So, this is where I have been hiding.
Sabriel pointed out something that mentioned "build tools" and I was off to see what I could learn. Here's what I have learned thus far...
- It is still alpha, so I'm being fair and holding judgement. Thus far, the only thing you can do in the game is run around, collect materials and craft items or build with said materials. There are no animals or creatures to fight and even the types of materials you can collect are extremely limited. That said, for an alpha, it's rather pretty (though following the WoW format by making everything look a little too cartoony in my less than humble opinion).
- Not only do you gather materials to use to craft and build with, but you have to gather materials to trade in for build tools. As a builder, I was less than pleased to learn I would have to waste two weeks gathering items just to be able to gather more items so I could actually build. As a gamer though, I can entirely see the point of it.
- Apparently there are more than a few full game wipes planned in the future, so any materials crafted or gathered now will all be erased in the future. As far as I can tell, that is making a lot of people get in, figure out the mechanics, then get out, because there isn't really a good reason to stick around right now since everything you obtain will be taken away from you in the future anyway. The maps are extremely devoid of people. I am very lucky if I run into even a single person when I am there.
- Like SL, you have to claim land to be able to build anything permanent or to set out any crafted item you have made.
As for the building side... there are good things, and bad things.
- Not having a full set of building tools the day I walk in still makes me twitch.. but I get it.
- As I have worked with the tools, I have come up with this analogy; building in SL is like building with legos. You snap pieces together, but at the end of the day, they are still individual pieces. Unlink them and they still hold their individual characteristics. Building in EQNext is like working with clay. You put the pieces together, but trying to take it apart in large pieces is impossible. Once it's "Stuck" together, it becomes one item. There are up sides to this though...
- Unlike SL, you can create holes in the prim (they call them voxels there)anywhere you want. Any builder that has fought the "I want a window but I don't want the bottom edge of it to be at forehead level!" problem in SL knows what I am talking about.
- Also, because you are working with something that is more like clay, you can build.. any shape.. really. As SL builders we're kind of stuck with the prims we are given, or have to go out and make a specific mesh to do what we need if it needs to be a shape different from the basic prim. In EQNext, you are building with a series of tiny squares, like Minecraft. Unlike Minecraft, though, you can use a smoothing tool to run over the shapes to smooth away the boxy edges. That means you can create any shape you want by building it out of small squares, then smoothing over the whole structure. It is not perfect though and often, "smoothed" items end up with all the sharp corners gone, but still rather bumpy in appearance.
- The voxels are all squarish in nature. There are no tubes, no cylinders, and the only sphere is a little wonky (too big for small things, too small for big things). Though you can smooth things out a bit, trying to make a cylinder out of tiny cubes is mind numbing.
- They are already setting up a way for you to create, save and sell buildings you make, just like the SL marketplace. Unlike the SL Marketplace, they want to take 60% of your earnings... OUCH!
As for what I don't like thus far...
- The place is overrun with minecraft builders. You can tell because damned near ever building that I have seen is, first, a GIANT fortress/castle/palace. Secondly, being in minecraft they are used to buildings looking like they are made out of square blocks and no one seems to blink an eye at the very, almost pixelated, appearance of everything. Coming from the land 'o the mesh, it makes me twitch. My HOPE is that, over time, that way of looking at things will disappear. Otherwise, it is going to be one ugly ass land.
- Which brings me to this concern. I like my MMORPG games to be pretty. I like running through Guild Wars into a new city and seeing the amazing builds the professionals have done. I'm not so sure I want to be in a game where I am running around, collecting resources, fighting critters and suddenly get to run into some immature idiot's giant voxel penis tower. I just worry it has the potential of looking a great deal like the SL mainland over time with everyone building whatever they want.... with some monster killing thrown in.
- Textures. I know textures are lag's bane, but they really are everything to a build. In EQ Next, as far as I can tell, you have to collect your textures just like you collect resources. This means there are limited textures. That's good for lag, bad for creativity. It also means you start seeing the same textures everywhere.
- The building tools are ROUGH. Again, it's alpha so I'm waiting but I would KILL for a zoom out or zoom in. I have to position my character to be able to see what I am building. That means, sometimes I have to build a stack of blocks to jump up to a roof to see the roof so I can build said roof. That gets old.. fast.
So.. I don't know. From a building standpoint, there are some great things and there are some annoying things. Then again, I was around in alpha SL when we only had a handful of prim types and textures to pick from, yet look where we are now. I have no doubt that they will have the ability to change things over time so the game will evolve to suit their customers. It will be interesting to watch.