The Secret World is Secret No Longer

Last week at PAX we had our first look at the latest project being developed by Funcom, "The Secret World". Words cannot express how we already feel about this game. Check it out...

Last week at PAX we had our first look at the latest project being developed by Funcom, "The Secret World". Words cannot express how we already feel about this game. Funcom has created one of the coolest premises for an MMO that we've seen to date and combined it with years of experience and an enhanced Age of Conan game engine. Enjoy our interview and stay tuned for an upcoming article with even more information!

Ragnar Tormquisc: My name is Ragnar Tormquisc and I'm the Producer Director on The Secret World.

Martin Bruusgaard: I'm Martin Bruusgaard, and I'm the Lead Designer.

ZAM: First one I'm going to ask; can you tell us a little bit about the individual persistent elements that will exist in the game?

The important thing to mention is that we don't have classes and we don't have levels. We have a very... linear progression, very result-based. It's all about gathering items and equipment, and also different powers. It's all about playing how you want to play and gathering the powers that matter to you, that let you play how you want to play. If you want to be a healer, then you gather the healer powers, and if you want to be a tank, you can gather the tank powers. You can also create hybrids. It's also important to say that you can design different powers to work with different powers, so you and your buddy can create specs that work well with each other, that feed each other. So, in that way, you can become very good at something very quickly, but to be able to master all of the powers and have a 'spec' for every situation - that will take a long time. So it's quick to get into the game and excel at something, but to be able to have all the tools, that will take a long time. So it's a very open progression in that way.

Ragnar: I think that's really important to me, because I'm sick and tired of games where you have to play for hundreds of hours to get to the point where you actually 'start' playing the game, I don't have time for that. I prefer to sit down when I get home, sit on the couch, grab a controller, and play to have fun. That's the kind of game I want to work on. The beauty of this game is that, yes, you can play for hundreds of hours, and yes, that is going to make you more powerful, you're going to have a lot more choices, you can spec your character any way you want. But you can also play the game for a few hours here and there, and you're still going to get enough powers to be able to join guys who have played for two hundred hours. You can still join them in the world for a little adventuring, and you can go PvPing, and you can still contribute to the game. Everything you do in the game actually matters, it's not just about grinding, grinding and grinding. You get something back from sitting down for an hour, you get a new power that you can use the next time you go out, or you can upgrade your weapon and use that. Even if you can't have the choices and the amount of damage that other players might have, you can still contribute to a team. So it's entertainment value that's important to us. It's not a game that's designed to be 500 hours of linear content before you reach the 'endgame.' It's more about going out into the open world, taking on missions, jumping into PvP a little bit, doing some crafting, and enjoying that for what it's worth.

ZAM: Can you give us any hints as to what sort of powers you'll have in the game?

Ragnar: I don't think anybody's ever asked us that before! Yeah, I mean, based on the video, maybe we can talk about some of the powers they have in there, for example?

Martin: Well, we can't say too much about the powers. What I said earlier about how we want to make the powers work with each other, well, that's true, but I'm not sure how much more I can say.

ZAM: You can say whatever guys! Maybe just some general examples!

Martin: Ha ha, OK, so... spells aren't just spells. A fireball isn't just a fireball, a fireball can trigger something else and other players can take advantage of that other thing happening, to link spells together in an open way. We give players the tools, and it's up to them to sort of figure out the best combination. I mean, we will have those standard spells, like other MMOs, that do damage and we'll have different powers that go with different weapons, or the same powers that go with different weapons. Since we don't have any classes, you aren't locked to any weapon, so you can just swap out weapons and figure out your combo. You can link a power with a weapon that puts the target into a state that another power with a different weapon can utilize. Do you see what I mean? You can sort of link powers.

ZAM: So then, in a sense, it kind of creates a dynamic combo system for individuals and otherwise?

Martin: Exactly, right.

Ragnar: And the cool thing is also that you can have a power speced which is an area effect kind of thing. If you have that sword equipped, you might be able to slam that sword down into the ground, sort of like in the video, and you can create an Area of Effect out of that. If you have a shotgun, it might be that, basically, you might create an area of effect in front of you with that shotgun. Some powers will be unique to weapons; some powers will be independent of weapons, so there's a lot of flexibility there.

ZAM: You were talking about powers and weapons in the Secret Society; do these secret societies have favourites when choosing their weapons and powers, or is it just spread all around?

Ragnar: Yeah, I guess we can answer this.

Martin: We started to look into it, but balancing different factions with different powers is very, very hard. We started looking into it, but we figured that if we do something like that, somebody will come up with a combo where the powers of one secret society will be better than someone else, then more people will go into that, and it will destroy the population completely, and we don't really want that. So there are no secret society specific powers.

Ragnar: But there are definitely other things that are unique to each society. Like missions and certain types of items, which may have similar effects in the game, but visually they'll be very different. Missions will be quite different. It will matter which secret society you're in, but in terms of balance, we had to be really careful.

ZAM: But do any of these secret societies have a favourite weapon that, say, we start with that weapon?

Ragnar: No, you start with any kind of weapon you want. It depends on the powers you choose for your character in the very beginning of the game. It's not tied to the secret society you choose. It's about identity, really. You can be an illuminati who likes swords, or a templar with an automatic rifle, that doesn’t really matter. We want to give you a choice; we don't want to restrict you to anything.

ZAM: Let's say I want to be a fighter type; am I going to have something like "this is a fighter skill, this is a mage skill." Are there going to be choices like that?

Ragnar: Yes. Ha ha.

Martin: But I mean, there are many different ways of attacking. Look at the different MMOs; there are different classes that can attack; some can attack magically and some can attack physically. It's all about how you spec your character.

ZAM: Each ability will be described though, right? There won't be any guessing?

Martin: That's one thing that's very important to me. I hate power descriptions that just say "this will increase your armour slightly." No, that doesn't work. There will be numbers, everything will be very clear.

ZAM: OK, so cabals and guilds in this secret world. How are players going to rank up in the cabals, and are those benefits going to be purely cosmetic, or will players see character altering benefits to ranking up in a cabal?

Martin: Benefits of the cabals and benefits in specific we cannot talk about, but yes, it will be very important. The way you rank up is basically just playing, because we can track almost anything. How we want to weigh the points, that's something we have to figure out, like how much exploring is worth in comparison to killing a player. The benefits of a cabal we can't really say at this point. We have some things planned for it, but it will definitely be something that will be very important to players.

ZAM: Based on some of the gameplay footage, it looked like you could go into this modern day world. Since this is based on our Earth, you've got to have some game zones. Will there be zoning? Instancing? How big is the game world going to be, and how open is it going to be, versus how instanced?

Ragnar: I'm not a fan of instancing at all. That really sort of bugs me all the time, but some people don't care at all. We're going to avoid instances as much as possible. Instancing is something that you sometimes have to do to protect newbies - especially at launch. Our playfields are very large. We want to avoid loading screens. For example, going from London to New England isn't going to be like clicking a map and seeing a red dot go from one place to another, that's not what it's going to be like. It's going to be seamless. There's going to be very little loading, and hopefully it's going to be instantaneous. We want you to be able to move in a way that fits the mythology of the game, that actually makes sense. It's not going to be like "what the hell? Why am I in New England right now? I was just in London!" It's going to actually make sense. I can't explain why it's going to make sense, but it will make sense. There might be some instancing. We're going to have instances and places like dungeons, or something we'll call dungeons, and those will be more team based experiences. Those will be instanced. The open world stuff we're going to try to avoid instancing as much as possible. We want to make sure that you feel like you're in a living, open world, and you're traveling around that and exploring it. Like I said, our playing fields are large and they are epic and it's going to feel that way, yet you're going to be able to travel seamlessly. Lots of promises, but we'll see. I just don't like instancing, so we'll try to avoid those.

ZAM: Do you have a target launch date right now?

Ragnar: Yes. *evil laugh* We can't tell you. We have a plan for when we're going to launch the game; we know when we're going to go into beta. Once we're in beta I think that things will probably change around a little bit. If people respond really well, and it seems to work really well, then our launch plan will stay in place. If we're going to need to change some things, then we'll change the launch dates. We're not going to release an unfinished game, and we're not going to release a game that's not fun to play. I can't say anything about specific dates, but that's a bit far into the future. It's only 2009 now and you saw the game! It's running! We're having fun! We're playing it!

ZAM: You talked about how roaming is supposed to feel real, but how are you going to deal with the travel time around the world? Are you going to have planes and mounts, or what?

Ragnar: Like I said, in our mythology, it's going to make sense. Has anybody read any Robert Jordan books? The Wheel of Time? Not going to say anything more than that.

ZAM: The biggest question that I had as I was watching the slides was, "why is the Earth hollow? And where did the lava go?" Were we wrong about the lava?

Martin: Why is the Earth hollow, why is the Sun hot! Of course the Earth is hollow! Everybody knows that! You know, the Nazis, they believed that as well. And the Nazis were right about that! Part of our mythology explains exactly why the Earth is hollow, so it will all tie together. It's all going to make sense. We've written a history that goes back, I'm not exaggerating, it goes back 65 million years; even longer than that, actually. That's where our story starts. It's all written down, and it's going to be something that's released as the game progresses; there will be expansion packs that go more into that, and it all ties together. It's all a great conspiracy man!

ZAM: So, OK, a follow-up question to that: What do volcanoes do now?

Ragnar: You trying to go all scientific on me!?

ZAM: It's a real world game!

Ragnar: There is lava, it's not like there's no lava! The Earth isn't COMPLETELY hollow! There are tunnels and corridors and things inside the world.

ZAM: I can't play an MMO without Lava, so I just need to make sure.

Ragnar: There is lava. We even have lava monsters, so don't worry, there's lava!

ZAM: So the Secret World is going to be filled with all these different conspiracies and mythologies. Can you give us any specific things we're going to be able to see? Like, will we able to go to Atlantis? Will that be in the game? Just give us one! One thing that we can actually see!

Ragnar: Well... everything is true! One thing that we'll say is that... the humans weren't the first ones here. As for Atlantis... You'll find out!

ZAM: Alright, thanks guys!

Ragnar: You guys had excellent questions! You had the best questions of the whole day!

Andrew "Tamat" Beegle


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Nice interview
# Sep 10 2009 at 11:14 AM Rating: Good
Thanks for the interview, you guys definatly had the best questions of the gaming sites on TSW, made the interview very informative.

Hope the game can meet it's expectations, an mmo that is fun even if you just play an hour? Hell yea!
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