Secret World To Get New Missions, More On Monthly Basis

By Nathan Grayson on July 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

OK, OK! Truce! Gosh, I'm just a tree monster. Fire, lightning, and guns, though? Total overkill. Man, I'm going home.
[TEASER NOTE: Full interview with Ragnar on this stuff to follow later this week!]

The Secret World’s off to a strong start, but we live in a world of short attention spans and even shorter tolerances for subscription fees. So then, how does a heavily story-and-puzzle-solving-focused MMO keep players from scattering to the winds like fickle, fickle fall leaves or SWTOR’s userbase? Well, by giving them more of those things. Constantly. Every month. Sorry, Funcom employees. Please don’t haunt me when you all become fatally sleep-deprived ghosts.

Director Ragnar Tornquist outlined his company’s insanely ambitious plans in an inaugural State Of The Game post.

“We’re going to be releasing fresh and tasty new content FREE to our subscribers on a regular, monthly basis. The first update is due on Tuesday, July 31st, and we will be releasing more details about that particular update later this week — including a couple of fun surprises.”

“The first few packs will contain new investigations for every adventure zone in the game — but we also have more action and sabotage missions planned for the near future. These missions will feature fully voiced cut-scenes and new media pop-ups, and will match the quality of the missions currently in the game… We will be announcing our first auxiliary weapon soon (one clue: bigger, slower, more explosions) and new auxiliary weapons will be released on a regular basis. Combat in The Secret World will continue to evolve, and it will pay to expand your character in multiple directions!”

In addition to missions and weapons, a raid featuring New York in some way or another, a PVP dungeon, two entire new zones that kick off the story’s second act, combat tweaks, and, of course, a dungeon-finder are all on the way in the near-ish future.

So basically, it sounds like The Secret World’s trying incredibly hard to justify its subscription, which is extremely admirable. I mean, most of this content sounds like it’s more cut out for an expansion pack, but instead, it’s joining the secret societies of tiny people that live inside our hard drives free of charge. And I really hope it succeeds – not because I’m in love with subscriptions or anything, but because The Secret World’s the first MMO I’ve legitimately enjoyed in ages. That, by the way, is another reason to not haunt me – OK, inevitable Funcom ghosts?

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73 Comments »

  1. Malk_Content says:

    The only two problems with this are that a) Will they be making enough new content each month to keep me entertained for that month and b) unless they lock this content out for people until they’ve subscribed for a certain period of months, isn’t it better for me just to wait even longer to pick this up and get more content at an extremely reduced cost?

    Not saying they shouldn’t be trying. After all I’ve not seen a mmo (and I have tried a couple) with anything that would justify the cost of a subscription to me as the user and this is at least an attempt at that.

  2. Mungrul says:

    Yeah, monthly MMO promises never work out well; DCUO on release promised monthly updates, and those swiftly failed to materialise.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Asheron’s Call.

      • Mungrul says:

        Hardly contemporary.

      • thematrix606 says:

        Exactly! AC STILL does this, on a monthly basis, as they say for ‘free’.

        MMOs used to do this, until WoW came out, and stopped monthly updated.

        I mean that 15 euro a month for an MMO, you think it costs that much to run the servers? HA! That money should be going to monthly content updates. Greedy Actiblizz.

        • Asokn says:

          In fairness, I think most people understand it costs more than 15 euros to run a MMO server but most also have more than one subscriber.

          • The Random One says:

            Hi, I’m Subtextia, fairy of textual comprehension, here to tell you that in thematrix’ post ‘that much’ obviously means fifteen euro per player.

        • TariqOne says:

          I’m not going to argue the basic point, but are we really such artsy pollyannas that we now think gaming companies trying to make money to pocket is some kind of shocking ill?

  3. unangbangkay says:

    More weapons? With all the attendant skills and synergies? Complexity ahoy!

    I’m actually contemplating going lifetime if I still feel interested after the first month or two. For me the best way to play an MMO is whenever I please, and not because I feel obligated to justify a monthly fee. Plus, the best free-to-play games are the ones that used to have to justify a monthly fee. The result, as evinced by the likes of LotRO, Champions, DnDO, and Star Trek are games with more than enough content, and much more mature (or less exploitative at least) systems.

    • malkav11 says:

      “Auxiliary” weapons. Which makes me think more like, say, the flamethrower you can build in an early miscellaneous quest and then will probably never use again. But maybe I’m wrong.

