Tuesday, July 20, 2021

You'll Find Me In A New World

I guess that covers it. 

Oh, what, not enough for a post? Okay, then. I suppose I can elaborate a little.

I pre-ordered New World a year and a half ago, just before Christmas 2019. By then the game had already been in development for more than three years. It's been the traditional five years in the making. Yes, really. I didn't believe it either, until I cycled back through my posting history to check.

I have twenty-two posts tagged "New World" and the first, entitled "Revelation of a New World", was in October 2016. I included a link to the forty-nine second video that told us everything we would know about the game for the next couple of years.


The major selling points seemed to be these:

  • A huge, open-ended sandbox game.
  • Set in 17th century America.
  • In this version of the world, the supernatural is real.
  • "The players are our content"
  • "Carve your own destiny"
  • Whatever players do to one another is up to them.

With what now sounds disturbingly like prescience, I wrote "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."

 A couple of years later, in August 2018, we got to hear some more about the game in the form of an interview the developers gave to a website called TechAdvisor. In this we learned that New World was in pre-alpha testing in a build that included full-loot, free-for-all PvP. It was also confirmed that the game would be highly social, would have an end-game predicated on territorial control and that the pre-alpha, in the words of the journalist who'd been given access, played "...like a survival game in the vein of Rust, Conan Exiles or Ark".

Once again, I was skeptical and once again, reading my words back, I have to wonder whether I have the gift. On the topic of full-loot PvP I wrote "This is a game in pre-alpha. Unless Amazon come out and state that full loot is a core game feature, I'd bet it won't make it out of beta. If it even gets that far". It didn't.

I wasn't even prepared to go so far as to assume New World would end up being a free-for-all PvP game at all. I could see a lot of wiggle-room being prepared, even then. As for the territorial end-game, I dismissed that as well: "As a prospective peasant... I strongly expect to be able to wander around largely oblivious to the machinations of my rulers. I will be beneath their notice and they will be above mine".

Even so, I wasn't all that impressed or excited. I didn't expect the survival mechanics to change and the game was still going to use some form of action combat. I concluded "It still doesn't look like my kind of game but who knows?" And then I signed up for the alpha anyway, because why not?

And I got in. Right at the start. I have a suspicion now that not many people can have signed up at all. Although there was a very tough NDA, quite a lot of bloggers managed to let slip that they were in and yet whenever I played the servers seemed almost empty.  

Which was a good thing. There was free for all pvp in theory but in practice I rarely saw anyone. On the occasions when I did, we gave each other a very wide berth indeed. There was one single occasion when someone tried to kill me inside a fort, something the game wouldn't allow, and I think I might once have had a fight with someone in the woods but if I did I don't remember anyone dying.

Mostly what I did was explore. The world was stunningly beautiful. I looted abandoned farmhouses and fought zombies and wolves. I gathered and crafted and generally had some very good times. When I came to play Valheim it reminded me very much of the New World alpha. New World looked far better although Valheim had the edge in gameplay. 

The NDA was tight so I didn't post much. When I did I tried to be oblique. Openly, I tried to mention as often as I could what great potential the game had and how very much different it was from the wildly inaccurate things people who had never played were saying about it.

I played on and off throughout the long alpha and when it ended I was sorry to be locked out. Thingshad been getting better and better and I wanted to play it for real. I signed up for the closed beta (and never got in) and I pre-ordered at the earliest opportunity.

Then, at the beginning of last year, Amazon dropped a bombshell. New World was no longer going to
be a PvP game. Oh, it still had PvP in it - plenty. But now it would be entirely consensual. You'd have to flag if you wanted to fight or be fought. The focus of the game was now the environment. New World had morphed into a PvE mmorpg.

That went down about as well as you might expect with a certain demographic. I imagine we'll see some pushback from the usual suspects when the servers come up later today. I suspect DDOSing Amazon will prove a little more challenging than some other targets but we'll see.

