Friday, January 24, 2020

New World Coming

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that their upcoming MMO, New World, will no longer feature free for all player versus player combat. FFA PvP for short.

Stripped of the unmelodious jargon of the genre, this means players who don't choose to fight other players don't have to. It also means players who do want to fight other players will have to wait until they meet someone of like mind before getting down to it.

Self-evidently, this is a decision with winners and losers. Pacifists win. Aggressors lose. The reverse of the most probable outcome, should an actual fight ensue.

Hey! Say! JUMP Brand New World (Karaoke version)

It's also a radical re-envisioning of the game, from one where "You'll probably be murdered in New World... players will be able to freely kill other players" (ex-Studio Director Patrick Gilmore) to one where you'll "experience PvP by opting into Faction conflicts and Wars for territory ownership", as the latest dev blog puts it

It's not the only fundamental re-positioning for the game. All of the original promotional material focused on a setting relatively new to the online space the game hoped to occupy: the colonial era of the seventeenth century, albeit with added supernatural elements. The very name of the game reflects that choice.

But colonial adventurism no longer enjoys the swashbuckling image that once made it the staple of Boys' Own adventure stories. Invasion, exploitation and slavery make a poor backdrop for fun and games. Particularly so if we, the players, find ourselves cast as the invaders, exploiters and slavers rather than the invaded, exploited and enslaved or their defenders.

Nina Simone New World Coming

Beyond the look of the armor we'll be wearing and the sailing ships that take us there, the New World we'll all be able to explore when the game launches in May 2020 won't bear much resemblance to South America in the 1600s. It's now set to be something much closer to the generic fantasy we've become so familiar with, we no longer even notice its more unsavory implications. We'll be fighting undead and monsters as usual. The "New World" even has a fantasy name: Aeternum.

Predictably, these changes arrived to a mixed response. News of the revamped setting was met mostly with a shrug. There were some grumbles at the loss of a potentially original-for-genre option, a few catcalls from the usual suspects over the supposed caving to political correctness, but for most the change probably represented the most trivial of course corrections. After all, the gameworld, even in closed alpha, was already awash with restless dead and supernatural artifacts. It didn't seem much like our world to begin with.

The complete and unapologetic removal of what was for many the whole point of the game, though? That has not passed unnoticed. The news was met with the expected howl of anguish from that section of the potential audience which considered itself, not unreasonably, to be the intended core demographic.

Nas New World

And why not? For them it must feel as though teacher has taken the toy out of their hands, passing it to Timmy, saying "If you can't play nicely then you don't get to play at all". And Timmy, picking himself up from the floor, clutches teacher's skirts and grins. Smugly.

It's a truism that the only people who like ganking are the ones doing it and yet it's a truth that every developer seems determined to prove for themselves. Never take anyone's word for it. Never trust the evidence without testing it. To destruction. As the astonished tone of the recent Amazon dev blog has it:
"One of the problems we observed with this system was that some high level players were killing low level players, A LOT. Sometimes exclusively. This often led to solo or group griefing scenarios that created a toxic environment for many players."
 Gosh! Really? Who'd have thought? 

"We set out to build a compelling world full of danger and opportunity that begs to be explored. The intended design was never to allow a small group of players to bully other players."

It's so plaintive it's heartbreaking. But the good news, the really very good news, the news that reinforces my belief that Amazon come to this process like the grown-ups in the room, is that New World didn't have to launch and fail in flames like so many other "the players will police themselves" pipe dreams for the lesson to be learned. 

Sophie Whole New World

The closed alpha was one of the most professionally run and certainly one of the most purposeful and focused I have ever been a part of. It always felt as though information was not only being gathered but account was being taken. It never felt, as many alphas do, that the tracks had already been laid, the train was running and the only change likely to be made was to the livery on the carriages. 

Speculation now moves to whether Amazon can add sufficient PvE content and tune the new, more formalized territorial PvP in the scant few months before the late-Spring launch. It does look tight. Then again, Amazon have considerably more resources at their disposal than the average MMO developer.

The closed alpha took place under a rigorous NDA, which has been breached considerably less than is usual with these things, but as we move into the next phase, lips are loosening. It's been interesting to read the experiences of those who participated, not least because some of them seem to differ so significantly from my own.

Curtis Mayfield New World Order

I wasn't repeatedly ganked. The opposite, really. I can only remember getting into one fight, somewhere out in the wilds, which started with some wary circling before the stranger decided to rush me. I just stood there and let him get on with it. Then I respawned and carried on with my business.

Other than that, every encounter with another player outside the safe zones ended either with the two of us waving as we passed or simply ignoring each other altogether. Some fool did once attack me in a safe camp. I just carried on sorting my storage and since he'd flagged himself by attacking me, someone else standing nearby killed him. 

None of that particularly added anything to my enjoyment. I'm very happy to see it gone. I imagine almost everyone else will be, too. If people want to fight, they can fight. If they don't, they can get on with whatever it is they do want to do, unmolested. Seems like a sound commercial decision to me.


Anna Tsuchiya Step Into The New World

I'm less convinced by the proposed "50 versus 50 PvP battles by appointment". This sound a little over-optimistic to me and also somewhat arid. "Companies will declare War on territories they wish to take over, draft a roster of 50 combatants, and agree on timing for the battle"sounds like quite a big commitment in organization. It's like PvP Raiding, isn't it? 

