The Secret World Lead Designer Interview

The Secret World Lead Designer Interview

Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard answers our questions on The Secret World.

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I stopped reading when he insinuated that a constructed deck in MTG is 40 cards.

If you're going to use an allegory, do your damn research.

Really starting to get pumped about this game. Since it's Funcom it'll be interesting to see what the launch is like. I went through the rough launches of both AO and Conan and quit but eventually came back after a time and ended up enjoying both games quite a bit.

TSW gets auto props from me though in it's "look the way you want to look" approach. Of all the tired and antiquated MMO systems out there the way most of these game handle character outfitting seems to me to be the saddest. Giving the player the ability to control how their character's look in a game where they'll probably be with that character much longer than one from a single player game has always seemed like a no-brainer to me... Nothing as game deflating as tweaking your stats just so and defeating that boss you've been trying to take down only to be rewarded with an outfit that makes your guy look like a scrub.

No question about the release date? ):

deth2munkies:
I stopped reading when he insinuated that a constructed deck in MTG is 40 cards.

If you're going to use an allegory, do your damn research.

Fairly certain he was not including lands in that number, since he was talking about getting you '4 ofs' and the like. Some decks only run 20 lands in this all aggro, all day age we live.

That being said... I stopped reading when a bomb opened a rift for some reason. Just felt like lazy plot development to me.

I just can't get excited about this one, their last decent game was released over 10 years ago, and it was good, not amazingly good; since then it has been only dissapointments.

If anything Funcom for me equals keep low expectations and never get the game at release; but I hope i am wrong and this one actually delivers.

Edit: What amazes me is that after Conan (and Midgard) they managed to get enough investment to try again.

Mamzelle_Kat:
No question about the release date? ):

They had press release few days ago stating the release date was set to July 19th.

Tanakh:

Edit: What amazes me is that after Conan (and Midgard) they managed to get enough investment to try again.

They actually started work on TSW back in 2002 (back then it was called Cabal, and was more oriented on Lovecraftian mythos than anything else), and majority of team was people from Dreamfall, so pretty much no one associated with AoC worked on the game in it's early stages. It's been in planning stages for long time and officially confirmed as project in 2007.

Keava:
They actually started work on TSW back in 2002 (back then it was called Cabal, and was more oriented on Lovecraftian mythos than anything else), and majority of team was people from Dreamfall, so pretty much no one associated with AoC worked on the game in it's early stages. It's been in planning stages for long time and officially confirmed as project in 2007.

Ohh, the more you know! :D

Damn, the original project sounds more interesting to me, but i can see it being almost impossible to do as an MMO. And i was thinking more along the lines of doing an MMO costs bucketloads of money and Funcom last decade has been less than stellar to say the least, how come investors still risk money on that company? Is it the lure of making a money pringing WoW machine?

Just when you stopped playing Skyrim to get away from draugrs, they keep coming back for more.

Sooo, we just jump right into the interview now? No setup or introduction talking about the game's premise, or info on the developer? What if I didn't already know what this game is from reading PC Gamer? What the hell, Escapist?

drivel:
Sooo, we just jump right into the interview now? No setup or introduction talking about the game's premise, or info on the developer? What if I didn't already know what this game is from reading PC Gamer? What the hell, Escapist?

My bad, the preview and interview were next to each other on the grid before, but there should have been links between the two in the first place.

You can read my preview here if you still looking for more information.

Slycne:

drivel:
Sooo, we just jump right into the interview now? No setup or introduction talking about the game's premise, or info on the developer? What if I didn't already know what this game is from reading PC Gamer? What the hell, Escapist?

My bad, the preview and interview were next to each other on the grid before, but there should have been links between the two in the first place.

You can read my preview here if you still looking for more information.

Ah ha! Now this makes a lot more sense! Thanks!

Tanakh:

Keava:
They actually started work on TSW back in 2002 (back then it was called Cabal, and was more oriented on Lovecraftian mythos than anything else), and majority of team was people from Dreamfall, so pretty much no one associated with AoC worked on the game in it's early stages. It's been in planning stages for long time and officially confirmed as project in 2007.

