This past week, I had the distinct honor to sit down (over a video call) and talk with Amazon Game's David Verfaillie, the Head of Player Experience on New World. David and I spoke for about 30 minutes, covering a wide gamut of topics from combat and the new player experience, to crafting and PvP. Here's our conversation in full.
MMORPG: What are you doing with New World's combat to set it apart from other Action-oriented MMOs?
David Verfaillie: The first thing we're doing is we're trying to make it a bit more precise than some action RPGs out there. We simulate the hit volumes for actual weapons on the server and simulate the defensive capsules per limb for the character. So what that does is create a very precise combat system where positioning timing, and all those factors really make a big difference in the outcome of battle
That sounds amazing. One of my other questions was in regards to how New World tackles making the combat feel engaging. I think too action-MMOs don't really feel connected - it doesn't really feel like my attacks are connecting. So that's exciting to hear
Yeah, I think you know, just to add a little bit there. One of our goals is to make combat feel really weighty and have an impact. So we designed the attacks to feel little heavier than other games. That does mean they can at times be a little bit slower and have a bit more recovery. But that deliberate feel I think adds a lot to the game. And when you hit an opponent with our attack, it always causes a reaction. So that really sells the impact of the attacks. It also creates a really cool sort of flow between attacker and defender because the defender in our game has a number of options also they can block they can dodge roll, they can step back to try to avoid attacks because positioning is so important. So I like how it creates sort of an intricate dance between attacker and defender for combat
I like the way you word that an intricate dance. But intricate dances are hard to learn what is the learning curve going to be like starting out in New World for those maybe not familiar with Wade here combat
Yeah, I think that's a great question. I think especially if you come from some the more traditional MMOs where, for instance, there might be tab targeting. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve. We do have a wonderful first time experience, which sort of introduces you to the combat teaches you the main steps. I think one thing that, you know, new players will take a little while to get used to is blocking just because that doesn't really happen. Like there's no act of blocking and other games. So we try to reinforce that through the the sort of the PvE enemies, you you deal with the first character sort of have slower attacks, they're very well telegraphed, to sort of teach you "Hey, I should be avoiding these things rather than trying to attack through them." And then over time, we increase the difficulty and ramp it up. So you might have to read whether you should block this attack or dodge roll it. We sort of increase difficulty by shortening the tells and adding a little more diversity into the attacks of enemies over time.
Will new world have a reliance on the typical MMO trinity of a tank, a healer and DPS type roles?
Well, one of the things I love about new world is that it is a classless system, right? So unlike other MMOs, you don't choose a class at the start and you're not locked into a specific profession or set of skills. Instead in New World, you define your character through the weapons you choose, the armor you wear, and how you choose your attribute points. So you can sort of create your own character to match on playstyle. With that said, there are sort of weapons that you know, focus more on support. We have a life staff currently in the game, and that allows you to heal and buff players on your team. And we have more range oriented weapons and melee weapons so players can sort of choose what role they want and find cool combinations.
One thing I really like about New World is that you can wield three weapons simultaneously. As you level up you start with one then you unlock the second weapon slot and then a third weapon slot. And what's great about that is you can sort of assess the combat situation and choose the best tool in your arsenal for it. So for instance, if you're dealing with, you know, a group of archers high up on a perch, you might switch to your sword and shield so you can block the incoming arrows is you sort of close the distance. If there were like a group of easier enemies all charging you, you might go with the fire staff and do large amounts of AOE damage to whittle them down. So players are allowed to switch freely between three weapons as they level up, and players can feel free to level up all the weapons to the game, but they can only have three equipped at the same time.
How is the reload time on weapons and can it be affected by player skills or some of the weapon skills that can be learned on weapons?
The reload time is slower than some people are going to be used to. We're going for a more realistic feel. You know, our firearm is a musket because we're in the 17th century and reloading a flintlock musket takes a little while and I think the first time players go through the reload animation - If you've been playing games like Call of Duty or some of the quicker shooters - you're gonna see a big difference here. But I think one of the great things about the time that we are in the 17th century is it's a great time where blades and melee weapons were still viable and these firearms were just coming onto the scenes and becoming viable. So it's a really cool nexus of different weapons coming into power and allows us to have a very wide spectrum of weapons and then obviously on top of that, we have magic.
