The Secret World: A Bit of Vampire Slayer, a Bit of Bigfoot

The Secret World senior producer Ragnar Tornquist talks about launch stability, crunch time, and Joss Whedon's influence on the upcoming MMOG.

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Funcom's newest massively multiplayer game The Secret World is almost here. In advance of the game's full launch next week, we caught up with creative director Ragnar Tornquist to see how he and his team were feeling at this late stage of development.

GameSpot: So The Secret World is almost here! What's the last-minute crunch like for the team? What's the mood among the team members?

Ragnar Tornquist: The mood is very, very positive! I think everyone feels that we've made the best game we could possibly make and that our testers are really enjoying it. That's what matters--that players are responding to it and that the team is proud of their work. In fact, everyone I talk to in our development studios in Oslo and Montreal are just anxiously awaiting launch day so that they can start playing for real--not just to test stuff, but to start a proper character that they'll have for years to come.

Crunch has been…crunchy. Lots and lots of long weekends and late nights, but the game is finally done, and we're already ready to get to grips with the postlaunch content.

Obviously, you're at a point where you won't be making any major changes. Looking back, is there anything on your Secret World wish list that you wish had made it in but didn't?

Of course, there are always things you wish you had time for, but the great thing about MMOs is that you never have to cut anything--you just hold it back for later and make it part of a postlaunch patch. Some ideas and content has been cut because it wasn't very good, but most of the things we've wanted to do but haven't had time for, we're still going to do at some point in the near future.

"This type of contemporary fantasy setting is something we've all been fans of for years."

So in the New England areas, you clearly went for a Stephen King/Lovecraft sort of horror. Where else did you find inspiration?

Inspiration has come from a vast number of sources--anything from classical literature and mythology, to pop culture and urban legends, conspiracy theories and cryptozoology. We've drawn inspiration from comics, novels, movies, TV shows…This type of contemporary fantasy setting is something we've all been fans of for years, so it was easy to get into that mood with this game. It's hard to pinpoint just one source of inspiration, because there isn't, but for me, writers like Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, China Mieville--they all contributed to the mood and themes for our game.

When working on a game, you don't always know how successful a particular element will be until you get it into the game and see it play out. Were there any surprises there--any features that surpassed your expectations?

Absolutely. I mean, that's why we have our beta testers, and we've been running betas now for over a year--and based on the feedback we've received, we've changed and modified a lot of things, like the combat and role-playing systems, character creation, some of our missions, user interfaces, and so on. That's really the only way to make an MMO--to have it out there, see how players play, collect the feedback, look at it, and make the right calls. We don't change something just because one or two players complain, but if it's something a lot of people comment on, we'll definitely discuss it and find a solution.

Modern MMOGs work so hard to invite newcomers. How conscious were you about making the game friendly? Did you ever worry about crossing the line into "shallow" or "dumbed down?" What did you do to ensure you fell on the right side of that line?

The Secret World is probably a little bit tougher and a little bit more challenging than some other MMOs--but that's OK. Our players like a challenge, and I think players are smarter and more crafty than they often get credit for. We do try to make the game accessible, of course, and anyone who has ever played an MMO should be able to get to grips with the core mechanics within a few minutes--but the game is no walkover, and players will need to use their heads a bit more. Also, without a class or level system, there's a huge amount of freedom in how you develop your character, and that's a bit of an adjustment--but it also means you're not stuck with the choices you made when you started out.

During the beta phase, combat and animations were two of the negative points that players talked about. What were your reactions--surprise, worry, or something else? Did your priorities change based on player feedback from the beta?

Our priorities didn't really change, since we already knew those were two areas where we needed to improve and do more work. The feedback confirmed our own assessment, but it was still good to see what players wrote and what they suggested. We made a lot of changes based on that feedback and our own internal evaluations--all of them for the better.

"I'm absolutely sure that launch will go smoothly."

So let's just get this out of the way: Funcom doesn't enjoy a reputation for stable game releases. I have no doubt you were conscious of this, and are working to minimize launch difficulties. What kind of resources were put into making The Secret World a smooth experience out of the gate? How confident are you about the upcoming launch, and how confident should players be?

We're extremely confident, and so should players be. Funcom's last launch was the Age of Conan expansion pack--Rise of the Godslayer--and that was a perfectly smooth and stable launch without any technical issues whatsoever. Our technology and knowhow is top-notch, and based on how well our beta weekends have gone, I'm absolutely sure that launch will go smoothly.

