New World: Rise of the Angry Earth Interview
Amazon Games’s MMORPG New World received its first full expansion in October 2023 with Rise of the Angry Earth. In addition to adding a new story chapter, it saw a significant change of one of the game’s areas, plus various other pieces of new content and additions. RPGamer was able to talk to the Game Director Scot Lane about the reception to the expansion so far and some of the ideas and goals behind it. This article is based on an audio interview, with some edits for clarity.
Alex Fuller (RPGamer): How satisfied are you with the reception to Rise of the Angry Earth so far?
Scot Lane, New World Game Director (Amazon Games): It’s been really well received and we’ve been really happy to see how many players came back. We’ve been telling everyone this is a great time to come back, but you don’t really know what’s going to happen until you put it out there. We’re pleasantly surprised by how many players came back and are engaging with the content. It’s just so nice to see the world full and people having fun in the game. It’s super rewarding.
RPGamer: Were there any major changes you were aiming to achieve with the expansion?
Scot Lane: There’s a few things. There are always surprises on the content side that change the game in ways that you don’t always expect to. We could talk all day about how mounts would be transformational — but we knew that would be the case — or about the new zone that we thought everyone would like. I was really surprised by how much raid groups changed things. It’s made ECRs [Elite Chest Runs, which happen around challenging points of interest around the world] a lot more fun, it’s made our events a lot more fun, and people are using them for the PvP Influence Races. We thought it would be used in certain ways and it’s been used in a lot more and more cleverly than we expected.
RPGamer: What were some of the inspirations and ideas behind the new area of the Elysian Wilds?
Scot Lane: The biggest inspiration was that we were excited to tell the story of Artemis. Not just that they hate humans, but they hate civilisation, and then the idea of trying to poison humanity and convert it into the Angry Earth, like how animals have been converted. Our lore team have been thinking about for a long time and telling that story was what they wanted to do. They’ve known who Artemis was since before we launched the original game and really wanted to finish that story.
RPGamer: How far ahead have some of the expansion elements been planned for?
Scot Lane: When we first launched, we loved the idea of the Angry Earth hating civilisation and hitting back. We knew we wanted it to take over an [existing] zone. We weren’t 100% which zone it was going to be that it took over and for that we watched where players were spending more time and how much fun they were having, and from that we decided to make it First Light. First Light was really well geographically located to support the story line. We didn’t have to make players run all the way over the map, it was more central, and it worked out really well.
RPGamer: Can you talk a bit more about the decision to make the change to the First Light zone?
Scot Lane: We loved the idea of the Angry Earth, and we wanted to knock out a civilisation. It allowed us to close the zone and put the Angry Earth shield around, and put some of the townsfolk around telling you what’s going on. It allowed us to build and tell that story over time.
A lot of people were expecting less of a transformation to the zone, but if you spent a lot of time in First Light before this, you’d have no idea you were in the same zone, other than a few rock formations. Even the old town is hard to recognise because it’s so overgrown with all of the plant life and vegetation that’s taken over it.
Probably the biggest driving factor was its location of the map. It’s right in the middle, and so often game expansions keep pushing players further and further. I think Windsward is a beautiful zone, I love when I’m just cruising through it, or Cutlass Keys I think is awesome, and I don’t want to lose those from my gameplay rotation. I love being able to see them, and this allowed us to do that and keep a lot of content around the world still relevant.
RPGamer: How did you go about deciding which weapon (the flail) to add?
Scot Lane: I think the flail made a lot of sense. We wanted something else that could support a few roles and be paired with the sword and shield, as well as something you could partner with a light staff or some of the other magic weapons. And we wanted another support; something that didn’t require full active play and more of a support class to help other players. The idea is that the closer other players are to you with the flail, the more benefit they’d get, so it allows you to be right in the middle of the action. It was also period appropriate and really cool, and we also wanted to experiment with a fully-animated weapon; this was our first one and we really like how it came out.
RPGamer: Did you have other alternatives lined up or under consideration?
Scot Lane: The players really want daggers and I understand that. For me, when we do get to daggers, you are kind of obligated to do stealth and really lean into that, and we want to make sure there’s a story that really supports that and all of the gameplay changes. We don’t want to just jump in on that as it’s going to be a big change how the game is played. There were a few other ones; we have some fun ideas for more weapons.
RPGamer: How do you aim to have the expansion work alongside the game’s seasonal content?
Scot Lane: It’s been interesting — a little challenging, because you almost have multiple goals and you’re not sure which one to go after first. Most players, the tendency is to get a mount, do the expansion storyline, level up your mount, and then do the season stuff. That’s kind of the order I played it in. I think it gives a longer tail to the gameplay of the new content, and it adds to it. But going forward I’d have to think about if we’d go as deep on the storyline again [as in Season 2], when we have a new expansion coming up. That’s a tough call.
RPGamer: Were there any particular highlights that came up during development that you were excited to see players experience?
Scot Lane: For me, mounts was a huge one. I mentioned those ECRs and the Influence Races where those people in raid groups and then they rush to areas really fast. Those moments when you’re in the game and you see twenty people coming over a hill; it’s even more impactful on an Influence Race when you’re in trouble. When you’re outnumbered and you see ten friends on horses running into the battle to help you in PvP, it’s pretty awesome.
Also I think all the work we’ve done to change the end-game, that’s landed really well with players. The idea of gear that’s really good against Corrupted or the Angry Earth sounds really fun, but what it ended up turning into was all the min-maxers feeling that it was required to get that gear. It made the end of the game feel more like a grind than it needed to. Same with the expertise system, it made the game feel more grindy than we anticipated and less rewarding, so we pulled it out and added loot biasing and artifact weapons, and that’s given the end game a better feel.
RPGamer: Is there anything else that has surprised you with its popularity/reception?
Scot Lane: I don’t think we had any big surprises with popularity. I guess one small surprise is that we’re seeing Invasions [PvE fort defences] get a lot more players than they used to, which is good. I know we put a really cool reward there, so that’s part of the drive, but I also think it’s a lot of the more casual players wanting to experience that PvE content. Beyond the raid groups, players are playing kind of how we expected. We knew they’d use it, but we didn’t realise how much.
RPGamer: Has the release/development of the expansion informed any future plans or changed some of the direction of the game going forward?
Scot Lane: I don’t think there’s going to be any dramatic changes. We are still watching the player habits, it’s been about a month and I wanted to give it a bit more time to see early trends versus longer trends before we make any impactful decisions.
RPGamer: How have you looked to help bring in players around the expansion’s release?
Scot Lane: I think mounts is definitely something that brings players back in. Moreso — it’s been two years since New World launch — we’ve made such an effort of listening to the players and improving the game, improving all of the questlines, storytelling, quality-of-life, and grind concerns. All of that culminating with an expansion has made it a good time for players to come back. We still seeing players come back as well as new players come in.
RPGamer: How difficult is it balancing new items and fitting them within the game without overbalancing things, especially given New World’s numerous weapon types?
Scot Lane: It’s hard, and that’s one of the reasons we do a Public Test Realm. It was a little easier because we raised the gear score cap, so we didn’t have to balance it against everything already in place, and it allowed us to correct some of the balance issues we already had. It’s a clean slate so now we can take all the things we learned from the last two years and apply to those improvements to the loot, how you acquire it, and the balance.
Another change we made that I think that’s worth noting is the balancing we did to all of our Expeditions. We used to have the first Expedition, which was very hard, and then ten mutations where they get more difficult but the rewards get better. What we did was change the number of mutations from ten to three, which makes grouping easier and the pool of players a lot bigger, and we took the main version and made it more of a story mode. What we’d found was a lot of casual players were a little bit intimidated by the difficulty of the early dungeons, so we made those a lot more friendly.
RPGamer: How has the team developed and come together over the past couple of years?
Scot Lane: I think when we first launched it was incredibly difficult. When you go from building to running live, it is a massive transition, and the expectation is that things have to happen really, really fast. If something’s going on in live, you’ve got to react quickly and solve the problem.
At first it was a hard transition for us, but now two years in I think we’re much better at it. We still have room to improve, especially on our releases and our quality, but we’ve grown so much in the last two years and have a common language now. I think one of the hardest parts is that we launched around COVID when everyone was working from home, and it was just a hard time to come together as a time. Now we’re starting to do a lot more face-time and reconnect with all the people. It’s not like most previous game teams, but I think where we are now is a really good place and we’re just committed to getting better and raising our quality.
RPGamer: How much enjoyment to get from designing the world and its visual designs?
Scot Lane: It’s a blast, it’s so fun every day. We can tell concept artists, “This needs to look different from everything. I want to feel like I’m coming to a different planet or different world.” Just seeing all the ways they surprise you, or challenging them to go further or saying maybe that’s too far, it’s awesome. We are blessed to be able to make games, be creative, live in this space, and just build content and gameplay for players. It’s a dream.
RPGamer: Obviously you can’t give away very much, but are there any teases you can give for future content or features?
Scot Lane: I can’t go into great details, but one of the big features coming up is cross-world Expeditions. One thing we didn’t have announced until more recently is that we’re doing a pickup group finder, it’ll be a lot easier to group with other players, as well as rewarding roles that are harder to find so players can get that on-demand content a little faster. Having faster and easier access to all of the on-demand content is going to make it a lot better experience and I’m excited for that.
RPGamer: Do you have any final message to potential returnees or new players?
Scot Lane: I think I’ve said it a few times, but I’ll say it one more time just because. I really do think now is a great time to come back. I think the game has gotten so much better in the last two years. The feedback we’re getting is all so much more positive that we’re in a really good place, and I think it’s a great time to come check us out.
RPGamer would like to extend our thanks to Scot Lane for taking the time to answer our questions, as well as to Jordan Aslett and Rebecca Rodriguez from Fortyseven Communications for facilitating the interview. Both New World and its Rise of the Angry Earth expansion are available now on PC.