Massively Overthinking: How would you fix New World?

    
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Amazon’s New World is one of the biggest, most ambitious, and most beautiful MMORPGs the industry has seen in years, and yet since its launch last fall, it’s been weighed down by endless bugs, messy patches, balance issues, economy problems, confused endgame goals, and a playerbase that’s dwindled as it’s lost faith. If this were the typical hunk of junk our genre sees, I don’t think anyone would really think too hard about this and we’d just forget about it and move on, but New World is from a company with seemingly endless funds, and a lot of people had pinned their hopes on this one, making its chaotic status particularly frustrating.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’m asking our writers and readers how they’d go about fixing New World, if they were suddenly placed in charge. Can it be fixed? What specifically would you do to get the game back on course for a major comeback? How long will it take? And do you think Amazon will or could do it?

Andy McAdams: I’ll start with the positives: The game has good bones. I’m sure someone will disagree because of course they will, but that doesn’t distract from the truth that game is a mess but has all the right pieces to be a great game. It has doesn’t know how to put them together.

I think there’s a systemic issue with the QA process. Maybe they rely too much on automation and happy path; maybe they don’t give QA engineers time to figure out that dragging the game window around has some unexpected outcomes. But the number of quickly identified, adjacent issues that come out in production builds makes me suspect there’s something wrong with the process, not the people doing the work.

I think Amazon needs to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. It’s a PvP game with some light PvE? Is it a PvE with some fun PvP side activities? Or is it both a PvE and PvP game? Any of those options is a viable path, but the team has to pick. It can’t keep waffling between “this week we are a PvP game, next week we’ll be back to PvE game.” If it is going middle of the road, that’s fine too, but it’s gotta commit to the middle. It can’t continue to ping pong between the extremes.

Cauterize the hubris. It’s super apparent that there’s someone (or multiple someones) who have decided that they just know best, regardless of what the data, the players, or genre peers are saying. The hubris manifests itself with nonsensical decisions, ping-ponging between top-level goals as the political machines inside Amazon vie for the power and the glory from the game. Develop some humility there, understand the problems before solutioning, and that will fix lots of what ails New World.

Could they do it? of course! Will Amazon do it? Probably not. Most of FAANG is driven by arrogance, ego, and hubris. Amazon Games is no different. It’ll run the game into the ground before the bosses admit they made a mistake just to save face.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I might get some flak for this, but I’m starting to think MMOs in general should focus on either PvE or PvP, not both. It seems apparent that New World is still a PvP game with a PvE veneer, and most of the PvEers who filled up the queues on launch day have figured that out.

Secondly, if you’re going to create a game with heavy emphasis on crafting and economy, you need to make sure that there will be a continual demand for crafted items. Gear should break and not be reparable, creating a steady stream of income for crafters. And a reason to gather resources. Raiders/PvPers would have a continual need to plunder loot to spend on gear and that currency flows to crafters and then exchanges hands between crafters and gatherers, as crafters need materials and gatherers need to replenish tool supplies.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Almost anything can be fixed. It’s all down to the will, the skill, and the bill. It’s hard to speak to the third one, but I’ve seen the same rumors you folks probably have about the team being scaled back. Even if the rumor is bull, I have certainly been unimpressed by the weak resources on display since launch, in terms of both development scale and support.

But money aside, my read on the game is that the developers were unprepared for handling a live AAA MMORPG, and that lack of preparedness has translated into a rocky post-launch period. The mistakes aren’t novel; they’re mistakes newbie studios make all the time and in this case should’ve been headed off since everyone called them out long before launch. Amazon didn’t have enough content prepped to keep its preferred PvE players grinding, it didn’t move quickly enough to balance and fortify severs to fend off bad reviews or keep enough of its launch pop, and it isn’t responding to meet to the playerbase that showed up and stayed. I don’t think Amazon even understands the depth of the problems it has, as our recent interview demonstrated for me. The devs aren’t so much as acknowledging the mismatch of playerbase and content, the PvP imbalances, the midgame, or the level and economy grind; they’re focused on pandering to a small endgame PvE crowd, again a mistake MMORPGs make over and over to their detriment. Don’t take my word for it; our New World columnist Tyler has already spilled many eloquent words on this, more than once.

I would love to see Amazon make a comeback with the game a la ZeniMax or Square-Enix. But as of right now, I don’t think New World is on a path for that. And my gut says Amazon as a company doesn’t care enough about the IP, as the keepers of Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy did, to follow through on what needs to be done to save it, even if individual devs do. I hope to be wrong.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Wow, this is a tall order, isn’t it?

I guess the first thing I would consider doing is to find out what kind of game fans want it to be, either a PvP game or a distinct PvE experience. After answering that question, it’s a matter of tuning in that direction and making that side of the title as robust as it can be. Of course, that would take time, but I think a focused vision would make players OK with that time span provided updates/content patches arrive in a timely manner.