The format of the engagement itself, which is basically "Protect the Flag" in an instanced setting, seems a long way from the immersive ownership of land in the world, something which proved highly popular in alpha. It's an attempt to provide riskless territorially-based PvP, I think. It could be interesting. Might need some iteration in beta, I suspect.

As for the enhanced and expanded PvE offer, scheduled to include "new enemy types" and "world events where the ground opens up and erupts with corrupted energy and enemies", that sounds like some welcome fleshing out of what was already a very intriguing gameworld. I've read a few testers complaining that PvE in alpha was lackluster but I think they mean the kind of PvE you find in a theme park MMO. 

Motörhead Brave New World

That gameplay was all but absent, it's true, but there was a wealth of exploration to be enjoyed. I spent hours just wandering through the woods, taking screenshots. When it comes to PvE I guess it depends what you mean by "environment" and what you mean by "versus".

I am curious to see the proposed home invasion mechanic: "Territory owners will need to protect their Forts and withstand an onslaught as waves of enemies attempt to bash theirs gates down and wipe out their Company". I wonder if monsters are required to make a formal application and receive acceptance before setting a time and date for the battle, as PvP invaders do? I somehow doubt it.

Nothing in the latest announcements from the dev team has affected my decision on whether or not to buy the game. I pre-ordered at the first opportunity. That said, I don't expect it to be something I play a lot, let alone for it to become my new forever game. I see it as a dip in, dip out amusement.

80 PAN! Carry A New World

The main reason for that is the skill floor. New World is intended to be a game that rewards player skill, by which they really mean reaction time and manual dexterity. I'm sixty-one years old. I'm not the player that sort of combat is designed to attract. Let's be honest, I wasn't that player when I was twenty-five.

So long as I can wander and explore with reasonable facility, gather resources, craft and maybe build a home (if that's an option outside of a Company) I'm certain I'll get my money's worth. The removal of FFA PvP makes that a certainty, I think. And it will be good to be able to talk about the game in detail, with pictures, at last. It's been very frustrating, having to talk around the edges all the time.

Closed beta comes as a perk of pre-ordering. Looking forward to it. It can't be too far away.
Maybe the NDA won't be quite as ferocious. Let's hope so.

If not, at least there's no shortage of songs with "New World" in the title.

7 comments:

  1. The shift away from PvP has certainly changed my view of New World. It's gone from something I would probably never play to something I'm actively interested in, even tempted to pre-order. You might be better positioned to judge this than me, but reading over their new vision of the game, it almost sounds like a more sandboxy version of GW2, and that's definitely an idea that appeals to me.

    Even from the perspective of an outsider, the alpha does seem to have been extremely well-managed. By which I mean it was an actual test where feedback was listened to, rather than the marketing stunt most "tests" are these days. That does speak well of the professionalism of the development team.

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    1. I'm curious to see, with the new-found emphasis on PvE, how much of the survival mechanics the game retains. It was already survival-lite and I imagine it will move even further away from that end of the genre towards something closer to the kind of games I usually enjoy. I did like the crafting and gathering side of the game a lot and the world was a delight to explore.

      I'm not expecting it to be a great fit for me but I'm confident it will make for an intriguing adventure slightly outsied my usual comfort zone.

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  2. As much as the new shift on consensual pvp is more up my alley, I wonder if it is ever advisable for a game to do such a drastic shift away from what it was originally selling. That usually leaves a bunch of early adopting faithful really pissed off. The alpha test must have been pretty darned telling for them to do so. Guess we’ll see how it pans out for them.

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    1. One thing I meant to mention in the post but forgot was the inevitability of DDOS attacks at and after launch. PvP doesn't only exist within games, sadly. If anyone's capable of handling that pressure, though, Amazon should be up to it.

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  3. How is this game to be monetized? Consensual PvP sounds promising, and your posts on the basics of the game make it seem even more promising, but even though it's in Alpha, if the monetization details haven't been made public, then I'll continue to watch development from a safe distance without getting my hopes up just yet.

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    1. Very good question! I actually hadn't thought about it. It's obviously Buy to Play but after that? A bit of googling finds this quote from the developers:

      "We’re going to monetise as just premium — so straight up you pay a flat rate, come in and join the game, it’s a live service. As it expands, you’re in that community. We are going to have microtransactions in the game, but no loot boxes, no pay-to-win, it’s all just like additional vanity content."

      That's hardly clear (it obviously comes from some ad hoc discussion but the website where I found it doesn't link to the source) but I read it as Buy to Play with regular updates being free and a cosmetic cash shop you can use if you're into that sort of thing. I imagine if it's successful there may be paid DLC/Expansions at some point. Pretty standard Western model in other words.

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  4. I read the website you linked, but unfortunately it causes more than just a pause with the PvP info offered. If PvP is going to be consensual, then do you have any info yet(without breaking the NDA) on how Guilds will work in that regard? Will there be casual, non-PvP Guilds, or will a player be forced at some point to support their Guilds in PvP combat as they look to expand their reach for resources and what-not?

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