      • tattertech says:

        Nah, I think it’ll be more. They said it’s the first of them being introduced. My guess is a new gear slot that you place the weapon in. Gives maybe one ability or so for selection in the action bar.

  4. santheocles says:

    Soooo… does anyone think this game will actually work out for them as planned? Because everything I read about it – the interviews, the statements about how this time it will all be different – it all seems like they are going through the exact same motions as all the other subscription-MMO-wannabees.

    I mean, the investigation stuff sounds neat, but I don’t think it will be enough to hold a large, regularly paying audience.

    • TariqOne says:

      This operates under the classic assumption that they are aiming for millions of subscribers, and that anything south of that is another LOLfail. Their marketing suggests they are aware this is a niche title and are treating it as such. I’ve heard nothing from them suggesting they need to hit a million-plus subs to be healthy and quietly profitable.

      Games like TOR take a lot of heat when they overtly gun for WoW and talk a lot of smack generally about their place in the market. Here you have a distinct shift away from the blockbuster AAA attitude that’s driving gaming into a cheesy corner. I support them on that, and the decision to break away from the fantasy/sci-fantasy setting. I think they’re doing a great deal right here from a design and marketing perspective.

      • Asokn says:

        Out of interest, have they said anything about subscriber numbers and what they need to run at a profit?

        • TariqOne says:

          Not to my knowledge. I would be super interested to know what their expectations are as well. It seems clear to me they are shooting for a F2P conversion at some juncture, and the nature of title alone suggests they are aiming for a smaller market — angsty teen horror girls, aging hardcore roleplayers — than your usual blockbuster fantasy romper. That plus the very staid marketing campaign.

        • Fr0stbeard says:

          In their quarterly financial reports to investors they’ve said they’ll be profitable with less than 300,000 persistent subscribers for the first year.

          PDF of the presentation here.

    • aepervius says:

      @santheocles I dunno, frankly the solo combat is poor and rotation prone (although it is mostly 2 or 3 different rotation, group, single normal, single hard mob) and the dungeon riff with the classic trinity, but you are forced to move, it is not your standard stand-and-use-numerical-key MMO. If you do not dodge, you are dead meat. Not as complex as terra, the story better, and not wow like. I think it might be a nice MMO which does well and stay profitable, but never do great incredible subs numbers.

  5. President Weasel says:

    The Secret World’s the first MMO I’ve legitimately enjoyed in ages

    My username is President Weasel, and I endorse this quote.
    Having not played the beta I was genuinely surprised and pleased by how good TSW is; extra content for the cost of your subscriptions sounds like exactly what it needs. I wish this game had a little more hype, and the Star Wars cash in MMO a little less.

  6. spacedyemeerkat says:

    I have been enjoying The Secret World immensely. Nice to be treated as a grown-up for a change.

    • f1x says:

      Great, that makes me want to play it,
      do you know if there is any trial thing going on atm?

    • 7Seas says:

      Same here. Coolest experience so far was doing an investigation quest that required me to listen to and translate some morse code to find a secret dead drop. The code was pulsed quite quickly so I fraps’ed it, converted the video to just an audio file, and ran it through a morse code decoder program. Watching the encoded message appear on my screen as the beeps of the morse code played out was AWESOME. what other MMO pulls you in with these ARG components and offers such fascinating experiences? Plus the fact that it is set in the modern day real world is so refreshing.

      • johnwalkersmother says:

        Aren’t you James “McGuyver” Bond? I just looked it up on Google with the ingame browser. Isn’t that what it’s for? ;)

  7. mcwill says:

    I have to say, the ongoing comment threads about TSW really are amusing.

    “I’m playing it and it’s awesome!”
    “I’ve not played it and I’m not going to because it has a subscription and that’s EEEEEVIL!”
    “GUILD WARS GUILD WARS GUILD WARS GUILD WARS!”

    We’ve not hit stage 3 on this thread yet…

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Not entirely sure why people saying, “I’m playing it and it’s awesome!” qualifies as amusing. In fact, it’s really quite refreshing in this day and age on the internet that most people appear to be having a positive experience!

    • Myros says:

      I am playing it and it is a welcome change and is rather good.

      I do not like subscription fees, I do make exceptions occaisionaly as in this case … at least for a while.

      I am very much looking forward to Guild Wars 2, as are many many people Im sure. This is no way prevents me from enjoying Secret World. That all cover it for ya?

  8. Mac says:

    Heard it all before with Age of Conan … so how are sieges working out some 6 years after launch? Thought so … still not working !!!

