MMORPG: Issue 8 is on the horizon, can you give us a short overview of the patch?
Joel Bylos: Sure, Issue #8 contains two important new features – Scenarios and Augments, as well as our Halloween additions for this year.
Scenarios are virtual reality instances, where the players set up parameters such as group size, difficulty and location to determine what sort of challenge they will be facing. Our first set of Scenarios will let the players fight to keep a group of civilians alive while waves of monsters swarm them.
Of course, there are a series of random events that have a chance of occurring and making it such that players won't have the same experience every time. These random events can range from sandstorms to incursions by enemy (or friendly) factions.
Augments allow players to harmonize their abilities to greater effect. This creates another huge amount of customization for players in the end game and another deep layer to The Secret World's progression system.
MMORPG: Talk about the Council of Venice, what was your inspiration for the new addition?
Joel Bylos: The Council of Venice has always been described in the game lore as kind of like the UN, a bureaucratic organization that has a lot of publicity, but not a whole lot of power when it comes down to it.
In Issue #8, when the players come to their HQ in Venice, we want them to understand just how much the Council is in decline. In many ways, Venice is a metaphor for the council. The city is sinking and so is the influence of the Council.
Our inspiration for the quests that take place in Venice are varied. The scenario simulation rooms are drawn from sci-fi like Star-trek or the Matrix, the intrigue in the council itself is more like something from a John Grisham novel.
MMORPG: How does the Council of Venice tie into the events with Tokyo? It is the Secret World after all, is there a darker purpose here in the Lore behind the game?
Joel Bylos: Too much information here would be spoilers, but let's just say that the Council requires players to undertake a certain amount of simulated field training before they will be allowed to enter Tokyo and their reasons for requiring this are... murky at best.
MMORPG: You will be launching the new Augment system with Issue 8. Players have a lot of options to go through with this new system, what advice do you have for them?
Joel Bylos: I think the first thing I would advise people to do is not stress about the amount of options. Collect Augments as they come and use them to attune the abilities that you use the most, and then concentrate on upgrading the ones that you find the most useful.
The Augment system is designed to give both hardcore and casual players more options. To get absolutely everything, just like in the ability wheel, it will require a significant time investment. To get up and running, just like creating your first build, it is quite easy to get into.
MMORPG: Can you give an overview of the system, and how exactly it will affect moment to moment gameplay in combat? There’s already a ton of customization in skill sets, so what does this add?
Joel Bylos: In terms of the game lore, they represent the players increased ability to wield Anima and their mastery of the subtleties of such power. The example I like to use internally is how an experienced hunter will know if their rifle scope is "off" or a professional tennis player can "feel" that the strings on their racket have loosened. It is the same with Anima, as players have become more proficient at wielding it, they can tell when they are not wielding it effectively.
Augments have their own wheel, similar to Auxilliary weapons. They are divided into four major subtypes, Damage, Healing, Survivability and Support. All active Abilities in the game, with the exception of Auxiliary Abilities, can be slotted with an Augment and many Abilities can be used with several different types of Augments.
They are slotted into the new Augment bar which appears above the current active Ability bar. Some Augments have a direct statistical effect on the Ability when it is used, for example, increasing critical hit chance or damage output. Other Augments can strengthen the entire team or boost helpful things such as healing, defense or hate generation.
What this adds in terms of customization, is the ability for players to either continue specializing a particular build, or to add custom effects which will boost them in other directions.
Perhaps you are already running a very powerful damage dealing build? You might choose to improve your active Abilities with Augments which boost this or you might prefer to augment some of them with more healing or defense effects. In one case, you'll be boosting DPS, in the other you'll be supplementing your DPS with some other flavor.
Your build might be very similar to your best friend's, but your Augments can drive the way you play in quite different directions.
MMORPG: The Scenario system brings a completely new randomness to the game. How will players adapt to the changes with this new system?
Joel Bylos: That remains to be seen. The randomness should create greater replayability and certainly it makes the challenge different every time. Players will need to make snap decisions which can have a big effect on their rewards (do we leave our survivors to go and collect a supply drop with necessary healing kits, or do we stay and defend and hope our band of survivors has enough health?).
MMORPG: You spoke a bit about accessing the new scenario system and using it to prepare for Tokyo… please tell us it’s not too much of a grind!
Joel Bylos: The Tokyo access is not a grind at all.
MMORPG: Okay, last one for today… let’s tease some stuff cryptically about Issue 9 and Tokyo. You know you want to.
Joel Bylos: I think the only tease I want to make is this - I see a lot of back and forth on the forums about the three factions. The Illuminati and the Templars have some pretty vocal supporters and I think it has been easy for them to dismiss the Dragon due to a certain amount of vagueness around chaos theory and what it all means.
Make no mistake, after Tokyo, nobody will ever dismiss the Dragon again.