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MMORPG | Genre:Real Life | Status:Final  (rel 07/03/12)  | Pub:Funcom
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The Secret World Column: Story is Everything

By William Murphy on April 07, 2011

I know a lot of people will say that story is secondary or even inconsequential in their MMO experience, but that’s simply not for me.  If I can’t delve into the world and get absorbed in the mythos created for the game, than the experience winds up feeling hollow no matter how much I enjoy playing the title.  I need to be connected to the world I’m adventuring in or I lose interest when the mechanics grow stale.  Say what you will about the game, but I loved Auto Assault’s take on the post apocalyptic “Road Warrior” theme.  It’s pretty much the three-faction strife that kept me in the game until it went kaput.  But not only does the setting need to be compelling, the whole world needs to feel fleshed out and seem as though it was there long before you made your first character and went off adventuring.

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Luckily, The Secret World has one of gaming’s most under-appreciated world builders at its disposal.  Ragnar Tørnquist is the man behind both Anarchy Online’s massive universe, and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, which is possibly one of the best adventure games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing from a story perspective.  The man knows how to grip a player with narrative and drag them into a world they’ll not soon forget.  And that’s why I was so pleased to see his recent blog on The Secret World and how he and the rest of Funcom are approaching its story.

The Secret World The Secret World

To be sure, TSW is an ambitious title all around.  Real world, modern day setting, action-based combat, classless skill system, three-faction PvP: these are all things that go a little against the grain from what we’re used to in our MMOs.  But the area that it all rides on for me is the story and the world Funcom builds for TSW.  If that doesn’t work, I simply won’t care about the rest.

So when Ragnar says things like: “Everything in The Secret World -- everything -- is infused with story. Everything has context,” I tend to get excited.  When he goes on to talk about the story being more about multitudes of people working together to achieve their goals, and players uncovering and unravelling the story as they play rather than just being handed some cinematics, again I tend to get excited.  What intrigues me most though is that the three factions and their goals really don’t seem to be much about good or evil.  Both sides of the coin can be housed in either the Dragon, the Illuminati, or the Templars.  No, TSW seems to be going with a “gray morality” type of mix and that’s something I’m fond of.

The Secret World The Secret World

The Secret World really seems more about secrets than simply in name alone.  Indeed from what we’ve learned thus far, a lot of Funcom’s next game seems reliant on player discovery and the uncovering of various mysteries.  I do wonder just how they’ll be able to keep secrets so secret in a world where information is shared so plainly on the Internet, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and also keep in mind that I can shut out such outside channels of discovery.  There was a time where we played MMOs without quest-helpers you know.

Yep, perhaps more than the PvP, the combat, or the skill system I want to hear much more about the world as Ragnar and his team have created it.  I want to see how they’re going to handle an MMO built on mystery and puzzles and not just endless questing and dungeon crawling.  It’s a tall order, but I’ll freely admit they have my interest piqued.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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