Home > Opinion, The Secret World > “Build me up, Buttercup Baby” or “Only to Let me Down!”

“Build me up, Buttercup Baby” or “Only to Let me Down!”

IGN recently posted an interview with Ragnar Tornquist, Game Director and Executive Producer for Funcom’s upcoming MMO, The Secret World. To say that details about TSW are kept strictly under wraps would be sort of like saying World of Warcraft has seen some mediocre success. Having followed the game closely for well over two years, it seems every time Tornquist comes out with a new interview, he pre-meditatively shares only the most microscopic smidgen of information just to keep the hype going. It is either an ingenious marketing strategy, or just a sadist’s self-gratification agenda.

With the recent unveiling of the website for the town of Kingsmouth, Maine, a fictional location based on sleepy sea-side New England towns, it seems the Funcom team has finally started to unravel the mystery surrounding the title, and what it has to offer. However, even in this interview, despite tackling a large number of questions, Tornquist refused to share any significant information. For instance, I learned from the interview that:

  • dark freaking days are coming, like really dark yo!
  • you get to fight against the forces of evil, and you are the chosen one (in addition to about a million other people)
  • the game will feel familiar to an veteran MMO player, and look better than Age of Conan did
  • most locations are real-world based, but not accurate renderings of any specific city or landscape
  • the zombies will ‘not be your average shambling variety’, and enemies may ‘attack you, ignore you or run away’, and every monster revealed so far is tied to the New England location
  • the list of features, soon to be unveiled, will excite an already rabid fan following
  • there will be a ton of loot

Aaaarrrggghhh! Come on Tornquist, give us something real, something tangible! I am already hooked, just reel me in man!

Don’t get me wrong, there were some morsels of useful information, but a lot of has was regurgitated from earlier sneak peeks, such as the three factions, and the level-less skill-based system, or that the combat will be fast-paced and action oriented. In short, we still don’t know much about The Secret World than what we already did. I would like to see some real answers to some of the most pressing questions.

For instance:

  1. The leveling system is skill-based. Will the skills train in real-time, like in EVE Online? Or can you invest the in-game currency to improve and expand your skill-set? How will you ensure each player has equal and fair access to the skill system? Is there a cap on the number of skills a player can acquire, or, as is the case in EVE Online, are skills directly proportionate to the amount of time you invest into the account (not necessarily the game)?
  2. For all its flaws and drawbacks, Champions Online has some fairly explosive combat that is thoroughly enjoyable. What makes the combat system in TRW special or stand out from the crowd? Just as an example, Star Wars: The Old Republic recently introduced a cover system in the MMO, which is an innovative and novel feature for MMO combat mechanics. Watchoo got Tornquist?
  3. How about sharing some details regarding immersion and logical consistency? Most MMOs use a ‘popping out of thin air’ re-spawn system. Oddly enough, a non-MMO, Borderlands, provided a solution, that while not perfect, was adequately rational for it to maintain a sense of immersion. If you killed a beast, its kin emerged from a nearby cave that was inaccessible to the player, not materialize, as if by magic, from the air around you. Will TSW attempt to change or challenge any of these norms, and bring about a better, more holistic sense of immersion?

In a way Tornquist has already answered the third questions, especially regarding re-spawns:

“MMORPGs are certainly difficult beasts in that sense. The player can never be The One, capable of defeating – permanently – the enemy and saving the world from darkness. That would be quite silly and very unfair to everyone else. Besides, when does that really happen? Heroics come from being part of something bigger, not a lone wolf. That’s why we’ve made that a central part of our story and theme; to be one of many heroes, a soldier in an army of light fighting the forces of darkness. And we do make an effort to explain why your actions may not change the world completely. When we launch the game, players are there to put a stop to evil spreading, and make sure the outside world doesn’t find out what’s going on – protect the ancient secrets, uphold the conspiracies and prevent widespread panic. After launch, however, we do intend to introduce change to the world, to make players feel as though the war progresses and grows, that the players actually impact what happens.

“As for an enemy like Jack O’Lantern – it would be quite disappointing if only one party of players would be able to bring him down – so of course, like any good villain, he pops up again. But we explain it and make it part of our own mythology. As most people know, it’s really hard to kill off a good villain. I mean, have you ever watched Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street? Those dudes keep coming back!”

– Ragnar Tornquist, Game Director and Executive Producer, The Secret World, IGN interview


This gives me an idea for a weekly (perhaps fortnightly) column discussing all the things that break the sense of immersion in contemporary MMOs, and how crafty, risk-taking developers may bypass and even improve upon these stagnant, stale formulas.

In the meantime, enjoy some excellt concept art from The Secret World in the preceeding post!

Categories: Opinion, The Secret World
  1. jsnwldrp7423
    March 5, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Will be interesting to see if any new info comes out of GDC next week, Funcom is suppose to be showing Secret World and Rise of the Godslayer.

  1. March 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm

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