Friday, March 15, 2024

No New World expansion this year?

 Some keen Reddit faithful caught a developer quote in the New World Discord.  In the Discord message NW_Kay made a statement that there was no planned expansion for this year.  This is a very odd way to make a very big announcement during a time when New World is losing player interest.

An image of a discord message from NW_Kay

 We don't have a road map for 2024 and the next road map update was delayed until June "for something big".  If there is no expansion then what is "something big"?  As mentioned in my recent posts the assumption is that console is the "something big".   

 I am honestly losing my patience here.  I am the faithful defender of New World and the dev team.  I think there is a lot of negativity that is unwarranted about the game and the developers.  New World is a fun game even if it hasn't held player interest at a level I'd expect.  It's biggest downfall is just being unable to pump out content to match player pace of consuming that content.

 If the "something big" is just a console release that is going to break me.  That would be the dumbest thing to be hyping up if there is no major content expansion to come with it.  I really hope by "no expansion" they mean there won't be a paid expansion but we will get some major content updates this year.

 Also how on earth did NW_Kay get in a position to haphazardly drop a reply like this in Discord?  I never want to discourage developer interaction with the community but this isn't interaction... this is leadership level decisions being casually dropped in a community discord.  Why even touch this comment... the user wasn't even asking a freaking question.


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Friendship ended with Wooting 60HE

 Friendship ended with Wooting 60HE and friendship started with Wooting 80HE! Well not started yet, but the Wooting80HE is entering it's founders period today and I'm jumping on the buy button if I can snag one!

A picture of the Wooting 80HE keyboard
80% layout!? WTF!

 As I've said before playing with my Wooting 60HE feels like cheating.  I gave up my old Glorious GMMK to my teenager when I moved to the Wooting and the few times I go to use his PC I immediately miss my Wooting.

 While I love my Wooting 60HE I have to admit I am not a fan of the 60% layout.  I really liked the 75% layout of the GMMK.  The good news is Wooting is bringing us a bigger layout with the 80HE with all of the other features I've come to enjoy and rely on to be the l33t gamer that I am (not really)!

 In classic Wooting fashion they couldn't just be like the rest of the world and give us a standard 75% layout and instead landed at an 80%.  It is hard to say what actually makes the up the 5% difference and there was a small uproar in the keyboard community about the placement of the arrow keys (too far to the left).  The arrow keys will be moved to the right slightly in the final version.

 For me I just want my F# keys back and arrow keys.  As much as I've adapted to using customized key settings and the FN key on my 60HE I will be happy to be back to just using an F key or an actual arrow key.  Also delete instead of FN + Backspace will be nice.

 Of course all of the other Wooting goodness will be there and I'll still be legally cheating in all the games I play because of it :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

New World New Low

 New World is hitting new lows in peak concurrent player counts.  The game that launched at 900,000+ peak concurrent users is now dipping to 6,000 with a peak just short of 15,000.  Here are some thoughts on what is going on.


An image of Steam charts for the game New World showing new low peak concurrent player counts

 I am writing this post a day after Season 4 was supposed to complete and Season 5 was supposed to launch, but as I posted previously that plan was delayed.  Also we still don't have the road map for 2024 and won't have it until June at the earliest. This is one of the drivers to the low numbers: there isn't anything new to do or to look forward to in the game.

 Content and the promise of new content continues to be king in the MMO genre and New World has slowed down in it's content creation and been unable to tell us whats next.  The most recent major content drop was the Rise of the Angry Earth back in October 2023 but it was more of an appetizer than an actual meal.  Most players moved through it within a week.  We got a new expedition with Season 4, but for many players there wasn't more than a couple hours of experience.  

 So Season 5 getting released will help right?  Not really from a content perspective.  Season 5 is bringing a new 10-man trial but that is going to be short form content. The Season pass itself  is not really content.  Some new artifacts will interest players, but are more reasons to do old content than new content.  There is nothing meaty in Season 5 to bring players back or for players to invest in.

 This doesn't mean the New World team isn't doing anything.  In Season 4 they launched cross-server expeditions with an improved group finder.  This is a key tech to ensure players can get into content more reliably; especially with the lower player population playing currently.

