Monday, October 4, 2021

It'll Still Be Here Tomorrow But Will You?

Over the last few days, New World successfully passed two of my crucial tests for a possible new main mmorpg. Makes it sound as though I have a list, doesn't it? I wish I did. Maybe I should make one.

Until I do, these two will have to do:

  1. The more I play, the more I want to play.
  2. I begrudge having to do other things with the time I could be playing.

When was the last time that happened? Well, Valheim, for sure, but Valheim, much though it feels like one, isn't an mmorpg. Neither is Genshin Impact.

I think I might have to go back as far as the launch of Guild Wars 2 to find the last time this happened with an actual, for reals mmorpg. For all the enjoyment I've had out of the many quality imports - Blade & Soul, Black Desert Online, ArcheAge or this summer's Bless Unleashed - I don't recall any of them evoking the same sense of potential permanence that oozes from New World, a game that feels so obviously built to last.

It is only potential, of course. It is entirely possible that in a month or even a week I won't be writing about the game any more or even playing it. Maybe no-one will, or not enough to matter. Warhammer, Vanguard, Age of Conan, Wildstar - they all opened big, then faded.

In New World's case I don't get any sense there's likely to be that kind of front-loaded success followed by catastrophic collapse. People aren't going to lose interest as they discover the game isn't all they thought it would be. They know what it is already. They tried it in the various betas and liked it and the live game is just the same, only it doesn't stop.

In New World's case the problems are about access not content or execution. And of all the ways an mmorpg could struggle at launch, not being able to provide enough servers to meet demand has to be the least bad. Also the least long-lasting.


The current server issues and queues will be resolved, one way or another. The whole thing will settle down. Right now it seems super-important because everyone's stoked to play and frustrated because they can't but it's always like this when an mmorpg launch is more successful than anyone anticipated. Time telescopes. People talk about things as though there's a terrible immediacy but it's not even been a week yet.

Even unsuccessful mmorpgs run for years. Successful ones run for decades. The traumas of launch will be mostly forgotten in a matter of weeks, remembered, if at all, in the form of war stories told by battle-scarred veterans to disbelieving newbies. "You had to be there", they'll say, "we queued for hours. It was horrific!" and the latecomers will catch each other's eye and shake their heads. It never happened. Things were always good.

Or maybe not. Maybe this time the house of cards will come crashing down. Maybe, as Scopique suggests, all those tens, hundreds of thousands waiting in line will find they have time to re-consider whether they really want to play after all. Maybe they'll decide "Sod this for a lark" and log out, never to return.

I kind of doubt it. For one thing, this isn't a free-to-play game. All those people bought a box, albeit an imaginary one. They want their money's worth. Is there any kind of movement for refunds building, like there was with other high-profile disasters like No Man's Sky or Cyberpunk 2077? A class action suit, maybe? Those always pay off.

Probably not. Unlike those, this isn't a disastrous game, just a disastrous launch. What most people generally seem to agree, when they're able to get in and play, is that it's a pretty good game. 


What's more, it's a pretty good Western AAA mmorpg and those aren't dropping off the conveyor belt the way they used to do. It's not like everyone can choose to skip this one and wait for the next. That's years away. If you don't have the patience for the queues right now, waiting for Ashes of Creation's hardly the solution.

And then, there's a wealth of difference between finally getting to play the game you paid a lot of money for and finding you've been sold a pup and knowing if you only could get in you'd be having the time of your life. That's the kind of exclusivity that hasn't done any number of high-end venues and luxury marques any harm in the past.

Of course, Amazon will need to let everyone in eventually. There's a point when anticipation and longing turns to anger and rejection. I don't get the sense we're anywhere near that point yet, though. So long as the reports coming out of the game from people able to play remain positive about the experience and as long as Amazon appear to be doing what they can to improve the situation - and crucially saying the right things about what they're doing - then I'd say they have some slack, still.

