We sat down with Funcom's Martin Bruusgard to talk about the melee skills in The Secret World and how the team came up with all the different types... and more importantly, why hammering a guy in the face is so fun.
MMORPG: You have created several hundred skills around melee weapons and martial arts: tell us how you added these together?
Martin Bruusgaard: Well, we sat down and brainstormed cool fighting styles, and what identity we wanted the different weapons to have. We came down to hammer-guy, being a brutish, powerful who knocks people down and beats the crap out of them. The swords-guy is a more elegant fighter, in a wushu-kind of style. Master of dashing into a group and do flourishes of fancy moves, which damages everything around him. And lastly the fist weapons, which is more like claw-weapon-guy. He has powerful multihits and combos he can use to suppress anyone, and he is also one of the three healers and specializes in healing-over-time-spells.
MMORPG: With melee skills, how can a player benefit from say using two weapons, or using a big two handed weapon?
Martin Bruusgaard: Swords and hammers are two handed, and claw/fist weapons are dual wield. Even though swords and hammers are two handed, you can still combine it with an assault rifle, or any other weapon. When you activate an ability, the character will hotswap the weapons on the fly, and perform an attack with the selected weapon. We wanted all players to be able to wield two weapons, no matter what they are, so that everyone can experience the depth of the ability system TSW offers.
MMORPG: In the skill tree with for melee will selecting different types of weapons unlock attacks or will skills work with any weapon you pick up?
Martin Bruusgaard: Most abilities only work with a single weapon. The way it works is that the ability wheel is full of cells. Each cell contains 7 abilities, alternating between an active or a passive. the final ability in each cell is an elite. You can only have one elite active and one elite passive equipped, and these abilities are better than the others. We also have some abilities that work with all weapons. These are the more utility kind of spells. We realized that it's silly to have to train for instance a cc-breaker for each weapon. If we would go down that line we would have to make de-taunts, taunts and several other utility abilities for each weapon, and the result is a lot of redundancy. That's why there are 3 cells full of utility abilities all weapons can use.
MMORPG: How can you get the most out of your melee skills in the tree? With so many ranged options were you nervous about balancing these combat forms?
Martin Bruusgaard: It's a big task to balance over 500 abilities, where every player can potentially own every single one on a single character, but our fantastic system team is doing a fabulous job. Some of the things we did in particular was to make sure melee have the tools to close the gap, either with charges, dashes or teleport to target. These movement types can be combines with other abilities to deal damage, crowd control or other utility effects. We also gave melee the hardest crowd control effects, where hammers got knockdown, blades got stuns and fist weapons got silence (keep in mind that all our attacks are ability based, so silence is a full shutdown, but you can still move).
MMORPG: You have the whole modern world to work with, what are some of your favorite melee skills and weapons?
Martin Bruusgaard: It's awesome looking like a normal guy, while having super powers. Everything seems natural, but when in trouble you just "snikt" out your fist weapons and show evil doers who's boss. Or I can just be a normal guy walking home from improv class, or whatever. A monster pops out and I just whip out my flaming sword and just shoot him in the face!