Ohh, the more you know! :D

Damn, the original project sounds more interesting to me, but i can see it being almost impossible to do as an MMO. And i was thinking more along the lines of doing an MMO costs bucketloads of money and Funcom last decade has been less than stellar to say the least, how come investors still risk money on that company? Is it the lure of making a money pringing WoW machine?

Yeah. Kind of followed the game since the first ARGs, even before there were any details on what the heck it will be. Ragnar's name alone made it intriguing for me.

As for money. Well AoC while taking a dive soon after buggy launch still managed to bring some money and for first months managed to keep around 50% retention. It's easy to dismiss MMOs these days just because They never reach numbers WoW pulls, but it doesn't mean that with much smaller player pools they don't bring profit at all. In case of AoC there was actually influx of new subscribers some 8 months post launch when Funcom started advertising it again, and now as a F2P game it still brings them profit.
Thing is, while MMOs do have high initial investment bar, You really need to mess things up badly to be forced to shut it down. The potential player pool is big enough to keep alive even the bottom feeders, living off 150-200k subscribers.

One day an MMO that looks interesting enough for me to want to play will arive... until that day I will hapily keep watching from afar with great interest!

This may be a contender!

Keava:
Well AoC while taking a dive soon after buggy launch still managed to bring some money and for first months managed to keep around 50% retention. It's easy to dismiss MMOs these days just because They never reach numbers WoW pulls, but it doesn't mean that with much smaller player pools they don't bring profit at all. In case of AoC there was actually influx of new subscribers some 8 months post launch when Funcom started advertising it again, and now as a F2P game it still brings them profit.

Glad to hear it's doing well, while I won't ever play it again after that lauch it still was better than MMOs like Aion IMO which is surprisingly going strong, damn Korean MMO's, the only use i have found for them is learn how to make bots, which was actually entertaining. And 50% retention? Wow... it really must have improved.

Do you know how WAR is doing this days? I didn't hated it, but the PvP being imbalanced as crap kept me from playing it more.

I'm a big fan of modern fantasy/horror settings of various sorts, from Kim Harrison's "Hollows" stories to Jim Butcher's "Dresdon" books, to all kinds of horror written randing from mainstream Steven King/Clive Barker type stuff down to cultish splatterpunk sex/gorefests by guys like Edward Lee, and bizzaro stuff by guys like Wrath James White and Carlton Mellick III.

The Secret World made me think of a lot of that stuff, along with my many hours spent GMing (or more rarely playing) horror games like Call Of Cthulhu, or conspiricy games like GURPS Illuminati or Warehouse 23 (which come to think of it makes me wonder how both the SCP site.. of which I'm a fan, and the Warehouse 13, TV show haven't gotten calls from Steve Jackson or given him an acknowlegement).

My big problem with this game is that it's Funcom, and really Funcom has always been high on the ideas, and low on the implementation. Whether they improved later or not the bottom line is that I expect a game to be decent out of the gate, and really I found both Anarchy Online and Age Of Conan to be train wrecks beyond the problematic launches. Speaking for Age Of Conan because it was more recent, I was singing the praises of that game for years before it's launch but as time went on more and more of what it was supposed to be was stripped away. When the game was released I felt like we had a tutorial that showed the potential, but the game itself was a mere shadow of what it should have been. Rather than cities built out in a huge, spawling world like SWG, we had the "guild towns" segregated into seperate, instanced zones. PVP was on a pretty typical scale, and still had people running around like maniacs bunny hopping and circle strafing to play LOS games rather than fighting in formation like the original plan. Rather than the 40+ character classes promised, we wound up with a handfull. Some of the hybrids that seemed to inherit the abillities of various classes seemed a bit weak to me, an example would be "The Tempest Of Set", gone was the idea of a snake priest that attacked with venom and poison and other snake themed abillities, replaced by an offense set that seemed to be taken from another planned character (stormcaller or whatever). Lich and Necromancer got folded into each other, and things I thought would have been cool like playing an Assasin for the Lotus cartels (which fits right into Conan) seemed to be removed entirely.

