Amazon Game Studios' New World has been shrouded in mystery since it was first announced in late 2016. While the game has been in alpha testing for some time, little information has been forthcoming from the studio. That changes today with an exclusive interview with AGS Studio Head Patrick Gilmore, Game Director Scot Lane and Executive Producer Rich Lawrence. Find out more about this unique MMO in the making.
MMORPG.com: What inspired the choice of an alternate 17th century as the setting?
Patrick Gilmore: New World actually started with a conversation about great unsolved mysteries. There’s that line in Raiders of the Lost Ark about Tanis, where the Well of Souls is: “Wiped clean by the wrath of God…” A city that was erased from existence is such an inspiring idea. We talked about Jack the Ripper, Area 51, the Voynich Manuscript, how all these things just make great leaping off points. As we continued researching, we learned of a phenomenon called phantom islands—in particular this island called Antillia that appears on maps in the 1500’s. The whole idea took hold almost immediately, particularly the era—the last gasp of the blade and first breath of the gun—which suggests this combination of hand-to-hand and ranged combat that feels really unique. Plus several movies, including The Revenant and The Witch, which look at survival on the frontier as equal tests of fortitude and spiritual well-being.
Like most good ideas, there was a sort of convergence of lots of elements. Every so often an idea gels that just feels—and I don’t know how else to say it—pungent. Rich, intense, complex, deep. New World was one of those.
MMORPG.com: How much "history" (stretch or "reimagined!) is included in the game both in terms of story and with regard to weapons, crafting, etc.
PG: New World is an alt-history game that imagines the discovery of a new continent during the twilight of the age of exploration. We pay a lot of attention to the era, the level of technology, cultural attitudes of the day, peril of ocean crossings, and so on. I played some music I liked as we were exploring the sound of the game, and someone called out that it had a banjo in it. “That's post 1800,” they said. So no banjos. To me, authenticity of the backdrop brings depth to the eeriness of the world, and the sort of tone of desperation we want to set. In zombie games, this comes from the collapse of society—the social framework that keeps you safe in normal times is completely absent, and that’s scary. It’s all down to you. In this case, we wanted something that felt like a start—the beginning of a civilization—not an end, like the fall of something. But with the same anxiety and lack of a safety net.
Then there's the internal history—the story of the game. We see this as a sort of exercise in archaeology. What are the first things the player sees? Then what, when they get deeper? Hopefully we'll have the chance to expose many, many layers in the ages of Aeternum.
MMORPG.com: How many of the legends and folktales you've included are based on historic record?
PG: Most of the ingredients and materials you find in the game, the techniques for building and construction, the types of things you can make, and trade skills you can acquire were all inspired by vocations and trades of the era. And we'll be adding more. I was doing some research on fishing recently, and learned the first fishing reel showed up in England around 1650. I'm thankful we don't have to do fishing with just strings tied to poles!
As far as legends and folktales, I've mentioned Antillia as an inspiration, but not what I think of as a hard basis for the game. Most of us read a lot, but we're trying to make our own lore for the continent, so while we bring over myths and superstitions from the old world (from a variety of sources), I wouldn't say many are based on historic record.
MMORPG.com: What part does crafting play in the game? You've posted a lot of screens of a variety of crafters. Is crafting a role that a "non-PvPer" can play and feel successful at? How so?
Scot Lane: Crafting plays a huge part! The vast majority of equipment and consumables in the game is crafted by players. Players can choose to craft by using our Skills system. As players level they acquire skill points that can be placed in crafting, harvesting, or survival skills. Players who want to craft can choose to be a Blacksmith, Outfitter, Engineer, Alchemist, or Cook. Placing points in crafting skills allow players access to higher tier crafting stations and recipes and opens up the possibility to craft higher quality items that are statistically superior their lower-quality counterparts. Most of the crafting ingredients are found by harvesting creatures in the world and exploring Points of Interest. New World's economy is entirely player-driven, so someone who invests their time and energy in becoming an artisan can definitely carve out a place in the world.
MMORPG.com: What in-game social systems do you plan to include that will unite players? What about small groups or pairs / single players? How do they fit in?
SL: Players can band together in Companies, which provide a leadership structure, controllable access permissions for structures and defenses, a private communication channel, and shared land ownership. We also have a grouping system that displays vital stats like HP as well as the location of your groupmates in the world, which is ideal for tackling more challenging Points of Interest or keeping track of each other in large scale conflicts. Maintaining control of a territory can be challenging for small groups of players, so in the case of small groups, pairs, or individuals, there are outposts spread throughout the world that each have a selection of crafting and refining stations available in addition to some personal storage. These outposts can be used by everyone, but also serve as important tools for small groups or individuals to make their way in New World.
MMORPG.com: How will the game progress over time? WILL it progress over time to include the passage of time?
Rich Lawrence: One of the things we love about online games is the live service aspect of them. Although online games are a bit new to Amazon as product, the concept of live service certainly is not. Just as we listen to customers and modify our AWS services or change features on Amazon.com, we'll be listening and changing the game, based on what we hear from players. We've defined for ourselves areas we would like to change over time, but always with the caveat, "unless the players want something else".
MMORPG.com: How customizable are you planning to make characters? What about female playable characters? What about character aging?
RL: We do have male and female playable characters, with some customization options. We're very focused on large combat scenes, and that has required us to limit character customization somewhat so that large-scale battles still perform well on a typical player's computer.
MMORPG.com: What about non-PvP servers?
SL: We believe the game is a PvP game at its heart. It is unlikely we would dedicate entire servers to PvE. We have learned through customer feedback that players want us to establish more areas of the world that are Sanctuary or safe zones for those not interested on PvP. While New World is a PvP game, we have done a lot to build and support a PvE experience.
MMORPG.com: What about "vehicles" -- Ma & Pa's horse & buggy and other means of transportation?
SL: At this point, our New World has just been discovered and nobody has come across any wild horses or functional buggies. That said, we plan on building a large world, and I can't say for sure what players will or won't discover down the line.
MMORPG.com: How punishing are the survival elements? Will players have to eat and drink?
PG: Players won't die from either thirst or starvation in New World. Instead drinking and eating act like buffs to your normal recovery rates. Specifically, drinking enables you to recover stamina more quickly, so that you can block, dodge, and launch athletic and deadly attacks more frequently in combat. Eating increases the rate at which you recover health after being injured. For both attributes, the variance is significant, so that a thirsty and hungry player is far easier to kill than one who is topped up on food and water.
MMORPG.com: Where in production is New World right now? Will you be wrapping up alpha and moving into beta testing soon?
PG: Right now we're in alpha testing. We’re not ready yet to announce next steps yet, but stay tuned.