Saturday, 1 October 2016

Revelation Of A New World

When Amazon began snapping up discarded MMO developers there seemed little doubt they had something massively multiple in mind for their game division revamp but as the "unboxing" approached and the tease reveals rolled out certainty dipped a little. It seemed we weren't getting a ragnarok-themed version of WoW after all, just another MOBA, because the market for those is desert dry right now, after all...

That never felt right. For the brief few days when the seal was split but the lid remained unlifted I still believed there'd be something interesting inside. And there kind of was. Is. Will be.

Somewhen, in some future time as yet uncalendared, exists an Amazon MMORPG. Faint ripples in the chronosphere suggest some kind of "massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game". The signal is occluded. All we know is what's in the single paragraph.

Oh, wait, no it's not! There's a video!


It's only fifty seconds but I think it answers a lot of questions people seem to be asking; questions raised but not answered by the text description on the website.

This is going to be a PvP Sandbox. Probably one with a non-consensual free-for-all ruleset. Check these quotes:

"...the players are our content." (25s)
"...whatever they do with it and in it and to one another is really up to them." (43s)

Or that's the plan as it stands right now. The game itself is who knows how far out? Two years? Three? Five? We all know the MMO you get is very rarely the MMO you were promised. Sometimes it's barely even similar.

Which is why I can't see much point getting hyped up or riled up. Yet. Let's wait at least until there's...something. At least the setting, one of the very few elements that has both been announced and is extremely unlikely to change, sounds promising.

The elevator pitch would seem to be The Secret World in Colonial America:

"...everything they were afraid of, everything that they hoped for, everything that they wanted to believe in, that they wished wasn't true, all of that stuff is real".

I could go for that. And, as many people have pointed out, Amazon is the epitome of a mainstream mass-market service provider. It does seem unlikely that Jeff Bezos will want to restrict the potential to the relatively small FFA PvP market when there's a much greater restricted PvP and pure PvE audience to tap.

The developers may anticipate a true New World but chances are they'll end up with much the same compromised old version we usually get. Some combination of level restriction, safe zones or even PvE/PvP server splits. Yes, the real target for all these new games seems to be the Twitch viewer (the Wooden Potatoes video linked above is very good on that) but I'm sure they want to sell a few million boxes too.

Not, as far as I can see, that there's been any mention of payment models, although I didn't watch the main stream. Still, it's probably safe to predict these will not be pure F2P titles. Amazon is in the box-selling business, be those actual boxes or digital downloads. There's going to be some kind of fee in there somewhere.

That's all a long, long way off. We can worry about how much it costs when there's something to buy. What interests me more right now is the idea, expressed by both Syp and Syl, that the MMORPG genre needs news of a big AAA release like this right now.

Why is that, exactly? Wasn't it only a year or two back that everyone was claiming it was big budget releases from megacorps that had crushed the life and spirit out of MMOs and the true future of the genre was and always had been niche? Did I miss a memo?

Syp found so many upcoming indie MMOs of interest to examine on MassivelyOP that he had to split his preview post into two parts. That list is just shy of three dozen titles. If this is a genre in the doldrums, heaven only knows what would blow in on a fair wind.

Let's not be negative. I'm a big Amazon fan. I've used their services for many years. I've found them to be reliable and good value. I recommend them often to others. There's certainly a smaller-than-usual chance New World (clever title, by the way) will end up being rushed to market half-baked due to the developers running out of money. It will almost certainly be polished and as finished as MMOs ever are at launch.

Whether it will be anything I'd want to play I have absolutely no idea. I won't know that until there's a game. Call me when that happens.

Oh, and the post title? Apparently all that writing carved in to the face of the guy in the pot helmet up top there? That's from The Book of Revelations, that is. Now you're scared.

9 comments:

  1. While I can see how New World would make for a fun game, I can also see it getting mired in a miasma of PC discussions and controversy, something a big company is probably much more vulnerable to than an indie title.

    Much like a sandbox game set in the Levant/Holy Land at the time of Joshua- King David would probably make for an interesting setting with all the tribes of giants and what not, but except for Green Ronin's deliberately sketchy Testament - Roleplaying-in-the-Biblical-Era itdoes seem to be one of those '10 foot pole' themes.