As a result I'm taking a very "wait and see" attitude here. To be honest this seems to be following a very typical funcom pattern. I never played the original ARG, but when I started following it, it seemed like Funcom was selling the game as allowing for very versatile characters who could do a lot of things at once. That kind of fits with the genere, as your typical modern fantasy protaganist is usually pretty good with hand to hand combat, guns, and magic all at the same time, with lots of options on making your guy a bit differant. Recently we've been finding out that while there are a couple hundred skills still, your expected to build "decks" and create specialized characters, and while you can change skills, you really can't play a polymath, but are going to have to specialize in something similar to existing MMO roles, especially in teams. The approach seeming to have become more like that of super hero games, where you might have a ton of powers availible, but at the end of the day you wind up with a build that makes you a tank, DPS, controller, or healer. Sure one guy might tank with martial arts, and another guy might turn into rock, but it generally winds up with the same basic functionality. Equipment being entirely visual from the way it sounds reinforces the hero game analogy in my mind. It remains to be seen if your able to obtain any gear (occult artifacts, etc...) at all.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not knocking the game, just saying that I feel like I've been burned by Funcom before, and this seems to follow their typical pattern. To me, a lot of what I'm hearing about the "deck" system is a disappointment and makes the game seem a lot more limiting and stereotypical than what I thought it was going to be. I suppose there are realities to game design that have to be worked within and Funcom hadn't come up with a way to do the polymath thing without making every polymath identical or the game playable with characters set up that way like it seemed (to me) that they did.

Money permitting I'll probably try it, I'm on their news list, but I'm not going to get excited ahead of time. I fully expect when Secret World comes out to be let down again, and stick with ToR and the handfull of FTP games I've invested in/tinker with. I think it will be a while before another single game lights the fire that WoW did in me for a similar amount of time... as much as I miss that, it can't be forced.

At any rate three times is a charm, maybe Funcom will surprise me (shrugs).

Therumancer:
*snipped*

In defense of the "decks". I played MMO since UO times. Played pretty much every major release up to date (and several minor ones). Big problem with how most MMOs do handle classes is that one - They are stuck in single role form start to finish, and two by mid way through You end up with more skills than You have fingers.
Sure it looks nice with press releases to say "Over 30 skills per class" but how many of those You really use? How many of them are just slightly altered version of different skill You have? (quick heal, mid heal, big heal, heal over time, preemptive heal for eg.) How often will You use all those untalented/not improved DPS skills when You are healer and vice versa?

With decks being 7 active/7 passive You choose what You use, what suits the job the best. You need AoE oriented skill - You pick those. Next encounter You might need single target or over time skills - pick those.
You end up with manageable pools of currently available skills that are specialized for given task.

Fact is MMOs will not be able to get rid of the trinity design unless You alter the core of gameplay. Even in open games like UO or EVE Online You have people that take on roles. Some guys are kitted out to take damage, other's are kitted out to dish it. It happens in traditional PnP RPGs as well. After all the cliche fantasy RPG party is Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric.
Without that You can't really create encounters that are more complex than "everyone attack the big thing and hope for best". Imagine allowing players to play Jack-of-all-trades characters. Should You then balance the encounters to make them viable? Should They be viable in PvP against specialized characters? How much variety in mob abilities You can have before the character becomes simply useless?

Even in real life we specialize. One guy is good at math other is good at arts. Someone is sharpshooter while another is master of martial combat. People good at everything are very rare.

As long as Funcom changes their policy of charging mexican players in euros, I'm not very interested. After seeing how badly have they treated Age of Conan after their F2P change (seriously, for a "free" game, it's seriously expensive) and holding it as a "test bed" for everything they're going to implement in TSW, I really can't say I'm not interested, but I'm not holding high hopes in this one.

Also, freakin' euros, WTF!??

SupahGamuh:
As long as Funcom changes their policy of charging mexican players in euros, I'm not very interested. After seeing how badly have they treated Age of Conan after their F2P change (seriously, for a "free" game, it's seriously expensive) and holding it as a "test bed" for everything they're going to implement in TSW, I really can't say I'm not interested, but I'm not holding high hopes in this one.

