Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    mafia: definitive edition

    How Hangar 13 remade Mafia

    After two and a half years of development, the time has come to share Mafia: Definitive Edition with the world. Creating this game has been a fascinating journey for the team here at Hangar 13. For the veterans who worked on the original, it’s been a real nostalgia trip. Our newest developers (some of whom were in kindergarten when the first game launched) have learned about the heart and soul of the Mafia franchise. For me personally, this project has been the culmination of more than a decade spent making Mafia games, as well as an awesome opportunity to revisit one of my all-time favorite games. Our goal since the outset has been to celebrate Mafia by creating a new version that everyone can enjoy. Of course, we wanted returning fans to find a familiar adventure, refreshed yet true to the spirit of the original. But just as important was helping new players discover the game in the same way we did back when we first played it nearly 20 years ago. That involved not only modernizing the gameplay, but also understanding what made Mafia so special in the first place. The core of every Mafia title is its story, and the first Mafia in particular set a new benchmark for cinematic storytelling. At a time when high-quality narrative in games was a rarity, Mafia proved that games could tell mature stories to rival film and television.  The rags-to-riches tale of Tommy Angelo’s career in the Salieri crime family is just as compelling today as it was back when the original game first released, but we’ve given the whole narrative experience a makeover. The script has been given a full rewrite, every performance newly captured, and every cinematic reshot. We’ve given key characters, such as Tommy’s love interest Sarah, more time on screen and expanded their backstories. We’ve added new details through notes, newspapers, and radio commentary to better ground the story in its 1930s period setting. In fact, I’d say we used every tool at our disposal to ensure that Mafia’s narrative still impresses in 2020. It’s also important to remember that Mafia was visually stunning when it was first released. Ensuring that the remake shared that quality was at the top of our priority list. Our art team created many beautiful period-authentic cars, mission environments, and character models, but they put special effort into the visual overhaul of Lost Heaven, the Chicago-like city where Mafia: Definitive Edition takes place. Using almost exactly the same city map, every district has been revisited and upgraded, with more detail in everything from the trash on the street through to the architecture of the buildings themselves. The end result is phenomenal, and I have no doubt that players will be wowed by Lost Heaven once again. Remaking a game with such a devoted fan base is a big responsibility. I’ve heard countless testimonies from fans (including many developers on our team) describing how playing the original Mafia was a seminal gaming experience for them. Many still play Mafia religiously to this day. We hope that our new take on Mafia not only fulfils the high expectations of our community but also delights every player, old and new.  It has been inspiring to hear the outpouring of love for Mafia since we announced the remake, and it’s been a privilege to work alongside developers willing to go to the mat for a game that they care so deeply about. Restoring this classic crime adventure has been a labor of love for all of us at Hangar 13, and we are hugely excited for Mafia fans to finally get their hands on the game.

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