Main Story Quest Update Deep Dive

19 February 2024

Greetings, Adventurers!

This article was updated on March 22: Season of the Guardian will release on Tuesday, April 2. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to resolve issues based on PTR feedback and work together towards even more enjoyable experiences in Aeternum. You can also look forward to the full release notes at the end of next week.

Experience fresh narratives, more quest variety, and a few new surprises as you put an end to Isabella’s campaign of corruption. The final main story quest (MSQ) update will release alongside Season of the Guardian on March 12. Join Senior Narrative Designer Lula Lucent for insight into their development process, philosophy, and more.

Main Story Quest Interview

What’s your favorite change in the final MSQ Update?

The Angry Earth are my favorite part of New World. Because of their mysteriousness I always wonder how they perceive and experience life. The addition of Phaeris as a new NPC is probably my favorite change. Her appearance is brief, but impactful. We see how she struggles with being different within the Angry Earth Hivemind, balancing her nature with the expectations of the collective. Similarly, the very narrow peek into the mindsets of the Blighted is super interesting, and creates even more mystery.

Walk us through your process to revise the entire MSQ.

Well, this is a request crying out for an overly-lengthy response. But I can summarize since my design philosophy is strongly wrapped up in what is needed to revise something like the MSQ ending. We knew where our penultimate story arc was happening, Ebonscale Reach. We knew where the absolute ending would be, Shattered Mountain. I worked backwards from our current assets and locations, and sought to give them life and meaning alongside cool new things to do there!

Once that narrative skeleton was approved by our supporting teams, I fleshed it out one piece at a time by asking myself, which NPCs were involved in each quest, what resources did I need to request from others, and how could I turn all the chaotic madness in my head into the artful guise of order? One of those questions remains unanswered to this very day...

What’s your goal or philosophy behind the revisions?

Take the best elements we already have, repurpose and lean into them. For instance, Isabella clearly sees herself as the savior of humanity. In her own mind, she is the hero of the story (not the player). I made sure to create moments to showcase her in a commanding position. Not the least of which was making the story arc in Shattered Mountain all about preparing an attack on Myrkgard itself. It simply had to be where the climax to our narrative took place. So that gave me a goal to focus on and build towards through each new quest.

How do you balance the original New World story and changes when making updates?

Remembering what makes certain locations and characters awesome is one of the best ways. Adiana played a far more direct role in the old MSQ, but that no longer made sense with the changes in MSQ 2.2 — to say nothing of her godhood arc in Brimstone Sands and Elysian Wilds. That meant the avenue of using the Angry Earth directly as allies in the fight against Isabella wouldn’t work, so logical story changes needed to made. Hence Adiana’s current emotional state and the addition of Phaeris in 2.3.

Are there self-imposed restrictions or guidelines you follow?

This will sound silly, but just some basic things: don’t use cliches in dialogue, be conscious of overusing certain words, and don’t make the same type of quest two quests running. Essentially, I often remind myself to create a variety of content for players. NPCs and gameplay should both have plenty of depth.

What’s the greatest challenge in updating the MSQ? How did your team overcome it?

Time is not infinite.

I joke, but it’s true. Pragmatism is really important to pair with ambition. As climactic as the ending to our story is, it was (wait for it) once an even more ambitious design document. Eventually, we had to scope. That might sound like a small defeat, but I never think of it that way.

Part of my process is to scope early, during the stage when we only have ideas and words scrawled on the page/whiteboard/brain-matter. This is the least disruptive time to change course. We work hard to ensure what our final design document looks like is attainable. The second part that keeps me optimistic — content ideas cut today are ideas we can use in the future. No good idea is ever wasted. Eventually we will find the right time and the right place to do it justice, and give players something very cool indeed.

Tell us a fun story from the development of the MSQ update.

Keep what I said about pragmatism earlier in mind for this one. When we were creating a specific boss fight in Ebonscale Reach, there was an open question on its setting. There were a lot of primo ideas, but unfortunately our top pick turned out to be impractical and didn’t quite fit the motivations of a certain fan-favorite character.

I came up with a workable alternative after discovering an amazing unused art asset. Fast-forward to the next week and the environment artist blew me away by making an entire new POI to house the fight! That was not my initial more humble request, but his ambition paid off in a way that made the western shore near the Imperial Palace super memorable.

What’s something you learned during the MSQ update that you wish you knew when you first started working on New World?

I would have liked to have had a more intuitive understanding of the scale and composition between Ebonscale Reach and Shattered Mountain. I was familiar from playing the game of course, but looking through the lens of creating new content really makes it clear how different they are. Ebonscale Reach is broad with a lot of verticality, and end-to-end is second in size only to Brimstone Sands. Shattered Mountain is very dense, which creates its own challenges.

The routing of new quests in Ebonscale Reach had to take into account traveling longer distances occasionally, whereas Shattered Mountain needed routing that was not completely linear. As far as the latter is concerned, our solution to route the player through the western side and then come in from the eastern side was an idea I would have valued realizing from the very start of design.

What’s something your team must consider when working on the MSQ that the average player might not realize or think about?

Oh! I have a very New World reason for answering that question, which might not apply well to other games. World Trains. The first chest run I went on was the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced in an MMO. I’m a big fan of Imp and Myrk, so our team took a very considered approach in preserving that gameplay while trying to eke out just the right areas to let solo players experience those locations if they haven’t before. Both zones, Ebonscale Reach and Shattered Mountain, have their own unique challenges when it comes to zone flow as I mentioned before. I think we’ve managed to find the best route for the MSQ, but I’m definitely curious how everyone who regularly runs Imp, Myrk, and elsewhere feels.

What can players look forward to in the next chapter of New World’s story?

I have the best book to tell you to read for our inspiration! It’s actually written by [REDACTED] and called [NARRATIVE DIRECTOR INFO-BLOCK ACTIVATED]. Not bad, huh? So I think players are going to enjoy the unique perspective of that kind of gameplay, plus sneaking around underground areas and mausoleums is always fun even when it’s not Halloween.

Thanks for your support! We look forward to hearing your feedback on the main story quest updates and will see you in Aeternum.