Friday, June 12, 2020

Lost In The Mail? : New World

A throwaway line in one of MassivelyOP's recent, peculiarly passive-aggressive articles on Amazon's New World started me thinking. (What it is about certain developers that sets MOP's phasers to snark, anyway? It always grates on me but in the case of Amazon it just seems nuts. If there ever was a company you'd expect to get it right it would be Amazon. Why rag on them like some notorious ne'er-do-well pushing a dodgy Kickstarter?)

The line in question "...if you’re one of the five people who haven’t been invited to the new-new testing..." made me wonder whether I might actually have had an invite and missed it. Like just about everyone who cast a curious glance in the game's direction, I was invited to the alpha last year. When the game returned after its lengthy re-design hiatus I was more than half-expecting a prompt re-invitation to the new beta but so far, nothing.

I have any number of email addresses, many of them made specifically to play individual games, others used for alphas or betas of things I don't expect to be revisiting. I do tie some of those accounts into my regular email but by no means all of them. It seemed entirely possible I might have had an invite to the New World beta and never seen it.

Unfortunately, when I went to look for the details I couldn't find any trace. I uninstalled the alpha long ago and I don't appear to have kept a record either of the login and password or even which email I used last time.

Rather than sign in to all my email addresses in search of the original correspondence, which could take me all afternoon, I thought I'd go take a look at the website. I don't think I've visited it since alpha closed down.

I saw more than enough in the test last year to decide New World was a game I wanted to play. I pre-ordered at the first opportunity and since then I've been quite happy to leave it at that. I've barely even glanced at the press releases until Amazon began to ramp up the frequency very recently and I certainly never thought to go look at the official site.

It turns out there's a beta application process which simply uses your Amazon details. It takes about ten seconds. I signed up and got confirmation immediately.

It's oddly phrased. "If a slot becomes available for testing during the Open Beta Test, we'll send you an invitation". It's an unusual use of the word "open", isn't it? Since when has anyone needed an invite to an "open" beta? Maybe they just mean they'll send me something to let me know when it's happening.

The whole process seemed new to me. I couldn't recall having applied before but I had a vague recollection there might have been something in the pre-order information about a beta invite. So I went and checked.

"Pre-order before New World launches to secure Closed Beta access when it is available."

Hmm. Now I was really puzzled. I pre-ordered back in December 2019. The order is still open and I haven't been charged, as you'd expect with a game now not due to launch until August.

I do know what email address anythng related to that order would go to and I did indeed receive the notification of the change of release date back in April. I have not, however, seen anything related to any kind of test, be it alpha, beta, closed or open, since I put in my pre-order just before Christmas.

Just to make things even more confusing, although my order history unequivocally confirms I've ordered just a single copy, if I look at New World on with my account signed in I get an informational note that says "Purchased 2 times".

That looks pretty definite, doesn't it?
That might refer to the original alpha. Or it's possible I ordered it for Mrs. Bhagpuss. I don't think so, because she almost certainly won't play it. The "action" controls put her off both Black Desert and Elder Scrolls Online so I haven't tried suggesting New World yet.

The same informatory note also tells me New World will be played via Steam. I checked there just in case but although the page is set up and waiting there's nothing going on, betawise.

I don't actually want to play the beta in any meaningful sense. I decided a good few years back that putting any serious time into a betas of anything I plan on playing "properly" on release is a mug's game. Alphas and betas are for things you wouldn't otherwise bother with at all or, where there's no NDA, for gathering material for blog posts.

Still, it's always nice to be asked to the party even when you have no intention of going. And if I'm supposed to get a closed beta invite for pre-ordering then I want it, even if I'm not going to use it!

It seems as though I've done about everything I can do. I guess I'll just wait and see what happens next.

I'd bet on nothing. Or, failing that, nothing much. Roll on August 25th.


  1. I haven't received an invite --or even an ad suggesting I apply for an invite-- and I'm kind of okay with that.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, because I have several friends who work in retail (and my wife as well), and I'm keenly aware that once Amazon has amassed enough retail domination they'll be gunning to wipe everyone off the map. There's also the fact that Amazon doesn't really give a rip about profit from the store half of their business, because their cloud/virtual machine/etc. business is what drives their profit engine. (And they dominate that space so much that Microsoft and Google are left in the dust, with cloud small frys such as IBM (!) and HPE gasping for air.

    So yeah, I'm sure Amazon will "get it right", because if they don't it will take an epic fail on the level of Atari's ET game to fall on their face with New World. If nothing else, they don't have to worry about the hardware end of things, because they have the world's dominant cloud provider in house. Imagine if --at the push of a button-- New World's 'megaserver' just grows or shrinks as needed, places layers without any downtime, or transfers the "just in time" retail approach to MMOs. All of that is available to the New World dev team, and likely completely for free, courtesy of the Amazon mothership.

    On the face of these advantages, who can compete with that? You'd have to have an exceptionally bad rollout and/or story to completely fall flat on your face there.

    1. I work in retail - bookselling no less - and my take is that Amazon (the retail side) does so well because they're just much, much better than everyone else. They have everything, they supply it immediately, they resolve any issues without argument. We get some customers who make a big deal about never buying from Amazon which I find irritating because a) it's patronizing to the stores they buy from instead, who they clearly think they're doing a favor and b) it's just silly.

