The Secret World’s Secret Screenshots

By John Walker on August 17th, 2008 at 7:13 pm.

Excuse me, could you tell me where I can find the nearest brains shop?

Two screenshots of Funcom’s next MMO, The Secret World, have appeared. Semi-officially put out, they’re from Funcom’s quarterly report, and they’re confirmed as for real by lead dev, Ragnar Tørnquist. In fact, he says on his blog that he took them himself.

For Norwegian readers, there’s speculation about what they might mean here. For the rest of us, there’s the usual collection of cryptic hints on Rangar’s blog.

What’s known about The Secret World is very little, beyond lots of rumour and conspiracy. And that’s clearly the way Funcom want it. So for those who like playing chase, these are the latest hints:

Herd ringers
Four, three, seven
NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Topic

Fist-fighting a seven foot zombie seems a bit of a bad plan.

For anyone who would rather just be told what the heck is going on, for now just take note of quite how fantastic the game’s looking. MMO, remember. When was the last time you saw an MMO set in a regular looking town? (Albeit filled with what look like zombies). It all looks pretty spiffy just now. Tørnquist comments,

“I can’t say much (although that day is rapidly approaching) but I’ll say this: It definitely means something. The shots are real and undoctored – I captured them myself from the latest build of the game last Thursday. Yes, that’s a real location in the game, not a proof-of-concept or a demo level. And no, of course it’s not done. I think the game looks absolutely fantastic, but it’s going to look even more absolutely fantastic when it’s released.”

TSW followers, for the rest of us, sum up what you know so far in the comments. Catch everyone up to the current thinking. I’m keeping out of it all, because someone, years ago, showed me something I shouldn’t have seen, and I already know too much. I think they’re coming for me. I can’t be sure.

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41 Comments »

  1. Yfel says:

    Sure, looks fancy. But as we’ve learned from Age of Conan, the fancier it looks, the less content it has.

  2. MisterBritish says:

    The Cry Gaia Network is a good place to start if you want to catch up on what little story and info has been released so far, including all the alternate reality fun and games. We’ve covered hollow earth theories, Norweigen fishermen and pentagram forming co-ordinates so far :)

    I think this is the only MMO I’ve ever been excited for.

  3. Noc says:

    Herd ringers
    Four, three, seven
    NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Topic

    What.

    . . .

    I’m a little worried, though, in the same way I am about other MMOs that are heavily story- and environment-based. Since all that work can be for nothing when z0mBh8tr777 bunny-hops down a deserted street spamming Chuck Norris quotes.

    But maybe they’ll do something clever, to replace the traditional MMO model with something that’s more immersive. And still, this stuff does look neat. Especially since it’s not fantasy. Or sci-fi.

    Also, check that link, MisterBritish. You’ve got an extra bit in there that’s breaking it.

  4. Masked Dave says:

    Oh stop with the MMOs, make more Longest Journey already!

  5. Cold says:

    Agreed, fuck online games. I want them to start working on the Dreamfalls chapters.

  6. Alex says:

    Funcom’s next MMO? Did they do one already?

    I’m not being an arse (well, not knowingly..), I might’ve missed something.

  7. John Walker says:

    Anarchy Online, and a little something called Age Of Conan.

  8. Dreamhacker says:

    The article basically says:

    A 40 man devteam with experience from developing Dreamfall, The Longest Journey, Anarchy Online, AoC and EQ2 are developing a new MMO combining elements like Alternate Reality gaming and Social networks.

    “This means, for exampe we can make an event at the Rådhusplassen (Councilhouse-square, must be an IRL place) where the winner get bonuses in the game”, Aas says.

    Funcom has been working on the game for a year, taking people from the AOC-team, but Aas says they are making sure not to neglect AOC. The game is using the DreamWorld engine, the same engine that has been used in AO and AOC.

    Funcom is withholding info at this time but says more info will be released later this autumn.

    There you go! Disclaimer: I’m not norwegian, but I understand the written form of the language.

  9. Ging says:

    Oi, sarge – you fail at the links, yes?

    Corrected link to the Cry Gaia Network for the lazy.

  10. Petrushka says:

    (Psst — use “title” tags on pictures, not “alt”)

  11. Vollgassen says:

    Hmm. I was hoping it’d have art direction as good as the previous Longest Journey titles.
    Looks really drab.

    Makes me think of the recent film The Mist though… which could be a cool idea as an mmo.

    Or maybe that Cthulu game… which also looked really drab.

  12. CrashT says:

    Another MMO? Bored now… Wake me up when some Dreamfall Chapters news is released.

  13. Asskicker says:

    Why don’t they fix Age of Conan first, before they start a new game.

  14. roBurky says:

    Naked zombie bodybuilders?

  15. john t says:

    Is this maybe Urban Dead + graphics? That would be nifty, and something I would play.

  16. John Lee says:

    That looks pretty damn awesome; I just hope that they don’t use the AOC/AO 2.0 Engine on this.

    http://reviewstash.com

  17. Alex says:

    According to its Wiki page it’s using the DreamWorld Engine, which is the same engine as AoC, apparently.

  18. Jeff says:

    For those wanting Ragnar to make more Longest Journey, from what I understand Funcom can only justify spending the money on Dreamfall Chapters if they’re getting enough revenue from their MMORPGs. Right now, I think Secret World probably has the best shot to give them a substantial stream of revenue, as the game world is so different than what we’ve seen before, and since Ragnar is doing the story, then the storytelling aspects will likely be far superior than what we see in AoC, or even WoW.

    So essentially more Longest Journey hinges on the success of Secret World and AoC. (One reason I’m hugely invested in the success of AoC.)

    And for those worrying that focusing on Secret World will take away resources from AoC, from what I understand since AoC and Secret World are in different development stages, the people that are being taken off of AoC are no longer needed, as they’re expertise are on areas that are pretty much already finalized in AoC.

  19. Shadowmancer says:

    Dear Funcom,
    i loved the original longest journey and i liked dreamfall but the hell is the sequel u guys ended it like halo 2 style, so were is the sequel and why is there too many mmo’s around that u have done instead.
    yours a fan.

  20. John Walker says:

    Ragnar has stated many, many times that he will finish The Longest Journey by any means possible. While he’s focused on TSW at the moment, that doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about Dreamfall Chapters.

  21. Acosta says:

    I must say that I’m less excited for The Secret World than I was before playing AoC. My big problem with AoC is that I thought Funcom had discovered a way to solve actual problems in the genre like grinding or keeping the travel interesting enough to not get boring of the grinding… something that could offer a different structure than WoW.

    Instead of that I have found a structure that falls in the same holes that many other MMOs, focusing too much in making sure you take a long time arriving to the cap than in offering something interesting along the way (aggravated by the fact they do the “carrot in the stick” trick way worse than Blizzard). When I played for first time to WoW, I didn’t want to play any other thing (or sleep) until I got my Warlock to 60, AoC falls flat at creating that feeling for me. However, I love they are trying a different type of fantasy with The Secret World, so I hope they understand there are other ways to make MMOs.

  22. CrashT says:

    I look at those screenshots and I can’t help thinking”Pathologic: The MMO” and I that leaves me scared yet strangely excited.

  23. Seb Potter says:

    I can’t help thinking that with the unmitigated disaster that AoC has been, (3 months after release it’s still completely broken, and getting worse,) I won’t be touching another FunCom game unless Jesus, Elvis, and Chuck Norris turn up at my house in person to recommend it. Not even that Rossignol chap will sway me.

  24. CrashT says:

    I thought Rossignol was Jesus, Elvis and Chuck Norris? Or is that Kieron?

  25. grumpy says:

    How can AoC be an “unmitigated disaster” for Funcom?
    They’ve sold 800,000 copies and, according to their Q2 report, have around 400,000 subs. True, that means they’ve lost 400k subs, but what’s left is still a pretty sizable customer base.

    That’s twice as many as Eve Online, which has been doing very well for years. It’s a hell of a lot more than Funcom’s own AO has (or had).
    Both of these games were/are ultimately successful. If AO is bigger than them, I’d say it’s hard to call it an “unmitigated disaster”.

    And if anything, I think AO has proven that Funcom is pretty damn stubborn when it comes to fixing their games. If you don’t like AoC, check back in a year… Or two. Or three. If AO is anything to go by, they won’t rest until they’ve cleaned up the game and made it work.

    Flawed, sure (or just didn’t live up to the *extreme* pre-launch hype), but “unmitigated disaster”? Nowhere near.

  26. Seb Potter says:

    Did I say AoC was an unmitigated disaster for FunCom rather than their customers? Apologies if I gave that impression.

    As a player, I couldn’t care less about FunCom’s sales figures. What I care about is the experience of playing the game that I bought and paid for. (That’s 40 quid retail plus 3 months of subscription.) I don’t expect that at release half of the features promised on the retail packaging aren’t in place or working. I don’t expect a product that crashes constantly. I don’t expect the developer refusing to answer technical support questions. I surely don’t expect to have to wait an entire year for the game to meet its launch promises. (Have you ever bought any other product and been told “sorry, it’s not really finished yet, but if you come back in a year and pay us some more money we might have it fixed”?)