How long will people wait? Well, how long did it take Blizzard to get the queues under control when World of Warcraft went ballistic? I don't know. I wasn't there. I've heard plenty of people talking about it over the years though, and my impression is the firefighting went on for weeks. Maybe months.

What that led to was the largest, if perhaps not the longest, period of sustained growth for an mmorpg we've seen. The reason? The game was good enough that people wanted to play despite how tough it was to get a slot. Word of mouth is powerful.


Is New World's word of mouth good enough to overcome the negative publicity of hours-long queues? Too soon to judge, perhaps, but I keep reading people saying things like "When I do manage to get in-game I’m having a great time" and "I have to say that New World has solid and engaging gameplay". That's the sort of thing that makes even people who weren't all that interested in the first place think "Hmm. Maybe there's something to this thing after all".

However it all falls out, I'd say it's a sure thing New World isn't going away any time soon, unlike Amazon's last two tries at breaking into gaming. A completely rational response right now would be to hold off and wait for things to settle. Yes, you might miss out on the launch-day/week/month excitement but that's a blip in the life of any mmorpg. The real game goes long.

I still don't think New World is going to be my next "main" mmorpg. It could be. It has the stuff. I just don't believe it will. I think it's going to be a lot of people's, though, and I don't think a few weeks of queues will do much to put a dent in its long-term prospects.

But then, it's easy for me to be sanguine. I can log in almost whenever I want. There are no queues on Zuvendis until 8 or 9pm my time and even then they're short. 

In fact, I'm going to stop typing this and log in right now. Because as I said at the top, the more I play New World the more I find I want to play it and I begrudge spending time I could be playing doing other things and that includes wirting about playing.

Probably says a lot more about the situation than the post about fishing in Aeternum I thought I was going to write when I started this an hour ago would have, doesn't it?

Explains the pictures, though.


  1. I've said this elsewhere, the game is enjoyable. Like so many, I can't quite say why, but there's enough stuff that works well to allow me to play casually. I don't think I'm the audience for this to be my main (or only) MMO, but I would be ok playing it to spend time socializing with friends.

    I don't feel 'punished' for dipping in and out. There's no "must get to endgame to play the real game" feeling about things. It's nice to just have a journey that I can move along at my own, slow, pace.

    This isn't to say I don't have concerns. Faction balance is going to be a big one I think, but I can ignore that as a filthy casual PvEer. :) Here's to the game being a success and hopefully spurring on a renewed interest in MMOs.

    1. I'm much the same. I imagine for me New World will end up being one of those games I play sporadically but indefinitely, coming back to it whenever the mood takes me or something interesting gets added. I think if I was going to play it as a serious, main mmorpg I'd need to get involved in the territorial warfare aspect but that would require a level of commitment and involvement in player-led organizations I'm not interested in at the moment. Who knows, though? Maybe one day.

  2. My biggest issue now is the community, but I expect that too will improve over time. Right now the server I'm on is being dominated by guilds with names that push the obscenity filters to their limits, but that kind of player never seems to stick around for very long.

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a study comparing vulgar names to attention spans...

    1. You put your finger on what I believe is simultaneously one of the strengths and one of the weaknesses of a server-based infrastructure. I really love server culture. I strongly dislike megaservers and channels and all the various conveniences developers use to get all their players into the same space. It leads to blandness and an absolute absence of character in my opinion.

      Individual servers are the exact opposite and the smaller they are, the more obvious the difference is. They develop very different cultures, have their own dialects and customs, attract and retain different kinds of players and feel as different as neighboring countries. Which is great when you find one that feels comfortable, where the locals share your values and behave the way you do but not so great when they don't.

      Back in the glory days of EverQuest I played regularly and contemporaneously on more than half a dozen servers. On an average day I'd play characters on three or four different servers. On some I was in guilds, on others I played solo, and they all felt different. In GW2, for the first few years, in WvW every server had a substantively different culture to the point where the gameplay could be radically different depending which you were on. Even now, as I can attest from the bi-monthly re-linking of different servers, there are significant variations.

