‘New World’’s creative director explains why combat in the MMO feels so good

Still no word on why the jumping is so poor

If you’re one of the 123,036 people that played New World in the last 24 hours, chances are you’re mostly there for the combat. Officially, New World is a crafting MMO. In reality, you’re going to spend a lot of time whacking zombies, boars and anything else you can see with the game’s assortment of weaponry.

Hitting things feels pretty good in New World, and it’s a far cry from mashing number keys to get a variety of brightly coloured abilities to explode across the screen. NME talked to David Verfaillie, New World’s creative director, about how they managed to create combat that feels so dynamic.

New World’s combat system is action-based, where positioning, timing and attack choice all matter,” explained Verfaillie, talking about the different feel compared to several other MMOs. “Our combat system is based on physical hit detection – the attack capsules of an attacker’s weapons have to hit the defensive capsules that move in sync with the defender’s animation.”

Put simply, if your weapon connects with your opponent, you’ll do damage. If it doesn’t, you won’t. Rather than a dodge chance or evasion, you’ll need to actually move out of the way of a big attack to avoid getting hit by it – and you’ll want to avoid the big attacks, as Verfaillie says the team has gone out of their way to make combat hard hitting.

New World
New World. Credit: Amazon Game Studios

“Most weapons have a few big hitting abilities that cause staggers and do big damage. Hitting with those feels great, and when you get hit by one, you feel it. We also utilise impact sound effects, VFX, and screen shake on some of the bigger attacks to further sell the impact of combat.”

All of this may sound tricky when you consider that most MMOs live on huge servers, but Verfaillie says that – although you can never eliminate packet loss or latency issues – there are several methods to help stop lag ruining your fights.

“One specific example is when a player has a high latency, we slightly slow down the startup of their attack, so the server has time to send information about the attack to potential nearby targets.” says Verfaillie. “Our goal is to never create advantages for poor connections, while trying to keep their experience as playable as possible.”

As someone who has played the game a lot, and even indulged in a little PVP, combat never feels like it wavers which does regrettably mean every time my head gets kicked in, it’s on me.

New World
New World. Credit: Amazon Game Studios

As a player who has spent the beta armed with a spear and musket, it’s remarkable how different every weapon feels. New World is classless, but these weapons and the unique mechanics they bring to the table feel like the real archetype each player will be progressing with, especially when you consider that they have their own skill trees that you progress in for using them.

“Our philosophy is to give every weapon a unique role that fulfils a player’s fantasy,” says Verfaillie. “For example with the War Hammer, we wanted a big heavy weapon that players could wield and feel like a barbarian. But we also wanted it to have a unique role in the game, and thought that breaking blocks and handing out stuns would be a good niche for it.

“A favourite saying in the combat team is, ‘it’s okay for a weapon to feel brokenly good, as long as all weapons have their own broken stuff’.”

New World
New World. Credit: Amazon Game Studios

All of these broken abilities do come together to create the game’s biggest challenge: making fights balanced.

“The classless combat system gives players so many options for creating unique builds
– attributes, armour, weapons, gems, perks, weapon mastery, and consumables all affect combat,” says Verfaillie. “The number of inputs creates an almost infinite number of variations for us to balance.

“Add on top of that the complexities of balancing PvE combat and PvP combat, and it becomes a real challenge. Through a lot of iterations during Alpha, we’ve got balance to a place where we are happy with it, but there is always more to do. We will continue to work on this, long past the game’s launch.”

When asked about what weapons might come next, Verfaillie is tight-lipped. “I can’t discuss what is coming next, but I can say we plan on continuing to release new weapons after we launch New World. The three weapons we’ve added over the last year – the spear, the rapier and the ice gauntlet, each bring their own cool and unique combat mechanics into the game, and that creates new playstyles. We want to continue to add weapons that feel that impactful.”

Amazon Game’s New World releases for PC on August 31.

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