Secret World’s Tornquist On WoW Copycats, What’s Next

By Nathan Grayson on July 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Secrets! Everybody has them – even you. Maybe you occasionally take two samples at the grocery store, or talk on your cell phone while driving, putting millions at risk. Or perhaps you’re just part of some boring, hum-drum Illuminati that controls the world’s every thought and action. The Secret World creative director Ragnar Tornquist used to be like you – except more interesting and with a cooler name. Now, though, his secrets are all gone. Yep, I snatched up every last one. He’s afraid of liquorice-flavored jellybeans. True story. But also, more pertinently, he thinks Secret World “doesn’t feel like any other MMO” in existence, and he has big plans about how to keep you wayward folk interested long after launch. Read on for all of that and more.

RPS: So the game’s about to launch, and you guys just wrapped up a series of beta weekends. I definitely saw a few complaints spring up during that span, though. Were you able to address most of them?

Tornquist: Yeah, that’s actually a good question, those beta weekends have been incredibly important for us. We had the first two, and then we had a three-week break I think it was, and then we had the last two. And in between that, we actually did a lot of things. I think the first two beta weekends were positive, but there was a little feedback that we agreed with – especially in regards to the feel of combat. And also to some issues regarding character creation that we really needed to address.

And we did. We can have really quick turnaround on changes here because of the way we’re set up. We were actually able to address pretty much everything that was brought up on the combat side. Players felt that it was interesting and complex and deep, but that it lacked a little bit of a connection between the character and the player. It felt a bit like their attacks didn’t have enough impact, and there were animation issues, and sound as well. In the course of a few weeks, we addressed all of that. We set up a strike team to deal with it and really focus on making our combat feel a lot better.

We had an amazingly productive couple of months on the project. We were able to alleviate everybody’s fears, I think. Anybody who came back for the last two beta weekends, and especially now for launch, they’re seeing that the game is massively improved from what it was just a couple of months ago. And that’s the way it goes. All those testers helped us. But it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to do everything that they asked us to do. We have an idea of what the game should be. And of course, at the end of the day, it’s the players who will be the ones to judge it, but so far, the feedback from what we’ve done has been really good.

RPS: One big, more intrinsic complaint I’ve seen, though, is that TSW is still – at heart – beholden to WoW’s basic formula. I mean, I’m still killing four Draug whatevers and collecting seven egg whosits – even if it is wrapped in a fascinating, well-written and acted world. Are you worried about that, especially given the backlash recent traditional MMOs like SWTOR and Tera have received?

Tornquist: I think, when I sit down and play The Secret World, it feels like no other MMO. If there’s one MMO that feels less like an MMO, it’s EVE, of course – but that’s a very different game. When I sit down to play The Secret World it doesn’t feel like WoW, it doesn’t feel like Guild Wars, it doesn’t feel like Asheron’s Call, it doesn’t feel like EverQuest. It really doesn’t feel like any other MMO.

Have we been traditional in some ways? Sure. But I think those who say that our combat is like WoW’s combat, they really haven’t gotten beyond the surface. At the beginning maybe it feels like that. But if you play for 12, 15, 20 hours, it’s quite clear that it’s radically different. It requires different techniques, it requires different approaches to survive in the world. It requires more movement, it requires more thought behind your abilities.

Yes, we do have missions and you get XP for doing those missions, but that’s not something that’s endemic to MMOs. That’s RPGs in general. You need purpose and we give you purpose all the time. And that’s something that we were very clear on as well. We give you a reason for doing everything you’re doing. It’s never a grind in The Secret World because you go out and you do a mission that makes sense to you. You believe in it. It’s not just somebody telling you to go out and chase rabbits. You’re going out to do something that will pay off in the end for your faction, for you as a character, for the characters in the game, for the world.

RPS: This year especially, though, it really seems like players are having a falling out with traditional MMO structures. Is it time for something entirely new?

Tornquist: I can’t answer for everything in the game that players like and don’t like. But I think, first off, a lot of MMOs get stuck in a rut. Yes, you’re doing the go kill 15 of this type, go kill 15 of that type, and we do have those kinds of missions as well, absolutely. But it feels very different in The Secret World. You’re not just doing it for the simple mechanic of killing those things and getting XP. It’s also tied into a coherent storyline. And there’s a purpose to it, there’s meaning to it, and the mechanics are usually more interesting than that.

Yes, players are probably getting a bit disenfranchised with the typical MMO mechanics. I think MMOs have become almost like a very single genre. Like driving games, they’ve been around forever, but racing games keep reinventing themselves. The same with shooters and the same with RPGs and the same with sports games. But MMOs have gotten stuck in this sort of rut of doing things in exactly the same way all the time.

We’re not doing that. It really does feel different. When you start digging beneath the surface and start playing it for a longer time, it actually feels very different. Yes, again, we’re not moving away from all the established mechanics, but we are adding to everything. There’s nothing in The Secret World that’s exactly like everything else. It’s not a clone of anything. There’s nothing wrong with good clones. Good clones can be great games. World of Warcraft wasn’t the first game to do what it was doing. It was the best game to do what it was doing. We’ve decided not to go down that road, to not be another clone of WoW or clone of EverQuest or clone of whatever came first. We decided to try to reinvent, maybe not everything, but most things.

