Can New World make a comeback? Yes. Will it? Doubtful.
10 Ways Amazon Games Could Save New World From its Death-Spiral
--Warning: The Ice Gauntlets are off for this one.--
Last month, we published our second review of New World, Amazon Games' flagship MMORPG. In case you don't read all of MMO Games' content (shame on you), here are a few key quotes:
"Little did we know that those bugs were a sign of what was to come. Like sailors on their way to Aeternum, we failed to heed the omens."
"Players use up their free server transfers and then find themselves being stuck in a server depopulating faster than a post-fart elevator."
"Mechanics seemingly as hollow as the bones of the undead sailors on its shores and your destiny all but written."
"It's all just MMO by numbers."
"For a game full of sorcery, New World really lacks magic."
"What else are they going to do when you design a game that a nine-year-old could cheat on and then make it grindier than a sausage factory."
Suffice to say, it wasn't a particularly glowing review. Although there was a time when we placed a lot of our hopes on New World. And maybe, just maybe, it stands a chance of winning our affections once more. Though the work required to do so is nothing short of monumental.
As a wandering New World player, even when your curiosity is piqued, it will never be sated.
What Does New World Need to Do to Become Popular Again?
Ask different people and they'll provide you with different answers to that question. But the short answer is, "a lot". They are going to have to reinvent many of their core systems, risk annoying even more players through radical changes, bring in new talent, and reset their entire relationship with the fanbase. Not to mention adding a bunch of fun additional features. Piece of cake, right?
10 Changes That Would Save New World
Your character is a sailor on a sea island covered in lakes and rivers. For the love of Neptune, give them the ability to swim. This would be a non-controversial easy-to-implement change that would please absolutely everyone. The fact that a studio of Amazon's resources didn't have this at launch is pretty disgraceful.
Unlike with swimming, there are at least arguments for not including mounts at launch. To paraphrase Amazon Games' justification for the lack of mounts, New World has a "It's about the journey, not the destination" philosophy. Whether you believe Amazon Games' (who have proven themselves less than trustworthy), it's now clear that those arguments are null and void.
And that's not, for the reason you might suppose – that "the journey" is as awful as "the destination". It's because in the process of trying to make up for other mistakes and to ease fan fury, they have made fast travel incredibly cheap. The result, players just fast-travel everywhere, skipping the journey entirely.
3. Make the World Engaging
From shipwrecks stuck in waterfalls to abandoned ghost towns, Aeternum certainly has some cool locations dotted around. The problem is there is essentially no reason to go and explore them. Each of these locations just feels like the empty husk of a location. What gamer doesn't love a secret to be discovered? A hidden chest, a collectible, a hide-out behind a waterfall with a hidden boss. New World has none of that. So, as a wandering New World player, even when your curiosity is piqued, it will never be sated.
4. A New Team for New World
If the New World development team's workspace is anything like the pressurised, joyless, target-driven conditions of an Amazon warehouse, then it would be unfair to place all of the blame at their feet. New World started off with brave ideas, but focus groups were their undoing.
Trust in Amazon Games is at an all-time low. They repeatedly reassured users that no one was being auto-banned, clung onto that line even when provided with convincing evidence to the contrary, then paid the price when Redditors used it to break the game. This is one of dozens of apparent falsehoods that the team has made, and now the respect between New World players and Amazon Games studio is at breaking point.
At this stage, the only way for this to change is out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new. A radical shift in staffing, communications, and leadership is the only way to convince disrespected players that real change is afoot. The talent is out there, just look at the aspirational and inspirational team spearheading Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
The people they bring in shouldn't be more suits, they should be MMO-gaming veterans who know and understand the magic of the MMO.
5. Remove Opt-in PvP
Amazon Games needs to bite the musket buck and admit that their opt-in PvP is pleasing no one. After switching from hardcore PvP to opt-in soft PvP pre-launch, they fundamentally altered the nature of the game, abandoning the vision that first got people hooked. I understand that it must have been a hard call for the studio; the whole point in an alpha is to take heed of fan feedback. But a game cannot simply be switched from PvP-centric to PvE-centric at the drop of a hat.