I just want to ask with the game being set in the 17th century - with muskets, bows and arrows, swords - are there any weapons that you guys are wanting to add to the game that maybe haven't been added yet?
Oh, for sure. I think in every category, I can list a couple You know, I think in the melee area we'd love to do spears someday, great axes, daggers. There's just a plethora of different weapons that we want to do. And then in the ranged category, we have the musket and the bow right now, but I'd love to do sort of like a blunderbuss, which is a shotgun version in that area. Pistols would be super cool. And in magic, we have we have the life and fire magic right now. But you can assume which elements we might get into next year. I'd love to do more magic.
So talking to some of the weapons that you want to add in the game, like pistols, is there currently dual wielding in New World right now?
In New World we have the sword in the shield, which is where you hold the sword in one hand and the shield in the other hand. That is our only sort of dual-wielded weapon right now.
With the idea of the pistol, if the team incorporated pistols into New World, would we possibly be able to wield a sword and a pistol then?
Possibly you'll have to stick around and see.
Alright, very exciting! Is there going to be an upgrade system to customize weapons and gear you already have in order to make them more potent, or is it just going to be reliant on the crafting system to make higher rating gear?
There's two elements to that. One, there definitely is what we're calling the weapon mastery system. That's the system that allows players to customize how weapons work for them. Every weapon has two mastery trees, and they're pretty unique play styles. So for instance, for the sword, there's a tree that focuses very heavily on the sword and damage, and then another tree, which focuses very heavily on the shield - being able to stun, interrupt; things that are very shield oriented. And one of the cool things is players can sort of mix and match a little bit from both trees to create their own unique play style. So that's one way in which you customize weapons.
And then as you said, the other way in which you actually get the stats for the weapons is you can craft or find them in the world. They come with what we call a gear score, which is a definition of their base stats. For weapons, how much damage does it do. The higher the gear score in general, the more damage it does. But in addition to that, they can also roll perks and perks are special bonuses to the weapon. For instance, we have elemental perks which add elemental damage to your swords. We have perks which make them very strong and get certain bonuses to enemies in the game, and those roll randomly when you get weapons in chests.
When you're crafting there are special items you find throughout the world that you can add to your crafting recipe to ensure you get those perks. So there are ways to do that. And then on top of the perks, the last element for gear are gems. So certain gear will have gem sockets and if it does have a gem socket, then you can go and craft gems to put in there. So throughout mining various ores in the game and every now and then you'll get lucky and get a gem and then through gem crafting you can basically refine that gem into a powerful gem you can slot on weapons to increase your attributes.
I really like the gem system - it sounds exactly very similar to Diablo II and Diablo III and that made me really excited when I learned about that. So I'm excited for the gems. I can't wait to track those down.
Yeah, they're a lot of fun there. There's just something fun about as a crafter you're always out gathering various ores like the silver or the gold in the world and iro. And it's just a lot of fun when you hit one and you get that pop up of getting a gem it really makes your day.
So in Diablo II you can take weapons and have recipes in order to craft them into something else or improve some of the perks on them, or even add gem slots. Is there going to be any system like that in New World to where we can take these unique items and potentially work on making a gem slot for them or changing one of the perks on it?
So right now the gem slots in the game are random. So the higher your crafting score is relative to the tier of that weapon you're crafting, the more likely you are to get a gem slot. So that part is random. The Perks: you can affect which perks are on a weapon by including those special items that you find in the world. So those can help influence that. On top of that, you can add Azoth to the crafting recipe to further enhance your chances of getting more perks. And Azoth as you might know is that special resource that really makes a term "The Eternal Isle" It has magical properties that can be imbued into weapons and armor.
So now I want to switch over a bit to the PvP focus of New World. Is PvP only going to be limited to Faction Conflicts and Wars or are there plans for separate modes?
Well, we do have an open-world PvP system. At any point once you join a faction, you can flag for PvP and stay flagged throughout the course of your experience. Doing so as a bit of an experience bonus. And it allows you to do faction missions that are PvP oriented. So when you do a faction mission, there's PvE missions and PvP. The PvP missions have some slightly better rewards but come with a little higher risk. Those are sort of the two big benefits of doing the open world PvP. And then as you mentioned in addition to that, we obviously have the more curated PvP experiences like the epic Wars are the big pinnacle moment for PvP.
Now that sounds exciting - the open world PvP offering greater rewards. What's the earliest that players will be able to engage in that?
