New World Blues

Heroes are not to cry
So hold your head up high
The future is ours to see
So come on and rescue me
So tell me what I have to lose
I am ready to feel these new world blues

-New World Blues, Gov’t Mule

It has come to this.  Once I was annoyed by people always telling me that this MMO or that was so much better in beta, and now here I am treading down that same path.  I am here to say that New World was better.

Kinda… sorta… in a way.

Just how new and how worldly?

I’ve been meaning to write about New World for some time now.  At first it just wasn’t possible.  I was in some of the very early testing, back when the Imperium got a blanket invite to come play test the game.  Everything was under an NDA back then.  No screen shots, no blog posts.

More recently I just haven’t been moved to write because the way the game evolved just didn’t move me.  But the launch date it growing near and soon we’ll be awash in posts and news and whatever about the game.

I am sure that my not being all that enthusiastic says more about me than it does about the current state of the game.  But the way the game evolved also says a lot about what players want, or what they think they want.

Back in the early beta the game felt very much like what H1Z1 was supposed to be… H1Z1 Just Survive that is, not the clownish battle royale game it became.  This was going to be Smed taking what was learned from that and refining it into a better game that would deliver on that promise.  It was going to be sandboxy and allow players to group up and hold territory… you don’t invite a pile of null sec EVE Online players to your early beta for anything else I bet… and have a whole survival aspect to it.

And the initial world felt rough and dangerous.  There wasn’t a lot of guidance, PvP was on out in the open world so people were wary of each other, it had a really interesting vibe to it.  Crafting was raw but good.  You had to make things, and to do that you had to gather resources.

There was an early element in the beta where I had made a bow and was out learning how to hunt deer and wolves that felt really right.  It was that same sensation that later drew me into Valheim.  The early New World felt a lot like Valheim did, only it looked a lot better.

It was easy to get lost in that stage of New World, both on the map and on your path forward.  It definitely needed something more to keep enough people engaged and playing to be viable, but it felt like a world you could get into.

Maybe making it an MMORPG was a mistake.  Maybe it should have been a co-op, host your own world game like Valheim.  I have to imagine that Amazon would have happily come up with an AWS plan to host private instances of the game.  But and MMORPG was what was promised and an MMORPG was what had to be delivered.

That early beta test culminated in a giant PvP battle in a valley.  It was probably as big of a fight as one could have with the current state of rendering tech, and it was strange and laggy and fun.  That was the other promise of the sandbox, something to at least approach the grand battles of New Eden.

Then the beta was over and Amazon went off to work with what they had found and the feedback they have received.  More beta events came and went as the launch was pushed back again and again in order to get the game right.

Which brings us to the current state of the game.  That rough feeling, that survival vibe, that sense of danger, all gone, paved over by a slick guided PvE experience.  I had skipped some of the interim beta events, having decided that the game was going to be worth the effort when it finally showed up.  But it changed so much.

Some of the early version still comes through.  The crafting is still similar, though it feels a bit out of place, almost awkward now, in the shiny quest drive PvE world the game has become.

It isn’t a bad game.  Far from it.  And clearly a lot of people like the way it has turned out.

It is quite possible that I just haven’t gotten into it enough to find the hook that would keep me invested.  I am notoriously reluctant to get too involved in beta, to get took deep into any game before launch, before everything is “for keeps,” because that advancement is part of the hook a lot of games have in me and dulling that with early play and resets could turn me away… or make me that person who always says that the game was better in beta.  One of my minor claims to fame is that when Aradune asked me over on TorilMUD if I wanted to get into the EverQuest beta I turned him down.  So I might just be bad at getting a read in beta.

But still, I am wary.  I saw an article over at PC Gamer that sort of put a finger on a bit of my angst, the idea that the game had evolved from something different into something trying to be the next World of Warcraft… though even early WoW was a lot less hand-holdy that New World is now.

I will be there at launch all the same.  Like I said, I could very well be wrong, though I’m still just tagging posts “New World” rather than making it a full fledged category yet.  And it is sill another event in the genre.  We’ll see where it ends.

5 thoughts on “New World Blues

  1. bhagpuss

    I agree with this 100%. It was so frustrating in the original New World alpha not to be able to blog about how immersive it felt. As soon as I started playing Valheim I made the comparison – New World in the original alpha was very much “Valheim with better graphics”.

    I didn’t touch the PvP. I just explored, foraged, fought the relatively few monsters I met and crafted gear for myself. It was one of the most absorbing virtual worlds I’ve ever experienced and it had next to nothing in it that we’d call “content”. What it did have was atmosphere. It dripped with it. The lighting was amazing, the sunsets, the nights… the forests were dense and mysterious, the ruined farms were bleak and worrying, the fields were gone to seed and abandoned… yes, all like Valheim.