    Funcom, always make a lot of promises then fail to keep them and before putting them right move onto the next thing … no point wasting any more money with this company for me!

    • Mungrul says:

      Yup, AoC is a great example of Funcom’s prior record.
      I’m also curious; is early content in TSW still relevant once you have played it once, or does it offer no rewards as in all other traditional MMOs?
      This has been the big reveal for me with GW2. Level scaling just keeps everything playable and rewarding. It’s genius.
      I know TSW doesn’t have “Levels” so to speak, but everything else I’ve read points to it being very traditional once you get past the investigation stuff.
      Going back to Age of Conan, I have 4 level 80 characters, yet there’s no interesting and varied content for them to do apart from the few dailies, 6-man dungeons or raids. I can revisit earlier zones, but there’s really no incentive to do so. 90% or more of the world becomes irrelevant at high level.
      Such a waste.

      • Keymonk says:

        More games need to introduce sidekicking systems. Champions Online and City of Heroes both have a feature where you can emulate the level of a lower-level or higher level group member. CO also has crossover missions, which are temporary missions, which are copies of the missions your teammembers have, which allow you to get a (slightly reduced) reward from completing them. That means you can play with friends at any level. :)

        • Mac says:

          Sidekick’ing certainly is nothing new – If I remember correctly Everquest 2 did it

          • malkav11 says:

            EQ2 will let you drop down to the level of a lower level character by “mentoring” them, yes. It’s not technically equivalent to City of Heroes’ sidekick function because sidekicking raises a lower level character to match a higher level character. CoH also has “exemplars” which is more what EQ2 does.

      • lumenadducere says:

        Yes, there definitely is a reason to go back and do early content. It still gives XP, which in turn nets you points with which to buy skills and new weapon proficiencies. You never outlevel anything in the game, whether it’s the first sidequest you see or the first dungeon. That can get annoying as you can never just run by a group of mobs without aggroing them, but that’s a minor issue.

        Plus quests will actually reset after a given time so you can repeat them if you want to and gain said XP. And with all the skills and weapons there are there seems to be plenty of reason to do early content. But YMMV, as with all things. I never played AoC but from what I’ve heard it definitely seems like Funcom’s learned and they’ve got a much better handle on this game. I’ve certainly been enjoying it, and I’ll be playing it for a good long while to come.

        • Heisenberg says:

          But because the XP bar grows exponentially wont it mean that it will hardly be worth going back to early levels apart from wanting to see the new content? Someone at ql10 in kingsmouth will hardly be rewarded at all.
          Ive played the game up to the end of kingsmouth but the awful combat, cheap looking animations and unplayable PvP is forcing me to unsub.

          • Tyrain says:

            The exp bar doesn’t grow exponentially. In fact it doesn’t grow at all. That’s really the beauty of it. You can revisit those quests everyday and gain the same AP you did originally.

            The only progress curve in the game is that deeper abilities in the wheel are going to cost more AP. But the pacing is spot on and superior to every MMO I’ve tried.

            I’m sorry to hear the game isn’t enjoyable for you through Kingsmouth. You’ve played enough to have a good idea what it offers so unsubbing is probably the right choice. On the other hand, I’ve been blown away by this game and enjoy every aspect, primarily because the attention to detail is so amazing and all the game systems are so well thought out with even greater potential (and still fun at the moment). I’m no longer concerned with GW2, even after experiencing its entertaining beta.

      • malkav11 says:

        All quests other than investigation quests are repeatable roughly once a day with exactly the same rewards they previously had. Now, rewards do go up as you progress through the game so by oneself there’s not a lot of incentive to go back several areas. But if you do, you’ll still get something from those quests. Also, the rate at which exp turns into AP and SP never changes, so you won’t get a lot of those from early Kingsmouth content, say, but you will get some, and every little bit counts.

  9. Manac0r says:

    Managed to pick this up for 20UK pounds, that gives me one month’s access, to enjoy the world and see what this has to offer. I have games in my library that I have paid double that for, and have lasted me 10 – 12 hours. If you like it, subscribe, don’t like, don’t. Don’t like it, but later on do like it? Renew your subscription for a month and you can jump into a new world with updates and new content for the cost two pints in Central London.

  10. aliksy says:

    Any MMO that doesn’t have some mechanism to let you play off-level content is a bit stupid. Sidekicking is okay, but I prefer gw2′s because you don’t need to track down a low level friend.

    Or a MMO could go completely mad and do away with the traditional level up scheme.

    • Choca says:

      There are no levels in The Secret World.