RPS: Do you think it would be possible to make an MMO that does away with the whole combat-style questing altogether and just focuses around large-scale MMO adventure-style puzzle-solving?

Tornquist: Of course it’s possible. Absolutely. I’m not sure it’s a good idea, though. It really depends. Conflict in a game is good. I don’t see a need for us to go away from the fact that you have a conflict in the game that occurs through combat. To have to fight an external enemy. There are different ways of doing that. Making just something like Myst Online, well, that’s been done, and initially it was interesting, but I don’t think it was that much fun. I think players felt that there was a lack of conflict, of a drive to it. Having combat, having action, having danger – it’s important, it’s imperative to a gaming world.

There are different ways of doing that of course. You don’t necessarily have to fight monsters and everything. But we found that the whole idea of this communal experience needs to have a sense of danger to it. It needs to feel like a world where anything can happen, and that includes getting your ass kicked, and ganging up and getting revenge. There are varying degrees of that, and I think The Secret World right now, it’s a pretty competitive game. You do have to fight a lot of the time, except when you do investigations.

The battles are part of what makes the game fun and interesting to play. I think solving puzzles all the time, it’s not going to last hundreds of hours. I think people would get bored a lot quicker. Having to deal with a dangerous world where there are real monsters and where evil is rising and to do that in a way that requires you to pick up arms and fight them – it gives the game world more dimensions. I don’t think I would have ever made a game that’s just an adventure game online together with other people. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but it’s definitely possible. Somebody should do it. It should probably be done by somebody with a small budget and a small team of people that’s willing to experiment more than we are.

RPS: Is it or will it ever be possible in The Secret World to only do investigation missions and maximize your progression?

Tornquist: Yes, I think so. Right now you don’t have to do all kinds of missions in order to progress, but at this point there aren’t really enough investigations to progress only through that. You can do crafting and you can progress, you can do investigations and progress, you can do achievements and lore and progress, but you will have to do other stuff in addition to that. You can’t really skip the combat. But I think as the game grows and evolves, we are going to have enough investigation-type gameplay. It’ll sort of be an alternate progression path, to make it possible to at least get very far without necessarily focusing on quests. I hope so and I believe so, that we’ll get there. But we’re not there quite yet. You’re going to have to fight some zombies and demons and vampires. That’s still an integral part of the game.

RPS: What does your endgame currently look like? What will players be doing once they reach the end of that content?

Tornquist: That really depends on what kind of player you are. If you’re a PvP player there are lots of options. Our warzone, the Fusang Project, it’s really enticing. It’s a 24/7 playfield. It’s constantly in flux, control points shift between the factions and things change on an ongoing basis. That’s great fun for PvP players. Same with our battlefields – El Dorado and Stonehenge – which give you bonuses that can be used in Fusang. Our PvP is not the primary gameplay in the game, but it’s a great added feature. It’s something that really utilizes the builds you’ll come up with in interesting ways. That’s where you can match your decks up against other players.

We have crafting, which, again, in The Secret World is a little more interesting than a lot of other MMOs, I think. That is something that will also keep players playing long after the content runs out. And also, we are planning on adding extra content. Of course our dungeons, which run in heroic modes and like other MMOs will take a long time, they’ll require players to increase their weapon skills, they’ll require new abilities.

We don’t have classes, we have this massive amount of abilities that you can purchase, that you can train, and get them all in order to have the flexibility of choosing any weapon from anywhere. That’s going to take a long time to get through as well. These mechanics are not going to keep everybody playing for six months or twelve months. But for PvE players, like myself, the promise of new content coming on a regular basis and the story continuing – that’s my sort of endgame. It’s a world that keeps growing and keeps living, it keeps changing. That’s something that I think will keep players around as well.

RPS: You say “a regular basis.” How regular are you hoping for?

Tornquist: We have a plan, but we haven’t really announced it yet. I think when we’re ready to do so, we’ll do so. But yeah, we have content plans for a long time going forward. Our team, we just launched the game, but everybody’s here working on stuff that’s coming up. People are working on the stuff that’s coming in the next upgrade, or they’re working on stuff that’s further down the line, but everybody’s working towards creating new content for the game. We’ll announce more about that soon.

RPS: Star Wars: The Old Republic made waves when BioWare announced that it planned on keeping its entire dev team around to make new content. (Then, it, er, failed. But that’s another discussion entirely.) Is your plan to keep everyone and just keep plugging away at the game, as thought development never really… I mean, development on these things doesn’t finish. So is your plan to not even draw a distinction? 

Tornquist: [chuckles] I think I definitely want to keep everybody. Right now the whole team is back. Everybody who was here making the launch version of the game is continuing to work on the post-launch content. We’ll definitely have to evaluate based on how successful the game is; The more customers we have the more we’ll do. We’re going to grow with our customers. The more people play the game, the more gameplay we’ll give them, definitely. In that case, the team will remain the whole team. But of course, people will swap out and we’ll have new people come on, older people will go on and do something else. But yeah, the plan is to keep a very sizable development team – at least for the foreseeable future.

