On the Precipice of the New World

I stand on the sandy shores of another world, one that is my new home, surrounded by men and women in battered cotton clothes. The tide rolls across the sand behind me, and a man in a fancy coat is pointing waving from the treeline. I am here in Tera Vitae Aeternum, this is the final slice of the unknown world, and all the men and women on the shoreline around me are here to carve their fortunes as they may in these shores.

 

Welcome to the New World

While my avatar, a young woman named Tara sits on the sand, flanked on all sides by men and women dressed in rags, I am in a quiet loft in downtown San Francisco. Several thousands of dollars worth of high-end monitors, capture cards, PCs, and gaming peripherals are spread out on tables down the length of the little loft. Men and women in New World sweatshirts are chatting amiably with the others who walk in, a large-screen television sits at the front of the room showing a splash image from the game. At the back of a room, a table spread of fruits, cookies, candies, and drinks sections off a bit of the back of the room, and several staff members are smiling and greeting everyone.

I am at a preview event for Amazon Game Studios’ upcoming MMO, New World. I was among the first to arrive, sitting next to one of the stations where the game is already open, and a lush-looking grassland is splayed out in front of the avatars.

After a bit of milling, more writers show up, and we’re called to the front where head of Amazon Game Studios Orange County, Patrick Gilmore, is standing in front of the large television. He explains that New World is a game set in alternate-history 17th century. The age of discovery is winding down, with just a tiny slice of Bermuda left uncharted in a world of now finite boundaries. In the last corner of the unexplored is the island of Aeternum, one final piece of unclaimed land.

Players take control of the island’s new residents, leaving their old homes, selling their possessions to afford to sail, and set off to make their fortune on this island with just the shirts on their backs and the sense of adventure in their hearts.

Amazon bills this game as a “Sandbox MMO,” explaining that it’s the neatest label to define what it’s about. New World is a game that has by design avoided scripted sequences and moments, instead letting player freedom and emergent stories be the driving vehicle that propels players to log on, to carve the world into the shapes of their whimsy, and to experience the construction of civilization.

Back on the island, I’m behind the eyes of Tara, and the other new residents are sprinting around the stand wildly, getting used to the controls, which were provided helpfully by a packed print-outs sitting on top of our multicolored keyboards, and throwing punches into the air, running in aimless patterns, and spinning around in graceless circles. After a bit of orientation, we find Mike Willette under the handle “Berserker Mike,” who teaches us the basic mechanics of putting down camp, crafting, and finding materials to build resources.

Our characters are all fantastically over-leveled. Although we lack high-level equipment and resources, we seem to have high crafting skill, great combat skill, nice combat durability, and a handful of other perks that would translate to being high-level in games with a traditional leveling system, which is something this game lacks. Instead of levels, players gain experience in specific crafts: blacksmithing gains players levels in blacksmithing. Fighting gives players levels in fighting. In short, each stat the game tracks has its own level system, rather than the character as a whole having that level.

Together, we’re directed north to a basic crafting area. Inside the walls of this little blacksmithing outpost, we’re in a what New World calls a Sanctuary: a place safe from any player-based combat. We’re introduced to crafting stations, shops, and the basics of stamina. Forges, tanning racks, and such placements are necessary to use those trades, and those stations come at varying levels. Ostensibly, higher level forges, tanneries, clothiers, and so on will not be found in the wild, and must be built by players.

Once everyone had time to bump into walls, climb railings, and hurl ourselves off of the parapets (where I quickly learned that I could take fall damage), Mike pointed us at our company’s base. We slogged through the swamp, slowing our travel, gathered some more resources in transit, killed a few wolves, and on arrival used the company’s armory to equip ourselves for combat.

We were told the combat we were arming for would be a demo of the game’s war system. Players can gather in companies, New World’s equivalent of guilds, in groups of up to 50 players. These companies could stake claims on certain portions of the map, in which players could build compounds including crafting stations, storage barracks, respawn points, walls, and other defenses to stave off attackers. Companies who wish to take over enemy positions would have to declare war. So, war was declared. While it normally comes with a 24-hour timer to give both sides time to shore up their defenses, our timer was accelerated to a handful of seconds. With some direction from Berserker Mike, we crept our way over to an enemy base staffed with other members of Amazon’s development team who were waiting on the parapets with bows and muskets. War on, we planted kegs of explosives next to the outer walls of their fortifications, and with a few seconds pause, detonations sounded the first beat of the war drum, and we flooded into the base.

What transpired during the skirmish was familiar territory. From the inner walls of the base, archers and musketeers rained hell from above, ground warriors with maces and swords flanked us from the sides, and we made war while our demolition team continued to plant bombs and punch holes in the enemy’s walls.

In motion, New World felt a lot like modern action MMOs. Despite being in alpha development, the actual nuts and bolts of the game felt fluid. Movement, dodge rolls, melee, and ranged weapons had good response times seemingly uninfluenced by communicating combat through the internet. Everything felt punchy, immediate, and violent. Attacks that connected illustrated the amount of damage dealt in crisp red, the third-person camera kept just enough distance to keep things clear without taking away from the immediate threats all around, and striking and being struck felt like it had weight as skirmisher fought and killed for glory.

Amazon let us win, I’m sure, but we managed to destroy the central pillar that secured their base, and plant ours in its place. The base was now ours.

After our little war demo ended, we were encouraged to forge our way north through a section of map called The Great Cleave, a frozen valley packed with undead-seeming settlers who’d settled in the wrong places, arctic wolves, and doubtlessly other aggressive dangers the deeper north we could manage.

Outside of combat, New World offers players some alternatives to raw swords-and-guns. Foraging resources seems to be a large part of how to craft high level equipment. The deeper in the island players push, the better the resources that can be extracted from the earth. So, in order to make high-level swords, shields, and spears, players will need to have high-level blacksmithing. In order to build the higher tier equipment, players need high levels of crafting to refine the raw, mined material into useful forms. In order to even create items with the high level materials, players need high level crafting stations. Skills are layered this way, but since companies are made up of many trades, each of these could be covered by different players. It seems in order to do high-level work, players will either need to keep many equally high-level friends, or commission high level tradesmen.

Weapons seemed to come in five flavors: Wood, Iron, Steel, Starmetal, and Orichalcum. Represented as Tiers I through V. As the tiers climb, the weapons and armor become better, both in terms of damage output or mitigation, and in durability. Higher level blacksmithing and refining increased the chances of pushing items to higher qualities—for example, a Good quality Iron Sword will be better than a Normal quality Iron Sword, and so on.

Although the game has some shared DNA with survival-crafting games, there is no way for players to dehydrate or starve. Hunger and thirst systems exist, but staying well-hydrated and well-fed offers buffs to the players stamina and health recovery respectively. It isn’t mandatory to keep their characters from dying.

One of the things integral to the apparent intent of New World is vulnerability. Most of what a player carries with them will be dropped at death. These items can be collected at any point after a player dies. Aside from Sanctuaries, players are at risk of death everywhere they go. Be that from wild animals, ghosts, corrupted settlers, or from other players. Players with the intent to become criminals can do so and attack any other player at will. However, this isn’t without risk.

Players can equip 3 weapons or tools at a time in their quick access slots, as well as four quick-use items (food, bandages, and such). These items are secure, and will not drop when players die, however, anything else they are carrying that is not equipped will fall. Criminal players, those who’ve assaulted other players with murderous intent, a manually toggled state, will gain criminal notoriety. Criminals are not safe in Sanctuary zones and drop all of their equipment on death, even the equipped items. Although being a criminal is a way to play, they have no respite at almost any point.

After eating a lot of cooked meat, drinking a lot of fresh water, and repeatedly getting killed by roving bands of skeletal corrupted settlers, I got the opportunity to chat with the developers.

The 17th century feels like an unusual choice for a setting, particularly for a game like this, so I asked the developers what about it drove them to it. One of the quotes that popped up was “the last gasp of the blade, the first breath of the gun,” a moment where swords hadn’t faded from use, but guns were beginning to become an inescapable part of the landscape. Scot Lane, game director, explained he and his team were stuck on the idea of building society, but didn’t want to feel nailed down to the collapse or post-apocalypse. “What if our game was about the opposite, the construction of society?” That way there would be both the structure of a civilized world, but also the freedom to let players make their own freedom.

Given that most of civilization seemed player driven, I had some apprehension about the nature of starting fresh later into the game’s life. Could a new player spill out onto the shores of the island only to find an oppressively colonized land, full of claimed area and strip-mined of resources? When I brought up these apprehensions, the developers seemed nonplussed. By design, the game was meant to have a bit of a race to capture territory. “There will be boom towns. There will be land rushes.” However, they explained, since players couldn’t form companies of over 50 players, it seemed unlikely that a single company to claim vast enough swathes of land to outright force out all competition.

Also, I learned during these chats, that building company territory was limited to a few predefined spots on the map, and there will always be unclaimed landmass for players to explore without having to step on any one company’s territory and toes.

Finally, I asked them what if they had any interesting stories to tell from playtesting. They offered me the story of a narrow thoroughfare that had been taken over by a criminal company. Any player that tried to make their way through it would be killed, their items taken, and if they returned, they would be killed again.

These players, fed up with it, formed up a company, and stormed the criminals. The result was a bloodbath. The criminals couldn’t face so many opponents at once, and given their attackers were not criminals themselves, could face their few casualties with their equipment intact, so they could swing back to combat quickly. The criminals, down to their underwear after their first death, could do little but throw punches and take fire as they respawned to die and respawn again. To die again.

After that, I said my thanks, and the event was over. Tara and I parted ways.

At its heart, New World is entering a crowded MMO landscape, and there’s a lot out there players can invest their time and focus in. With as much risk of loss as there seems to be, it can hard to delve into the island when the combat-focused players seem to hold all the power and face the least risk. Though there are a lot of options for non-combat roles, those with the power to punch hard seem to be in the best position to keep from being slaughtered while going about their business.

That said, I find myself wanting to return to the island to see if I can tinker with the systems, maybe explore the lush, swampy, arctic, and picturesque landscapes once again; even if I know it’ll be with a gun in my hand and a sense of adventure in my heart.

At least for now, I cannot promise I will want to settle here.

Disclaimer: Writer was flown out to the San Francisco event to preview New World at no cost.

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RuneScape Winter Weekends to Boost Various Skill Lines

Whether you’re the sort to improve your Slayer skill or would rather just head out into the world and reel in all the fish, the upcoming RuneScape Winter Weekends will help you ramp up your skill line earnings with boosts to various playstyles over the next month or so.

runescape winter weekends

Every weekend (that’s Friday to Monday) from November 30th to January 7th, players of RuneScape can enjoy various boosts to specific skills, whether that’s 25% more XP for Slayers or higher yields for Farmers. Here are the complete dates and details:

  • November 30 – December 3: Elite Dungeons & Dungeoneering
  • December 7 – December 10: Deep Sea Fishing & Fishing
  • December 14 – December 17: Combat & Slayer
  • December 21 – December 24: Gathering & Support Skills
  • December 28 – December 31: Minigames
  • January 4 – January 7: Player-Owned Farms & Farming

In addition to these weekend buffs, the Violet is Blue seasonal quest is also arriving on December 17th. This quest will introduce players to a young girl who was raised by yetis and task them with helping her achieve her dream of visiting the annual yeti festival.

Full information on what each weekend’s skill boost will be can be found on the RuneScape website.

Our Thoughts

The Violet is Blue quest sounds pretty dang adorable, and we’re sure there are more than a few players of RuneScape who will appreciate seeing boosts to their favorite skill lines. We hope every player of this particular MMO has a good time over the winter months.

Source: press release

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Fallout 76 Fans are Upset at a Bag

…and with pretty good reason, all things considered. An item included with the Fallout 76 Collector’s Edition has drawn the ire of those who purchased the bundle over the construction of a bag, which appeared to be made of a higher quality material than what was actually received.

fallout 76 collector's edition

Pictured above is one buyer’s snapshot of the bag in question, which was described in the promotional material as being a canvas bag but ended up being made of “cheap nylon.” The bag was part of several items in the CE, which came to a total of $199 in cost.

Making matters worse, Bethesda announced on Twitter that it has begun issuing compensation in the form of 500 Atoms, the game’s store currency. That’s approximately $5, which is reportedly enough to get you an in-game door and have 200 Atoms left burning in your pocket. The store does sell a character skin that’s toting an actual canvas bag, but that costs 700 Atoms.

Why the bait-and-switch? According to Fallout’s Twitter, it’s a matter of material supply. “Unfortunately, due to unavailability of materials, we had to switch to a nylon carrying case in the Fallout 76: Power Armor Edition,” reads a tweeted response.

This response is from one player’s account of their experience with customer support, which explained that the canvas bag was a “prototype” and that “we aren’t planning to do anything about it.” Bethesda apologized to the customer in question, stating that the support member is a contract employee and not directly employed by Bethesda. “The support response was incorrect and not in accordance with our conduct policy,” agreed the company.

Our Thoughts

Who knew that one company would screw up so royally with a bag. A bag! That most rudimentary of suitcase pieces! We would expect more out of a AAA studio, both in terms of construction, communication and response to the matter.

Sources: VG247, Eurogamer

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Dual Universe Begins its Alpha Test

It’s something of a banner day for Dual Universe. After a reportedly successful pre-alpha test, the Dual Universe alpha is ready to begin today, bringing the space sandbox MMO into its next major development milestone.

dual universe alpha

The alpha build will feature three of its four “pillars” of gameplay – explore, build and trade – that allow testers to put together a variety of things from cities to interstellar spaceships to ground-traversing hover vehicles. As has been the case from the beginning, Dual Universe will be a single-shard MMO, meaning no servers or loading screens.

As for size and scope of the alpha, Dual Universe’s starting planet of Alioth is said to be approximately the size of Great Britain, while the testing population will let in every Kickstarter backer of the project for an estimated population of over 11,000 before the year’s end.

The announcement also provided a visual roadmap of the game’s development plans from alpha onward. Alpha testing will arrive in two more stages over 2019, adding character progression, industrialist gameplay, PvP combat and group features. Beta is planned to begin in the first half of 2020, while full release in the second half of 2020. You can take a look at the full roadmap below; click on the image to expand it.

Our Thoughts

Congratulations are in order for the folks at Novaquark for making it to alpha. 2020 definitely seems a long way off, but we hope the features in alpha and added to the game later will be more than enough to keep players engaged. We also hope, of course, that alpha testing provides good feedback and data to the devs.

Source: press release

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Crowfall Introduces a Talent Tree System

Character progression in Crowfall has mostly been about utilizing passive training and the Discipline system. With the introduction of a new Crowfall talent tree system, however, things are looking to get a whole lot more in-depth.

crowfall talent tree

The talent trees in Crowfall sound a lot like other talent tree systems you’ve encountered in other MMOs; you spend points to improve stats and spend points to unlock new abilities and skills. The number of points you’ve got available to you are limited, meaning you’ve got to choose a solid direction to follow.

These branches in the tree read a lot like specs in games like WoW in that the trees lead to three different flavors of an existing class, such as a Ranger that can either specialize in archery, dual-wielding, or stealth.

According to details in an interview with MMORPG.com, the devs are looking at making character builds highly customizable; the combination of tree talents and Disciplines are meant to be a form of mental puzzle. “When you find a great combination, it is incredibly rewarding,” remarked Crowfall’s J. Todd Coleman.

This new talent tree system is reportedly already built and is headed to the game’s test environment soon. You can get more information in said interview right here as well as take a look at the system in brief in the video below.

Our Thoughts

While adding a talent tree system on its own isn’t what one would call groundbreaking, the combination of this tree system with Crowfall’s existing character progression systems could make for a truly unique form of character customization. Of course, the question then becomes how hard the gatekeeping will be when it comes to PvP or crafting builds and whether PvP balance will make things homogenized to the point of worthlessness.

Source: MMORPG.com

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Star Citizen Announces a Week of Free Flying

You’d think the anniversary of being in alpha isn’t something to crow about, but then you’re not Star Citizen. Despite how you feel about the space sandbox’s dev cycle and monetization practices, however, you might be interested in learning about a Star Citizen free play event, which marks the game’s anniversary and the release of its latest planet while also opening up a significant number of vehicles to everyone.

star citizen free play event

From November 23 to December 1, everyone can hop into Star Citizen’s persistent universe module and putter about whether they’re a backer or not. Over the course of the week, every ship and vehicle that can be commandeered in-game will be on offer, with a different array of vehicles being made available every 24 hours.

The announcement also teases that those who make their way to the new planet Hurston and its city of Lorville could find “some surprises in store.” There’s also hints about some form of interactive activities being shared on the game’s website.

Speaking of the game’s website, be sure to head over there to learn what ships will be available when.

Our Thoughts

Assuming your PC can handle even looking at Star Citizen, now seems about as good a time as any to experience first-hand whether this in-development sandbox is worth all the hubbub or hate. After all, you really can’t rib it without experiencing it.

Source: official site

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Conqueror’s Blade Shows Off Siege Gameplay

The tactical sandbox MMO-like Conqueror’s Blade asks a lot of its players as they lead their nations to victory, not the least of which being to lay siege to keeps and forts. But how does that play out, exactly? A new Conqueror’s Blade siege gameplay trailer is showing us all how.

conqueror's blade siege gameplay

The video offers a general run through the entire process of laying siege to a fortification, from selecting army unites and siege engines to issuing orders to troops in the middle of battle. The video provides more than a few glimpses at the player character ordering troops into formation, issuing charge orders, or otherwise taking direct control of the fight by entering the fray personally or commandeering siege weapons.

According to producer Peter Lagun, Conqueror’s Blade siege warfare has been put through its paces in early testing. “We saw thousands of players help us stress our technology,” said Lagun. “Players have clashed steel for hours, have found creative tactics in siege warfare and ultimately have shown a great hunger for more.”

You can take in all of the siegecraft gameplay you could want in the embed below.

Our Thoughts

Siege warfare in Conqueror’s Blade certainly looks like it’ll be a busy affair, but we do hope that tactical thinking will win out the day in favor of merely memorizing the shape of maps or battlegrounds and taking advantage of those locations. That’s probably not going to happen, though.

Source: press release

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EVE Online’s Onslaught Update Goes Live

The next iteration of EVE Online is officially live. EVE Online: Onslaught introduces some new ships, new structures, new features to Abyssal Deadspace and a number of quality-of-life adjustments in today’s update.

eve online: onslaught

Some new Upwell structures are live with Onslaught: the Ansiblex Jump Gate, which lets players create their own warp points; the Cynosaural Beacon, which lets jump-capable ships head to it; and the Cynosural Jammer, described as a convenient structure that lets corps jam systems.

Onslaught also brings two new Triglavian ship hulls in the form of the Kikimora destroyer and Drekavac battlecruiser; the addition of co-operative and PvP gameplay in Abyssal Deadspace instances; and quality of life additions such as an activity tracker, a global search function, and a balance pass to Force Auxiliaries.

The full patch notes can be found here and an overview of the Onslaught update’s features in video form is below.

Our Thoughts

There are certainly a few things to ponder for the greater meta of EVE Online with this update. Chief among them are how these new Upwell structures will change things in terms of corp conflict and how entertaining the new features of Abyssal Deadspace will be. Considering this is a game that’s better played together than solo, we expect that Abyssal Deadspace will be a lot more interesting.

Source: official site

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NCSoft Announces Aion 2, Blade & Soul 2 and Other Mobile Games

Nexon’s annual NC Media Day had a whole lot of things to unveil ahead of the upcoming G-Star 2018, and almost all of those reveals were brand new mobile games based on the company’s established IPs. We can now confirm the upcoming arrival of Aion 2, Blade & Soul 2, and no small number of additional mobile titles.

nc media day

Aion 2 takes place 900 years before the events of the first game and focuses on the arrival of dimensional cracks. These are more than just story device — they’ll actually will let players from other servers come together for large-scale PvP.

Aion 2 will also be lifting the PC version’s restrictions on gliding, which opens up what they call a “three-dimensional battle system.” The game will also let players wield different weapons without the constraints of class choice.

Blade & Soul 2, meanwhile, takes place years after the events of the PC game, where the characters from that title have passed into legend. Nexon touted smarter enemy AI and new ways of interacting with NPCs, as well as the removal of the faction system in order to build a “free community.”

NCSoft also unveiled Blade & Soul M, a mobile edition of the original PC game; Blade & Soul S, a super-deformed variation of the original game with character collection and open-world combat; and Lineage 2M, a massive MMOARPG with 100 million square meters of land to explore.

There are a lot of details and videos to take in, so be sure to head to the source link for some more in-depth coverage.

Our Thoughts

Well, these title announcements will either be of interest to fans of the IPs in question, or will be another mobile-shaped slap in the face. Though considering the way people have taken to the reveal of Diablo Immortal, we suspect it’ll primarily be the latter.

Source: MMO Culture

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Black Desert Online Kicks Off its Xbox One Open Beta

The wait is finally over for console players who have been eager to get their sandbox MMO on. The Black Desert Online Xbox open beta is…well…open starting today, with the game offering up a pretty healthy variety of things for players to get involved in during the testing period.

black desert online xbox open beta

The open beta build of BDO for Xbox One promises to provide a game that lets players fully explore the various systems and features the full game will offer. Part of that promise is a full 40 levels of character advancement in order to let players dig in to the game’s skill system.

The open beta will also feature four general player events, seven daily game master events, and a variety of out-of-combat pursuits such as fishing, trading, gathering and the like.

The open beta for Black Desert Online will run between now and Monday, November 12th. All of the details on how to install the game and timing for the various events can be found at this dedicated Xbox One page for the MMO.

Our Thoughts

40 levels of beta access certainly seems like a lot, but considering the various carrots one can chase in this game (or the varieties of grinding one can burn their face off of, depending on how you look at it) this certainly does make a lot of sense. Here’s oping that the beta is reasonably smooth and that players enjoy.

Source: press release

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