Also, freakin' euros, WTF!??

The funny thing is That funcom is based in Norway, wich is not in the EU and does not even use euros.

As for this interview.. I am more confused than before I read it...

Keava:

Therumancer:
*snipped*

In defense of the "decks". I played MMO since UO times. Played pretty much every major release up to date (and several minor ones). Big problem with how most MMOs do handle classes is that one - They are stuck in single role form start to finish, and two by mid way through You end up with more skills than You have fingers.
Sure it looks nice with press releases to say "Over 30 skills per class" but how many of those You really use? How many of them are just slightly altered version of different skill You have? (quick heal, mid heal, big heal, heal over time, preemptive heal for eg.) How often will You use all those untalented/not improved DPS skills when You are healer and vice versa?

With decks being 7 active/7 passive You choose what You use, what suits the job the best. You need AoE oriented skill - You pick those. Next encounter You might need single target or over time skills - pick those.
You end up with manageable pools of currently available skills that are specialized for given task.

Fact is MMOs will not be able to get rid of the trinity design unless You alter the core of gameplay. Even in open games like UO or EVE Online You have people that take on roles. Some guys are kitted out to take damage, other's are kitted out to dish it. It happens in traditional PnP RPGs as well. After all the cliche fantasy RPG party is Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric.
Without that You can't really create encounters that are more complex than "everyone attack the big thing and hope for best". Imagine allowing players to play Jack-of-all-trades characters. Should You then balance the encounters to make them viable? Should They be viable in PvP against specialized characters? How much variety in mob abilities You can have before the character becomes simply useless?

Even in real life we specialize. One guy is good at math other is good at arts. Someone is sharpshooter while another is master of martial combat. People good at everything are very rare.

Well, TSW doesn't have strictly trinity game play. In stead of designing a dungeon thinking "how many healers/ tanks/ dps is needed here?", Funcom's designers have thought "how much total healing power/ tanking viability/ total damage/ crowd control responsibilities are we going to spread among the group here?"

Then it is up to the group exactly how they are going to solve that. They can have two half-tanks, they can have 5 players all with 1 heal each (just like in GW2): the only difference to Guild Wars 2 is that in TSW you have a choice, in GW2 you do not.

So in reality, TSW is going to have even less of a holy trinity base than GW2.

As for my expectations of the game, they are pretty high polish-wise. The facts:

-New Dreamworld back-engineering and server side rendering pre-pass will make the game super stable and high-performance compared to AoC, even if AoC recently had some of these features added. For example, in TSW all lights in a scene can cast shadows, and enabling that feature requires nothing from your GPU, as light and shadow rendering is streamed from the servers.

-Development time (not counting pre-production, which this game has the most of in MMO history) passed at actual launch day will be very nearly 7 years.

-The new proprietary scripting language (scry) used for encounter design is the most advanced across all games, in all of history. Funcom can design scripted encounters that literally branches indefinitely and can last almost forever. Of course, that's not a clever thing to do, but it opens up tons of possibilities.

-World class writing from, in mine and the majority of adventure fan's opinions, the best writer in gaming: Ragnar Tørnquist.

As for mechanics and content, as long as their advertised features works as intended I'm not expecting fireworks. Though I secretly hope I will see some, I'm not going to be disappointed if this is "just" a vastly improved MMO compared to standards. But everything we've seen so far has been amazing. (Except animations, for which they've just hired motion capture artists)

Keava:

Therumancer:
*snipped*

In defense of the "decks". I played MMO since UO times. Played pretty much every major release up to date (and several minor ones). Big problem with how most MMOs do handle classes is that one - They are stuck in single role form start to finish, and two by mid way through You end up with more skills than You have fingers.
Sure it looks nice with press releases to say "Over 30 skills per class" but how many of those You really use? How many of them are just slightly altered version of different skill You have? (quick heal, mid heal, big heal, heal over time, preemptive heal for eg.) How often will You use all those untalented/not improved DPS skills when You are healer and vice versa?