    Hyping a game into the middle of next year (which is when I estimate FunCom will be able to deliver the product they described at launch) and then taking subscriptions on an inertial sales model (sign up with your credit card for the free month and forget to cancel when you realise what you’re buying is a steaming pile) might look good for FunCom’s balance sheets. But their numbers and my likelihood of buying another FunCom game have no correlation whatsoever.

    The ridiculous thing is, I was hoping AoC would be fantastic. Even without the hype I was genuinely excited about it, and I’m about the least likely person to complain about a game as you”ll ever meet. But I feel that FunCom ripped me off completely with a product that they knew wasn’t ready for release, and now I find myself arguing with an internet person (again, something I rarely do) about why I would recommend people refrain from buying Funcom’s titles.

    Ridiculous!

  27. CrashT says:

    “Have you ever bought any other product and been told “sorry, it’s not really finished yet, but if you come back in a year and pay us some more money we might have it fixed”?)”
    Every Windows operating system ever?

  28. Noc says:

    I think the issue is that a “disaster” implies, well, an event with lasting repercussions resulting in the ruination of everything involved. Tabula Rasa could be considered something of a disaster, albeit a subdued one that happened in slow-motion: after a few months, there’s a good chance it won’t even be around any more. “Disaster” implies scale; it implies ruination.

    Some money ill-spent, and times had that weren’t really fun, doesn’t amount to ruination.

    Also, you don’t get “genuinely excited” about something “without the hype.” Here’s how things work: 1) You hear things about a game, and 2) you build an expectation of what the game is going to be like, and 3) you decide if you’ll like it or not. Step #1 there is what “hype” is.

    The game was overhyped, and unfinished upon release. I’ve been following it for a while, and I’m pretty sure that the latter happened because they had to redesign their entire combat system in the late stages of development, because all of their good ideas turned out to be just too different from what everyone was expecting in the Post-WoW age of Fantasy MMOs.

    But in the real world, with real money and people who need real salaries, you can’t just say “Okay, lets put this game off another year.” Delays happen, all the time, but each time you do it you dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole.

    If the people at Funcom were the cackling, malicious band of scammers you’re painting them as, then they wouldn’t keep spending money and employing people to keep trying to fix and tweak the game even after they’ve netted their customers and their money. If anything, that shows a tremendous amount of goodwill: they’re saying “I know you paid for something that wasn’t all it could be, so we’re going to try and turn it into what you were expecting.” The problem is, game development actually does happen in the real world, so companies just have to, you know, do the best they can. There are realities companies need to live with, and they tend to involve money, and unless you’re Valve or Blizzard “Until we’re happy with it”-long development cycles really aren’t an option.

    Also:

    …(sign up with your credit card for the free month and forget to cancel when you realise(sic) what you’re buying is a steaming pile)…

    Yes, I know it happens, but do you think they really built a business model of people forgetting to unsubscribe after quitting the game in disgust? That’s a little silly.

    Now, I’m sympathetic to the feelings of bitterness when you feel like you’ve been the victim of a game company’s bait-and-switch. Hell, I bought an X-Box for FABLE, because I heard it was going to be a really deep open-world game where every choice you make has actual consequences! Instead of a couple hours of 3rd Person Hack-and-Slashy punctuated by striking poses in front of swooning ladies. And I can go on for hours about how much utter crap Oblivion turned out to be.

    But in cases like these, you need to mitigate your ire with a little bit of salt. Maybe a pinch, if a grain is too little. As pointed out above, Funcom DOES have a track record of trying to produce the best game they can given the realities of the business they run, and the financial success of AoC will likely allow them to do just that. Contrast to Tabula Rasa, which I mentioned before, which won’t get a gradual overhaul and is apparently in the long slow process of petering out. Or Hellgate:London, which collapsed and took it’s studio with it, including embryonic game Mythic which might have turned out to be pretty good.

    Those are disasters. AoC is the result of a bunch of people trying desperately to avoid one.

  29. Stupoider says:

    This has tickled by interest. I’ll be keeping my eye on this game, hopefully Funcom will have learnt a few lessons from Age of Conan.

  30. UncleLou says:

    I must be the only person who quite likes Age of Conan, and still has an active sub.

    I am also not quite sure which games people compare AoC to if they call it a disaster. Certainly not any other MMO that has been released since WoW.

  31. Larington says:

    Time will see, the one thing that I’m worried about is that Ragnar might craft this wonderous story full of wonder and intruige, only to have the effort wasted because all the ‘moar lvls pls’ and ‘endgame content pls’ types fall into the habit of pressing the 1 key 5 times to get through the dialogue as quickly as possible because they’ve picked up that god awful XP obsession (Though thats in part because the actual gameplay of most MMOs is fracking tedious and the only thing to keep you going therefor is the levelling and if you’re lucky the community).

    Thus far, the only MMO I have any real fondness for is Planetside, because the levelling was secondary to the gameplay, rather than being a primary element. (Oh, and Lord of the Rings Online, for its attempts at story telling and most of all, the artistry that went into the soundtrack/score).

    I liked the way AOC has done its combat system, however the fact that they promised full on guild PVP at release and failed to deliver (Not something I personally cared about that much) will inevitably cast them in a negative light in future, though I hope Ragnar (And his reputation as a game designer/writer) will mitigate that at least in part.

  32. Esha says:

    So this is what Ragnar’s been up to? I wonder if it’ll have the usual unspoken but expected quotient of male frontal nudity? I can only hope, Dreamfall was a huge let-down in that regard.

    I’m amazed that I hadn’t heard about this anywhere though, but I suppose I just haven’t been reading RPS long enough yet. The idea excites me, but as others have said, the screenshots do not.

  33. Larington says:

    I was only aware of the secret world from Ragnars blog, its basically being kept under the radar for the moment. http://ragnartornquist.com/

  34. Stromko says:

    My first read on ‘Secret World’ is it’s Funcom’s stab at a World of Darkness MMO. Q: “But wait, isn’t CCP already doing a World of Darkness MMO?” A: Yes, exactly, someone’s already trying to fill the niche, somebody already decided that a world just like ours except with supernatural critters would build up a lot of hype and can be done well with the tech currently available, so somebody else is trying to cash in on the same damned thing. It’s not a weasely thing to do, really, after all ideas are cheap, implementation is priceless.

  35. Yukkione says:

    I read outright distortions from people like Seb Potter, and I wonder just what game they are playing. AOC is a success it’s sold over a million copy’s and has several hundred thousand subscribers. I have confidence they will make Secret World and excellent game. The rumors of AOCs death have been wildly exaggerated.

  36. Harlequin says:

    I was really interested in this game…then I played Age of Conan. I’ve called AoC the atrocity of the MMO industry and will continue to do so.

  37. Vexor says:

    AoC may have a lot of problems but you can’t argue with it’s excellent graphics. This game might end up sucking, but it will look good doing it.

  38. Seb Potter says:

    “realise (sic)”? @noc – if you’re American you’re excused, but not forgiven. I’m also sure that I’ve been excited without the aid of hype (excessive or misleading publicity or advertising) before, but maybe it’s just an undiagnosed medical condition?

    I think however that my difference of opinion about FunCom’s track record comes down to the fact that my first job in the games industry was, by strange coincidence, working with Valve and Blizzard, so my expectation of release quality could be somewhat skewed!

    Anyway, to those complete strangers who have clearly taken great offence at me pouring bile on FunCom, I apologise for not taking the “glass half-full” view. In the case of AoC, my glass is empty, and I’m annoyed that I paid for a full one.

  39. harrumph says:

    Two titles from the same developer are not necessarily developed by the same people. Tørnquist, for one, had nothing (as far as I know) to do with AoC, and I believe most of the devs working on The Secret World come, like him, from The Longest Journey and Dreamfall.

    Wikipedia says “The pre-production of the game started in 2002, but in mid-2003, most of the working team was transferred to the development of Dreamfall. The work on The Secret World was resumed after Dreamfall shipped, with many of the latter’s designers (including Ragnar Tørnquist) playing key roles in the former’s development. TSW is being produced at the Funcom studios in Oslo and Beijing. In August 2008, it was stated that the development team consisted of people previously involved in the development of Dreamfall, Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, EverQuest II, and The Longest Journey. In November Funcom stated that 70 people were working on the project.”

    So yeah, people from AoC (and AO) are working on it, but it sounds like the core of the team is from Dreamfall. Might be that you should worry more about horrible combat and lame puzzles (I liked Dreamfall a lot, for what it’s worth) than crashes, cookie-cutter MMO design, or incomplete content. Without a D&D/WoW-style class/level system, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about rushing through a grind or wanting for endgame content, either.

  40. Wandesh says:

    Tørnquist has stated that when you enter the game you will start at the end game. And since the only cap is your gear and skills you should find your self fighting monsters in no time. in addition to that is that the exploration is something that you can use a hell lot of hours on due to the diversity in envioment and size. in general im looking forward to a new way of playing MMO’s where you dont have to start from lvl 1 and start grinding