 Also with Season 5 they are launching a rewritten combat system which is a major overhaul to the combat code and offers a promise of better changes and faster bug fixes in the future.  This no doubt took a tremendous development effort and getting it right is a likely reason Season 5 has been delayed.

 Controller support is also part of Season 5 which is speculated as a precursor to June's road map update announcing a launch to consoles.  A console launch could also explain why not much other content has come out recently as the team is busy on the changes needed to support consoles. 

 There is a debate to have if a console release is about New World itself or about the underlying Azoth Engine and future games being console ready from day one. My honest opinion about a console launch is that it has to come with a massive content update. If all that the team brings forward is a console release of the current game it will affirm that the diversion to console support was about other games than New World.

 However, if we get a console launch + a big content expansion it will say a lot about New World's future.  I am hopeful this is where we are headed because personally I am finding myself playing New World less and less even though I really do enjoy the game. 

Friday, March 08, 2024

New World Woes

 New World Season 5 is delayed.  This announcement comes within shouting distance of the recent news that the game's next road map update is delayed from May to June.  "Woe is me" sighs the New World fan.

A picture of a disapointed PC gamer.

 The Season 5 delay was not unexpected.  The update has a major change for the game as the dev team has re-written the entire combat engine in a new scripting language called slayer script.  The team has said this change will allow them to move faster and fix more issues.  

 This is a good change for the game and sends a good message that AGS is dedicated to the game's future.  However, this is also the sort of change that a game cannot recover from if it launches poorly.  This is a rewrite of the combat system which is the core experience that New World offers and what sets it apart from other games on the market.

 Having played on the PTR (public test realm) with the changes I can agree that a delay was needed.  The combat does feel like it is improved and there is a lengthy list of bugs they have fixed with the move to the slayer script.  It does seem like the team can move faster and fix more with the scripting change. There is a but coming though: the combat doesn't feel right yet on PTR.

 It is hard to put it into words.  For me the main issue is that melee combat still feels off in PvP.  Melee attacks still struggle to register a hit just like they do in the current system.  PvE seems fine, if not improved over all, as things feel snappier and cleaner in dense combat situations.  That doesn't seem to translate to PvP where something is just not there yet with the changes.  

 I do admit this could just be my thousands of hours of experience with the current live game compared to just a couple hours on PTR.  Regardless; I want to get my hands on PTR again with the next set of changes so I feel comfortable the release isn't going to give any more ammunition to the negative-Nancy crowd.

 New World has to get this update right.  In a perfect world the season wouldn't be tied to the update so that we could get the new 10-man trial and get working on the next season pass, but I get that is not reality.  I will be patient.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Oh Helldivers...

An image on how the Helldivers 2 developers determined to nerf their game

 The Helldivers 2 developers took on their game's namesake and hell dived right into a hot steaming pile of community feedback with a discussion that is as old as time: nerf or buff.  Developers always land on nerf and players always end up on buff.

 I caught up to the controversy via Massively OP: Helldivers 2 tries to further explain recent balancing as players push back against nerfs.  The key quote pulled from a dev blog:

“I have since the game released seen many who say ‘Don’t Nerf, only Buff’ and other similar ideas. However as a designer I can tell you this is not a great idea, but I understand where the sentiment comes from. All too often in the games industry the core fantasy, and what makes a weapon feel good and fun, is ignored for the sake of Balance. I believe players are scared of Nerfs, because it will ruin the fantasy of a weapon, ruin their fun. It is extra important to us to tread carefully so that we don’t ruin fantasy and fun when we do nerfs. We hope you, our players, will tell us when we cross that line inadvertently.”

 The last part of that quote stuck out to me: "cross that line inadvertently".  This is basically saying "we are going to cross that line on purpose"; reinforced by the line before says when and not IF they implement nerfs: "when we do nerfs".  So we have developers here calling out their strategy is going to favor nerfs and they need the community to tell them when it's too far.

 As can be expected the community feedback was swift and loud.  Lifting a summary from Massively OP "with most arguing that nerfs shouldn’t be the first move in a PvE-only game".  That is a solid argument.  Helldivers 2 is a player vs environment game so an unbalanced weapon is not the same detriment as PvP.  The only one being hurt by the imbalance is a developer or two that have hurt feelings the toy they made isn't getting as much use.

