Lands Unknown is a cinematic, historical MMORPG set in the early 1800s. It features gorgeous next gen graphics and a massive, realistically scaled, persistent open world. The attention to detail in every aspect, from the 50 different ship models, realistic navigation, to deep trading system is truly impressive. Which makes it highly unlikely the project will secure its Kickstarter funding.
In a campaign created by Joshua Giles, Lands Unknown is seeking $100,000 for development. Giles has single-handily put together all of the assets featured in the campaign. He’s hoping to raise funds to hire more artists and programmers to join him in bringing Lands Unknown to life.
Even without going too far into the details, Kickstarter MMO’s already have a relatively low rate of success. It’s just hard for backers to put their money and faith into such huge projects. This is particularly true of projects with very small teams. It would be difficult enough for Lands Unknown to overcome only these odds and get funded. The struggle is made harder because of its excessive desire for realism.
Since the game world will have a realistic sense of scale, Giles is planning to make it nearly 40 million square miles. For the sake of comparison, a typical large game world is roughly 30-50 square miles. In-game travel times will reflect this size. Moving your character from New York to Philadelphia on horseback takes 20-30 real world minutes. With a fast ship the trip can take about an hour. On foot? Expect to spend 3 real hours walking your character between these destinations.
The massive scale of the world is the first hint that there could be problems with some of the design choices Giles has made for his project. These include features that sound interesting and certainly add to the realism, but don’t usually make for compelling gameplay.
Most mechanics that would typically be carried out via menus will require players to physically complete them instead. Want to become a trader and buy and sell goods? Your character will have to carry individual boxes and barrels of goods and store them safely on your ship. If you’re pressed for money you can even walk the goods to other countries to turn a profit, at the risk of your very real time and sanity.
Even traveling by sea will prove arduous. Ships don’t sail themselves. You or someone in your employ will have to operate the sails, steer, and fight off pirates with the cannons. With no game map, you must learn to navigate the procedurally generated seas using only your ship instruments. Oh and remember to feed your crew as well.
Is This The Real Life?
I understand that these aspects add realism to the gameplay, but really, there’s a reason most games automate the grunt work. With so much effort required to accomplish goals the payoffs would have to be incredible to remain enticing. As of yet, they don’t really seem to be.
Going more sandbox and less RPG, Lands Unknown doesn’t seem to have much of an underlying story behind it. There’s plenty to do in the world, but no overarching reason to want to do any of it. You explore and trade so that you can explore further and trade more.
When Games Become A Chore
Characters earn money by taking jobs, which based on earlier features sounds about as much fun as having a real job. You can always try your hand at piracy, but doing so will put a bounty on your head and prevent you from visiting most reputable ports. Have fun at your own risk.
Again, the graphics look amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that Giles is fully capable of making a gorgeous game world. For all of its ambition, Lands Unknown is so focused on realism that it has become a game nobody would want to play. Not the best endorsement for any crowdfunded project.