At this stage, it's clearly too late to switch back to hardcore PvP everywhere. Although there are no reasons why hardcore PvP servers couldn't be trialled. But it would be a false dilemma to assume those were the only two solutions. RuneScape got the balance right two decades ago with their solution: PvP zones. Were there deadly high-risk, high-reward areas in New World, it would up the ante, up the drama, and up the excitement.
6. Make PvE Enjoyable
The other downside of changing a PvP focused game into a PvE focused game at the last minute is that your PvE will probably be a bit rubbish. In the case of New World, that's an understatement. Combat is dry, repetitive stagger-and-repeat with minimal variation of enemy types.
It needs to be made more dynamic and less grindy. Let's see what gruesome corrupted horrors are really looming under Aeternum. Perhaps some huge Monster Hunter style beasts with teeth longer than oars, sharper than cutlasses, and grimmer than a bosun's niece? Perhaps hundreds of squashy critters attacking at once? Frankly, anything but more undead sailor variants.
7. Fix the Goddamn Economy
For a breakdown of the litany of calamitous economic decisions made by the studio, check out our recent New World review. It's already such a mess that it won't be an easy task. But with each economical exploit discovered by fans made worse by Amazon Games' interference, surely hiring a new economically literate team could do something to address the issues.
8. Refocus the Storyline
It would be too difficult to rewrite the storyline of New World but refocusing it, adding cutscenes, and hiring professional voice actors could all make a huge difference, not only to fan enjoyment but to how much attention fans pay to the narrative. It is, after all, this narrative that will determine whether players are invested in the game world. Just take a look at Black Desert Online's latest expansion, Eternal Winter, to see all the difference a few talented voice actors can make.
It can be difficult for a large MMORPG to have a consistent storyline that always excites. I've worked on the dialog and narrative on MMORPGs and know the complexities. It's also far from impossible and would only require the hiring of a few talented writers. The main problem with New World's storyline is that it so quickly loses focus after the initial, engaging cutscene. Even in a deliriously chaotic Korean MMORPG like Lost Ark, the player knows what his ultimate objective is throughout: find the pieces of the ark.
Some rowing boats would be a cool start, but Amazon Games need to dream even bigger. How about the introduction of upgradable, battle-able, customisable ships that could be controlled by multiple players and an AI crew? Okay, we hear you crying "MMO Games, you're dreaming!" and you're probably right. But would it be so outrageous in 2022 to expect an island-based game about sailors to feature ships?
What better way to make a huge splash than the introduction of frigates and galleons navigating the shores? They could come alongside trade missions, sea beasts, storms, and island adventures that required the traversal of Aeternum's deadly coasts.
10. A Game-changing Expansion
Data mining and leaks have revealed that the total map of Aeternum is about 3.5 times larger than its current size. There's also the leaked Brimstone Sands expansion. Our fear and suspicion is that the upcoming expansions are going to just be a plaster on a mortal injury. They will introduce a new biome, a couple of bosses, and a bunch more sandy variants of undead pirates, and maybe, if we're lucky, a horse.
With the uphill battle in front of New World, multiple radical changes such as the ones we've listed above, all need to be introduced at once. If the game is going to reattract players to its faltering player base, they need to make a huge splash, and they need to nail the execution. That means, for once, making good use of the PTS.
So, Can New World Make a Comeback?
This all brings us back nicely to the question of the hour: Can New World make a comeback? The answer is yes. Will New World make a comeback? I doubt it.
Since Day One, we've said Amazon Games' main challenge is to not only create a New World but a Brave New World. All evidence indicates that they're doing nothing of the sort. The updates up until now have been piecemeal, mundane, and uninspiring – 3v3 PvP? It's not exactly reinventing the wheel.
Amazon have now invested a lot in fixing the tech infrastructure just to give up on the game, so we don't doubt that it will stick around for a while. But they don't even seem to be in a particular rush to deal with New World's most pressing issues. Instead of fixing things, they just give away free stuff to disgruntled players. Should we expect anything other than "print free money" as the solution from a studio that has screwed New World's economy this much? Probably not.
They are a studio seemingly focused on trying to make the most money they can rather than delivering a powerful gaming experience.
With a history of cancelled games as well as the unspeakably bad Grand Tour game published, perhaps we should have known better than to have believe Amazon, a great soulless organisation, could create an MMO that brought soul back to the genre. But hey, at least the western Lost Ark launch wasn't disastrous.
The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of MMO Games and its writing team.