As I played through the New World open beta late last month, one of the odd things that struck me whilst playing was just how social the MMO happened to be. While there is always chatter in world or region chat in many other MMOs, and hotspot areas like Jita in EVE or Limsa Lominsa in Final Fantasy 14 are always teeming with life, nothing felt quite as socially driven as it was in New World. And the reason why chat was abuzz?
Apparently in life and New World you can't avoid them. Setting taxation rates in a settlement is one of the key factors of having gained control of it during a faction war previously. Settlement owners can adjust tax rates for housing fees, selling and crafting fees and so on. Make your taxes too high and you might become a target for a rival faction aiming to usurp you. Set them too low and you might attract more settlers, but you won't make nearly as much money in the process. Like in real life, taxes are a tricky balance.
The interesting part is when settlements first started being taken over by factions in the beta, the discussions in faction chat came to life. "What is our target? How are we going to liberate Brightwood from those pesky Marauders? Man, the Marauder's are terrible, these taxes are too high!" It was nice to feel as though the in-game chat itself was engaged in the actual goings-on in-game, and not simply the droning on of gold farmers and out-of-game events.
For those few weeks, it seemed everytime I glanced at chat it was alive with conversation about the game. Not only that, but it wasn’t content to just talk about the beta itself, but faction chats were alive with players coordinating and organizing counter offensives and war strategies for the upcoming battles over Brightwood and Windsward. People were engaging with the PvP the way the developers clearly imagined – organically and with a purpose. It wasn’t just because fighting other people in a video game is a fun mechanic in most games. There was real purpose that affected not just a single player, but the playerbase at large. There was incentive to win these battles beyond prestige. It mattered to everyone who became social in a social game.
I’m not sure how long this will last once New World fully launches. I don’t know if we’ll see faction-wide coordination as we saw in the beta, or if that will fizzle out to simply be contained in New World’s version of guilds, the companies. My hope is that everytime I log into New World post-launch, there is some sort of discussion going on about taxation in another province, one we specifically do not own. I hope there is always discssion about the company who is going to claim the settlement once the faction has won an upcoming war – and how the companies of our faction will work together to protect each other’s provinces. I hope that over time this social gameplay doesn’t diminish, but grows and keeps the multiplayer aspect of the MMO fully at the fore.
It is a New World afterall, it’ll be nice to bring a little social gameplay back into the genre.