Even with the bootlegger turn I don't think many expected the game to do quite the one-eighty it has. Last summer there was a brief open preview, which I attended. I saw gameplay so changed it was barely recognizeable. There were quest hubs and storylines and all the things you'd expect from a theme park mmo. So much for the sandbox.

I was not displeased. I titled my First Impressions piece "You'll Love The New World" and I summed up my initial experience thus: "I like New World a lot... It doesn't do anything you won't have seen before but everything it does, it does well. It's solid, entertaining, accessible and polished.

That was a year ago so they've had plenty of time to polish it some more. I'm very curious to see how much more things might have changed. It's been a long, strange trip but we're almost at the end. What we see now is, finally, what we're going to get. And there's no more NDA so everything will be revealed. We'll not only find out if the change of direction has worked but whether it's been accepted.

The signs are already promising. Access to the short beta is by pre-order (guaranteed) or sign-up (random chance). Given that Amazon must perforce know how many people have pre-ordered, the startling number of servers they announced yesterday suggests this is going to be a big one.

I always said I had confidence in Amazon's ability to produce and operate a polished, professional mmorpg. Let's hope my predictive powers prove true one more time.


  1. I looked in my email, and I had an email from Amazon too. I was excited for a moment, until I read close and saw it was a 'Our Terms Have Changed' and not my invite to the closed beta.

    However, turns out that's just because I picked it up on Steam and they manage it differently there.

    I'm downloading the closed beta client now, so will have to see what I think this time. Last time around I wasn't particularly impressed but I'm constantly amazed by how time, repeat tries, and potentially different mindset can alter those perceptions. Not to mention an Australian server this time to mitigate some of the latency issues experienced last time.

    It's pretty amazing how much of the changes you called so early on, too. I don't even think I was aware of the game yet when you were stating how it would (or more accurately, would not) end up. xD

    1. I think it had a lot to do with the language they used. People read certainty into statements when it suits them but from the start there were always little phrases and qualifiers that suggested to me nothing was set in stone. And when I was in the first alpha it was quite plain the devs were willing to change a lot of things both in response to feedback but also just to try various ideas and see what worked. It was very much a proper, old-school alpha (although back then it would have been called a beta, I'm pretty sure) in which lots of things changed all the time. Of course, the strictly enforced NDA meant no-one could really express that publicly, so when the big switch announcement came it took everyone who hadn't seen how the testing process worked by surprise. Probably shouldn't even be talking about it now, I guess...

  2. I can't decide if I'm excited about the beta because of the game, or if I'm excited because it has been SO long since I jumped into a big MMO release (ok beta release) that a lot of folks I know are playing.

    Either way, it's fun to be this stoked for a new game.

    1. Yes, this one does feel a bit different to the flurry of recent launches. I'm still quite keen on Bless Unleashed, which opens in a couple of weeks, but it's a different scale of interest.

  3. I pre-ordered, but I decided I don't want to play the beta so I don't have to repeat a bunch of stuff at launch.

    The FOMO is hitting hard, though. Stay strong, Tyler.

    1. That did occur to me, too, but it's never really been a problem in the past, provided I actually liked the game.

  4. I kind of chuckled about your quip about how the (somewhat) backing off from PvP wouldn't go down well with a certain subset of the gaming community. "Oh, the asshat portion?" I said aloud. (My wife ignored me.)

    Yeah, if they think they can DDoS Amazon, good luck with that. They should be just lucky that it's Jeff Bezos they're dealing with and not Elon Musk. Jeff would simply ignore them, but Elon... Elon has just enough "James Bond Villain" in him that he might turn some of them into "an example".

    1. Servers seemed pretty stable yesterday, especially considering the number of people playing. General chat was relentlessly positive the whole time I was on, too, so I guess the haters didn't pre-order.

    2. And now, as I try to log in almost all servers are down while Amazon "investigate server instability"...

  5. You know, I heard about the PVP aspects and the survival aims really early on and the colonial setting and just decided it was not my thing and left it there. Since then I know they've made changes and it's not that game anymore, but I still don't know what it IS now. Certainly looking forward to hearing more from people playing.


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