Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for Amazon’s New World

The announcement of a new sandbox MMORPG last week — New World, by none other than Amazon Game Studios itself — has had both the Massively OP community and the broader MMORPG community chattering with excitement followed by calls to temper that excitement before it runs away with us. Where one person sees the salvation of the entire genre and the investment of a major tech company as a sign that MMOs are still feasible, another whispers the word gankbox and points to Amazon’s heavy Twitch integration as a certain sign of doom.

So for this week’s Overthinking, I polled the Massively OP staff on their thoughts, hopes, and fears about the game. Is a sandbox the right move for Amazon? Does Amazon really understand what MMO players want to play, pay for, and watch? Is Twitch going to be a problem? What about the “murderous player bandits” line that has everyone in a tizzy? Is New World the sandbox we’ve always wanted or the sandbox we deserve? Let’s talk about the New World order.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): As someone who has enjoyed a chunk of of the gankbox scene, I have to say I’m… bored. I mean no offense, but I don’t trust essentially an internet mall to understand what I want as a gamer, while I feel Twitch caters to people who like video games with their reality TV.

Case in point: the game Dead Realm. That was a game with stream integration, by streamers, but I still thought it was a cool idea. Sadly, streamers were what ruined the game for me almost immediately. They were so busy trying to be entertainers that they missed team communications or even shouted over other players who were also streaming. Imagine being part of a guild raid and one of your guild mates streamed the ambush you’ve set up. Maybe it’s funny for viewers at home when the other guild catches the stream and turns the tables on you, but meaningful PvP often means using high stakes assets. Losing those because someone wanted to be e-famous would be devastating.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve heard some people whispering that this is going to be EverQuest Next that actually launches. I’d honestly love that, with or without PvP (at least consensual though!). There is a niche that needs to be filled, but most of the games Amazon announced just seem like tweaked version of genres and games we’ve played. However, all the talk of “Do what you want,” “Players make the content” and reminders that we can do stuff to each other sounds like another “sandbox” that has minimal sand and simply encourages endless death rather than giving players a place to live.

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Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): How could we not be excited that Amazon is investing in the supposedly dead and dying — as so many mainstream publications are fond of claiming — MMORPG genre? With larger studios like Blizzard, EA, Daybreak, and Trion, once the powerhouses of the genre, scaling back their MMORPG presence, it’s been left to Eastern companies and indies here at home to fill the gap (with some notable exceptions). Some have done so valiantly. Some not so much. Some we’re still awaiting.

As long as New World isn’t a pile of junk that bombs like WildStar did — and I rather doubt it will be, given the people who’ve been tapped to work in the studio — we’re looking at one of the biggest tech companies in the west tripling down on multiplayer online gaming. And where Amazon goes, other companies will follow. Sign me up for more of that.

Am I thrilled that Twitch is at the heart of this push? Not particularly. MMORPGs that actually play like the virtual world MMORPGs I enjoy rarely pull in mass Twitch viewership; even we run our streams for our community, not for the hope of glory.

Do I think everyone should race into the streets in a panic over “murderous player bandits”? Again, not particularly. There are so many ways to do PvP well, and I’d like to assume that before deciding to jump into MMOs, AGS did some cursory research on the many, many flopped FFA PvP disasters littering the genre’s graveyard. Let’s at least hear some details before renouncing something about which we know so little as a gankbox.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The thing is, I think it’s too early to call doom or anything else. It’s too early to call anything on this particular game, because all we have is a name and what amounts to a mission statement, one which conspicuously avoids ever actually calling the game an MMO. Sure, it uses the word “sandbox,” but from a marketing standpoint that could refer to anything from Ultima Online to World of Warcraft to Minecraft to Grand Theft Auto V. I think picking apart the statement and determining its validity is just a bit early when we have nothing more than a name and a set of hopes.