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    1. Yes, I noticed the potential controversy of the setting came up in M:OP's comments. That period of American history doesn't really push many buttons in the UK or probably most parts of the world but I appreciate it will be a red flag to many in the U.S.

      So long as they play up the fantasy and steer clear of any recognizable historical figures I would guess they will be fine...although that quote...

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  2. Hah, I did already respond to your comment on this over on my own thread but to re-phrase: I feel like AAAs in a way give people like me and Syp hopes that the genre isn't "considered dead" just yet. I know fully well about all the perils and unhappy compromises of big MMO projects, we all do - but there's still the dream of those big worlds with diverse populations out there among at least part of the player base. Niches have a lot going for them, yet my top 10 MMORPGs up to now weren't exactly niche. And niche too often (not always) means lower production value as well, when I like shiny grafX and soundtracks! :D

    So yeah, I can't help it, there's always going to be a bit of wishful thinking. Doesn't mean I believe "we need more AAAs" though, we just need ONE really great one. ;)

    And agreed Amazon most likely will opt B2P which they should anyway.

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    1. It depends what you call "niche" really. I very much remember how it was when EQ was the market leader: video games were considered "niche" by the mainstream media, online games were considered "niche" by the gaming media and MMORPGs were considered "niche" by hermits living in a cave. It was the unprecedented and still largely inexplicable success of WoW that changed that and (in the Western Hemisphere at least) if you remove WoW from the equation very little if anything has changed. You only have to look at the huge numbers RuneScape generates and then compare them with that game's almost invisible media profile to realize that even huge commercial success does nothing to lift an MMO out of the "niche" every single one of them other than WoW has hidden in for two decades.

      The weird thing is that, because of the money Amazon has and because of Twitch and because Amazon is a huge, global mass-market player that every news editor in the world will happily headline a story with, New World could actually BE the second-ever truly non-niche Western MMO. I'm not sure whether that's terrifying or exhilarating. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

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  3. In terms of the actual game, I'm very meh. But Amazon is fascinating, so it's interesting to think about an MMO's place within the larger company and its culture.

    Amazon's entire business-building strategy has been based on the long-term: eschew profits now for market-share and larger profits later. MMORPGs, by definition, fit in that template perfectly. They require massive early investment, long development time, and earn their value over the (very) long term. In that respect, it's the perfect Amazon game.

    I don't think though that the MMO is the marquee game for their studio. That will probably be one of the other efforts, more suited to the Twitch generation. It will I imagine, however, be a very stable, or anchoring part, of the entire gaming portfolio (or at least intended to be). Amazon likes to have a finger in all pies, or their eggs in many baskets (depending on your metaphor), an MMOs are still a very profitable, though risky, one.

    - Simon

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    1. I think at the very least it has orders of magnitude more chance of being a major, significant release than EQNext ever did. The entire world knows Amazon. They may not know them as a video game developer but who cares? The audience they could appeal to is one that probably couldn't name a single video game developer from the last thirty years.

      And yes, online gaming in general and MMOs in particular do look like an awesome fit for Amazon. And how about a subscription model with the sub being rolled in automatically with Amazon Prime? Synergies abound.

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  4. One thing to keep in mind too is that Amazon does occasionally misfire i.e. as in their Fire phone which was a fiasco.

    A PvP gankbox MMO has a big chance of ending up in that category, in my opinion.

    - Simon

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  5. I'm kind of with you in that I'm not sure why this is viewed as something the MMO genre "needs." As I've said before, the only way I'm going to be able to play every MMO I want to as much as I want to is if I first win the lottery and then find a way to somehow survive with even less sleep than I already get. It's pretty hard to worry about the industry given that.

    As for New World itself, the setting seems interesting -- uncomfortable historical reminders aside -- but otherwise it sounds like a very generic PvP gankbox right now. My hype meter is barely registering.

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  6. The comments under this article are suprisingly positive. It seems bundling Twitch with Amazon Prime should go over well:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-10-03-amazon-prime-now-includes-twitch-prime-subscription

    - Simon

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