RPS: No vacations! Ever. Write more dialog for police offers with daddy issues!

Tornquist: [laughs] We’re doing staggered vacations. Right now I think everybody’s still here to make sure that, you know, whatever issues pop up in the first few weeks, we take care of them. People get to go on holiday after that. But we’re always keeping people around in every department, so if anything happens or anything needs to get done, we have people around and we are continuing to create content over the summer. I’m not going to have a summer holiday myself until September. So yeah, we do what we have to do in order to make this… to give players what they need in order to keep playing.

Check back tomorrow for part two, in which we discuss free-to-play, Tornquist’s desire to get back into making single-player games, The Secret War, and tons of other wonderful things.  

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77 Comments »

  1. Kdansky says:

    Could we get a mouse-look toggle button instead of the awkward WoW-style “keep the right mouse button taped down”-scheme? Ideally, add a crosshair when in mouse-look mode that allows to target enemies by left-clicking them. That would make the game feel much less WoWish.

    Apart from this issue with the controls I quite liked the ten or so hours I sunk into the last beta week-end. Oh, and some dialogues feel weird with only one NPC monologuing for eternities (especially when they are one-dimensional, like that “keep nature in balance” native american in the second region), but that’s not so easy to change any more.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Better yet, a mouselook toggle KEY, which switches between the two modes. They could just have it unbound by default so it’s there for those looking for it. I really like going first-person to play at eye-height (which frequently comes in handy if you’re looking for clues and stuff), and if you use the shotgun you can easily play this entirely in first-person if you wanted to (I wish the other abilities were more like the shottie’s cone/column attacks, some sort of are already). But I agree, this is an excellent game.

  2. Malk_Content says:

    Ah they committed the cardinal sin of putting me off an mmo (or any game) in this interview. If something is unsatisfying to begin with its bad enough but don’t ever tell me, ” But if you play for 12, 15, 20 hours” because all that tells me is that a) you couldn’t find a way to make the game fun from the start and b) I won’t enjoy the first ten, maybe twenty, hours of your game.

    • Kitsunin says:

      True, but they are referring to the -combat- not the game. It’s ridiculous to ask someone to play a game for 10+ hours before it starts to get fun, but at least in TSW you aren’t just grinding up until the combat comes into its own. I’m not really sure how they could fix this other than completely overhauling their combat into a more action-RPG style, or making you start out with two whole skill sets filled out, which would kill the progression. I’m not saying it’s perfect as is, just that it won’t ruin your experience unlike many other MMOs.

    • thegrieve says:

      He never said it wasn’t fun in the first ten hours, he conceded that the combat might feel similar to WoW for the first 12-15 hours – From personal experience, I found the combat to be like WoW for as long as I treated it like WoW. Once I got to grips with resource management and using different but interconnected weapons and weapons skills – I found it fundamentally different.

      Sure, I’m still pressing 1-7 over and over again but I have to constantly think which power/skill/attack is going to have the most impact on the fight at that moment, based on loads of variables, and not just stick to a predetermined “best” chain of attacks like WoW.

    • TariqOne says:

      Beyond that, I think he really said that *if* you feel the combat similar to WoW, give it some time to get used to it and understand it.

      Which is more or less consistent with my experience. I found the combat rather rote and unsatisfying the first few times I gave it a look in beta, but after really sitting with the skills and skill wheels and working out the mechanics, it really is pretty unique. The mere fact of limiting you to 7 active and 7 passive skills, which you can swap in and out in conjunction with appropriate weapons, is refreshing enough. It’s nice to leave the comical custom UIs of other MMOs behind, with a ludicrously large patchwork of little-used skills peppered around the screen and tied to all sorts of keybind and macro schemes.

      This is sufficiently different from any other offering out there, and while it has some glaring flaws, I think criticisms that this is just following the generic formula are a bit misguided.

      • Droniac says:

        I wouldn’t say any other offering, because it’s essentially a new take on the Guild Wars (1) system.

        You can (and should) dual-class, can change classes (albeit in GW only secondary class), have a limited number of skills in combat with max 1 elite skill, have a limited number of attribute points that modify certain ‘class’ (weapon) values, you can dodge attacks, etc.

        Granted, the GW system is more advanced and involved, particularly because the entirety of the game requires grouping (if only with NPCs), but the basic elements are practically identical. Another game that had a somewhat similar setup was Chronicles of Spellborn.

    • Cooper says:

      Still. There’s the mistake.

      I played the betas. loved everything but the combat. The combat was very, very reminiscent of WoW-like MMOs. Skills linked to number keys linked to cooldowns…

      I don’t care that it radically departs 12 hours in. Or that I need to change how I approach it (it clearly isn’t difficult enough to prompt me to change how I apporach it). In order to draw people in, it needs to lay at their feet right from the start what ets the game apart. It failed to do that.

      I ended up wanting so much to play just the investigation quests; but cannot justify the annoying combat and MMO world and subscription just for that.

      • nrvsNRG says:

        ive been playing for around 6 hours (still in kingsmouth) and the combat is wearing out my patience with the game but because i like the setting and stories so much i really want to persevere. BTW i didnt play in beta, but from what ive just read it seems the combat was a lot worse and has improved (still bad IMO).

      • malkav11 says:

        It does, though. The combat has nuances that aren’t present in a lot of MMOs, but it’s not the combat that sets the Secret World apart from the rest. It’s the quests and world, and how it handles those in a way that builds place and narrative context, and rewards exploration. And those are front and center the moment you get into Kingsmouth.

      • skittles says:

        I have never understood the complaints about ‘WoW style combat’, do people even play other games? Take any shooter, there is less interaction than an MMO even, you have switch weapon, point-to-shoot and maybe a key for a grenade or two. Many single-player RPGs have less skills and keys used than an MMO. The very fact is that MMO games use more skills and keys then any other style of game, yet people deride them as ‘repetitive’. Sure they are repetitive I agree, but other games are far far worse. So I simply have to ask, do you even bother to play games anymore?

        • Azoreo says:

          Except that shooters are twitch games, so the action functions and play out very, very differently, and also relies on a different skill set.

          I don’t know of any online shooter where you can calculate the exact (or near enough) outcome of a fight – but you can do that in RPG’s if you know your stats and what skills you’re going to cycle.

          Shooters effectively recycle the same mechanics, MMO’s don’t.

  3. djbriandamage says:

    “We’ll definitely have to evaluate based on how successful the game is; The more customers we have the more we’ll do. We’re going to grow with our customers. The more people play the game, the more gameplay we’ll give them, definitely.”

    Chicken, meet egg?

    I hope there’s enough content to keep players engaged and subscribed. TOR had quite a bit of content but it still wasn’t enough to keep the numbers up. Content needs to be added regularly.

    I wish Funcom the best of luck. They’ve worked so hard to get where they are. Money’s too tight for me to justify another MMO right now but as soon as this game is F2P I’ll be in on the ground floor.

    • Azoreo says:

      End-game content is what drives subs. Building the right content, rather than regularly adding content, should have been recognized as the primary key to success with MMO’s after the first couple WoW-clone failures.

      The simple fact of the matter is that development studios cannot produce content as fast as players can consume it. Players are going to have re-consume the same content multiple times to make any MMO design effective. Either they create new characters and are essentially forced to replay early-game content, or they elect to replay challenging or rewarding end-game content because they’ve found the meta-game.

      The meta-game sucks people in for a lot longer because it takes longer to get results and the pleasure is couched in those results, rather than in the content. By spending more time producing end-game content, you have a better chance of having imaginative, robust, varied content which is likely to deliver a player to that meta-game, for which they’ll re-sub.

      • malkav11 says:

        Alternatively, you could make the journey fun enough that people are okay with revisiting it from time to time while they wait for new stuff. Nobody, including WoW, has really bothered to try this. It’s all endgame, all the time, and so people whine and kvetch about having to even do all the previous levelling. It’s a mentality that really frustrates me, because endgame is always this tiny fraction of the overall content of the game, and usually all but inaccessible unless you have a large and competent base of friends.

        It’s my hope that The Secret World is that game. It certainly seems that way right now, but we’ll see how I feel when I really do finish all the existing content. (If I do.)

        • Azoreo says:

          I think yours is a great point. I personally can’t imagine how you’d accomplish this with the current (leveling) model, but I’m going to try and come up with some ideas.

          I do remember Ultima Online though – there were a lot of repetitive things that never really got old. It was the experience, or the journey rather, that mattered – not so much the destination.

        • TariqOne says:

          I think we’ve all got our knees calibrated to jerk in the WoW-killer-ROFL-fail direction as well. I haven’t seen much about their commercial expectations for this game, but I get the sense their goals are modest, and they are fairly realistic about the size of the audience there is for this thing. This isn’t TOR and the million-subs-or-bust model, at least I don’t think.

          I gather they can count on a fairly dedicated core of passionate players, drawn largely from the older, RP set. Beyond that I would hope they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

          If you set out to make a niche game and it finds its niche, do you win?

        • afarrell says:

          Except WoW did this with Cataclysm – they reworked all of the 1-60 content, and left the new end-game (80-85) a little lighter than usual as a result.

          Result: massive outcry about the lack of end-game, subs plummeted.

  4. trjp says:

    Did he really answer a question about endgame content in a subscription MMO with “well we have PvP and Crafting”…

    Doomed, I tell ya, doomed.

    I’ve been through Tornquists idea of ‘additional content’ before – he means he’ll fuck around with your game until he’s wasted so much of your time that you lose hope altogether – and all he’ll offer in return are ‘story arcs’ – the man is obsessed with ‘story arcs’ and I’m not even sure he knows what one is…

    • President Weasel says:

      Crafting was one area where SWTOR was noticeably lacking. Sounds like he might be describing a deep, interconnected crafting system which is something that appeals to a certain type of player – and since I know a couple of that type of player there’s more chance of all of us sticking around for the end game.

      • Azoreo says:

        I was flabbergasted when I saw SWTOR’s crafting system. It felt like they tacked it on at the last minute development-wise; the end-game content and PvP was produced fairly late, so why wouldn’t something as insignificant as crafting suffer the same fate?

      • TariqOne says:

        Crafting in this is an odd bird. Sorta like Minecraft-ing. At least in the early going. I’m having a devil of a time getting all the components to make anything good but I’m looking forward to succeeding at it someday and seeing if it’s truly deep and rewarding.

    • malkav11 says:

      I love the game and everything, but that boggled my mind too. By all reports the PvP in the Secret World needs serious work if it’s going to be at all compelling to PvP enthusiasts (I dislike PvP, so can’t say myself), and the crafting system feels distinctly secondary – a way in which you can occasionally supplement your gear acquisition with a specific type of item if it hasn’t dropped or been rewarded in a quest, but not something that anyone could make a primary occupation, since resources for it are purely derived from other items of the same general category (weapon, healing talisman, offensive talisman, defensive talisman, consumable) with the exception of glyph runes, and as far as I can tell there’s one crafted item per item slot per quality level, again with the possible exception of glyphs.

    • Quarex says:

      The thing is, though, there is literally no way for a game to be updated frequently enough to keep people interested for “end-game content” alone. Well, unless those people are addicts/suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. World of Warcraft becomes “more of the same boring fighting for fighting’s sake” just as sure as every other MMORPG of its type has–the only way to really break out of this is to let players create their own intrigue/story/action, and only Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and apparently Eve Online have ever really accomplished that.

      • Azoreo says:

        Right – unless there’s a paradigm shift in how content is created for MMO’s – let’s say a tool that generates content on the fly by mixing and matching existing assets (effectively…) – then the best way to provide entertainment is going to be to let players generate it.

        • malkav11 says:

          For players who enjoy that sort of thing. For me, player generated entertainment is not, in fact, entertaining.

  5. jellydonut says:

    Snore. Needs more sandbox.

  6. marcusfell says:

    This does not bode well.

  7. Azoreo says:

    It boggles my mind that so much mental effort is spent on making tiny distinctions into grand ones rather than recognizing the boring similarity between your product and one launched eight years ago.

    • Matt-R says:

      Whilst I don’t like to say it, he does come across abit denial-ey, the combat isn’t really a change up from WoW or from what I experienced and maybe I’m just done with MMOs (especially subbed ones) due to their frankly archaic combat systems but damn if only they’d have pushed combat like they have the world and story.

      • Azoreo says:

        I found, years back, that I was just done with MMO’s. I’d like to see someone radically shake things up, but the only game on the horizon that I can even imagine would do that is Titan (from Blizzard), and only because Blizzard was so insightful with WoW, and because I have no idea what direction they’re going in (so I can’t judge yet).

        My gaming time gets more limited as I get older, and I realized MMO’s have a terrible enjoyment return on time invested. So why spend it in the worst place when we have, more than ever, a plethora of games which always offers at least one title with significantly better returns? For example: I got BFBC2 on sale more than a year after initial release, and I can have a killer 15 minutes (or more) for the investment of 3-5 minutes finding a server.

        I’d like to see someone set a new standard for combat and questing in MMO’s, but even if they do, I don’t think I’d have the time to invest in an MMO anymore.

        • HorzaEdeo says:

          I’d be wary about putting my faith in Blizzard. When was the last time they actually did something innovative in one of their games?

    • Shooop says:

      This is how video games are made today. Marketing.

  8. Hoaxfish says:

    The journey is probably more fun than the destination, which I’m sure is quite a long way away.

  9. caddyB says:

    Only Ragnar in my life is Ragnar Blackmane

  10. Apples says:

    “I think solving puzzles all the time, it’s not going to last hundreds of hours.”
    “[Crafting] is something that will also keep players playing long after the content runs out.”
    This is the core of the problem, really, isn’t it? Even a guy who is presumably enthusiastic about MMOs and wants to sell this one openly admits that they’re low-content player-traps designed to keep you superficially engaged through endless clicking rather than doing anything substantial or thought-provoking. And that the endgame activities like pvp and crafting are not, in fact, ‘content’. Sounds great!

    • Chiller says:

      Oh. Oh my. You just might be my new favorite person on the Internet.

    • Azoreo says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head as far as crafting. It should be integral to the game, but most of the time it’s a mostly useless diversion that’s not even that diverting.

      Free Realms, a kids MMO, surprised me. Buffs came from eating food, food came from cooking, and cooking required harvesting. Cooking and Harvesting were separate mini-games, both skill-based.

      Harvesting was the simpler of the two – you linked like objects on a grid and tried to make the longest chain you could. Points were awarded for each object chain, and enough points earned you an ingredient. Good performance meant extending the game time, earning bonuses, and so on.

      Cooking was slightly different as each recipe encapsulated 6 of maybe 12 total activities such as chopping, stirring, pouring, pounding, searing, flipping, performing from memory, and so on. Performing perfectly was hard and required concentration and honest skill – and cooking quickly was important too. Better results meant a better reward…which meant a better buff, which meant better combat.

      SWTOR couldn’t have had a trade-skill requiring the harvesting, cutting, shaping, cleaning, refining, setting, and adjusting of crystals for light-sabers?

      Free Realms’ mini-games were not only integrated into the main game, they were truly diverting, and they showed up the trade-skills of a game (SWTOR) released years after it, for a mature crowd, with a larger budget. What gives?

      • PostieDoc says:

        It’s amazing how poorly crafting is implemented in most MMOs when you consider it was a major part of Ultima Online, one of the original MMOs, all those years ago.
        People devoted characters to being blacksmiths and carpenters and found that they lived in a world that rewarded them for their efforts. At least until UOs formula was messed up to appeal to the carebear crowd.

      • Beelzebud says:

        TOR had so much potential and they just wasted it. Remember the sequence in KotOR, where you built your own light saber? They could have done something really cool with that concept, but instead they caved in to the crowd that doesn’t want to put any effort into anything. The space missions are another aspect of the game that I just can’t believe how lame they made it. In a Star Wars MMO space combat and travel should be a centerpiece to the universe, not an afterthought.

        The early MMOs were successful because people *wanted* them to be challenging, and the designers were left alone to do their jobs. Now games are neutered before the system designers even get a chance to try out things. Marketing Test Group Game Design is killing innovation.

        I’m sure focus groups and marketing research is more responsible for how TOR turned out than any of their designers.

      • origo says:

        There is/was one MMORPG that also had somewhat interesting crafting, its called Vanguard: saga of heroes. Had abysmal start, and never picked up afterwards, but crafting and diplomacy in that game was awesome. I played it for 1 month, but game practically had no population to speak of.
        Interestingly, as last attempt to survive, they’re making it free to play this summer. I hope few gaming websites spread the news, since this 5 year old game still has awesome landscape graphics and interesting game mechanics, i loved crafting there.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    Pretty sure it’s the ketchup-flavoured jellybeans you’re supposed to be scared of, unless Ragnar Tornquist has a thing against ladders(/being a ladder).

  12. Faceless says:

    ” I think, when I sit down and play The Secret World, it feels like no other MMO.”

    And then he goes on to say it does feel like WoW in early levels. Contradictions like that make promotional talks very transparent. It’s kind of sad, really. It’s hard to promote a game that shares all the worst similarities of another popular title. There’s a reason why Close Quarters in BF3 was decried as a little CoD expansion, regardless of its subjective quality.

    They went back on a lot of ambitious promises with The Secret World, and while the setting is fascinating, it’s not enough to carry an entire MMORPG. I remember when they were showing off story aspects, and one designer murmured awkwardly, “Well, you can always skip the cutscenes, which I hope you don’t, because we put a lot of effort into them, heh… heh heh…”

    • Azoreo says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t even read the whole interview because of the cognitive dissonance.

      I find it strange that people in those positions must be intensely aware that they’re going to be asked questions which have been posed to people like them many times before, and they they’ve been shot down for the same transparent ho-hum generic nonsense, but they’re willing to rewrite it and regurgitate it, perhaps imagining that they’re not just the next in a long line of…something something.

    • TariqOne says:

      I don’t think he actually says it feels like WoW, for what it’s worth.

      • malkav11 says:

        And if he did, he’d be mad. It doesn’t feel like WoW.

        What he said was that early on some people may feel that the -combat- feels like WoW, but that those people should keep playing and they would find that it is actually fairly different. Which, imho, is true.

        • Faceless says:

          I agree, it didn’t feel like WoW to me either, and he doesn’t specifically mention WoW, but he does admit it’s similar after negating it, which is what my point was.

          It’s poor design if you make your game unappealing in early levels. This is especially true for MMOs, considering than in most of them you’re expected to invest a considerable amount of time until you reach ‘the good bits’. Does he seriously expect people to invest 50 hours into a game, braving through content they don’t like, in the hopes of it getting better? That’s just not a good design philosophy.

          • TariqOne says:

            I don’t really think let’s-make-it-execrable-in-the-early-going-and-then-rock-after-50-hours was the “design philosophy.” I think he’s saying they set out to make something that is unlike other entries in the genre. He admitted they didn’t just do everything differently for the sake of difference, and that it does have cRPG DNA and thus some similarities to other cRPGs and MMORPGs.

            What I read him to say was that *if* you feel it’s just the same old, then he encourages you to give a chance. Not that well, don’t expect to like it for the first month but by month three hoo boy it’s awesome.

            If you don’t like it, I think that’s fine, and I think that many people who try it will not. I think there is a niche contingent who will like it from the get go, or shortly thereafter, and stick with it, and that’s fine too. I’m not certain they were swinging for the billion-sub fences here.

    • Quarex says:

      The funny thing is, he is wrong about his own game. I spent an entire weekend playing without fighting a single monster, and had enough progression by the end of it to make it to Quality Level 4 with pistols (which I had only fired to blow up objects, never creatures/people). He is doing himself a disservice by claiming there is not much to do in the game if you are not fighting.

    • benkc says:

      Each time I’ve read an interview with Tornquist, I get the feeling that there’s a disconnect between what he’s saying and what he means. Maybe it is a language barrier issue? (I’ve never felt like it was hard to understand what he meant, despite this — but that’s going to vary quite a bit from person to person, I would think.)

  13. Sheps says:

    Who cares!? ROME 2! WOOOOOO!

  14. Shooop says:

    “I think, when I sit down and play The Secret World, it feels like no other MMO.”

    What else would a guy who has a stake in his own product say? “It’s pretty much like all the other games already out there.”? Way to break away from the pack and really sell me on your product!

    “At the beginning maybe it feels like that. But if you play for 12, 15, 20 hours, it’s quite clear that it’s radically different.”

    If your game isn’t any good until 12 hours into it then you’ve failed horribly at making a game.

    “It requires different techniques, it requires different approaches to survive in the world. It requires more movement, it requires more thought behind your abilities.”

    I think he just broke my bullshit detector. Who hasn’t said this exact same thing about their games before? That they’re unique in some abstract, not obvious way?

    • WickedBaggins says:

      Well, I haven’t played WoW, but I did play TOR and TSW in succession, and the differences /are/ fairly profound. If you run into something you can’t beat in TOR, occasionally, you can change your tactics and win, but more often, you are too low level for this content and have to go grind. In TSW, it’s almost always a tactical problem. Since you only equip 7 active abilities at a given time, those active abilities might not be good choices for every given opponent and if you’re beating your head against a challenge, changing your tactics/active abilities is often effective. It’s also extremely easy to buy up a new ability set at a drop of a hat, so if you find you need a healing power stat, you can buy one and go. And sometimes it works. I sometimes die several times before I figure out a working tactic, but once I do, I can use it in other, similar situations. Will o the wisps are best attacked with ranged weapons, zombies with wide area melee tricks, etc.

      Now, WoW might do all this, but what I think Ragnar is saying is that at the beginning, you’re feeling your way around and fighting mostly low level enemies that can be beaten by equipping your first seven powers and going at it. Once you get any deeper, that stops working and you have to think more about what you’re doing. Verily aye.

      • Shooop says:

        That is pretty much like any other MMORPG though. They all change up enemies on you and make situations where a different set of attacks work better than others. The way Tornquist is going on about it, it’s like he’s just discovered that idea himself and it’s world-changing for him.

        In reality it’s all the same as almost any other game since the NES – one method works great on one enemy type, but not on another. The only difference is instead of casting fireball instead of lightning, you’re using melee attacks instead of ranged.

        • WickedBaggins says:

          It’s not world changing for RPGs, no, but the factor of choice does make a difference for me. And I honestly don’t think every game since the NES has done it effectively. In TOR, my abilities were pretty much set and the point was to be able to deal enough damage quickly to win, and if I was “at level” and reasonably competent, I was going to win. And I don’t want to simplify TSW’s combat too much, at that. Melee versus ranged is not a switch that will kill every enemy. What kind of ranged combat, melee combat, healing tactics, evasion tactics you use also matter, as does what you choose to aggro and how you use your environment. None of these, in and of themselves, is revolutionary. I mean, I’ve played Baldur’s Gate like everyone else. But not /every/ game does this, and the change up is often enough that I have to evolve my tactics, consider which new high level abilities to take carefully, and experiment. I just know it feels much more satisfying and tactical than I had any expectation of. It might be a more experienced MMO player would find it passe – I don’t know! But I’m having a good time.

        • TariqOne says:

          Well ultimately, if you really want to boil things down to their greyest essence, most games are pushing buttons and manipulating controls to kill shit.

          Last I played, I fought a monster by pushing buttons on a hotbar, true. I had to pick those buttons out of a selection of buttons to go with yet other chosen passive abilities, trying to come up with an effective set of related buttons.

          Anyway the monster I killed came rushing up on me as I was rifling through the pockets of a dead guy, trying to figure out the password to the dead guy’s laptop back in his abandoned van. I was irritated about being attacked because I was studying the guy’s employee ID card. Anyway after I squeaked out the fight — still haven’t found an optimal combo of abilities — I tried and failed to access the laptop using various permutations of the guy’s name, company name, and employee ID number. Finally, I pulled up an actual web browser integrated in the game and googled the dead guy’s company website. I was able to figure out by going to the company’s “about us” page enough about the dead fellow to make a decent guess at his password. Score, I was in, and headed off with a homing device and reasonably understandable directions on how to maybe disable his monster-attracting device somewhere on the beach below.

          Look, it’s not amazing, mindblowing stuff. But it’s sufficiently its own animal, within the confines of the cRPG space.

          • Shooop says:

            “Look, it’s not amazing, mindblowing stuff. But it’s sufficiently its own animal, within the confines of the cRPG space.”

            That’s exactly what I’m having trouble believing from this interview and the review. What’s different about it other than the story which RPS praised? Everything described is just like any other MMO RPG. Even Guild Wars 2 is, but at least that doesn’t require you keep paying for the game after you buy it.

          • TariqOne says:

            Atmosphere, progression, setting, quality of writing, inclusion of ARG elements, eschewment of classes, among other things.

            That’s an awful lot of stuff. Personal taste but I’ve played a ton of GW2 and really there’s not a lot of “there” there either. Pretty standard Korean-lite fantasy setting. TSW at least presents a fresh world and compelling characters thus far.

            Anyway I guess it requires us to agree that “different” is a good unto itself. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. In the sense that you hotbar abilities and push them then yeah this doesn’t meet the “different” test. In other senses it does. If that flavor of sameness doesn’t float your boat then you’re probably not part of the niche this particular thing was aiming for.

            Bloodlines is one of my favorite games ever and this has some of the same charm for me. Not my dream game but not some dismal detestable abortion of a cash grab dreamed up by evil corporate hacks either. I think it’s got some heart. Go figure.

  15. goettel says:

    Tried a beta, found the voice acting in particular to be quite good, and there’s something to the look which I do like. Still, early combat did indeed feel very WoW like to me, only less… streamlined. I got the impression there’s going to be a pretty decent MMO in there, but this one didn’t instantly grab me as something different, something fresh, gameplay wise.

    I wasn’t hooked, you know ?

    And come august 25th, the MMO that did hook me from minute one is going to drop. Sorry TSW, but if we jump in the sack now, we might not get a second chance for some serious, long-term lovin’. So I’m gonna go with… well you know who. And if it turns out she sucks (or rather, she doesn’t), I might look you up and we can see what’s what. Be good !

  16. Valkesh says:

    Ragnar is awesome. He’s a great writer, and he doesn’t really bullshit people when discussing things like this. He’s obviously passionate about what he does but is actually clued in to what people are actually thinking when they play and doesn’t just dismiss things or spew marketing bullet points. I gave the game a shot based on his involvement, and it’s been great fun thus far. If they can keep things from getting stagnant I think the game will do fine despite a lot of the predisposition people have with Funcom.

    For the record, there was no cognitive dissonance going on here. It’s difficult to dispel the conception that everything is the same when people are so eager to oversimplify the core mechanics of a genre in order to start picking up pitchforks and continue bemoaning the state of the genre for another few months. Things can also be “like something” in some ways and “feel different”. They can also be “like something” and “unlike something” at the same time, just in different ways. They are not opposed to each other.

    • Azoreo says:

      You sound like a Tornquist shill. I mean heck, your post sounds likes the interview and someone else commented, promotional speech is pretty transparent.

      • TariqOne says:

        And do you want to know what you sound like?

        The guy has an opinion about a video game. Relax.

        • Azoreo says:

          You kinda missed the point. His post sounds more like an advertisement than an opinion, that’s the problem.

          I have an opinion about his advertisement. Relax.

          • TariqOne says:

            I didn’t miss the point at all. You accused him of being a shill, which is a pretty serious accusation.

            You don’t have an opinion, you’re just being a dick.

        • Azoreo says:

          You did miss the point.

          My opinion is that he’s a shill.

          QQ moar.

  17. wodin says:

    Seems like there saying the exact same thing the developers said about Star Wars, we will continue to write lots of new content, trouble is it never worked with a massive IP like Star Wars, why do they think it will work here? I think the Star Wars issue probably makes them go oh shit to be honest.

    Also no matter how often you say it doesn’t pay like WoW still doesn’t get passed the fact that people have moaned it’s to like WoW. Also saying you have to dig deep or play for 15 hours to see that it isn’t like WoW strikes me as odd. It either is like it or isn’t and if it takes 15 hours I’d say it is. Though personally I haven’t got this obsession with puzzle only non combat games (which like the man here says would end up for me a very boring experience in the end) RPS seems to have these days. You can have conflict but done in a different way, no one thinks outside the box in development these day I feel.

  18. raw says:

    One can only hope that after the hundred failed WoW clone, devs will realize that WoW is shit.

  19. Runs With Foxes says:

    And also to some issues regarding character creation that we really needed to address.

    And we did.

    Confused by this bit. There were big complaints on the game’s forums during the beta that character creation was really bad. They promised everything would be great by the release, but then release arrived and they delayed improvements until a couple of months later, necessitating some bizarre plastic surgery option for existing characters.

    So that statement seems like a flat out lie?

    • Wisq says:

      Hey, they addressed the issues. Doesn’t mean they actually fixed them, or even mitigated them. ;)

  20. SPG says:

    The combat is great, you have to keep moving.

    Finger gymnastics or key remapping required.

    As for the review same as everything was negativity, lazy simple journalism.

  21. Spen says:

    I dunno. Sounds like another nice singleplayer game strapped onto tired MMO mechanics to justify the sub. Does playing with random strangers really add to the experience here?

    Will probably wait till it goes F2P.