“In order for a game to survive long term, it needs to become more than just a game. It needs to become a community, and communities in general founded on mutual cooperation and teamwork tend to form strong cooperative bonds and stick together much longer than communities founded on aggression and insults.”
This is a quote from Josh Strife Haye’s excellent video, "Why hardcore full loot PvP MMO’s fail", and it’s one that has stuck with me during my review playthrough of New World. As I’ve said, and others both on our editorial team and throughout the internet, New World is intrinsically social. It’s a PvP-focused MMO for sure, but that PvP is supported not just by the hardcore zergers who rush into battle with the type of willful abandon that would make Ghengis Khan rejoice. No, the whole of the PvP loop is supported by anyone who steps foot in Aeternum, whether you flag yourself or not in the lifetime of the MMO.
And this feels incredibly deliberate on Amazon’s part. The social contract that faction members make, whether they contribute to the chat in-game or simply farm town board quests in their chosen region, all helps contribute to the whole. That community, “founded on mutual cooperation and teamwork” flourishes on my New World server, and I daresay is likely flourishing among many servers in Amazon’s New World server farm.
However, I do wonder how sustainable this type of content is long-term. PvP MMOs tend to fall out relatively quickly in the average MMO’s mind, as more games release and older games beckon your time over the weeks and months. Games like Crowfall, a Throne War PvP game feels like a wimper now just a few months after release, and upcoming titles like Mortal Online 2 don’t generate the type of buzz with casual players like additions to the genre such as Elyon (the MMORPG formerly known as Ascent: Infinite Realm) can.
What makes New World seem like it will sustain for weeks and months at a healthy clip, though, is partly due to its mindshare: Amazon spent untold stacks of cash to market the hell out of the MMO. But I like to think that a large part of it is that New World has refreshingly brought social communities back to a mainstream MMORPG.
Games like Swords of Legends Online, Crowfall and even aging MMOs like The Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft are starting to feel like mostly solo affairs. Indeed, some MMOs like The Elder Scrolls Online herald the ability to play much of the content solo. Yet New World, a game in which you can’t share quests with your friends and group mates, feels more social than any MMO world I’ve stepped foot into in years.
Chat is always brimming with excitement and players are constantly planning and forming groups to tackle PvP, and even PvE content within Aeternum. The common goal of protecting and improving your faction’s territory isn’t the province of PvP players, or even the company that controls the region, alone. PvE players contribute through town board quests, their time and effort playing a role in whether or not your region becomes the next trading hot spot, or whether your fort has upgraded siege equipment to fight off a faction war.
PvE players contribute to the company coffers by paying tax in trading, housing, and more. And how that company regulates those fees depends on the mood of the player base – both PvE and PvP. If another faction controls the region over and has lower trading and crafting taxes, you might find your region desolate, with casual players making the most of the rates around Aeternum.
However, there are some cracks I’ve seen starting to show, though I will admit the experience here is relegated to just the server I’ve spent my time on. PvP wars can start to drain the mood of even the most hardcore of PvPers, especially if all you wanted to do was log on and fish, but the social aspect compels you to drop what you’re doing to fight back a faction trying to flip a region on the map you control.
This has seemingly happened a ton the last few days with the Covenant making huge moves on our server, throwing the profitable region of Everfall into conflict. Over the last few days it’s been under constant siege, with the Syndicate’s best PvPers spending hours fighting it back. A friend of mine quipped that the time commitment to hold a territory in New World is akin to that you sign up for to end-game, top tier raid in World of Warcraft. I commented back that the constant pull to feel obligated to hold the territory sounds like it was ruining the fun. I have to wonder what side many players will fall on – there really is no right or wrong here.
But it does make me wonder just how long this social community can last, especially as content starts to run out for many casual players and PvPers start to feel the DeJa’Vu of defending the same thing over and over again each day. This is something that even players in the most descructive war in EVE Online history started to feel: the stress of the war wearing on the combatants, according to Kotaku's Lee Yancy.
Indie dev house Insane, the studio behind Profane, recently had their CEO speaking about the question “To Zerg or Not to Zerg?” on a recent stream. And the refreshing idea that the map and world should change over time instead of on a near constant basis appealed to me greatly.
“The story shouldn’t be changing on a daily basis,” Diego Beltran, CEO of Insane told streamer Oxfurd in a recent interview. “The story has to have some time to mature, so like it’s not like today there’s this guild dominating everything and then next day this other guild [breaks] everything and now there’s like, in one week the story has changed so many times that it’s impossible to talk about. […] We’re trying to create a universe where things evolve over time.”
Right now, as someone who is playing both PvE and PvP as part of my review (stay tuned for that, I swear it’s almost done) the story feels like it might be changing too much, or the attempt to do so on our server is putting strain on the companies making up each faction. This feeling could also be that as Syndicate who owned much of the server initially during the Great Territory Purchasing Rush of 2021, we simply bought holdings to say we had them, so there was no one else to really attack also.
But I have to wonder for the casual fan, which makes up the lifeblood of any MMO let’s be honest, does this constant pull to defend a region when you might have had other plans when you logged on for the day start to wear on you? Does the constant refrain that we have to defend this particular region in faction chat start to become numbing? Will the social fabric which is allowing for some great excitement and refreshingly alive worlds start to fray as other games and expansions release, or as casual MMO players in New World simply run out of other content to do near end game?
The social community that has formed in New World thanks to its faction PvP system is one of its best qualities as an MMORPG in 2021. But the question for me remains: how long will that be sustainable? How many times can the story change on a server before casual players get tired and go back to a familiar haunt? Time will definitely tell here.