Now, whether Amazon can or will do that? I kind of have to believe it can, or at least must. I get the impression that New World is the closest it’s been to finding gaming gold, and letting the project fall fallow at this stage would all but kill its game dev and game publishing credibility.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): It’s clear that New World had the attention of a lot of players. I think the most important thing it has lost is not those players’ interest but their trust.

First and foremost, the game needs to beef up its quality assurance for future releases, then hire someone to come in and audit the existing game for exploits. A lot of companies like to do this internally, but an outside perspective can work wonders. Amazon Games also needs to come out and admit that the game was not ready and present these plans to their community. Maybe it should even go so far as to hire a new game director, someone with real MMO experience. Restoring player trust is something that’s going to take time, but it is possible, and it is crucial.

Something that Amazon could do right away is make leveling faster. Yes, I know it just recently made leveling slower, and I think that was the exact opposite of what it should have done. I felt like the game was a slog even before hitting, as MOP’s Tyler wrote about, the dreaded level 30 wall. Then, there needs to be more content, especially later on in the game, and that content needs more variety.

Next, the game needs to fix its economy. It’s frustratingly hard to make money in New World, especially at low levels. I think the game’s economists are terrified of causing inflation, to the point of making it too difficult to get started. Also, I think there needs to be a way to take low-quality items out of the economy. Who’s going to buy a white-quality hat for 2 gold when a green or blue one is only a couple gold more? I think someone at Amazon Games thought that deconstructing for repair kits was going to be enough to accomplish this, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. Maybe those “craft X items” quests could take regular craftable items (gear, potions, etc.) instead of the quest-only ones they take now. This encourages people to buy and sell low-quality items and also gets them out of the economy in a way that’s actually motivating. Of course, even good old-fashioned selling to vendors would be an improvement to at least provide a minimum value for junk items.

Finally, players need a big, flashy reason to return. Maybe that’s an expansion, or maybe that’s a One Tamriel- or A Realm Reborn-style revamp of the game. Whatever it is, it needs to be big, featuring a lot of players’ wishlist items all in one package.

There is no silver bullet for fixing an MMO with as rocky a launch as New World. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort on the part of the studio, but I think there’s a really good game under all that baggage, one I would really like to play. There are some MMOs that you could ask this game question about and I would say it’s probably better to just shut it down and spend your money elsewhere. New World is not one of those. I really hope Amazon feels the same way and greenlights the resources it takes to fix this game.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): It can definitely be fixed. The MMO genre is full of examples of games that had rocky starts and started to smooth out as better development and decisions take place. I have a feeling that New World will take a while because the devs seem hell-bent on learning all of the standard lessons as if they’re brand-new, but it can be done. I’d just want to see consistent work done to shore up the weaker spots, make endgame better, and always err on the side of fun game design (even if it panders to casuals!).

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’d start by wayyyy lowering the leveling grind. That’s where I seriously lost my patience with the game. Especially as someone who just wants to get on with it so I can PvP, I think we have got to get players into the PvP as soon as possible.

I’d create some arenas in each of the towns for 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 PvP. It’d be akin to the arenas in Guild Wars 1: Cities in the south would have arenas for players leveled 1 to 10. As you move into the cities that are in deeper leveled zones, so too would the arenas be leveled higher. Players could queue up and battle right there. If it’s not a strain on the city, let it be part of the open world map rather than an instance. You’d earn a little gold and XP. Put a daily cap on the gold but not the XP. If players want to use the arenas to cheese their levels up to max, that’s fine – let them so they can start playing the real endgame PvP sooner.

The conquest-style instanced arena already in-game needs to be more accessible. Whether it has multiple tiers for level gating, or you just open it up with a level scaling system, I don’t really care – just make it accessible for everyone to play. Part of Amazon’s design for it included activities that weren’t purely player killing player, so let’s get those other players in there.

Also, let’s better explain the PvP to new players. We have all these quests and things set up to teach players how to PvE, so where is the PvP equivalent? Because that wall of text around level 15 or wherever doesn’t cut it.

Also, remove restrictions from playing the dungeons. Seriously.

I think Amazon totally can do it. But it won’t.

Tyler Edwards (blog): As I touched on in my recent Vitae Aeternum column, for me the biggest issue with the game is how miserly it feels. I feel constantly starved for every possible resource. I don’t have enough gold to pay my property taxes. I don’t have enough azoth for fast travel. I can spend hours farming materials and make barely any progress with my crafting skills. I’ve generally counted myself as a defender of the game, but the grind is driving me away. It stops being a game when it starts to feel like work. Grind is one thing, but there needs to be something worthwhile at the end of all your efforts, and right now everything worth having in New World feels out of my reach.

For sure there are other issues that can and should be fixed, but I think this is most pressing. That feeling that a game doesn’t respect the time you’ve put into it is the kiss of death for an MMO.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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