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New World, Old Problems

Going Back To MMORPG History Class

Tim Eisen Posted:
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I once asked my history teacher why we had to take his class. He said we needed to know our history, so we didn’t repeat the same mistakes of the past. The more I learn about New World the more I wonder if they skipped the MMORPG history class.

For years they promoted their game as a PVP sandbox. It was, as developers said, a sandbox built around the concept of PVP from the beginning! Then, just a few months before launch they discovered a shocking truth, PVP can be toxic! Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew, Ultima Online, DAOC, Shadowbane, EVE and my beloved Star Wars Galaxies knew. I have to wonder, did those in charge of New World ever make a PVP game before? Did they ever play a PVP MMORPG before? Nothing, and I mean nothing shocked me more than hearing the developers claim they were blindsided by the notion that free for all PVP had turned ugly.

Before I continue I need to make something clear. For many years I believed free for all PVP was the only way to PVP. I no longer think that way. I have played every game that featured it and every time the same pattern emerged. It is a pattern that ruined those games. Mega guilds lock the server down and gameplay stagnates. Players begin to prey on weaker targets and avoid the mega guild. Overly hardcore players obsessively camped the crafters out of the game. Once the crafters left the game’s economies began to collapse. Once that happened the player base dwindled until there weren’t enough players to keep the game running and it died. It pains me but, it is the truth. On this AGS and I agree.

I spent many a night trying to fix this problem, but it was Crowfall developers that came up with a solution. Why not have variety in your game? Why not feature ever-changing rules? This is one solution. Another is PVP lakes and/or PVP territories as seen in WAR, Albion Online, and EVE. Why limit us to the past? What if, after you die in PVP for the first time you can opt-out for 4 hours (account-wide cooldown of course)? What if, after you get killed repeatedly within fifteen minutes you get a major buff that makes you nearly invincible for X minutes? What if, upon death, you lose only a small % of your inventory rather than all of it? What if you could toggle “gathering” which makes you take 50% less damage in combat but leaves you unable to do damage for 5 minutes after you toggle it off?

I am not saying any of those ideas are genius, but what I am saying is all of them are better than taking a sandbox built from day one for PVP then making it into a theme park with optional PVP mere months before launch. What I am saying is there are far more, and better, solutions than an opt-in option. Perhaps if they were students of this genre, they would have used a scalpel and designed a PVP system that was revolutionary, rather than using an ax and the most heavy-handed idea left on the table.

I understand the game is, unfortunately, buy to play rather than subscription-based. That is yet another lesson they failed to learn from their ancestors. But I get it. You must draw in the masses to drive them to your store to let the few whales dictate the direction of your game rather than the loyal fans. Art reflects life. I get it. But what they also fail to recognize in the games before theirs is that PVErs come, grind, and leave. They are not loyal. They burn through your games content far faster than any developer ever imagined then leave. PVPers are a loyal lot. If you give us the conditions for a good fight, we will defend your game as if it was one of our own kin!

Based on my observations we have a potentially great MMORPG launching in a few months. Timing is on their side. There has not been a big launch in years and there will not be another for several years. More importantly, all the ingredients from that great game people were raving about are still hidden within the code. If you can rip it all out and change directions a few months before launch, then certainly you can put a few pieces right back in as well. New World is just a few unique server rulesets away from being an MMORPG legend rather than another game without direction that died a few months after launch.

If they build it, if they give the players what they want, what they need, the players will give them their loyalty and with that loyalty comes our money. MMORPG history shows that unique server sets are both popular and long-lived. My hope is that between now and launch AGS will show up to class, learn the lessons of the past, and give us the unique servers we need.


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry