Amazon Game Studios could have a hit on its hands with New World, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game where players can work together in factions to conquer a fantastical continent known as Aeternum. As the game updates and grows, battles between player-led communities could get more and more epic as time goes on.
New World achieved some impressive numbers with its launch this week (it peaked at over 700,000 concurrent players), but success isn’t just about figures for the developers. Prior to the launch, RadioTimes.com spoke to the game’s Head of World Experience, Mike Willette, and he had a different definition of success.
Willette explained: “For me, success is like, players deeply invested in what the game has to offer, and then becoming a part of the conversation with us.” He went on to add, “Success to me would be working and playing on this game for years to come.”
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If the game’s launch day players stick around and pull in their pals, with word of mouth praise already spreading, Willette could well achieve his definition of success. In theory, New World could be updated for years to come. Are Willette and his colleagues already plotting out future plans on a big whiteboard of ideas?
Willette teased: “Oh, we have tonnes of ideas that we brainstorm of like, what would be a fun adventure to go on, or places to see, topics that we haven’t covered yet. And that goes across like all our different teams. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. So yeah, we have tonnes of drafts, some on Post-it notes, some on whiteboards. It’s very exciting stuff.”
We wondered if the New World itself, the island which gives the game its title, could expand after launch, and so we asked Willette how big the world is currently and how much bigger it could get.
“The game world is currently composed of 14 zones,” Willette told us, “and each zone is roughly around four kilometres by four kilometres in size, just to give you kind of like a rough shot picture of how big the current view of the island is. But launch is just day one for us – we’re going to be creating a lot more content, but nothing we can reveal today. But we’re always creating content for the game. So there’s going to be new themes to explore. It’s very exciting stuff. But again, I have to bite my tongue.”
It sounds like Willette and his team are keen to build the future of New World around feedback from the fans, too. He says, “We want to hear people on the forums and our social channels telling us what they love what they don’t.” This sort of back and forth between fans and developers is often important for live-service online games like this, where ideally there should always be a large number of players in your game at any given time.
As Willette puts it: “I’ve been in games since 2001 I think, and I can tell you, making games is tough. And developing and launching live-service games is always a challenge. We’ve been taking a lot of time on New World with our Alpha testing to deliver on customer feedback and insight to continue to evolve the game. The largest inspiration I get is from our players, that give us unique perspectives on what we build. I think that’s the one constant truth, when it comes to making games, is insight from the players.”
As more and more players get their hands on the game, is Willette excited to get even more of those insights? Is he hoping to see gamers trying things and having ideas that the developers perhaps didn’t anticipate themselves?
Willette said, “Yeah, that’s absolutely the magic of games – you might think you have one thing and you’ve tested it and you’ve played it, and then it gets out at this large scale, and somebody discovers this one thing that just becomes like a lightning rod.
“And you’re like, ‘Oh wow, that is really awesome. Oh, we need to double or triple down on that. That was something that maybe we weren’t thinking of, or we did, but we didn’t realise how popular it would be.’ And you’re like, you know what, there’s something there. Let’s chase after that. We think players really love this and we think it’s fantastic.
“So I’ve worked on many projects, and part of the fun is that kind of discovery where things just organically kind of bubble to the surface, and they become something that’s like really awesome to pursue.” One thing’s for sure, then – this is only the beginning for New World’s island of Aeternum.