      There were EQ servers I absolutely would not have played on and there are GW2 worlds with which I strongly dislike being linked. That's the downside. Unpleasant types tend to cluster and you really don't want to be around that when it happens. It's early days for New World though and most of the servers we see now most likely won't be around in 6-12 months. Let's just hope it all evens out.

  3. Despite what my current posting might suggest, I have been playing too. I'll get around to initial thoughts sooner or later.

    So far though I don't think I'm with you in saying New World is 'good'. Just kinda... acceptable... maybe. But also as you say, given the next AAA Western MMO isn't going to be coming any time in the near future, the bar of acceptance is greatly lowered. xD

    Having said that, the foundation is strong enough. So I'm curious to see where they take the game next. And, I suppose, how fast they shed down from 'in development' staffing levels to 'live service team' staffing levels.

    1. I'll be interested to see what you have to say about it. Even that short comment is probably the most negative thing I've read so far. Most people seem to lean towards "I like it but I don't really know why".

      The more I play, the more I think I do know why and the very short version is "The people who made this game knew what they were doing". Over the last decade or it's been blindingly obvious half the people making new mmorpgs have no clue what they're trying to achieve, while the other half, who do know, have no idea how to make it happen. New World is the first Western mmorpg for a very long time where, at launch, it's plain that the game both has a clear focus and works properly to achive it.

      Of course, that's just the foundation of a long-lasting success and other mmorpgs (ESO and FFXIV:ARR specifically) have been able to put the foundations in even after the building fell down and get the walls back up again, but it gives New World a head start. Now the devs just have to build on what they have. If they can do that, the game is going to be around for a long time.

  4. Steam tells me I have 58.6 hours played in the first seven days. 10 of those hours are queueing, but the rest is engaged-don't-interrupt-me-I'm-playing-New-World gaming. Good thing my wife has even more hours in game at this point than I do. The cats have taken to scratching our gaming chairs though, as they're missing the attention they are used to getting.

    I'm still grumpy about the servers - I find the fetish for individual servers archaic, and the five years I spent in BDO showed me, at least, that specific *channels* can still have distinct cultures/personalities, even though everyone could swap every 15 mins. However, the guildies who logged onto our first chosen server that is now locked for new characters (and got in because they started early in the morning), the guildies who rolled or re-rolled on the second chosen server (when the first had 5k+ queues) that now *also* locked for new characters, and the guildies who rolled or re-rolled on entirely random servers as a consequence of not getting onto server one OR server two, are all currently waiting on server transfer to be activated so we can all swap to another, new, empty server - and then wait for the town to be rebuilt.

    So no: give me modern server tech please - but otherwise New World hits all the beats I want an MMO to hit.

    1. The channels vs servers thing is interesting. I can see how channels could develop cultures like servers, although I've never personally experienced it. I'm not really clear how that would work in a game based around territorial warfare, though.

      This morning, for example, I logged in and there was uproar in the faction channel because we'd lost one of only two settlements we'd been holding. I can't see how that could be replicated in a system where we could move seamlessly from one channel to another, unless all the channels were identical within a group of some kind, in which case that group, whatever you called it and regardless of whether it had copies of itself, would effectively just be the same "server". Is it that having channels would allow the "server" to have higher capacity? But then, how would conflicts work? There would be constant attempts to take structures on channels with lower populations of the opposing teams, wouldn't there? I guess there could be "channel" conditions to be met before that could happen but it sounds as though it would become byzantinely complicated.

      I think once the devs went with the tripartite territorial version of PvP they were pretty much obligated to have discrete servers and a low population cap. If they added pure PvE servers, or separated the territorial PvP from PvE altogether, as GW2 did, they could presumably increase the capacity or even use some kind of channel or megaserver structure so everyone could PvE together. I don't think they'll do it, though. Probably a bit late now.

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