Even knowing it was slated to arrive, I was still surprised last night when Amazon Game Studios dropped New World’s latest dev blog well after business hours on a Friday, the time for burying news, not for kicking off a hype cycle. But given the details of the release, maybe I shouldn’t have been.
Essentially, the blog lays out the problems the team confronted during the closed alpha of 2018 and 2019 – namely, that enough people are gankity ganking gankers when given half a chance that it made the relatively open-loot, free-for-all PvP setting a huge turn-off for many testers and devs.
“One of the problems we observed with this system was that some high level players were killing low level players, A LOT,” AGS explains. “Sometimes exclusively. This often led to solo or group griefing scenarios that created a toxic environment for many players. To be clear, this behavior was not shown by all PvP players, but enough to cause significant issues.”
But that wasn’t at all what the team was going for in its version of the MMORPG survival hybrid: “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.”
(Here is where you sit back and marvel that a team put together by the likes of one of the richest corporations in the world somehow missed all these memos about FFA PvP and player psychology in the last 22+ years without testing it first. I mean, there are whole books about this from people who learned this lesson the hard way two decades ago and at player expense. Ah well, at least they learned before launch.)
Anyway, AGS clarifies that it’s not “[moving] away from PvP” and still wants it to have a “significant role” in New World, meaning “fair fights that are organized, skill based, and opted into by all participants” rather than “predatory behavior that relies on exploiting another player’s lack of experience, progress, readiness, or willingness” – aka PKing or ganking. The studio also says it won’t be doing PvP-only servers either, at least not at launch, since it believes the “majority of players” will find the other game changes more compelling.
“So for those folks who desire that harsh PVP environment, New World may not be your favorite game,” Amazon admits. “However, we do hope you enjoy the PVP we will offer.”
So what form will that take? Richly rewarded opt-in faction conflict and territory wars. Apparently, actual testers went nuts for the PvP War in the alpha, so Amazon’s gone all in on those 50v50 siege-centric territorial battles. The dev blog also includes a video recap and a brief entry on the game’s PvE overhaul, including some group-centric world bosses and more “curation” of points of interest and loot, though Amazon has also made clear the game will not launch with traditional WoW-style dungeons and raids.
As you can imagine, while a lot of core MMORPG players are now giving New World new consideration, the hardcore PvP community is definitely upset over the changes, declaring the game dead-on-arrival and crafting “New World of Warcraft” logos, with even some posters who claim to be anti-griefers saying the devs went too far.
Interestingly, the best and biggest discussions aren’t coming from the New World sub itself (which is mad but relatively subdued because of its size), but from the MMORPG sub, which is generally populated by old vets who know the sheep-vs-wolves drill but still wanted to see a fresh spark from a new MMO. One thread there this morning rightly points out that New World was originally marketed by the AGS studio boss as the precise type of gankbox where PvP is “the spine of the game,” a place where “you’ll probably be murdered.” Consequently, the poster argues, hardcore PvP players won’t be served, and worse, PvE players should be wary too, as it’s not clear whether Amazon has added enough PvE to serve them either.
Worth pointing out here is that the “spine of the game” quote came from then-Studio Head Patrick Gilmore, who left Amazon in April of 2019. We learned about the game revamp in May.
That same idea was echoed in our interview with Executive Producer Rich Lawrence in 2018, when he said, “New World is a PvP game at its heart,” but he was also talking up the game’s non-PvP content and “plentiful PvE encounters” even then. When we pointed out the longstanding PvP system issues in other FFA systems in old-school PvP games like EVE Online, Shadowbane, and Ultima Online, to say nothing of survival sandboxes, his answer was already giving a clear picture of what the devs were trying to pull off – that they were already struggling to mitigate all the ganking and griefing with multiple criminality features, to make fights more “fair.”
“It would be folly to say we’ve solved all problems, because we aren’t fully live yet, and some of these features are still in motion. But we have considered in our design all of the issues you have named. Through a combination of how our War mode works, the criminality feature set, sanctuary (safe zone for non criminals), and a few features still in testing, we’ve worked to remove a lot of the ‘gank’ and unfair nature of these gameplay patterns. We’ll almost certainly make some mistakes, but the mechanisms are there to exert some control, and we’ll listen to our players and modify or change out to better ones as necessary. It’s a goal of ours to make gameplay feel fair overall, even the times when you don’t win.”
Apparently, in the end, the studio decided it couldn’t make that happen – and switched gears to focus on the rest of the playerbase. Whether it’ll make anyone happy, however, is still up for debate.
Want to read a bit more about the breakdown of griefing and PvP and why their conflation is a problem in MMOs? Our PvP column Fight or Kite conveniently tackled it last week.