Daily Archives: December 13, 2021

New World and the Peril of Choice

A game is a series of interesting choices

Sid Meier

As we delve further into New World I am watching closing the effects that our choices in the game have.  The game is trying to have its way as a sandbox-ish title in things from specs to which town you call home, each being a series of choices.

How interesting they are remains to be seen.  I don’t want to knock Sid, but I’ve been known to start a dozen games of my current favorite Civilization title before settling on a map and situation to which I am willing to commit.  And even if the one I choose doesn’t pan out, the cost to start over is minimal, the first hundred moves often being the most interesting in a game.

I am not committed in any serious way to my game in Civ, not the way I am to my character and choices in your typical MMORPG.

New World wants you to commit, which is a bold choice in a genre where games like WoW, which has classes, has basically given up on class specs and commitment and you can just respect in town or simply when you’re not in combat. And it isn’t just with your character spec.

New World is divided up into series of zones, 11 of which can be captured by a company and held in the name of one of the three factions.  Each of those zones has a town and the game would really like you to commit to one town.

In furtherance of that, there is no magical bank that has all of your stuff ready and available in every settlement.  There isn’t even a supernatural postal system that allows you to drop a full suit of armor in an envelope to be sent off to yourself, a friend, or one of your alts, an accessible at every post box world wide, for just a few coins.

Instead in each town you have a personal storage shed.  It is probably too small by half, and all the more so due to the raw materials needed for the crafting changes they implemented, but it does have a magical property or two, like the ability to use materials from it when using the crafting stations in town.  You can also have stuff moved from your storage sheds in other towns… if they are owned by the same faction and you can afford the rather steep pricing… so the game isn’t completely absent magical delivery systems.

But having the shed localized to a specific town forces you to commit to that location, as do the crafting stations available.  Those have to be leveled up to be able to craft at higher tiers, and maintained over time.  It isn’t a lot of good committing to a town that only has tier 2 crafting available if you plan to advance those skill and make useful items over time.

Housing as well.  While it is instanced, it does give you more storage and a recall point with a cool down… or so I am told, I cannot yet afford a house… and it is fixed to a specific town as well.

All of which offers you a choice of where you want to commit and, once committed, to support and defend the town that you choose.

Amazon hedged a bit on the trading post.  I am sure there is a statement in a design document somewhere that says trading posts should be restricted to the zone in which they are located, that cross regional trading is bad.  But somebody probably foresaw the inevitable population decline… the server groups they created seemed like a pretty transparent method of doing server merges when I first saw them… so trading posts are server-wide.

On our server we have committed to Windsward, which seems to be the popular spot.  It is always bustling when other towns I visit are fairly sparse.  The Bunny Company of our faction, the Syndicate, holds the Windsward region and has defended it successfully since we showed up.

Passing the Bunny Co banner at Windsward

There crafting stations are all upgraded, though they have been slipping of late.  They were all tier 5 when we first arrived.  Many have now slipped to tier 4 though.  That is still good enough for my own needs, but does not portend well for the future.

We are in the post-queue era of New World now.  Populations have tapered off.  On our server the list of companies shows only a few of them beyond the “1-5 players” level.  I want to get another person into our company as it would apparently make us the more of a stand out on the server.

As I noted, Windsward is starting to atrophy a bit, with crafting stations falling down to tier 4. (And our kitchen is a mere tier 2 affair now.)  Bunny Company has successfully defended Windsward so far, but other Syndicate territories has fallen.

The Parima server map as I write this

The slackening of effort appears to be completely related to the lack of end game and the erring too far on the theme park side of the equation.  Crafting as a vocation seems like something of a dead end, at least where I sit.  I have been focused on armoring, and am wearing heavy steel gear that I crafted.  But the market almost always has an upgrade available for 20 coins or less for nearly every slot.  Gear is bind on equip and, unless you fail to repair it, is good forever or until you upgrade.

Salvaging gives the game a bit of an outlet for excess gear besides the rather stagnant trading post, but the market seems destined to stagnate aside from consumables and crafting raws.

Oddly, a couple of things I would like to be able to buy… repair parts, which our Amrine run ran me out of, and Azoth… are not items in game.  Oh well.

And things could be much worse.  When I was grousing about alts I decided to log back in with my first character and his server has faded pretty hard.

The map has gone green

Ten of the eleven regions are held by one company and Windsward, where I had been working, is very quiet with all the crafting stations fading.  (Technically, three companies hold ten regions, but they all have the same name with a -1, -2, and -3 appended.)  While there are lots of companies in the 26-40 size range that are members of different factions, whenever I check in the ownership status does not change.

So there were a lot of people on that server at one point.  I joined it early on launch day and then it ended up with a deep queue by the first evening.  But now things seem to be settled.

In the end Amazon has setup a game where we have to make choices and commit to them to various degrees… skills and stats can be respec’d for a cost, while settling down in a town means contributing and hoping it stays in your faction and upgraded… but hasn’t given players something that they are willing to commit to in the longer term.

As I mentioned at the top, we’re in the post-queue era.  While the game is still rising up past 100K daily and past 150K on weekends according to the Steam charts, a concurrent player count that many games no doubt envy, that is a far cry from the 750K daily norm that the first few weeks saw.

It feels like Amazon either better have a card up its sleeve to play to bring people back to the game or that it might be time to collapse some of those server groups down into fewer servers to keep the player count steady all around.