With GDC just over and PAX EAST just starting, spring isn't the only thing in the air: It's MMO-hype season!
Over the years I've been an MMO-fangirl (sometimes for games best forgotten) and I've been a cynic, though in the last few years I've tried to stay somewhere in the more rational middle of that spectrum; if nothing else, it's better for one's blood pressure. Don't misunderstand me: there's nothing wrong with a bit of good old-fashioned enthusiasm – but there's also only so many times you can hear the promise that Game X will utterly reinvent the genre, only to end up with more of what's already out there, before you start watching the hype-machine with a leery and jaundiced eye.
For The Secret World, however, I'll make an exception – read up on it to your heart's content right here, because my aim isn't to describe the game. What I'm going to do is explain why, just this once, I may give up being all rational and sober and don my frothing fangirl costume again.
I've been following the game's development for a couple of years now, and for the most part information has been doled out with about as much largesse as a miser parting with his last groat. There are reasons for that, of course, and many of them are both good and smart. First off, it's The Secret World, so that fits pretty well right there; then, I would guess, there's the desire to avoid giving out too much information on a game that's all about deep dark seekrits and squamous conspiracies, and any gamer worth his or her salt knows that a real fan can froth about stuff for hours with very little actual data to go on – that's actually part of the fun of waiting for a game, or at least it is for me.
More seriously though, if the developers really want to put out a game that will actually be a little different from everything out there, then not releasing details that may not make the final cut is excellent expectation-management. One thing we gamers aren't good at is managing our expectations – we always want everything right now, preferably yesterday, and then we almost always bitch and moan that it wasn't what we asked for or imagined. In that respect I'd much rather have concrete info releases about things that probably will be in the shipped product, even if the releases come rather less frequently than I'd like.
In any case, this week saw the release of a new trailer (two words: zombie T-Rex!) and a brand new website, even if the latter does contain a fair amount of what used to be on the old website. The trailer, in my entirely unbiased, coldly rational, utterly un-fangirlish opinion, is kick-ass – see it here. Do want!
And before you start telling me how you do not want, how it's Funcom, how this and how that – I couldn't care less. I may have several rational reasons why this particular game grabbed me a couple of years ago and hasn't let go (even if we do spend months at a time on a break from each other), but my most compelling reason is that somehow, as an aesthetic and developmental whole, it struck just the right chord with me. May we all find games like that from time to time – in fact I'm sure most of us do, or we wouldn't be gamers. Oh what, you want sensible and rational reasons too? Fair enough.
First, the setting appeals to me most awesomely. Zombies and tentacles and conspiracies, oh my! I'm a little tired of the fantasy trope in MMOs, much though I love it and probably always will love it, but big pointy elf ears or piggy orc eyes get old after a decade and change. I'm really looking forward to a game with cars in it (that I'm not required to steal, that is), and with cellphones and jeans and motorbikes and big honkin' guns... and maybe a pointy sharp katana or two. (Yes, I have a thing for katanas. Doesn't everyone?) TSW's cityscapes look authentic, gritty, a little Blade-Runnerish in places, and they look as though something with too many limbs and rugose skin might be lurking around that terribly normal-looking, rain- and neon-soaked corner. I love it! I can't wait to run through London, New England or Egypt yelling Ia! Tekeli li! – and if I get funny looks from all the fantasy-transplants in the area, I don't care.