The Secret World Interviews

To help hammer home the fact that The Secret World is now live and the launch has went fairly smooth, lead designer Martin Bruusgaard, creative director Ragnar Tornquist, and chief technology officer Rui Casais have been making the rounds for various interviews about the MMORPG.

EGM: The game takes place all over the world in both real world locales and fictional settings. With the real world settings it is easy to draw inspiration from, but where did you get your designs for the mythical places your adventure in The Secret World will take you?

MB: What do you mean by fictional setting? Everything is true! Hehe, joke aside, we have a fantastic team who have investigated all types of myths and legends all around the world. We developed many different concepts for the different locations, and went with the ones that seemed most plausible in our real world setting. Since we are mimicking the real world, OUR real world, it's very important that even the fictional locations are believable. We are trying hard to make it feel just like another place you can visit. What does El Dorado look like today? What is all this machinery doing in Hell? Play the game and find out!

Ultimately, you want your game to stand out in a sea of other games in the genre. Do you feel you've done enough to make The Secret World different enough to peel players away from games like Rift, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars: The Old Republic?

I believe The Secret World is a very, very different game from the ones you mention here, and I think players are going to feel it's a refreshing change from the class-and-level-based MMOs they're used to. We've really strived to give our game a completely different vibe, and I believe The Secret World has soul--it stands out, players respond to it emotionally, and it grabs you in a way that few games do. I don't think it's comparable to anything else out there, in a good way.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun:
RPS: Do you think it would be possible to make an MMO that does away with the whole combat-style questing altogether and just focuses around large-scale MMO adventure-style puzzle-solving?

Tornquist: Of course it's possible. Absolutely. I'm not sure it's a good idea, though. It really depends. Conflict in a game is good. I don't see a need for us to go away from the fact that you have a conflict in the game that occurs through combat. To have to fight an external enemy. There are different ways of doing that. Making just something like Myst Online, well, that's been done, and initially it was interesting, but I don't think it was that much fun. I think players felt that there was a lack of conflict, of a drive to it. Having combat, having action, having danger it's important, it's imperative to a gaming world.

There are different ways of doing that of course. You don't necessarily have to fight monsters and everything. But we found that the whole idea of this communal experience needs to have a sense of danger to it. It needs to feel like a world where anything can happen, and that includes getting your ass kicked, and ganging up and getting revenge. There are varying degrees of that, and I think The Secret World right now, it's a pretty competitive game. You do have to fight a lot of the time, except when you do investigations.

The battles are part of what makes the game fun and interesting to play. I think solving puzzles all the time, it's not going to last hundreds of hours. I think people would get bored a lot quicker. Having to deal with a dangerous world where there are real monsters and where evil is rising and to do that in a way that requires you to pick up arms and fight them it gives the game world more dimensions. I don't think I would have ever made a game that's just an adventure game online together with other people. I'm not sure how that's going to work, but it's definitely possible. Somebody should do it. It should probably be done by somebody with a small budget and a small team of people that's willing to experiment more than we are.

Without a doubt, the most important elements of massively multiplayer online games are the starting zones, from which a player's opinions of the game are generally formed regardless of what lies ahead, and the end-game, which keeps players engaged and subscribed. Unfortunately, many MMOs start poorly and feature little in the way of end-game content at launch. How is Funcom avoiding this issue, and what post-launch plans are in place to keep the most active, and arguably most important players engaged?

MARTIN BRUUSGAARD: I am not concerned about the starting experience for new players at all. You will not start out with a rusty dagger, and kill rats. First you are taken back in time, and relive what caused all this evil to rise up. From there you are sent, by your secret society, to a town in New England to investigate a town that has been run over by all sorts of nasties. I won't spoil anything, but it's pretty crazy, and I can assure you that players won't be bored.

End game is a different monster to tackle. I think one of the biggest faults of MMOs today is that they create content for the players to consume, and when it's consumed, players never visit it again. Reusing the content in a clever way can make development cost lower, and player enjoyment bigger. Our game is slightly different from other MMOs since we don't have any level, and end game is a bit harder to define, but players will have plenty to do. All our dungeons are available in different difficulties, and some of them are insanely hard. This will only be for the best of the best. Also, in every zone the player has played through will have certain camps with monsters that were too hard for them to fight when they visited the zone for the first time. However, when they are strong enough, they can go back and whoop the monsters' asses. By doing this they will gather different puzzle pieces, which they can combine, and then summon forth a demon to fight. If they are successful they will get some nice gear, but a also another puzzle piece. If a player gathers enough of these puzzle pieces, they can summon the region boss, which is a huge baddie! Fighting these guys will require lots of players and very nice coordination. These guys will drop even better gear, but also a puzzle piece. These pieces are for the world boss, which is... Well... Let's just say you need to be a pretty frikking awesome player to tackle him...

In addition to all of this we have lots of PvP the players can have fun with. Everything from some quick action minigames, to persistent world domination PvP. We will also have social features like dance floors, a theater and bars to hang out in. We will also release our first raid, very shortly after release.

The Verge:
The size of games in the genre offer their own issues for the writers. Tornquist makes comparisons to television show Lost when he describes the process it takes to develop a setting built around hundreds of missions into a single cohesive mass. The secret world of The Secret World is a jigsaw puzzle where fractions of the mystery are spread out across game mechanics, mission cinematics, character dialogue, even in item descriptions. Players are expected to piece it together themselves to develop a bigger picture of the world they're involved in. It shares a few philosophical similarities with the J.J. Abrams show, he says, although the team is aware of where Abrams' island went wrong.

"They weren't afraid to give the viewers these puzzles and mysteries and not explain anything but let it gather into a bigger picture as the seasons went on. That's exactly the philosophy we have. It's going to take time to learn everything, and it's going to take time to work, and players discussing it to see the big picture but it's there. Lost did it really well at the beginning and to me it was a story that felt like a game story. But it petered out toward the end because their jigsaw puzzle wasn't that complete."

BioGamer Girl:
FANG: In player vs. player matches, gamers will face off in massive conflicts on legendary battle sites such as Stonehenge, El Dorado and Shambala. Why were these unique locations saved for PvP matches, how chaotic can these PvP matches get and what more can you tell us about THE SECRET WORLD'S multiplayer versus mode?

TØRNQUIST: We felt these locations were uniquely suited to our player-versus-player combat, since they are powerful occult locations and home to some of the greatest mysteries of mankind. Just because they are PvP zones doesn't mean players won't get to see the same locations from another, non-combat perspective in the future. We have plans to expand on the lore around our PvP areas post-launch.

There are two different PvP modes in THE SECRET WORLD: Battlefields and Warzones. Battlefields are ten-versus-ten-versus-ten battles where the three secret societies the Templars, the Illuminati and the Dragon fight short, intense battles in order to (briefly) dominate either El Dorado or Stonehenge; both of them sources of great magic, of Anima, that the factions can harvest.

Fusang Projects, on the other hand, is a persistent Warzone; a Chinese city built on top of an ancient temple, where the battle rages twenty-four-seven between all three secret societies. In this location, players compete for control over various points on the map, with the ultimate goal of dominating all of Fusang Projects.

Dread Central:
AMANDA: Many different monsters, demons and beasts can be found in your upcoming game The Secret World. From a horror perspective, what type of scares can we expect to see in the full game, and what is the overall tone of the game?

RAGNAR: The tone really changes depending on which part of the world you're playing in. Solomon Island, a small community off the coast of Maine, has a very distinct small-town-Stephen-King-meets-zombie-apocalypse-meets-Lovecraft theme to it. The population of Kingsmouth Town has been turned into the walking dead, and players have to unravel the mystery of an eldritch fog that surrounds the island. Mix in some Cthulhuian monstrosities, slimy creatures from the deep, Native American mythology, weird science and the Illuminati, and you have a pretty interesting and distinctly American horror mix.

In Egypt, there's more of an Indiana-Jones-meets-the-Mummy vibe, mixed with ancient Egyptian mythology and lore, and (again) a slightly Lovecraftian twist to the proceedings. An ancient cult has risen in a remote part of Egypt, and they are attempting to resurrect the Black Pharaoh Akhenaten...along with the sun god Aten.

Transylvania, meanwhile, opens with the players fighting to hold back the Vampire Crusade in the Romanian farmlands, but quickly evolves into a cool mix of Eastern European mythology, Soviet-era occult science, Templars and Roman history and fairy tale creatures -- plus some really big twists to cap it all off...for now.

There are also nods to other horror genres and conventions, including a visit to a haunted asylum in Seoul, South Korea, and a trip through a Tokyo subway station infected by something called the Filth: a horrific substance leaking out from gaps in-between dimensions. And behind it all, there is a cosmic horror that has yet to be spoken of...

And then there's a two-and-a-half-minute video interview that you can tune in to at MSNBC.