I think it’s fair to say that New World is the biggest MMO currently under production in the west, at least among those games not under wraps right now, which means many gamers within the genre are holding their breath waiting to see whether it will truly become the next big thing.
At Amazon’s invitation, we spoke with Rich Lawrence, Executive Producer for New World, to scope out how the game is coming along and just how the studio is defining the game.
MassivelyOP: I have to ask right off the bat: People seem really torn on whether this is a “real MMORPG” regardless of the fact that it can hold 10,000 players. Leakers and testers and bystanders seem to argue that it’s a survival game, a territorial PvP game, or a traditional MMO with PvP. Does AGS actually think it’s more like an MMORPG or survival sandbox? Or somewhere in between? How are we meant to think of it?
Rich Lawrence, Executive Producer: We consider New World a sandbox MMO. MMORPG has specific connotations for most players leaning towards “themepark” progression gameplay governed by narrative quests. We definitely aren’t that – that gameplay is great fun, but not the style of great fun we set out to achieve. There is a core concept in that style we do want to reach though, and that’s directed gameplay. Simply put, a player should have an idea of what to do at any given point in time, and through a variety of mechanisms we’re striving for that to be clear to players. On the other hand, we share a common characteristic of sandbox games, in that you can ignore any hints and just do what you want, and it won’t hold you back. Your ability to progress as a character, see the world, and experience gameplay is not gated by a quest chain.
Maybe another way of phrasing that question: Where in the web of MMOs and online games does New World fit in – is it more like Camelot Unchained and Crowfall, with their faction-based territorial PvP and a low-grind MMO feel, or more like a cutthroat EVE Online free-for-all, or more like a PvP-centric Conan Exiles or ARK? What’s the closest competitor to New World? Who exactly is the audience for this game? Adjacent to that: For a traditional MMORPG player, what’s the key feature of the game that makes it most MMO-like vs. least?
Lawrence: This risks sounding self-serving, but we didn’t make New World in reaction to or modeled after any other titles (it certainly has features you’ve seen before though – we didn’t invent combat!). You’ve named some games I personally loved playing (and look forward to– hi, Mark!), but we just set out to make a sandbox/MMO game, and picked features we felt were fun. The audience for this game should be excited about making their own path in the world and striving with and against others who have the same goal.
Old-school MMO players, particularly the kind of fond of territorial PvP, are surely going to look at a game like this and wonder whether it’s going to make the same mistakes of PvP sandboxes in the past – for example, I’m thinking about the way mega-guilds run roughshod over EVE Online, how territory-capture was manipulated by multi-timezone guilds in Shadowbane, how free-for-all PKing was insufficiently governed in Ultima Online, how pretty much every survival game server with PK toggled on is just a gankfest. I’ve just got to ask how AGS is going to navigate all the pitfalls of the PvP MMOs that came before it? Consider this my Jodie-Foster-in-Contact type of question – how are you going to DO it?
I know AGS has said in the past* it’s going to go buy-to-play without a sub, correct? And while there will be a cash shop, it’ll be “vanity” content – nothing pay-to-win, and definitely no lootboxes. Is that still the plan? What’s AGS’ rationale for thinking this will be enough to sustain the game? If it doesn’t sustain the game, what’s the plan for maintenance mode? And finally, how will AGS balance a vanity cash shop when its world is heavily centered on crafting – are to assume nothing in the cash shop will compete with crafted goods either?
Lawrence: We aren’t ready to share details on our business model and pricing yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
Is there a chance that AGS will at some point operate versions of the game that aren’t open PvP? If not, what would you say to folks who usually play more traditional PvE MMORPGs to get them paying attention to this one – play support? Or play merchant or scout or crafter?
Lawrence: We believe New World is a PvP game at its heart, because combat is a focus and very skill based in moment to moment game play, which is particularly compelling with other players as your opponents. That being said, we already have areas that are non-PvP, and we’ll listen to the players for guidance on how far we extend that idea. The sandbox approach and plentiful PvE encounters allow you a lot of choice in game style including, as you mention, becoming a crafter by focus, or supplying resources.
I always approach new territory MMOs from the standpoint of someone in a guild – but a small one. Can we expect some sort of alliance system that ensures solo types and small groups and guilds can band together and not be swallowed up by the resident uberguilds in the interests of basic survival? Is that what you mean by going mercenary?
Lawrence: We’re thinking a lot about this, and exploring features that would make it possible for small groups or individuals to contribute to the larger territory control wars constantly happening, either by directly participating or providing support. Stay tuned on that.
Obviously the game is hyper-focused on building and construction of large-scale buildings and towns and forts. What about personal homes? Are individuals going to see personal property, or is it all large-group-based? How accessible is this wing of gameplay for the average player?
Lawrence: We’re passionate about this, and have plans to make building an experience that average players, even non-guilded ones, can participate in.
Can we talk endgame for a bit? Sandbox endgames can get stale within a year or two if there’s no reason to shake things up. Territory MMOs like Crowfall are going with campaign arcs and resets to inject movement. What will AGS do to keep the servers lively and get folks to keep coming back once a server has reached that inevitable equilibrium?
Lawrence: The power of live online development is that we can vary gameplay on a periodic basis to provide challenge and discovery to players.
I have to ask about the NDA – when is it coming down? I have this impression that the fact that the NDA is still going strong (but so many people are testing, and a portion of those seem to be leaking with impunity) means that we’re all getting a skewed take on the game that isn’t necessarily being confronted by the (beautiful) string of screenshots coming out from official channels.
Lawrence: We’re not ready yet to identify the end date for NDA, but it’s driven by our desire for quality. We want to be confident players will have a great experience when they first see New World.
New World is one of the very few non-crowdfunded western MMORPGs of this scale publicly under construction right now. I’m curious whether the team feels any extra pressure because of that, both because the market’s clearly leaning in a different multiplayer direction and because the millions of still-existing MMO players are putting so much hope on this game. Do you feel an extra responsibility to get it just right? Or does it fill you with terror that everyone’s expectations are so high?
Lawrence: Are you trying to freak us out? Because this is how you freak people out. We’re tremendously thankful for the opportunity to work on a game and bring fun to players, and that’s about all the (positive) pressure we need.
Finally: Is there a chance the game is happening in 2019, or should be be setting our anticipation for 2020? :D
Lawrence: We don’t have a release date to share yet, but you’ll be one of the first to know when we do.
We’d like to thank AGS’ Rich Lawrence for fielding our questions. You can sign up for the New World closed alpha right now.