Funcom's reveal of The Secret World at PAX 2009 is only the third time they have released information about the game, but according to them, it is the most important as they provided the media more in depth information on the Secret Societies - which are the player factions in the game. Secret Societies and the game play associated with them play an integral role in The Secret World. Set in the modern-day, real-world, in an imagined parallel universe where magic co-exists with science, where monsters and demons are real and Secret Societies have grown to recruit man to combat the very real evil that seeps in unseen, players will fight the darkness and save the world!
"Our goal is to divide players," said Erling Ellingsen, Director of Communications for Funcom. What he meant by that is that players must choose one Secret Society to align with and Cabals (player guilds) must select a Secret Society to align with. The Cabals will have housing and will gain standing in their chosen Secret Society just as players will gain standing and be ranked.
Lead Production Designer Ragnarr Tornquist spoke to us about the three Secret Societies: the Templars, the Illuminati and the Dragon as the trailer rolled. The tenets of the Templars are "Tradition, Loyalty and Law." They are the old school folks. Headquartered in the heart of London, they are the righteous and holy crusaders against evil. Do not confuse them with the Knights Templar, which was merely an upstart offshoot from the original. These are the guys that will raze a village to eradicate a single source of evil as they believe that sometimes, sacrifices have to be made in this crusade to keep the world safe. They believe that they ARE the chosen in the war against evil and their headquarters stand bright and shining as a symbol against the darkness. Their signature weapons are two hand guns.
The Illuminati are the most secretive of the Secret Societies, yet they believe that power is the cornerstone in the fight against the darkness. The entrance to their underground headquarters is in an old abandoned warehouse somewhere in New York City. They are ruthless, ambitions and their organization runs like a Corporation. "Sex, Drugs and Rockefellar," is their motto and they believe in survival of the fittest. "Do or get done," is a favorite quote. They are the bad boys of the occult world and they make sure everyone knows it. Their signature weapon is the automatic assault rifle.
The Dragon teach the true Sun Tzu and are manipulators and agitators in the factional war and practice what they call the Art of Chaos. Headquartered in a monastery in Seoul, Korea, members of The Dragon practice patience and attainment of balance. A favorite quote is "We create chaos to achieve balance." They prefer the silence and elegance of the ancient weapon of the Samurai, the katana.
Although united in the war against evil, the Secret Societies are rivals for control of the scarce resource known as Anima. Players and Cabals will compete for this scarce resource in The Battle for Hollow Earth. A 24/7 persistent battle between the factions where cells containing Anima will have to be held 24/7 for the faction with sovereignty to benefit from it. We got to look at some artwork of this area and it looked like an organic spherical honey-comb celled structure. This is located in the depths of the ancient city, Agartha.
We were also given a look at three more factions: a heraldic shield with a lion's head in profile and a sword behind it named "An Old Enemy," a square knot and kanji for snake named "A New Opponent" and a banner with a rising sun, named "Rising Tide of Changen" Although in typical Secret World fashion, no further explanations were given. Funcom would neither confirm nor deny if these were allied NPC factions or possible enemy factions
Precious few other details were available at this time, such as player progression. "Progression is not level and class based," said Ragnarr, "but through skills and powers. How you put your character together is important, but it can be changed." Progression within the Secret Society of your choice is also important. All progress will be tracked and will be published on leader boards on the game website.
Different Secret Societies will have different starting areas and players will always spend time in their headquarters as that is your base of operations and your social space. This is also where your vendors and mentors are and where quests are obtained.
The story is important, but players can still do what they like and will not be forced to follow a linear storyline. Exploration is encouraged and combat promises to be fast paced with the use of a wide arsenal of weapons available, from magic to knives to machine guns. Each Secret Society may have its own signature style in dress and weapons, but players can choose to customize their character's look and choice of weapons as they like.
Check out some more related screenshots and artwork.