Music is one of the most important aspects of both of your previous MMOGs, Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. How much focus did you put on audio and using music to affect the player's emotional state?

We've put a lot of focus on music and audio in the game, and our audio director, Simon Poole, is one of the best in the industry--I've worked with him since Dreamfall, and I wouldn't want to work with anyone else. The music is really important to our game, particularly our dynamic combat music that changes and evolves depending on the situation. Also, every area in the game has a different feel to it, both in terms of music and sound effects, and that's something players will definitely notice and appreciate. Our composer, Marc Canham, is an industry pro, and his soundtrack for The Secret World is fantastic. I can't stop listening to it.

Ultimately, you want your game to stand out in a sea of other games in the genre. Do you feel you've done enough to make The Secret World different enough to peel players away from games like Rift, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars: The Old Republic?

I believe The Secret World is a very, very different game from the ones you mention here, and I think players are going to feel it's a refreshing change from the class-and-level-based MMOs they're used to. We've really strived to give our game a completely different vibe, and I believe The Secret World has soul--it stands out, players respond to it emotionally, and it grabs you in a way that few games do. I don't think it's comparable to anything else out there, in a good way.

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131 comments
shrapnel-grant
shrapnel-grant

yep playing the early access right now, its very smooth gameplay after a few hours u can see the aminiation doo fit the game  well, it works , combat get intresting after aquiring some good skills,what i have seen of it, its simply a great mmo

grimmreapr
grimmreapr

As an (currently) Early Access player, I have to say, This is the ONLY game where Funcom have actually stepped up, And outdone themselves, And, For that matter, Outdone a couple of other BIG companies, Namely Blizzard and Bioware. The Secret World Early Access launch went off WITHOUT A HITCH - No server crashing, No extended downtime, No client crashing, No ridiculous lag...Of course, There are issues, As all games nowadays have, Such as chat 'disappearing,' buggy quests etc. BUT, Overall it has been the best 'launch' that any MMO producing company could hope for.

 

Having said that, I would like to point out that, At least, For me, The 'story' seems to feel all but non-existent. I'm a good 10-12 'levels' in, And so far, The only thing I can gather, Is that I'm an Illuminati recruit...It feels like I'm 'Mr Anderson' in The Matrix (1999)...I haven't a friggin clue WHAT is going on, Or who I am, Or what role I play, Or anything, Except that I'm suddenly thrust into a strange world, With some supposed uniqueness, And thats it.

 

There doesn't seem to be any congruity to the story in this. I've been playing for almost 24 hrs now, And I dont understand what in the blue hell is going on, And I have this scary feeling that I'm never going to understand it.

 

I'm going to give it until the end of my early access, To see if the story becomes any clearer.

 

If it doesn't, I'm sure as s**t not going to sub.

 

Just my 2c

nerdriot
nerdriot

Great game, bad animation and not for your usual MMO players (who it wasnt design for). I like it for the same reason I liked LOTRO, smart boss fight not just the getting old tank and spank. Crafting system definetly gonna need some help in the comming weeks because its simply horrible and borderline useless. I will be getting this one see you guys on fenris.

Knoar
Knoar

I've been following this game for quite a while, and I'm disappointed.  It looks like another 5 or 6 out of 10 MMO from Funcom.  They should have learned to give up after AoC.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

One question: did Funcom ever said if they plan to do any final tweaks on the game after the last beta weekend? I for one was not asked to fill any survey about my experience in-game so I was wondering if what I played was the absolute final retail version.

floydshayvious
floydshayvious

Welcome to the future!  Where every game sucks according to the Oracle(internet)!  The butt end of an age where facts don't exist anymore and cats sleep with dogs!

Sudgersmith
Sudgersmith

It really annoys the hell out of me when i see so many people rave on about Guild Wars 2.  I played the beta and yes itsa cool game with huge Boss fights where everyone can join in but i see that like Rift with its rifts system, it will get boring. It still doesnt come close to the quality of a game like Skyrim so i just dont know what the fuss is all about.  Guys plz forget about Guild F**king Wars 2, and try TSW, at least till GW2 is released which i hope will be another 2 years. Wow kids though.. you wont like TSW :-).

