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New World Developers Break Down Design Philosophy Behind Its Expedition Mutators

Inspired by Roguelike games, actually

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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In a new post, Amazon Games is detailing some of the thought processes behind one of the major features it's been touting for New World since the beginning of 2022: Mutators. The post delves into the development history of Mutators, their origins, and design philosophy.

According to World Experience Lead Mike Willette, the idea behind Mutators has an interesting origin: Roguelikes. The idea here was to give players unexpected challenges, much like Roguelikes can to unprepared players in a playthrough.

As far as what Mutators were intended to do from a design perspective, Darren McKinsey, a Level Designer on New World describes it as a way to "encourage varied counterplay, incentivize teamwork, and foster communication" inside of the MMO's dungeon-like Expeditions.

"The guiding principle behind Mutators according to Darren is to encourage varied counterplay, incentivize teamwork, and foster communication. Alone these goals might create a few fun moments, but together they vastly improve replayability. Each week, players can join a different set of Expeditions with randomly selected Mutators for diverse challenges and gameplay patterns. This variety stems from feedback. The developers noticed players enjoy strategy over pure difficulty tuning and continue to design Mutators around what players can do to outplay every effect."

However, the challenge to the developers was to find the right "level of challenge." The team was tasked with needing to ensure that Mutators provided difficulty that was just the right amount to provide a sense of accomplishment for overcoming them, while also ensuring that they can't just faceroll whatever is in their way. 

"So, how do they know when the challenge is just right? Mutator difficulty is like a ladder. Each step up adds extra effects. If players feel a great sense of accomplishment, then that’s a win regardless of their step. The designers are always looking at ways to build these moments up. More importantly, they want players to be able to freely experiment with their favorite roles and find fun, successful tactics for their team."

Mutators themselves help to add variety to the dungeon-like Expeditions, which are some of the best content New World has to offer players. However, the development team isn't simply focusing on the PvE aspects of the MMO, mentioning last month that PvP will be getting lots of love.

You can check out the full post on the New World website


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