 Which brings me to my thoughts here.  Reading the dev blog it is clear the developers have their idea on the fantasy (as they call it) of what a weapon should be in their game.  I am stressing their because as we can see by the community feedback it is not the general player's fantasy they are fulfilling.

 Also this whole fantasy comment is just odd.  I get that player's have an idea in their minds (aka a fantasy) of how something should work but do the developers really think players are so basic that their fantasy overrides that it's a game?

  What's the point of a game? To have fun!  So shouldn't fun win out over a perceived fantasy?  This is why sniper rifles in a Battlefield are balanced to not be equivalent to their real life counterparts (i.e. invisible and firing from a mile away).  Games make concessions to be a game all the time.

 I'm the type of gamer that is persuadable to agree with developers that "nerfs" are appropriate and a better design approach than thinking games can be buffed into balance (when does power inflation stop?).  If nerfs are appropriate, especially in a PvE game, then the reason will be obvious to most.  It does not seem that is the case in Helldivers 2 and the community is screaming the line was crossed.

 This attempt to hide the nerfs behind the fantasy is just nonsense.  Players want to have fun.  Don't take fun away.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Player density in competitive modes and individual player impact

an image for a blog post about too many players in an online game mode
The zerg approaches!

 I've jumped back into Battlefield 2042 recently and it has me thinking about player density and the impact that I, as a single player, can have on a competitive match.  Battlefield games are known for their large match sizes (up to 128 players!) and big maps, but with that scale comes a loss of any single player's ability to impact the outcome.

 Before we get into the larger match sizes of Battlefield games let's look at some common team sizes across games.  The most common team size I can think of is 3.  New World's arenas are 3v3.  Apex Legends and The Finals are both 3-person squads.  After 3 is 5 (and 6).  Many games feature grouping sizes of 5 or 6, but not always in competitive modes (for example; New World groups are a size of 5 but there is no 5v5 mode). I think 3 hits a sweet spot where each player's contributions are maximized.

 While 3 may be the sweet spot it doesn't evoke any sort of feeling of being in a battle and many games are targeting giving players that sense of battle.  As the player count increases per team/side the player's ability to impact goes down.  

 Think about a Battlefield match with 128 players.  It is chaotic and tons of fun, but of those 100+ players how many are actually having a meaningful impact to the outcome?  Not many outside of maybe the elite helicopter pilot farming kills. Even with multiple points of conflict to fight over there is still likely a large number of players in any one area.

 Now look at a Battlefield match of 32 players with multiple points to defend/attack.  Spread out evenly that may be 4-8 players fighting over each point.  Losing one or two players is going to have an impact and it's more realistic to think that a single player could go Rambo and wipe out an entire team.  It also means the "elite helicopter pilot" is going to be that much more of a factor.

 In a game I am much more familiar with (3,000+ hours played and climbing) is New World.  There are a few modes we can zero in on: 3v3 arena, 20v20 outpost rush, and 50v50 war.

 I've spoke about team sizes of 3 earlier, but a common request I see in New World is for a 5v5 mode since the group size in New World is 5.  Personally 3v3 is the sweet spot.  While 3v3 can get bogged down due to healing/heavy tank builds that is not that common.  It is also possible for groups of 3 without a healer to compete.  If the arena was 5v5 there would be no way to go other than healer + clump strategies and the matches would boil down to which healer dies first.

 Jumping to the top end is war at 50v50.  Having played a fair number of wars and seen a fair number more via streamers I would argue there is a limited few individual players that have a major impact and almost always the "elite helicopter pilot" is the healer.  So I'd agree individual healers can have a massive impact on wars and thus anyone landing a kill shot on a healer has an impact, but otherwise war doesn't offer a lot for individuals to sway.

 This takes us back to 20v20 outpost rush (OPR) and where I feel the ceiling is for individual contribution. In OPR there are multiple objectives which change over the course of a match.  There are also activities that individual players can partake in that, when done well, can contribute to a team winning.