Sudgersmith
Sudgersmith

I played the beta and I like this game, for an mmo it has single player lvl of quality in the graphics and story and just about everything else. NPCs have their own unique personalitys unlike the Generic world of Wow.  The setting is very interesting and most of all its different.  Wonderfull get away from the high fantasy of just about every other MMO there is. Its also not a grindfest like Wow, Terra and Rift are like go kill 10 wolves and pickup 15 herbs. I think people who play MMOs need to give this game a look at as it definately deserves it. I shall definately buy it when released and  play for the free 30 days to try.  Just annoying that i think a lot of ppl will look past this because of Guild Wars 2 comming end of the year, even though i played the Guild wars 2 Beta and me personally wasnt as impressed as i was hoping.  Funcom are a great MMO dev even though they have made their fair share of cockups. Age of Conan was probably the best RPG, story driven MMO ever created, it just had a terrible release which has plaged it since and i think Funcom will make sure this doesnt happen with TSW.  For those comparing this to SWTOR.. theres no comparison. TOR was my biggest disapointment in my own personel gaming history.  TSW is leaps and bounds better than TOR and im a hardcore Star Wars fan:-)

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

Wow...I'm astonished by the amount of people who come here just to nag and belittle the game. I never cared for Old Republic or Rift but I never went out of my way to give negative comments.

 

Internet trolls...it seems like their numbers increase every day. 

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @nerdriot Funny, I tend to be so picky about graphics (I refuse to play on anything below Ultra) and I thought the graphics were good. And this coming from a guy who played Mass Effect 3, Skyrim and Assassin`s Creed II.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Tripwolf Im in desperate need to save money so this game came at the right time lol! Less real life = more $$$. 

Dante0611
Dante0611

 @Sudgersmith wow has the most draconian and less sofisticated pvp in the whole gaming world, grinding gear for pvp...sigh, no collision mechanics...sigh, cc system based around 2 mins cd trinkets except the mages...sigh, boring maps that suffer from the same collision mechanics lack the rest of the pvp suffers from, the pvp on wow is one if not the worst pvp sorry, only game that was based around pure pvp skill without gear or any excuses was gw 1, no idea about the second one it will require a huge amount of balancing from the beta experiences, time will say hopefully they dont ruin it.

kyphe
kyphe

 @Sudgersmith  who the hell is talking about guild wars??,  what are you on about, the only people mentioning guild wars is people saying don't compare it to guild wars lol

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Sudgersmith What I don't understand is why people need to pick one. "Oh GW2 is much better than SW". Says who? Why can't we enjoy both?

 

And then i'm the troll in the end. 

made_u_look
made_u_look

 @TheSecretUser80 Lol I find it hilarious that because someone doesn't agree with you, you label them a troll. I entered the Beta also and wasn't that impressed. I was excited to try it out because it looked fun. Reading the comments alot of people just don't want to pay a monthly subscription on a game they probably won't play so much, me included. I use to be that hardcore raider or mmo player back in the day but now I just like to casually hop on to a MMO and play alittle here and there. That's why I like playing APB Reloaded and Age of Conan which I bought intially before it went to free2play.

jjfddf
jjfddf

@TheSecretUser80 These forums are for exactly what you are complaining about. Do you just want to see posts that say "oh i love this game"? some like it and some don't. I just thought it was ok, the gameplay IS clunky...no doubt. The atmosphere just made me feel like I was playing a bad Resident Evil MMO. I haven't written this game off completely but I am not a big fan of FUNCOM, especially after what they did to AoC which had soooooo much potential. We all play games for different reasons and have different expectations, they are opinions and everyone is entitled to them.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

And its funny because most of them say "Looks cool but I'll stick to GW2".

 

Which is more baffling...GW2 doesnt even have a release date yet and it doesnt require a monthly fee. I plan on playing both, although I believe SW is more interesting just because its so different. 

Bowitz
Bowitz

 @TheSecretUser80 Are you employed by FunCom or someone else to promote this game or are you pretending that you are?

nerdriot
nerdriot

I agree graphics are good but graphics and animation are two different things.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe  @Sudgersmith Maybe here kyphe but even inside general chat on the beta this weekend there was this constant comparison between SW and GW2. 

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @made_u_look So you are a casual MMO player. Clarify things then when you make a negative comment. I still think coming to forum to nag for the sake of it it's pointless, I'm sorry, there are other more productive things to be done on the internet.

