Amazon New World creative director David Verfaillie has said the studio "definitely" heard the feedback from the community regarding potential paid in-game boosts.
New World is the imminent MMO from Amazon that's based around an Age of Discovery kind of idea. You set sail for a magical island with a powerful magical secret, and try to make a home there. Its key features are territory ownership and housing, and player versus player warfare, in addition to a large fantastical world to battle with and explore.
Verfaillie was referring to the paid quality of life and experience boosters players found evidence of during New World's concluded alpha test. These suggested you might be able to pay for things like rested experience, which can help you level up faster, as well as fast travel.
"We recently made an announcement that there will be an in-game store that uses a premium currency that you can buy for real money," Verfaillie began, answering my question during a Q&A session after a recent playtest of the game. "The focus for that will be cosmetic items that you can use to enhance the visuals of your character."
At this point, someone whose name I didn't catch interjected to ask about the backlash.
"We have definitely heard the feedback from players," Verfaillie said. "Our focus is we do not want this to be a pay-to-win experience. The emphasis is on cosmetics: that's all we'll be doing at launch.
"Then," he added, "we're listening to players. We believe there is room for quality of life improvements in this game without crossing into the pay-to-win territory - that is something we will not do. But we're going to be listening to players, making sure we are respecting them and not crossing that line."
"What kind of quality of life improvements?" I asked.
"Things like additional storage could be something that we do," Verfaillie said. "The things we would do, we also want to be possible in-game. In-game, there are ways to increase your storage. But there are some people who may not have the time or want the commitment to do all those in-game ways. So there's just ways people who are less time-available can keep up with players in certain aspects like that."
The playtest covered the very beginning of the online game, which allowed us to play around with the character creator and then take baby steps in what appeared to be a large and rich world.
There were encouraging signs. Little things that set the game apart from other MMOs, which admittedly it is very similar to at low level, included combat, which required you to actively attack, block and dodge, like in an action game. There's a one-on-one boss encounter early on with phases and attack patterns, and it really felt similar to a single-player game.
Another thing was the classless customisation system, in which you spend a variety of points to grow yourself in a variety of ways. There are level-up points you put into attributes broadly linked with playstyles (intelligence for magic, strength for melee and so on); there are weapon skill trees you explore with points earned for using those weapons; there's a regional kind of experience to spend on things like exploration skills; and I think there are crafting skill points too.
Not only did it feel nice getting points fairly regularly from various different areas, it felt nice not to be locked into a class mould, and to be free to build something relatively undefined and unique.
What I didn't like, though, was the clunkiness of movement. It felt like steering a wooden hobby horse around. The turning axle has a delay when changing directions, and the jump in the game is hilariously weak. You leap a few inches off the floor like a hurdler who won't clear their first hurdle, though the ability to actually climb terrain (by pressing forwards and jump) somewhat makes up for this.
There are signs, then, of a deep world here, and of engaging systems and ideas to keep us busy. But a couple of hours is not enough to take much of this in, and it's nowhere near long enough to approach the areas of the game which most excite me: the territory ownership and housing and warfare, and the many kinds of PvP on offer. The closed beta, on the other hand, which starts tomorrow, will be a much better place to appraise this.
Incidentally, something else that came up in the Q&A - and which several people brought up - was controller support. Currently, there is none. Nor, by the way, are there any plans to bring the game to console. But the lack of controller support is glaring as it would fit the game wonderfully (you can only use a few active abilities, which would map to a controller easily, and you never have to mouseover something to target it: that's all done by looking around with your character, which you normally do with a right thumbstick).
"Nothing has been announced," David Verfaillie told someone whose name I also didn't catch, "but this game would work very well on a controller, and it's something we've definitely heard the community ask for and we're looking into, but nothing to announce, no confirmed plans yet."
A year later than expected, then, Amazon's New World game is apparently ready to launch. The hold-ups have allowed the team to take the testing community's feedback on board and enlarge areas of the game that were lacking: it sounds like mid-game PvE was bare before.
Will it be a success? More to the point: will New World wipe away the taint left by Crucible, the online game Amazon canned only a few months after launch? A diplomatic Verfaillie wouldn't be drawn on a comparison. But with 31st August barely over a month away, we won't have to wait long to find out.
A big thank you to Wired's Matt Kamen for his help in reporting this.