing a lot more about the game itself it's virtually impossible to estimate the value of any of the goods and services that go with it.
Any value the the cosmetic gear might have is entirely subjective anyway. I wouldn't pay fifty cents for all of it put together but someone else might get hours of pleasure from watching their avatar prancing around dressed like the mascot of the Freedonia Marching Band. Same goes for the titles.
The items included in each pack at least have a practical purpose. Having a single, unbreakable tool that acts both as an axe and a pick is nothing to be sniffed at in a virtual world where, we suppose, chopping down trees and digging up ore will make up a great deal of the gameplay. Anything that gives a boost to gathering and crafting or increases your storage capacity would come in welcome in any MMO.
That just leaves access and ownership. No point pretending otherwise; that's what's really on sale here.
There's no release date for Landmark. Wilhelm recently prognosticated a mid-October launch, which might be on the nose for the official release. The FAQ has no truck with any dates beyond the start of closed beta "on or before March 31". I'd guess Open Beta will come in the early/mid summer and for all intents and purposes Open Beta will be launch.
The FAQ is worth reading in detail. It answers a few important questions regarding progress. Effectively you get to keep any and all design work you do right from the start of Alpha and just about everything else, including all character progression, becomes permanent from the beginning of Closed Beta. Because you can, if you wish, keep playing the same character throughout, including through any wipes, by buying one of the Alpha access packs you are effectively paying to start playing the actual game, albeit in an unfinished format, several months before it becomes publicly available.
The only thing you don't get to keep is the location in the world where you set up home - your "Claim". Again we run into the buffers of ignorance. How important is your Claim? Does it really matter where you build, especially given that you came out of Closed Beta with your forty-room Winter Palace and Boating Lake safely templated and saved? Are you reliant on running hell-for-leather back to the exact spot where you created it or could you just flatten any old bit of land and slap it down wherever? We just don't know, so the value of those two or more days Head Start that come only with the most expensive pack is hard, maybe impossible, to judge.
Thinking too much on all this could send a person over the edge. Decisions have to be made and fortunately one is easy: I will be buying the Trailblazer Pack for Mrs Bhagpuss as a birthday present. For myself I'm minded to buy the Explorer Pack to see how things go in Alpha. Once I know more about it from the inside, if that Head Start begins to look crucial I can always upgrade before the time comes.
Or I may just go for the Trailblazer and be done with it. No, I don't think it's worth a hundred dollars (and we'll likely have to pay VAT on top of that here in the UK so make that $120). It will be the most expensive MMO I've ever bought and I don't even know what I'm buying. Call that half a decision made, then. Or is it three-quarters?
Whichever version I end up with, sadly an NDA is likely to be in place throughout Alpha and well into Closed Beta so my plan to report here on what Landmark turns out to be will just have to wait. Then again, it's supposed to be a game that's all about creativity, isn't it?
Maybe we'll get to find out just how creative I can be.