 

The games you like to play show exactly the reason why you didn't like this game. 

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @jjfddf  @TheSecretUser80 Everyone can give their opinions yes, but please give us constructive criticism. Why do you feel the gameplay is clunky? Compared to what other mmo? Everything went smoothly during beta weekend for me. No bugs whatsoever. Combat is not revolutionary but its not worse than combat in WOW and Old Republic. 

 

And the atmosphere thing well..you're just nagging. I've played 3 Resident Evil games and I do not think it was a bad version of it at all. The music was great, backgrounds were great and it was funny as hell to watch zombies running around after other players, especially when they were on fire. 

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Bowitz I don't think WOW is a fail at all, I quite enjoyed it. And it's not its fault I grew tired of it, its just that there are no more surprises, Ive been to the same zones and same quests over and over again. And the pandas are not appealing to me at all.

 

I also plan on playing Guild Wars 2 but it looks very similar to WOW. 

Bowitz
Bowitz

 @TheSecretUser80 I follow you on  the search for a mmorpg to replace the failed (for me) wow.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Bowitz I've been following news of this game for months now and I was sick and tired of WOW but I enjoy mmo's...I actually find it hard to enjoy a single-player game as much as I used to now, feels lonely lol. I like Skyrim but it's such a lonely game.

 

I played the beta last weekend and just thought it was so refreshing, it feels very different from WOW and I enjoyed the whole concept of it. There were minor flaws but they didn't bother me that much. 

Bowitz
Bowitz

 @TheSecretUser80 So do I , i dont know much about it but i will play it.  How did you become so devoted to the game?

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe And SW has a few puzzles so it actually requires a some neurons to play...and it was so funny (and so irritating as well) to see people on general chat asking all kinds of dumb questions because they could not bother to figure out one simple puzzle. 

kyphe
kyphe

 @TheSecretUser80  @Sudgersmith yeah I was playing tera like that, click quest keeper, click accept, run to waypoint on map, figure it out when you get there, it wont be hard.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Sudgersmith  @kyphe One other thing I liked about SW is that I was actually paying attention to the quests and the story...I don't think I ever read one quest description in wow. 

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe Last time I played WOW I had 3 characters. On MMO's its understandable to play through with different characters to test other aspects of the game. But eventually it gets old. That's why I plan on playing both SW and GW2. One I get sick of one I'll go to the other and so on. 

Sudgersmith
Sudgersmith

 @TheSecretUser80  @kyphe WOW is not so good now, only thing got going for it now is PVP. Blizard should make wow a fully fledged PVP MMO now as its PVE content/Lore is growing very tired.

kyphe
kyphe

 @TheSecretUser80  @Sudgersmith  I can't do that, i rarely play through a game fully more than once, I tend to stick to PvE in a group with my friends PvP when i am drunk and feeling like spoiling someones day lol

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @Sudgersmith  @kyphe I don't hate WOW at all but I'm sick of it. I'm amazed to see how some people endure having to create a new character and doing every zone and every quest over and over and over again. 

Sudgersmith
Sudgersmith

 @TheSecretUser80  @kyphe TBH if your into PVP in MMOs go back to WOW. Theres nothing more fun than raiding Stormwind or climbing past a 2k rating in arena.  As much as i hate Wow in general, theres nothing that comes close to WOWs pvp for fun-ness :-)

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe No idea...most people were saying "Oh I'd buy it but I'd rather stick to GW2 because the combat is better and is f2p".

 

I for one think they are two very different beasts. GW2 probably has a better pvp system, i'll give you that. But I usually hate pvp so I do not care much for that. 