 As a quick aside here, as I am noting with OPR, a lot of what a player's contribution comes down to is the design of the game mode.  As we'll see breaking players up into various objectives decreases the population in any specific spot.  However, this has an eventual breaking point where if player numbers are higher it doesn't matter how many objectives there is because humans tend to always favor wanting unbalanced conflict and so you end up with "zergs" of players rolling over each objective.

 In OPR the 20 players per team + three main outposts to fight over with side events such as the baron fight results in a good mix of players across the match.  No part of the match is really 20 v 20; it is a of 3-5 player fights.  Within those smaller fights individual players can sway the match.  A single player can hold off a team trying to sneak behind and take a backline outpost.  A single player can gather supplies and show up in time to build doors on an outpost.

 In summary: too many players is too many players no matter the design.  Limiting player and providing divided objectives breaks up the action into a size where individuals have impact and when combined those impacts have an effect on the over all game mode.  It feels like the 16-20 player-per-side range is where that sweet spot is hit in my experience.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Spike in blog traffic!

 Big spike in blog traffic this morning!  Not sure why these 3 posts or why analytics says the biggest spike in visitors is from Poland but I'm open to be entertained to see where this goes (or get some sort of explanation it's not real like Google has done in the past).

A screenshot showing an increase in blog traffic on heartlessgamer blog.

Monday, March 04, 2024

New World New Drip

 To go with my Frigid Inferno (heavy fire staff / sword and shield) build I updated my transmog in New World.  I wanted to lean into the Frigid Dawn armor set and ice theme.

A screenshot from the MMORPG New World showing my transmog armor and weapon skins focused on Frigid Dawn armor set.
Stone cold.

  All of the armor pieces are the Frigid Dawn base skin except for the chest which I kept as the Arisen Commander skin with a silver blue dye to blend in the colors.  The firestaff skin is Sizzling Snow (which you can get via crafting one of the event patterns (1, 2, 3) if the patterns are available on your server's trading post).

 Not shown, but similiar to the firestaff the shield skin is Frigid Bulwark from the winter event patterns. The only other change I've thought about is making the sword have the Iceburst skin.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 01, 2024

Ashes of Creation Commissions

ashes of creation

 Ashes of Creation released its monthly development update featuring it's version of quests called commissions.  Watch the video and hit the jump for my thoughts.

 I have to admit the game looks visually better with each developer update and that stands out the moment the demo starts.  I am really digging the look of the town (called nodes) and it is still crazy to think most of these towns will be player placed and upgraded.

 The demo shows commissions which immediately brought "quest boards" to mind of every MMO in recent memory.  However, the difference that eventually pays off in the demo is that the commissions feed into more and more of what Ashes is advertising as it's main attraction: a living and dynamic world.

 Think of the commission as a kick start to get players out of town and into the opportunity to unlock a chain of events that contributes to a dynamic change in the world.  Players can of course just skip the opportunity as Steven does in the demo and get a train of enemies rolling around, but more exciting was to see the world change as different actions are taken.  

 In the video we get to see a sudden thunderstorm form as new enemies appear in an open world event.  The event intertwines with other quests in the area before hinting at unlocking a larger transformational world event at the end of the video.  

 Plenty of MMOs have dynamic open world events, but the "revolution" Ashes hints at is that all actions are leading to changes in the world that are stickier than other games.  A real "fear of missing out" model where server 1 will be different than server 2.  Add in the nodes mentioned earlier and the game is starting to show the real possibility to be that revolution we've all wanted in the MMORPG genre.

 This isn't to say all of it was revolutionary.  There was still the same old static -- I will never move from this spot - quest givers.  Enemy AI wasn't all that impressive; easily defeated by the age old tactic of running away.  Combat looks noisy (too many effects) and for a few updates has shown a favor towards kiting enemies.

 While I could nitpick more I won't.  I am cautiously continuing to grow excited about the possibilities of this game.  With only Alpha 2 planned for this year there is still along road to go here for betas and a launch, but its going to be a fun one to check out each month in the developer updates.


Thursday, February 29, 2024

The hypocrisy of posting on a blog in 2024

 Create a post on X (or whatever social media of choice) and share it on a site like a video game's forums and it's cool.  But create content on your own blog you've run for 19+ years to share and you are just a bottom sucker of the Internet.  Just blogging things.