With decks being 7 active/7 passive You choose what You use, what suits the job the best. You need AoE oriented skill - You pick those. Next encounter You might need single target or over time skills - pick those.
You end up with manageable pools of currently available skills that are specialized for given task.

Fact is MMOs will not be able to get rid of the trinity design unless You alter the core of gameplay. Even in open games like UO or EVE Online You have people that take on roles. Some guys are kitted out to take damage, other's are kitted out to dish it. It happens in traditional PnP RPGs as well. After all the cliche fantasy RPG party is Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric.
Without that You can't really create encounters that are more complex than "everyone attack the big thing and hope for best". Imagine allowing players to play Jack-of-all-trades characters. Should You then balance the encounters to make them viable? Should They be viable in PvP against specialized characters? How much variety in mob abilities You can have before the character becomes simply useless?

Even in real life we specialize. One guy is good at math other is good at arts. Someone is sharpshooter while another is master of martial combat. People good at everything are very rare.

To be fair we're talking about games that emulate heroic fantasy of one sort or another. Like it or not, the protaganists in such stories are rarely defficient in every area except for one in which they excel... and to an extent that's the problem with such a focused system especially when you go into a genere that is based around polymaths by definition. To an extent the standard "roles" can be defended in sword and sorcery (but only to an extent), they really can't be within this genere.

That said a big part of my disappointment was simply that I thought Funcom was going to be brave enough to break the current model and had come up with something new that they wanted to try rather than using the same focused character trinity (Tank, DPS, healer) games had been built around to this point.

When it comes to balancing games, I tend to look at it from the perspective that trash mobs are intended to lose to begin with, hence why they are balanced so even the most pencilnecked healer can solo them doing regular world PVE quests. At that point it kind of defeats the purpose. Later when you get to high end play where the roles allegedly matter, it's increasingly no longer about those roles anymore. To beat bosses in WoW you rarely tank and spank them for example, it's all about mobility, coordination, and gimmicks. If the boss can even be tanked consistantly it's largely a nod to giving the tank something to do because he's there for example, rather than anything fitting the fight. Indeed in many cases phases where a boss suddenly becomes tankable can be jarring as they make no sense in the bosses' strategy in many cases, and at the very best work simply to test how well the group can transition from one pattern to another. Really, there is no need for the roles and if anything they seem to be holding game design back, especially at the high end, as developers have to work around that format in the sense of "well, let's give the tanks something to do, or design the fight so the healers have to move and are a little less bored" rather than just having the fight flow.

That's my opinion, I know many people disagree. In some games the trinity works, and I understand why it existed, I was just hoping this would be one of the games that would try and break that system, and I'm disappointed to see that they hadn't done so.

As far as abillities that duplicate each other in function, you have a good point, but at the same time I was hoping that they had actually come up with several hundred unique skills, which would be quite a feat, the reality in comparison is quite disapppointing. There are various PnP RPGs and such that have that many distinct abillities with uses for all of them, so far we haven't seen a computer game pull that off, which is why it would have been incredible.

I'll also be blunt, the deck system isn't really defendable in that it can be changed, because it apparently can't be changed on the fly such as in the middle of a fight or dungeon... which would defeat the purpose. Despite the way it's termed it's really not all that differant from games that allow free character respecs, or you to change character classes (ala Final Fantasy Online) between events. That's really not all that impressive.

It's kind of like how in a hero game you might pay a trivial amount of money to re-do all your power (well before they went FTP) where say someone might choose to re-do their character to fill a specific role but isn't going to be able to change back to what they
were before in the middle of a dungeon.

Basically Funcom has gone from implying they had something really incredible and innovative for the genere, something like we haven't seen before, and instead is simply turning out a fairly generic game in a modern fantasy setting. Sure they call it "decks" but that's just like saying "we don't have character classes, we have archetypes!" or how White Wolf claims they have been making classless systems, yet their WoD games require you to pick a clan/bloodline/whatever that determines access to abillities, sure in WW's games you might be able to purchuse outside of your focus but that's mostly an excuse for giving NPCs odd abillity combos as it really screws PCs on their exps and winds up gimping them (which is a whole differant discussion that involves a lot of differant levels).

 

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