kyphe
kyphe

 @TheSecretUser80 that is stupid they are nothing like each other sigh. just detracts from the issue, was it fanboy wars or more considered comparisons

kyphe
kyphe

 @NightWeaver  today i was trying to put off unwrapping a UV for a new game model, believe me if you ever get into game design that and texturing are two of the worst jobs on the planet but where as my comrades are all modelers there are only two texture monkeys on the team hehe me being one of them, replying to the comments on this thread was light relief by comparison.  on each occasion i posted i was either defending my own views or supporting the right of others to hold similar views to my own from those who criticize being critical as somehow being unfair. what has always bugged me especially in TSW forums is the rejection by many of the idea of options for people who enjoy different play styles, when people like myself put out opinions down we would be belittled and derided and told to go play something else as "we" like it this way, as if that is a sacred constant. I mean there is a huge difference between someone who says I don't like auto facing, or I don't see the need for auto facing from someone who say NO THERE WILL BE NO AUTO FACING even suggesting the idea of auto facing shows you should not be playing this game and are a deviant. I was a bit concerned about TSU80 when he first posted but he turned out to be a reasonable chap with a perfectly valid outlook.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @NightWeaver  @kyphe While I understand giving an opinion, even if it's negative, I don't understand people trying to bash a game that is clearly attempting something different. Why the hate? What has the game done to you? lol

NightWeaver
NightWeaver

 @kyphe TBH it appears your doing the same thing your accusing TSU80 of doing here. I've notice you've been very persistent with spamming your views . Not everyone here shares your perception of clunky controls, low immersion or what your personal friends opinions are. I can't agree with you on one single point at all and I've played the game for a very long time. So I say to each his/her own. Your perceptions of TSW were not lived up to but guess what...for many other people it has been. No need to dispute it with other just except it and move on.

NightWeaver
NightWeaver

   @Kyphe, but TBH it appears your doing the same thing your accusing TSU80 of doing. I see all of your post here and it's easy to form that very opinion from your comments...smh

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @made_u_look Ooh how clever you are.

 

If I was reading insightful comments then ok. But like you said..."warning for other players". All I'm afraid of is that some people might take the detractors comments too literally, without even knowing where they are coming from with those criticisms in the first place. I'm not here to troll the detractors, I'm here to try to make sense of it. I consider myself to be very practical and objective and don't want this game to fail just because some people are complaining about minor flaws that every other game has. 

 

kyphe's post was interesting because he talked about an issue that other players, like myself, didn't even notice. At least he explained his comments in the first place. 

 

It's an MMO so it has to succeed in order to evolve and become better and provide more content and I would hate to see some people afraid to dive in because of some negative and not-constructive comments.

made_u_look
made_u_look

 @TheSecretUser80 Lol nagging as you put it, could be a form of constructive criticism or a warning for other players. Its a comment board where people place there thoughts, opinions and praise. Your comment about people being more productive then coming on to a Gamespot to investigate peoples thoughts on a new mmo is ironic, considering you made a new account today on Gamespot just to nag about people nagging about a game you loved.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe I see. Funny, I didn't notice that to be honest and I played a lot of WOW. It didn't really bother me I think, that's why I didn't notice it. 

 

I played the Inferno instance and the final boss (awesome by the way) would send these red glyphs on the floor that would chase you. So you'd have to run away from them and attack the boss at the same time. And it was damn hard because the glyphs would be right behind you and you never really knew if they were still behind you because you can't look behind you. And it was totally doable and it was a blast, I never complained "Oh damn, I can't do this or that because of the camera controls".  

 

I can understand people saying that combat is underwhelming because some people had really high expectations...but, again, I do not think it's necessarily better or worse than other MMOs out there. 

 

I'm not a fanboy...I only played the game this weekend and I loved it. I've played a lot of games in my life and I do think this one is daring to do something truly different.

 

Flawless it ain't but, then again, nothing is. 

kyphe
kyphe

 @TheSecretUser80  look if this had the controls of AoC or DDO it would be fine I am not looking for amazing I am looking for not frustrating, movement and action at the same time, effective use of the mouse for one thing, i have posted in this chat about what i would like to see, at least in part it is a long list.

 

so you turn and move with your qweasd keys and changing your view with the mouse now you either have to take your fingers off the movement keys to use the attack number keys or bring the mouse to the hotbars which means you cant look about, most MMOs let you either move by mouse click or attack by mouse click, TSW does not even move your view by mouse click you have to hold and drag.

TheSecretUser80
TheSecretUser80

 @kyphe In order to understand your point I need the grounds for comparison. You say controls are clunky. Name one MMO which you feel has amazing controls so I can say whether you might have a point or not. 

kyphe
kyphe

 @TheSecretUser80 I like to play RPGs always have done, played every type there is, but neither myself nor my friends were able to get over the clunky controls of this game which led to frustration and a low sense of immersion.

 

TBH I find that it is your posts that are the trolling against people who do not share your views.