It sounds like the original build of New World would have had some big appeal to fans of survival games like Rust. In a talk at this year’s Develop: Brighton conference, senior producer Katy Kaszynski discusses the various development stages of Amazon Games’ MMORPG, and it turns out that players of its earliest alpha build took to it like a pretty unforgiving survival game – so the devs had to make some big changes to steer it back in an MMO kind of direction.
For context, New World’s alpha 1.0 was a pretty different beast to the MMO that tons of players have been getting stuck into since its launch in September. As Kaszynski explains, New World went from “this survival, crafting, horror, full-loot PvP game to what we have today” with the first alpha featuring these kids of elements: full-loot PvP, survival and crafting mechanics, and a fully player-driven economy where players built cities, pretty much anywhere they liked. This was all bundled in a sandbox world with no quests – just a bunch of intersecting game systems.
The devs invited a group of players to give it a whirl, and discovered that they didn’t tackle the game quite as expected. “We were hoping people would go out into the world – and we built this beautiful world that’s very similar to what we have now […] where they could build their own structures, where they could go and fight each other, and really chase each other down, and it was so cool. And that’s not what happened.”
What did happen was a fair bit of “griefing on the beach”, which the devs addressed so new players could join in and enjoy it. Then players started “grief[ing] at the settlement”. So, “now we’re gonna see if we can do opt-in PvP instead of required PvP,” Kaszynski says of the devs’ approach at this point.
“We started looking at the world and all the buildings that they were creating, and they were ugly, albeit very useful for their purposes,” the dev explains. “What they were trying to do was […] attack each other’s forts, right? Very similar to what we do now with faction control points.”
Amusingly, it turns out the players at this stage “are building these structures that are meant to protect their forts – and they do a very good job of it. But it’s breaking immersion because what they’re doing – very creatively – is building a wall, a very big wall, around the fort. And then they’re dragging in a bear. And then they’re building a wall around the bear and the wall. And then they’re dragging in two bears. And then they’re building a wall with the two bears,” Kaszynski recalls with amusement. “So there’s no way that these people can come and attack their fort when they’re offline.”
“It wasn’t the game that we were creating,” the producer later explains. She says that the original intake of testers loved it – “this is a hit; it’s a winner”, she recalls of their response – but those that joined at the end of the alpha felt more like, “this is really scary to play. It’s not fun – it’s not fun to join a game where I die on the beach; it’s not fun to play a game where I literally can never get the fort because they have so many resources and I just started. How do I catch up with that?”
The devs considered the elements that the original group of playtesters enjoyed and also knew what newcomers wanted. “And we saw the value in that because we were trying to create an MMO; we’re trying to create this massively multiplayer online game – and it just wasn’t going to happen with that first game that we created.”
Going back to the drawing board, the devs started introducing more PvE, opt-in PvP, more on-demand and end-game content, and some changes to New World’s death system as of alpha 2.0, going on to refine things through New World’s various betas, up until the version that’s now launched, which Kaszynski discusses in full during the talk.
If you’re diving into New World, be sure to check out our New World PvP builds guide, New World best PvP and PvE weapons guide, and New World server transfers guide for some handy tips. You can also read up on how Town Criers brought players news during New World’s open beta and why the devs didn’t want New World to be like every other MMORPG, also from the Develop: Brighton conference, at those links.