It's when you sign up for a faction, which right now I believe is level 10.
And how often is the team going to look at enacting balance changes to skills or weapons in PvP, and are these changes also going to affect the PvE combat as well?
So right now we use a shared set of gear. Math and everything is the same between PvE and PvP. That is something we're going to try to maintain. We do make balance changes on a very frequent basis in the Alpha. Every month when we release a new patch, we do have a number of combat balance changes, and we're going to continue to do so. I think there are a large number of moving pieces. You know, I think with a classless combat system, there's just a lot of variables and in any MMO with all the gear there's so many variables in terms of combat, we're doing our best to balance it. And I think every month we're going to continue to refine as we get data from players and telemetry.
In one of the blog posts about Faction Conflicts and Wars, there was a line that mentioned "endgame bonuses and rewards." Does this mean there be exclusive gear available through these PvP activities?
There's no exclusive gear for PvP. But the faction shops do offer some very powerful gear. So as you join a faction and you do either PvE or PvP missions for them, you gain a faction currency and you can rank up within the faction to unlock higher tier gear. So doing PvP missions because they are slightly riskier will reward you faction currency at a quicker rate than PvE, but there's nothing unique or special for PvP gear. We want to just keep that all consistent between the two.
That's really good to hear. I was worried that there might be more powerful gear attained through PvP and players who don't want that gameplay, who just want to focus on PvE, if they might be missing out?
Yeah, I think for us, PvP we have wanted to really place that as an opt-in mechanic Players can choose to do so. And we really want to create a situation where players don't feel like they're forced to, Like, "Hey, I'm going to be missing out unless I do this." We want it to be an optional avenue for players who care and want to do that but not a required avenue.
So getting out of PvP, what are the endgame high level PvE content. What is that going to look like? Are they giant raids? Are they just kind of dungeons? Are they the was it wasn't the arenas? The not the invasions? I guess our invasions part of it or the ancient guardians?
Yeah, I'd say there's four big avenues for endgame PvE we already have and this is obviously as a live-product area we will continue to build on. The big ones right now are the elite POIs. So in the harder areas like Mercgar in the world, we have these elite points of interest that have, y'know a sort of - they feel like an open world dungeon in a lot of ways with the beginning, middle and end, very difficult enemies bosses, but then high level chests. You'll need a group of players usually at least five some of them are tailored towards 10-man to handle these areas and they're a lot of fun and a good challenge for players.
A second avenue for high level PvE content is Invasions, which you just talked about. Invasions are the PvE versions of War. This is when the corrupted armies declare war against your fort, and you have to protect against an onslaught of the corrupted for 30 minutes. And those are are super fun and challenging. I think people have been really enjoying them in the Alpha. The corrupted breaches are another great endgame content. They start earlier, you can start doing corrupted breaches as early as level 20. But they escalate in difficulty and the monsters in them gain new abilities to make them even more challenging. And we have some very high-level corrupted breaches which offer great rewards to the player and are fun to do. And some of the great things about the breaches are because they're dynamic, even in the lower level areas of the game, if your territory has been leveled up a lot, you might have a high level breach which is a lot of fun to tackle that.
And then the last thing is the Spriggin Arena, and that's our first real arena boss in the game, which is the angry Earth spriggin. And this is a super fun boss fight with multiple phases, he has these limbs that can stretch out to attack people at distance, and he does huge sweeps of those limbs that you have to dodge. He has sort of this cocoon he incases himself in and heals while he's in that, and you have to break down. So there's a lot of cool elements in that that first big arena boss fight.
Alright, so how soloable is the content in New World?
Well there is, I think, a great mix of solo content and group content. I have been playing the Alpha as a solo player just to see what the experience is like. And we have a great sort of, like I said, the first-time user experience then onboarding quests, and there's just a lot of content for solo players that will get you up through the levels learning the game. You can make it very easily all the way to 60 and doing fun content as a solo player. Some of the endgame content starts to require a group like we talked about the invasion stuff and some of the elite POIs will require a group. But there's a lot of solo content for players for sure.
Okay, that’s exciting. I'm mostly solo player myself. So that's good to know that I don't always have to rely on a group and I can just hop in.
