Ragnar Tørnquist (Senior Producer and Creative Director) recently sat down with the lads and lasses at Gaming Nexus to chat about The Secret World, and well… remember when I said story is everything? I think the folks at Funcom believe the same. In the interview, Ragnar says, “…the story -- which we always describe as a vast jigsaw puzzle -- is embedded into the world in a really unique way, that it makes the world feel real, and it gives players an incentive to keep exploring, keep digging, to play the content in order to enjoy it, and not just to gain XP and race to the finish-line.”
You can say all you want about Funcom and its struggles with MMO launches, but how can you not applaud a developer whose main goal is to make a world that’s more about exploration and discovery and less about some faceless grind to the top? I don’t know about you all, but I first fell in love with this genre because of the possibilities these virtual worlds hold. Sure I like a good roller coaster ride like anyone else, but ultimately I’m looking for a deep and engrossing world to be a part of and not just a passenger in.
There were some other great nuggets in the interview. Like for instance that the team’s about to start their first beta phase (I can haz plz?), as well as the fact that Ragnar states quite clearly that each of the three factions will have very unique play experiences. I’m sure that some quests and missions will overlap, but it’s good to hear this early on that they expect each Faction to be more than just a badge you wear. I’d love nothing more than to see “Realm Pride” come back full force into TSW. On that note, Ragnar also hints at further as of yet unannounced PvP modes. I’ll say it again: please tell us more about the Hollow Earth at E3, Funcom.
But I digress. This column is about the journey and the adventure to be had in The Secret World. In the Gaming Nexus interview, Ragnar also points out that they really expect to extend the ARG side of the game into the live experience. Investigative puzzles in game will likely require players to do some research if they hope to help advance their faction in the uncovering of many secrets. He expects certain riddles to take weeks for players to solve, even with the help of entire communities. That’s no joke right there. In fact, “them’s fightin’ words”. It’ll be interesting to see just how these shake out in a live atmosphere and whether Funcom can really keep the internet from ruining everything (as it so often does).
Lastly, I want to touch on something which seems to be finally utterly and completely clear from this interview: there are no levels in The Secret World. You’ll gain skills from the 500 or so in game, but hopefully you won’t be spending half of your time in-game watching some XP bar crawl along. Instead you’ll constantly be growing more powerful, very likely for a far longer time than you would in a level-based game, but you’ll have to decide which seven active skills and seven passive you want to use at any specific time. There’s the rub, as it were. Progression may still be a big part of the puzzle, but in TSW it seems Funcom is going to be trying really hard to make sure players enjoy the journey and forget about the destination for a little while.