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New World MMO interview: “we’ve made mistakes by moving too fast”

Game director Scot Lane discusses the MMO’s tumultuous start to life and the team’s plans for the future

New World boss fights

New World’s release was just over two months ago. It set an absurdly high concurrent player count in the process, with a peak of 913,000. However, the game’s first weeks haven’t been smooth sailing. Post-launch patches fixed some issues, but introduced several bugs and exploits to the game, requiring rapid intervention and downtime – and in some cases, emergency solutions like disabling trade and rolling back servers.

There has been a sharp decline in the game’s active playerbase since launch, but as Amazon Games contend with these unforeseen issues and player feedback, the team is also focused on adding new content and expanding the MMO’s world. The first major post-launch update, Into The Void, landed halfway through November, and there’s plenty more planned for the coming months, including a New World winter festival.

Following the Into The Void update, we spoke to New World game director Scot Lane to find out more about the team’s post-launch priorities, weathering the storm of bugs and exploits, and how Aeternum may change as New World establishes itself as one of the top MMOs around.

PCGN: What’s the post-launch experience been like for the team?

Scot Lane: It’s been a learning experience. We’ve been humbled by the response to New World and this has led to significantly more scale than we had in our alpha or public beta, and that’s surfaced some issues. We understand the importance of responding quickly and we’ve been trying to fix the issues as fast as possible.

New World Aeternum statue

Early on we were so focused on fixing the issues that we didn’t do a good enough job communicating with the players. This is something we’ve put a lot of effort into correcting and will continue to make a focus.

How do you juggle working on fixes alongside post-launch content?

Live is the top priority. If something is affecting players it gets our full attention. We’re still able to work on future content because the work is very specialised. For instance, the recent issue we had with in-game coin required engineers who understand that part of the code, while the Void Gauntlet update was handled by a different team comprised of gameplay engineers, designers, and artists. We will continue working on post-launch content and growing Aeternum, but the live build always comes first.

We know we’ve had issues and I want everyone to know the team has worked around the clock to solve them as fast as possible. That hasn’t changed now that we’re live – it will continue to be our number one priority. We know it’s super important to continue adding content and features, and we plan to do so for years to come, but our focus right now is to give the players in the world the best experience we possibly can. I can’t stress enough how much we appreciate their patience while we’ve been working through these launch issues.

Have you allocated more resources to testing patches?

Yes, we’ve added more testing resources and launched the PTR. We’ve made some mistakes by moving too fast and we’re still finding the balance of speed and quality. Our goal is to give every player a great experience, and as a team, we get better every day at patching and testing.

New World regions

Nothing hurts more than problems in the live play space. We put so much energy into giving players a great experience and it hurts when we fall short of that. We will continue pushing as hard as we can to deliver a great playing experience.

How disruptive have exploits been to your plans for server balancing?

Exploits have been very disruptive and we’ve had to put a large amount of our team’s focus into correcting them. Stopping the exploit from happening, and then going back and removing all of the affected items from the economy are both time-consuming tasks. The percentage of players and companies using exploits is extremely small, and the vast majority of the advantages they gained were temporary.

Even though the percentage of cheaters is small, they can have a huge impact on player perception: it’s no fun playing and earning something when someone else is perceived to use an exploit and get it faster or with less effort. The team is committed to maintaining a fair playing field for all players, the majority of whom are not interested in using exploits – they just want to play and enjoy New World.

The Void Gauntlet is particularly exciting as it introduces more variety when it comes to healing, are you happy with how healing is currently balanced for PvP and PvE?

We think healing is in a good place right now for PvE. For PvP, we’re excited about providing players with more ways to counter healing. Going forward, we have no shortage of weapons that we’d like to add to New World. The bar is pretty high though and we have to make sure that they are up to the quality level our players expect and that they don’t disrupt the delicate balance for both PvE and PvP. Balancing and tuning both current and new weapons is something we expect to do for the entire lifespan of New World.

A dank settlement in New World

What areas of PvP and PvE have you identified as underdeveloped?

There are a couple of areas we are focusing on now. The first is endgame: we have to do a better job of driving players to all of our endgame activities. Right now, they are being driven towards a very small portion of our endgame mechanics and it is rightfully leaving them wanting more.

We also need to improve the experience in the early and mid-game, especially for solo players, and we’ve already begun working on content for that. Our goal is to keep responding to what players ask for – feedback from players will continue to help shape New World’s direction.

Could you tell us about the evolution of the territories system and how the concept changed during development?

The idea of players owning land has been around since the early days of New World. Over the years it has evolved from owning small settlements into holding larger territories, and eventually, we tied in the faction gameplay mechanics, too. I think the progression was pretty natural. When we just had settlements we quickly found it wasn’t fun losing your settlement when you were logged off or sleeping. This took us down the path of adding war mechanics to ensure fairness, then as Aeternum grew, we had to decide if it would be better to have massive companies or some type of faction system.

There’s something cool about keeping companies limited to a relatively small size so you can know everyone. There’s some science around the number of people you can be friends and acquaintances with in real life, so we decided to go for mid-size companies and introduce factions.

An undead pirate in New World

We realise there are risks of faction imbalance and we have some potential solutions ready. These changes also came with some other open-world PvP benefits, and so far it’s working out really well. This is one of those systems that will require close monitoring over time and will definitely need adjustments as we go from theory to real life.

Now that territories have been claimed and many people have reached the level cap, how are you hoping to support the pioneering sensibilities of the playerbase going forward?

Well, there’s a bunch of things we’re doing. We are creating new expeditions for players to explore, we have new antagonists like the Varangian Knights, we have lots of new quest types being introduced, and more dynamic content and events happening in the world. The initial land rush is a very small part of the experience, and Aeternum’s landscape is changing all the time as different companies and factions take control of different parts of the map.

So far, we’ve only seen a portion of Aeternum. We don’t have any hard limits on the size of this world, at least none we’re concerned with yet, and we aren’t restricted by server population limits either. I’m really excited to watch Aeternum grow and see how players respond as we uncover more of its mysteries.

Would you ever consider starting up fresh servers so people can experience the initial ‘gold rush’ again?

I know players have asked for this, and it is something we’re talking about. I like the idea of some sort of seasons mode where we don’t bifurcate the playerbase, but at this point, these concepts are in very early discussions and any news is far off on the horizon.

Reekwater in New World

Players are restricted to one character per server. Is there any concern that without alt accounts server populations might age over time?

We have no immediate plans to raise the level cap, but I’m fairly certain we’ll entertain those thoughts in the future. Because of our faction and territory control systems, I do think we’ll see players creating second characters on other worlds because the experience could be very different.

Will there be new content for lower level players to access while leveling?

We understand that some players would like to focus more on solo gameplay, and we’re doing more to make that viable through alternate quest lines and more solo-oriented gameplay.

What other quality of life changes are in the pipeline?

We just introduced a big one that players have been asking for, which is that players now run faster when on roads. Looking into the future, we’re working on ways to help connect players who are looking for expeditions, and adding more quest and crafting markers. There are also map improvements coming, and much more. Most of this comes directly from player requests through the forums, in-game feedback, or Reddit. And for all of those who have been asking, we’re planning to let players access their inventory while running.