Yeah, one other time quick thing, one of the things I really like for solo players is the way our territory system works. Solo players can contribute to a territory, even if they're not a part of the company that owns that territory. Which I think is a really cool social dynamic, because remember, you can buy houses in our game. So once you find sort of the territory that you really like, it's close to the where you're exploring, you know, you like to location, you can buy a house there, and then you become a part of a resident of that territory. And you can do what we call the the town missions to upgrade the town, upgrade the crafting, and defenses of that town. So even if you're not a part of a group, as a solo player, you can still contribute to the group and sort of feel like you're a part of that territory, which I think is a really cool mechanic for solo players.
Yeah, that does sound like a very cool mechanic. Now, one of my problem with a lot of MMOs, like Elder Scrolls Online, is how long it takes to level up and feel like I'm going anywhere. So what is that first kind of 10 levels like in New World?
The first 10 levels of the game are relatively quick, I think we want to introduce people to the open world elements of our game, right? Like the start of the experience is a little bit more curated and directed, we have the first-time user experience and then a really linear set of quests that introduce you to the world and the mechanics of the game. But we want that to happen pretty quickly and sort of expand to all the different open world features, like the faction missions, the territory systems. So we make those 10 levels pretty quick. You know, you can do them, probably five ish hours very quick to sort of unfurl the rest of the game and experience the game at a broader level.
Recently there was a blog post about crafting in New World. Are we going to be able to learn all of the crafting, refining, and gathering skills or are we going to be limited to only a couple in each category?
You will not be limited in any way on crafting you will be able to progress your trade skills and every crafting tradeskill and every gathering, every refining. It is a what we call a "Use to Improve" system where players can become masters in every tradeskill they want. Just like with weapons also, I think we briefly discussed, but you level up your weapons as you use them. You can level up each weapon; there are no limits. You can only equip three at the same time, but you can level up every weapon in the game and become a master of all that.
Is there an Auction House system, or anywhere else in New World, that you're able to sell these crafted goods to other players?
Absolutely, I think we want to try to support a player driven economy and we have a trading post that is localized per territory where players can put up goods for sale and other players can buy them. A lot of the resources in new world are localized, right? Like, down South you're gonna find a lot more trees, and various natural goods, whereas up North you'll find more of the rare goods. So the economies might be slightly different in different areas. And I think we've already seen in Alpha, certain players can make money on that arbitrage opportunity: buying stuff up North, bringing it down South to sell it. I think that's sort of a cool element of the game.
That's really cool, and one of the first things I was thinking about - becoming a trader between North and South territories. What are you guys going to be looking at for balancing that player driven economy to prevent players from capitalizing on goods or creating a huge markup that trivializes the system?
That's a good question. In terms of balancing the economy, I think, the more rare the resource, the harder it is to get and I think that does limit the inflow of some of these higher level crafted items into the game. So that's one thing we're doing to sort of prevent that. And I think we'll continue to look at the player driven economy. Right now, when we look at we don't see anyone sort of monopolizing areas yet. So hopefully we can maintain that.
When you start in New World do you get to select which territory you go to or is there one starting territory for everyone?
We have four what we call "starting beaches" spread out throughout the South. You get randomly chosen into one of those based on the population in the starting beaches. And each of those beaches sort of introduce you to the game and then funnel into a different starting territory. So players will end up in one of those four starting territories.
These four starting territories, will they have different entry-level crafting materials available, or is there going to be plenty of all types of resources available to get into crafting?
More the latter, I think the earlier crafting we want everyone to be able to experience and be a part of so the starter resources are generally relatively abundant down South, so everyone can dabble in weapon smithing, armor crafting, tailoring - all the different elements. As you start to specialize, then you'll have to go search for the more unique and specialized resources.
I know it's really hard to talk to future content when the game itself hasn't even come out yet, but is there a timeline you guys want to have to add more content to the game? Like every six months or at least annually?
I think we consider this a live product and we'll be updating it on a pretty regular cadence. I don't think exact times have been discussed and exact content, but I think it will definitely be quicker than a six month cadence. It'll be probably closer to what we're doing in Alpha right now, which is our monthly releases with new content.
We're nearing the end of our interview, so was there anything else that you wanted people to know about?
Yeah, absolutely. There's a couple of quick things. First, I definitely did want to mention that we're going to be announcing the start of the closed beta this weekend. Closed beta will be starting on July 23. So definitely preorder the game. It's available on Steam or NewWorld.com, and when you preorder you will get access to the closed beta and the chance to experience New World and the Eternal Isle ahead of everyone else.