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New World Interview: Talking January's Update And The Future With Amazon's Mike Willette

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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New World's January update is coming, and with it new end-game features such as Expedition Mutators, combat rebalancing, a new end-game currency in Umbral Shards and more. Earlier this week Amazon hosted a dev round table to talk about the upcoming update this month, as well as touch on some of what players can expect to see in the coming updates beyond January. We had the chance last week to send off some questions via email to Amazon about January's update, as well as ask about the future of the MMO, especially for players who might have left Aeternum's shores, waiting for a reason to return. 

MMORPG.com: At the end of 2021, the team talked a ton about mutators and how they will help with players looking to “augment” their end-game experience. How do you envision mutators changing the way players enjoy end-game content, and is there a fear that since it’s not really “new content” per se that players will still be left wanting?

Mike Willette, World Experience Lead, Amazon Game Studios: We see Mutators as a meta game mechanic. It’s an additive system that encourages players to experience content in a new way. We are continuing to build more Expedition content and this is another layer of gameplay aimed at encouraging different playstyles, gear, and team compositions as the challenges vary week over week.

MMORPG.com: One thing I appreciate that mutators do is change the strategies and encounters themselves in an expedition – how does the team plan to keep these mutators fresh and not something that players will find the best ways to min max when they come around on a rotation? Can you give us an example of a how an expedition might be augmented one week and then completely different the next time the challenge rotates?

MW: At launch, a single Expedition receives a Weekly Mutation. The mutations are randomized from a pool of different mutations, promotions, and curses. Over time we will continue to release more mutations that will add even more variety and challenge for players. Below is a list of the current launch mutations for reference.

  • Elemental
    • Elemental mutations infuse enemies in the Expedition with a specific elemental damage type, increasing their resistance to that damage type, converting a large portion of their damage to that type, and giving them powerful elemental-based abilities.
    • Hellfire: Hellfire infuses enemies with fire, allowing them to burn players who oppose them.
    • Eternal: Eternal infuses enemies with void, granting them abilities that debuff players or buff their void-infused allies.
  • Promotions
    • Promotion mutations grant creatures in the Expedition powerful new abilities.
    • Savage: Savage AI apply healing reduction and cast damaging beams around themselves.
    • Indomitable: Indomitable creatures persist through damage with life-stealing abilities and are able to summon a phalanx, blocking all incoming player projectiles.
  • Curses
    • Curse mutations apply dangerous effects to players, forcing them to work together to overcome the curse’s power. At the highest difficulties, Curses become Empowered, creating additional tactical challenges.
    • Desiccated: Desiccated players will occasionally combust with elemental energy. When the curse is empowered, players will need to cleanse themselves by approaching the combusting player.
    • Censored: Censored players will find their abilities turning against them. After players in the group have used a certain number of activated abilities, explosive silence zones will appear on all players. When the curse is empowered, players will lose natural mana regeneration and must enter the silence zones to regenerate their mana.

MMORPG.com: Will there be a leaderboard with scores being shared on each server so groups and companies can compete?

MW: Leaderboards are something we are looking into, but we don’t have anything to share at this time.

MMORPG.com: Umbral Shards are a new resource for end-game players to keep track of, however it seems like it will be rather easy to obtain on some level. How important was it to also make sure that it’s tied to the other major endgame activity – Expertise – as a way to gain Shards?

New World

MW: We want to make sure players’ time is rewarded. Some avenues are faster than others and that is based on time investment and difficulty. It was important to make sure that Expertise and the Umbral systems had a synergistic relationship. We want players to have more control over how and what they are upgrading. So if you have a weapon you really like we want to give you the power to upgrade and continue to use it. Once players get their Expertise up to 600 in a slot they will unlock the ability to upgrade their GS and Expertise via the Umbral system.

MMORPG.com: Since late December, the round table made it clear that the team would be slowing down when it came to bug fixes and reacting to issues in the game, especially since so many fixes introduced new ways that broke the experience. When it comes to content, however, will this slow down or effect content release cadences? What can players expect to see this year out of New World beyond the January content update?

MW: We are going to have some intermittent releases where we focus specifically on bugs, balance, and bots. We will also maintain releases that are more content and feature focused. For example, our February release is specifically focused on polish and bugs. Our March release will target new features with some bug fixes included.

MMORPG.com: Fast travel has been a sore spot for many since the betas, with the cost of Azoth incredibly high and no alternative to move about the world than simply running. January’s update lowers some of the cost, but if it still feels unbalanced and unforgiving, is the team willing to take another look at the system – even start approaching the idea of mounts?

MW: We have lowered the azoth cost for Fast Travel and added 6 additional Spirit Shrine locations adjacent to Expeditions and Arenas.  The team is always looking at system feedback and working to identify any areas with imbalance or friction. Mounts are a topic that is still discussed but nothing we can share at this time.

MMORPG.com: January’s update is already on the PTR – how has the feedback been to the Mutator additions, and how has the PTR fared in helping New World since its launch last year?

MW: Feedback has been great. We’ve been examining scoring, the difficulty calculations, and specific mutator effects when applied to named enemies. The PTR has been a great way to get early feedback from a wider audience on upcoming features. We are not able to act on all feedback with immediacy, but are able to adjust our planning based on customer feedback.

MMORPG.com: The Winter Convergence event had some great additions (I particularly liked the meteors crashing to Aeternum – they were a spectacle). How did the event do in your view and should players start to expect more and more of these types of seasonal events as 2022 deepens?

MW: I thought the Winter event was great! It was an opportunity to showcase more stories and experiences in the world, seen through the lens of Aeternum and its rogue’s gallery of inhabitants and magic. Expect to see more in the future.

MMORPG.com: New World players challenged the devs to play their own high level dungeon – which the devs took them up on the challenge. For many it was seen as a way to reach across to the playerbase and have some fun. How did the team react when you first heard those calls to stream the end game expedition, and is this something you think the team will do more of in the future?

MW: We thought it was a cool call out. Of course we aren’t professional streamers and were probably a little nervous about it, but it was a lot of fun. You can expect more in the future, and you may get to see more of our dev team playing.

MMORPG.com: Looking ahead to 2022, is there a roadmap you can share to assuage players who still feel there isn’t a lot on the horizon to look to beyond the Expedition Mutators, especially those who might have left the game and are looking for a good reason to return?

MW: We hear players on this front and want to provide them with as much accuracy as we can. We are continually building out content across the board. I can’t announce anything right now, but we do plan to share more about our roadmap. Stay tuned.  


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore