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The Secret World Interviews: Funcom in 2010

By Garrett Fuller on February 17, 2010

MMORPG.com:

Funcom won Most Improved Game for 2009 with Age of Conan. Tell us your plans for the game in 2010.

Erling Ellingsen:

That was a great honor. We've worked very hard on adding new content and new features to the game since launch in the summer of 2008, and to see that hard work pay off is great. The team's been very dedicated in their work, and Funcom have maintained focus on the game ever since launch. Just a couple of weeks ago we launched the latest update, Return of Thoth-Amon, that introduces new guild gameplay and tier three raid content. Our focus in the weeks and months ahead is the expansion, and while we will continue working on live updates, we are definitely focusing on getting Rise of the Godslayer out there.

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MMORPG.com:

The Secret World has been generating some great internet buzz. What plans do you have for leaks and presentations in 2010?

Erling Ellingsen:

We're very pleased about how The Secret World is steadily gaining momentum. Throughout 2009 our strategy has been to slowly start lifting the veil, giving small tidbits of information and quick sneak peeks into the game's universe, without playing the strongest card in our deck: actually showing the world how the game looks in motion. So we've been focusing on community focused ARGs, viral campaigns and some major publicity initiatives. The first one was GDC 2009 where we started talking about the game again for the first time since the reveal in 2007, and then we went on to reveal the very central secret societies gameplay at PAX 2009. That was a huge success for us, with over 200.000 gamers from all over the world taking the secret society personality test and becoming signed-up members of the game's community. So in terms of raising the attention level and building a stronger community, 2009 was a big success.

2010 will be the year when the true secrets are unveiled. In January we kicked off a new ARG campaign where our quarter of a million strong community picked up on clues and riddles and discovered the website for Kingsmouth - a small town in the game where strange, mysterious things are happening. We went on to release the first in-game footage a week or so after that. A grainy, obscured, black and white security camera footage - but in-game all the same. The reason why we chose that format is that we're saving what we call "the big Technicolor reveal" to GDC in March. That's when we will, for the first time, show actual gameplay. Our plan right now is to show the press actual in-game gameplay, and release the first in-game trailer to the public. Exactly how it will look and in what format it will appear remains to be seen!

MMORPG.com:

How does Funcom see the MMO market changing in 2010?

Erling Ellingsen:

Predicting changes in the MMO market is always difficult. It's one of those markets that can suddenly change without anyone really foreseeing the changes beforehand. What we're seeing, though, is an increased focus on casual, social games. Anything from high production value games such as Dofus, to database games such as Mafia Wars on Facebook. These are both MMOs, and their market is growing tremendously. I think we'll see more and more established, triple A MMO studios break into this market. Funcom recently announced that we're working on a free-to-play casual MMO called Pets vs. Monsters which is coming along nicely.


Image Credit: Gamer.no

MMORPG.com:

What new ideas would you like to see implemented in MMOs as the industry moves forward?

Erling Ellingsen:

From a creative and technological standpoint, the ideas are many and when you work in this industry it's hard not stop dreaming about where we're going next. I dream of holodeck online games, but that's probably beyond the timelines you have in mind! I would like to see MMOs that really challenge the technical boundaries of what's possible today. We're seeing more and more single-server MMOs appearing, but they're usually heavily instanced. I want to see single-server MMOs with more limited use of instancing that provides huge game worlds where you have hundreds of thousands of gamers on the same server, interacting with each other. One of the things I really want to see in MMOs going forward, though, is focus on user-generated content. Imagine games like Spore and The Sims in an MMO environment - a game starting out with a barren world that players have to populate with their own creations. Imagine a post-apocalyptic MMO where players themselves had to rebuild the world. If we can make the right systems for it and make the gameplay work, MMOs like that could potentially also have a much longer life-cycle as players would continually produce new content and experiences. I think everyone here at Funcom have grand ideas for the MMO industry moving forward!

MMORPG.com:

Tell us about the studio set up in Montreal. What can we expect from that site?

Erling Ellingsen:

Yes, we established a studio in Montreal last year and started moving some of our staff from our other offices over there. We're still moving people over, but it's important to say that our offices in Norway, the US, China and Switzerland are still fully operation and important to the company. We've also started hiring for the Montreal office, and these days I keep seeing pictures from over there being shared internally at Funcom and it looks like the guys and girls working there are having fun and are settling in well! The Montreal office is working on several of the Funcom projects, including Age of Conan and The Secret World. We have a very solid technical team over there who is working on, among other things, our proprietary Dreamworld engine. Recently we hired a new CEO for the Montreal office, Miguel Caron, who will be working on exploring new opportunities for the office and really bring our Montreal branch forward.

MMORPG.com:

How do you see MMOs changing over the next decade? What do you see as some ideas for 2020?

Erling Ellingsen:

I think we'll see the free-to-play market growing steadily, with more and more social oriented online games becoming available - games that have a low entry barrier both in terms of content and technology, allowing a wider demographic to get immediate access to your game. If we're lucky we'll see more niche online games. We're seeing it already on Facebook with games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, and I fully expect those types of games receiving higher production values and competing even more directly with typical triple A online games. Combine this with the introduction of new and exciting alternative business models, and I can only hope the online gaming market as a whole will be growing even further. I also think we can expect even more connectivity to social media platforms, with MMOs connecting more directly into Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. This is probably in the relatively very near future, though, and looking as far ahead as 2020 is an entirely different matter!

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