How Funcom Reinvented a 5-Year-Old MMO with Secret World Legends

VentureBeat was able to corner Funcom's Rui Casais and Scott Junior for an article-based conversation about how the developer overhauled, rebranded, and essentially re-released their sci-fi MMORPG The Secret World as Secret World Legends. The article touches upon the risks they took, the concerns they had with changing mechanics that existing players were used to, how the game compares to their other MMORPGs, and more:
“We always felt that The Secret World was undiscovered,” says Rui Casais, Funcom’s CEO. “Some of it was due to risks we took that didn’t pay off, and some of it was due to market conditions. The game was more than four years old, and we saw revenues declining as they naturally do when a game ages. We needed to decide what to do next.”

Funcom realized that there was an untapped market: people who had never had a chance to play the game because of the barriers for entry, like the subscription and, once that was dropped, the box purchase. This was also an opportunity for the team to take a bird’s eye view of the game—to explore what wasn’t working and what was holding the game back. The result was new systems sitting next to the things that The Secret World had always excelled in.

A lot of the changes simply wouldn’t have been possible in a live game. “When you’ve got a live game, you’ve got to be careful about what you change,” Scott Junior, Secret World Legends’ executive producer explains. “You don’t want to disrupt the core audience, but you need to fix things that are causing attrition, so a lot of the time you come up with band-aid solutions. When you’re doing those band-aids, you get very annoyed that you can’t do specific things, like why did we make this decision five years ago to have no levels? That’s one of the big problems we had.”


“I do think there is a thread — all of our games try to do something different, and break away from the norm,” says Casais. “Not necessarily a specific system or specific feature, but the games always have a strong social component and innovation that makes them special.”

“Innovation is a good word,” Junior agrees. “But we also take big risks. Anarchy Online was one of the first sci-fi MMOs. Age of Conan was probably the safest of the MMOs, but we still took big risks. There’s nudity, which I think was a first for MMOs, and we had an action combat system. And Secret World Legends is very risky because we put so much more on the player, more responsibility for what they need to do, like the investigation missions. There are actual riddles in the game, and that takes a lot of work on the player’s part. It’s not as hand-holdy as other MMOs. And there’s the setting: it’s modern and horror, which is not the safest way to go with MMOs.”