      • johnwalkersmother says:

        Yes there are, they just aren’t called levels. They are called AP and SP points, that you earn by killing monsters.

    • Tyrain says:

      The Secret World supports playing off-level content very well. All non-investigation quests are repeatable every 18 hours, for the same reward as the first time. Combined with a flat exp curve on AP/SP and it is actually rewarding to revisit old content.

  11. Eraysor says:

    I liked it, but I can’t be bothered to pay £11.50 or so a month when WoW is much cheaper. As much as I love Secret World, that’s just too pricey.

  12. Gesadt says:

    f2p within a year? yes?no?

    • TariqOne says:

      Under a year is my suspicion. This seems tooled for a seamless transition to F2P. Still bought it, as I support the decision to explore a different setting and make more a niche title. I also think Tornquist is a talent. And it’s a cool game.

      If money’s an issue, though, I’d be surprised if in 6-8 months this isn’t free with cash shop.

    • johnwalkersmother says:

      It’s designed to cash in on the monthly subscribers who fall for the initial hype, but to smoothly transition to the F2P model once they run out of gullible muppets to bilk.

  13. jrodman says:

    The game claims to require a 512kbps link. Which I have most days. Not on bad days though.

    How serious are they? What are they doing that a 512kbps link would be needed? This seems crazy. Do their servers have reliable 200Mbps links?

    • Llewyn says:

      I suspect* that they’re working on the assumption that there aren’t many broadband connection types which run at less than 512kbps and that what they’re trying to say is that dial-up just won’t cut it. I suspect your biggest issue is going to be client updates in any case; if you’re prepared to download the client at a slower speed than that then you probably won’t have issues playing.

      As for their server connections, I assume they’ll have considerably more than 200Mbps given the low cost of internet ports now. You don’t need to be at MMO levels of revenue to justify multiple 1Gb ports now.

      *I don’t know what the bandwidth usage is actually like; I downloaded the beta client – all 20GB or so – and then had issues with the installer.

      • jrodman says:

        Client updates just require patience.

        But there are many ways around that, the gaming computer I use goes to work every day, which means it has a 60Mbps link when I’m not playing.

  14. povu says:

    I just finished Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Holy crap, that ending. I hope Mr Tornquist reveals that they’re working on a third game TLJ game as well soon.

  15. DigitalParadox says:

    “We’re going to be releasing fresh and tasty new content FREE to our subscribers on a regular, monthly basis.”

    Well it damn well better be free when you’re charging 15 bucks a month.

    • Heisenberg says:

      yeah exactly!
      this couldve been such a good singleplayer rpg, with a new combat system, motion capture for characters instead of looking like cheap puppets and improved casting animations (which look aweful right now), but instead they decided to be greedy bastards and make an average MMO.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        If that’s what it is, I don’t understand why people pay for it.

        Tons of actually decent F2p MMORPGs seem to exist, going by various top ten free MMORPG youtube reviews I’ve seen.

        • TariqOne says:

          That’s not what it is. I could certainly see the argument that the bog-standard Korea-lite fantasy IP of GW2 is by FAR the more average MMO offering under some criteria. But that’s my own tastes coming into play.

          There’s a lot different here, it’s just it may not be to everyone’s taste. I suspect a reasonable niche of people will pay for it. And per the discussion above, I think that’s all FunCom is really shooting for.

          • Heisenberg says:

            Sorry what i actually meant by “average” was the quality of the game in general. The setting, lore and quality of quests is indeed pretty darn good.

      • malkav11 says:

        I submit that most singleplayer RPGs cannot support significant content additions on a monthly basis. In fact, I don’t know of any that have. Honestly, it’s this news that, to me, makes sense of the decision to make a strongly narrative, solo-intensive game into an MMO.

  16. Highstorm says:

    I bought this but I am having a hell of a time getting into it. Everyone says it’s different and a refreshing take on MMOs, etc., etc., but it all looks and feels largely similar to me, and the combat thus far feels pretty dull. Occasionally I will need to dodge an enemy’s telegraphed attack, but the dodge cooldown is so high, and the enemy routines are so repetitious and predictable, that it generally comes down to taking a few steps back for a moment before you continue to stand in place and hit 1-8.

    I find it difficult to get into the story when my character is a bump on a log in every “conversation” (perhaps TOR ruined me here) – I mean, voice aside, they don’t even react physically in any way to what an NPC is monologuing about. As well, the various stages of a mission simply update without fanfare as you complete them, requiring you to open the journal and read a little blurb about why you’re doing what you’re doing now.