Having said that? I’m excited, because based on the people Amazon has attracted and the profile put forth here, there’s the potential for really interesting stuff to come out of this project. It’s all just potential right now, but it’s indisputable that Amazon is putting a lot of eggs into its online basket. Moreover, Amazon as a business understands what it means to run online services better than many other companies and has the potential to position itself well through the future. The added Twitch integration seems like it would almost be silly not to include, given the fact that Amazon has the platform and can make use of it.

There are a lot of questions to be answered before we can start saying “this looks like it’s going to work” or “this looks like it’s going to flop.” But it is a sign of just how much interest there still is in online games in general and doing new stuff within them, even if that interest isn’t always coming from the studios who made their marks there.

newworldJustin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): There’s plenty of time to be cynical later, so I choose to be all kinds of excited right now. How cool is it that in 2016, we’re seeing a major new studio come out and unabashedly create an MMO? Good on Amazon Game Studios for seeing the potential of massively multiplayer games today. Here’s hoping that other studios stop being MMO shy and come back with their own ideas.

So. Other thoughts. The game world sounds intriguing from what little we’ve seen. Dark supernatural fantasy intertwined with a historical setting that hasn’t been exploited to death in MMOs is not your same-old high fantasy romp. A lot of people have been comparing the description to The Secret World, which I can see when I look at the artwork and think of how TSW has brought players into the past in pre-colonial America. As I mentioned on the podcast, I think it’s going to be very delicate how the developers treat the area of natives, considering the historical blemishes on our continents’ histories. Having Spanish conquistadors shoot Native Americans in the face is not going to play well in the market and could give this game a bad reputation. However, I’m sure I’m not the first one to consider this, so I’ll wait and see what answer they have to this.

There are a lot of buzzwords in the announcement and video that sound fancy and don’t say anything specific. That’s the problem: We need a lot more specifics on this game before being able to conduct a proper analysis of what’s on the table here. Emergent gameplay? Player bandits? Players as GMs? We got a tease when we needed a deep dive, so here’s hoping that Amazon gets around to that sooner rather than later.

I think it’s going to be an exciting title to cover on Massively OP, and I’m really glad that it’s joining the stable of up and coming MMORPGs that could take our games in new, if not completely different directions. I’m tired of seeing survival sandbox after survival sandbox that limits its population; I want big worlds, darn it, with persistence, people, and personality.

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Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): Unfortunately, there is not a lot for me to say about the new game. The concept art looks great, but any game with a budget usually has good concept art. The video is so full of buzzwords that I was thinking that I had bees flying around my head. The setting and concept sound interesting and unique, which is likely the best thing that it has going for it in the teaser. It sounds very survival horror (DayZ, H1Z1), which concerns me because I hate that genre. If it’s more The Secret World than H1Z1 when we get more information, then I might look into it. Right now, it’s just sitting on the edge of my radar, and I’m not really making any commitment to pursue it, yet.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I am definitely intrigued! I am one of the most die-hard sandbox fans, so how could I not be? The development of a stellar sandbox would make me a very happy MJ indeed, and having a chunk of money by a major company does make it seem more likely that awesome features can be developed and included. Does Amazon even really know about MMORPGs enough to pull it off? It doesn’t have to if it knows enough to hire competent, knowlegeable people to build and run the game — and then lets them build and run the game!

At the same time, I guess my enthusiasm is tempered. One, a large cash outlay may just mean that execs will take the easiest route to getting a large cash return, and I am afraid that too many times that goes in directions that are not conducive to living, breathing virtual worlds. Two, sandbox and living virtual-world fans have heard it all before, and we’ve had our hopes dashed and hearts broken more times than you can shake a themepark at. I just don’t have it in me to get all hyped up on so little information.

Personally, the line about murderous player bandits is not an instant turn off. There are definitely ways that such a feature could be implemented very well, and until I see how Amazon goes about it, I will reserve any judgment. If the game goes gankbox, then it will be too bad. But being able to be a mercenary gang, having factions of bandits vs. soldiers, and having some genuine (and balanced) risk vs. reward as an adventurer or traveling merchant would be welcome. I will wait and see.

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