      In Mick Farren's DNA Cowboys tetralogy, which I read in my late teens/early twenties, everyone gets everything from a shadowy organization called Stuff Central. To me, Amazon is the literal incarnation of that concept. Or, if you prefer, Wile E. Coyote's Acme store. Except Wile E isn't really a great influencer!

    2. Amazon does so well because they supply it immediately. That's a helluva drug, to buy something and it shows up tomorrow, no questions asked. And you're right in that they take everything back, defeating the reality that the customer is most definitely not always right (anybody who worked in retail knows that customers are wrong more often than anybody cares to admit). Amazon, however, is so big the simply don't care. They're just barely making a profit on their retail side, and they're willing to operate at a loss if it means more market share.

      Always more market share.

      That's the stuff that got companies like Standard Oil in trouble at the turn of the 20th century, and the US Federal Government stepped in to bust up Standard Oil (and other monopolies) back then. Nowadays? They just look the other way, unless the Washington Post (that Jeff Bezos owns) says something bad about the President.

  2. The best way to tell regarding the passive aggression is to look at the author of the article. Some authors have grudges or long standing opinions on certain topics. For other authors (and Bree specifically in this case), I think there is some deliberate controversial writing in order to prompt/encourage their viewers to comment.

    New World is a super easy target though. They talk big without showing much design chops or attempt to design player behavior for what they want to achieve; their sudden about-face between a strong PvP backward-progression-loss-possible focus and this shoehorning of PvE systems on top of a designed-for-PvP backbone; and not much time remaining before they have to launch... (plus the COVID-19 situation changing up workplaces and work processes) and we’re looking set for something akin to Fallout 76. A game built by committee and big corporation, sounding ambitious and going nowhere quickly and missing parts on launch.

    Despite being attracted by how gorgeous it looks aesthetically, I’m definitely giving this one a hard pass at launch. There’s AWS server routings and connections to contend with. A rapacious locust crowd of players are going to descend on it at the very start, no doubt overwhelming and abusing every last shaky system for profit and Twitch lols. Sandbox games are more stable with smaller (even tiny) communities where everyone knows their neighbor’s names, and not really up to cope with roving bands of bored players looking for entertainment.

    On the bright side, I’m open to watching other players’ shenanigans and travails in the New World on Twitch, which is owned by Amazon.. so I guess they still win, either way!

    1. MOP plays its audience all the time. That's why I barely read past the headlines. All I want is timely, straight news reporting. Opinions are fine in columns. That's what columnists do. News reporting should be objective, factual and impersonal.

      New World will probably have the same launch every MMO has; chaotic, laggy, hysterical. It also has to contend with a pissed-off pvp crowd who'll try to wreck it because they think they were lied to or let down or just because wrecking things is fun for them and it's a great opportunity to indulge themselves.

      That's going to give them a very difficult start but plenty of MMOs have had the same and weathered it. What I'm less sure of, though, is how much interest there is in New World to begin with. It might have a megacorp behind it and more resources than most developers can dream of but is it actually a game many people are interested in? I suspect that once the furore of launch subsides the main problem might be lack of interest.

  3. Somehow on Twitch (owned by Amazon) the debut stream of their previous game Crucible (in the fantastically popular "hero shooter" genre) managed to attract fewer viewers than streams of Everquest 2. Under 200 people turned out to watch.

    I'm not sure many people are terribly interested in what Amazon Game Studios are doing. I know among the people I know who do MMOs, you seem to be the only one with particular interest in New World.

    1. Crucible launched unready into a really tough market. Valorant is the biggest new thing on everyone's lips; and you still have all the big name brand loyalty to Fortnite, Overwatch, Apex Legends, PUBG, etc. To say nothing of all the newer kids on the PvEvP block also scrabbling for attention.

      At the moment, they seem to be doing what they can. At least Colin Johansen released a clear developer statement of how they're going to attempt to salvage the situation, which would keep at least their loyal few followers who see some potential in their game. So he's benefited from his Anet not-allowed-to-communicate experience. This should be new for them, not being roundly villified by passionate fans, but just sinking forgotten by people who have already moved on to the next newest shiny.

      It's probably the best thing for them as long as Amazon doesn't cut any purse strings. Hide, keep their heads down, polish and improve and iterate until the game is at an acceptably ready state, then ring everyone's doorbells and ask everyone to come in and try them out again.

      If the second try doesn't work, then well, the writing is on the wall.

    2. I definitely think lack of interest is the main issue although we won't know for sure until we get there. The game could be amazing but if no-one bothers to try it out that's not going to matter. Ironically, I'll almost certainly have abetter time the fewer people play. I rarely saw anyone in the alpha and the eerie emptiness of the setting was one of the best things about it. Having a jolt of surprise when you see someone coming out of the woods after you've been wandering around happily foraging for an hour is a lot more immersive than seeing hordes of people jostling for resources everywhere you go.

      Of course, if no-one plays the game won't last long but that's not a problem. I'm only planning on visiting, not settling down there.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide