New World: Developer interview on the creation of the Aeternum universe

In parallel to the preview events on July 7th and 9th, Amazon Games Studios also allowed us to interview a developer about the background of the creation of the open world of Aeternum. Below is the interview, aimed at both newcomers and veterans of New World.

Q&A: JeuxOnline

Rosie Strzalkowski, Environment Art Lead @AGS

General

1. Where did the idea of a lost island hosting misguided travelers come from ?
The theme of the “lost island” has been a source of folklore and mythology for numerous real world civilizations throughout history. But the island of Aeternum is not only lost because it is uncharted; Aeternum is lost in time itself. For us as developers this creates a rich matrix of possibilities to create stories and visuals based on legends from any point in history. Players can form their own interpretation of the story through their personal “lens”, whether it’s Eden, Shambala, El Dorado or any legend that resonates for them based on their experience or tastes.


2. Why did you choose an aesthetic and inspirations from the 17ᵉ century specifically ?
The Age of Exploration was an exciting choice for New World because swords and guns coexisted. Along with the magic of Aeternum, we felt that this presented unique gameplay and visual experiences. We left it open enough that each player really chooses their own personal origins and backstories. The only thing that’s defined is that they are crew-members on board Captain (Aldous) Thorpe’s ship when it sets sail from Europe. There were people from around the world serving as crewmembers on ships like these, some traveling as explorers, some in the hope of finding riches and power, and some may have wound up there because they were reluctantly pressed into service. All of these backstories weave together, creating a melting pot for us to draw inspiration for our next theme or region.


3. When you imagined the 3 factions of Aeternum, did you borrow any traits from real-world peoples or nations? If so, why?
The Factions are based on common tropes that are relatable. We wanted each to have a unique personality and feel cool. We also wanted each to reinforce and explore the narrative themes of the game. Military might, boundless intellect, and divine right are just some of the means that enable their pursuits on Aeternum. What does each group want to discover while they are here? What is the price for pursuing it?


4. Magic is an important feature in New World. However, it is only found on the island of Aeternum. Could you remind us what the origin of this magic is? In your opinion, what is the reason for its being present on Aeternum in particular?
The source of supernatural power in Aeternum is in the Azoth, a mysterious substance with magical properties. In the ruins of the most ancient inhabitants, players can find clues about how the ancient people harnessed Azoth’s power to build massive architectural structures, including beacons to summon explorers from different civilizations, and obelisks to siphon more Azoth from deeper within Aeternum. There are also clues hidden within the landscape itself and its lakes and rivers as to the origin of Azoth.


6. Does Aeternum have a weather system and a day/night cycle? Does it affect players, and if so in which ways ?
Aeternum has a day/night and annual cycle that coincides with events and enhances the passage of time and overall feeling of immersion. Players sprint through the darkness trying to evade growling enemies and get back to their well lit settlement, or emerge from the forest at sunrise to get a clear shot at elk grazing in an open meadow. We also have regional weather like snow and rain throughout the map. All of these elements work together to enhanced a sense of time passing and the moods and temperatures evoked by the contrast between day and night.


7. Can players have a deep impact on their environment in any way ?
There are many ways that players can interact with and change the world. Players cleanse the landscape of corruption by defeating Darkness Events and returning the environment to its natural healthy state. Settlements are upgraded when residents complete town projects such as chopping timber and mining ores. The distant trees crashing down around loggers is a stunning sight. I recently was logging and came across a forest that had been cleared of trees, with only a field of stumps left behind. This actually made it easier for me to get a clear shot at the elk I needed and avoid the wolves.


8. When a zone is created, do you imagine PvE and PvP content together or separately ?
We are always planning for PvP and PvE to play together and complement each other. PvP and PvE players can play simultaneously in the open world. PvE play focuses on encountering enemies, 5 person expeditions and boss fights that demand cooperation with fellow players, while PvP players can declare war, breach fortifications and claim spoils with large scale armies’ numbering in the hundreds. The environments for each style of play can be shared, so we create them to best suit each purpose.

9. I think to world boss for example, that are concurrently PvE and PvP objectives.
There are many different objectives depending on your goals and ways you like to play. In the open world, there are a multitude of Corrupted Breaches that occur dynamics that players can engage with for rewards and azoth. Players can also seek out Elite POIs in the open world to challenge themselves along with entering Expeditions.


10. How do you plan to distribute players in the open world, considering that, to our knowledge, New World does not use virtualization technology (like layering in Classic WoW for example) ?
There are many starting areas and many settlements and zones for players to explore and reside in. Our goal is to have a diversity of activities to encourage players to explore the world. Aeternum is a living and active world. New World’s servers will support over a thousand players. During our Alpha and Closed Beta events we are actively looking at player population and how to get the experience just right.


11. What kind of activities can players do in the open world of the Aeternum’s island ?
Our number one goal is that players have fun! For starters they will spend time exploring the world, combating enemies, foraging for resources, and collecting and crafting armor and weapons. Players can own houses in various settlements and craft or collect furniture for their homes. They can also mass armies for PvP or PvE battles over ownership and control of territories. Success in New World ultimately depends on a player’s ability to conquer not only rival players, but Aeternum itself, as it unleashes undead legions, hell-bent on purging them from its shores. New World stands apart from other games in the genre by offering massive siege battles, thrilling supernatural invasions and a stunning and diverse natural setting. Aeternum is also full of stories. There is lore to be discovered, quests to be undertaken, and missions to be fulfilled for a rogue’s gallery of characters from all walks of life.


12. Will Aeternum evolve later on ? Will there be new zones for example ? Maybe changes to the current zones as well ?
We are committed to New World for the long term and are hard at work on some pretty exciting new content and themes for future releases. Nothing to share today, but we’ll reveal more in the future.


13. Is there any more lore and main story content coming up in the months following release ?
There is a great deal of lore supporting the new themes that we are working on now! And some unfinished business since the close of Alpha!


PvP

14. In the current design of the game, how many players should ideally be involved in an open world PvP fight and why?
Great question! In Open world PvP it comes down to what you are trying to accomplish. If its take over a hostile Faction Control Point it may take 5 to 10 players to secure and hold the location so your faction benefits from increased influence gain to declare war, or an additional global gameplay buff, like reduced fast travel cost. The buff obtained is different per territory. If you are on smaller Faction PvP Missions, two to three players may be able to achieve victory easily if they are skilled and well equipped. Faction Mission PvP provides faction token and more influence for declaring war in a territory.


15. Do you plan to promote small/medium scaled roaming PvP in the open world ? What could be done to encourage people to enroll in these kinds of battles ?
Faction PvP Missions and Faction Control points provide small to medium size skirmishes as I mentioned above. There are also increased XP incentives for defeating other players in PvP. its 5% xp bonus while flagged, plus gold and xp bonuses for killing players that have been flagged for a certain amount of time.


16. In addition to the territory war system, are you considering a Lineage like “Guild vs Guild” system, where a Company/Guild can declare war on another one in the open world and be flagged automatically for PvP together ?
Not at this time, but these are the ideas we like hearing from the community.


17. Any plans for competitive PvP (like ranked arenas, or battlegrounds) ?
We have recently introduced a new game mode called Outpost Rush. Outpost Rush is an endgame 20 vs. 20 battle where teams must coordinate and balance their time gathering resources, building up their outposts, capturing objectives, and defeating enemy players. Level 60 players can jump into Outpost Rush solo or as a group of up to 5 players. This is a great place to earn gold and rewards.


18. Any plans for introducing neutral faction so-called « mercenaries » ?

No plans at the moment but that’s a cool idea!

Thanks again to the Amazon Games Studios team for allowing us to preview different parts of the game and ask our questions/attend the Q&A sessions. Thanks also to Rosie Strzalkowski (Environment Art Lead) for answering JeuxOnline’s questions for this interview!