    I spent hours just wandering about, often getting lost. Once I got myself into a ravine I just could not climb out of. I think I had to make another character. I rarely saw other players and even when I did there was no fighting. We gave each other a very cautious, wide berth. I think I got into fights twice in the whole time I eas in alpha and one of those was some idiot trying to attack me in the safe hub where PvP wasn’t enabled.

    There is absolutely no doubt that there was nowhere near enough to do to keep people, even explorers or PVPers interested long-term but it was alpha. You wouldn’t expect there to be. It could have grown from there to become a full RvR/exploration oriented virtual world but clearly that wasn’t the feedback they got. The whole time I was playing the devs were extremely responsive to feedback and I would bet almost all the changes they’ve made have been directly from what the majority of players indicated they wanted to change. What that tells me is that most players in the genre do, in private, actually want a WoW-like experience even when they vehemently deny it in public.

    It’s going to be a solid theme park mmo. It could have been something else.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pendan

    I played the open beta for 1 to 2 hours and came away thinking, this is a good game that I will likely one day play but it has nothing new that says I need to start playing this now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kiantremayne

    I didn’t get to see the early incarnation of New World – all I’ve played is the preview this summer and the recent open beta. What’s there now is enough that it’s got me looking forward to playing, along with the members of my regular gang from WoW (several of whom had already lost their enthusiasm for WoW and let their subs lapse). I suspect the original version would have been an awesome game for virtual world enthusiasts, but that’s a niche market and Amazon have invested too much time and money in New World to only appeal to a niche. Also, an alpha test population is going to be small, select and usually enthusiastic. Their behaviour is going to be different from a population of gamers at large with hardcores, casuals, griefers and rockstar streamers with their hordes of acolytes..Game systems and experiences that work well as long as you only let the right people in can break down when the floodgates open

    It’s not the full-on survival and PvP game it could have been, but it has definite elements of those present. It’s been pitched to a broad audience, but I have to give credit for them trying to make a game that’s popular on its terms and isn’t just trying to copy WoW’s special sauce. NW has made decisions that are very different from the WoW experience – not only no dungeon finder, but the need to craft dungeon keys will make every expedition an event since they can’t be speed run and spammed, for example. There’s a much tighter economy with no NPC vendors and some pretty big gold sinks. No mounts and limited fast travel, as well as location-based trading posts and item storage, result in much more sense of place.

    Bhagpuss is right – the majority of players do want a WoW-like experience. They crave the comfort of familiarity, the sense that things work the way they understand. If they’re bored with WoW, to a big extent it’s because they’re bored with the current content – they still want classes and specs and dungeons and raids and an optimal spell rotation that they can look up on Icy Veins, they just want new versions of all of those things. Their expectation of crafting is that it’s something you max out to make stuff for yourself, but the best items come from raids. The exodus to FFXIV isn’t because WoW is fundamentally bad and FFXIV is completely different, it’s because FFXIV is actually a very similar game (just with cat girls and many, MANY more cutscenes). The question is whether New World can appeal, despite not being a reskinned WoW. I’m fairly optimistic – I’d put it in the same space as GW2 and ESO, both of which chugging along nively.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @kiantremayne – I have no doubt that most players say they want an experience that is WoW-like in nature. But there is a saying in marketing that you don’t go to your customers for innovation, you go to them for refinement, because your customers will ask you for your current product but better, cheaper, faster, or whatever. Innovation comes when you see a new answer that fits the needs of the customer but changes the product.

    Of course, innovation is a risk. You have to have some clear insight into what players really want and you have to be able to convince the person writing the checks to finance it. (Also, going back to the “old days” is not innovation.) Was NW in early beta really innovative? Probably not. As I said, it felt like an attempt to get the original H1Z1 concept into a viable state. But reverting back to the WoW formula felt very much like they threw in the towel and just went with what they knew they could sell. It is polished and all, but it felt very same-y to me. My problem with a lot of WoW-like games is trying to answer the question, “Why wouldn’t I just play WoW?” Or, these days, WoW Classic.

    Meanwhile, for the last decade or so, people have been asking when we’re going to see something new, something that isn’t just WoW slightly refined. NW was an opportunity for that, but they punted and went WoW-like and now the next big opportunity is somewhere over the horizon again.

    tl;dr – I don’t hate it, but it felt like it could have been something different.

    Like

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