    I admit that one of the big draws convincing me to buy the game was the investigation missions and I have yet to do any of them as I am waiting for a friend to join. However if that is where the bulk of the enjoyment lies, then I do question the longevity of The Secret World once I have gone through what is there (and if they can’t keep producing them as fast as people consume them). If you already know the answer, replaying it doesn’t sound like it will be very entertaining.

    But then one of my friends keeps insisting that I’m just “playing it wrong”. I sure wish someone would explain the right way to play it as I appreciate what they are aiming for and would like to enjoy it – but thus far can’t.

    • TariqOne says:

      Protip: the “8″ key actually doesn’t do anything.

    • Lorewin says:

      Maybe it’s simply not for you.

      Personally the initial draw for me was the setting; the slightly askew version of contemporary London, the modern day Lovecraft-meets-Illuminati-meets Walking Dead of the first town.

      That coupled with the mono/dialogue – sure, the mute protagonist was odd coming from SWTOR, but the other voicework is at the very least comparable – and the writing is superior. It regularly raises a smile from me, and not infrequently an actual chuckle.

      It did take me quite a whole to really start enjoying the combat – until I switched out specs and actually gave some thought to the combinations I was running with. That moved the combat almost instantly from “something of a chore” to “a lot of fun”. The very fact that I could make that switch without starting over or “changing class” is another point in the game’s favour.

      Another feature of the missions that pulls it away from “just another MMO” is the total lack of “quest text boxes”. I love the individual graphics for items you find, or maps to areas. It’s another feature, together with the lack of the “quest hub” trope and the limiting of simultaneous missions, that draws me further into the setting, even for for the combat type missions.

      I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in figuring out a couple of the investigation missions, but no, that’s not where the BULK of my enjoyment lies – just one facet of it.

      • TariqOne says:

        More or less consistent with my experience. An eye-twinkle at the pretty faithful representation of the DUMBO area of Brooklyn in the Illuminati start area, then ho-hum-dom at the combat and frustration. Then a lot of lipchewing and headscratching at the skill wheel and loadouts. Then the lightbulb. Once I sort of got the combat, combat went from slightly irritating to pretty cool. It’s still my least favorite part but now I don’t actively avoid fights like I initially did.

        • Highstorm says:

          Well I have hope that it will click eventually then. I have noticed a lot of people saying the combat is dull until a certain point is hit, so I’ll be looking for that.

          You mention the limiting of simultaneous missions as being a good thing, where I found the design to be baffling and rather backwards. I struggle to understand why they did it that way for any other reason than to add padding to the game’s length through frequent backtracking. Sure the previous mission is “paused” when you accept a new one, but you can’t just resume it whenever you want. You have to go all the way back to the initial NPC to pick it up again. How is this seen as anything but a time-waster?

          • TariqOne says:

            Honestly I sort of like it too. Unlike most cases of hit the hub, load up everything you can, plot the most advantageous route through a mountain of content you’ve paid no attention to — you really do get to focus on the task (or handful of tasks) at hand. And yes it stretches time in the area, but I’ve found it to be pretty pleasant getting to know the places and the stories of the people there. Rather than just OK just two more levels and I’m out of Stranglethorn Vale woo hoo.

            It helps that the writing is so consistently excellent, and the characters are largely memorable and likeable kooks.

          • Lorewin says:

            There’s actually a game design philosophy behind this which took me a while to understand. I’m used to the idea of the “mission hub” where you:

            – pick up missions from hub
            – go to an area and do them
            – return to hub, get next phase
            – repeat until sent to next hub, then repeat the inner loop

            TSW is built differently. Instead of hubs, it uses the idea of branching chains – when you complete a mission you can instantly turn it in, and there WILL be another mission to acquire very close to the turn in point, which will eventually lead you back to the place you acquired the first one, when you can take one of the others offered there.

            This actually means that not all players take the identical route through a zone, which I think is a plus.

            There’s a nice analysis here – http://yokaiblog.wikidot.com/guides:mission-system (great general FAQ on that site too).

          • Highstorm says:

            Thanks for that, Lorewin. I never thought to look at the structure that way and this may indeed be how I was “playing it wrong” like my friend insisted. Perhaps I will enjoy it more now.

    • Lacero says:

      I like that you’re silent. The responses in SWTOR made my character sound really stupid. It was incredibly annoying.

      (I also sort of imagine my character has a hugely swollen mouth and tongue from bee strings and so can’t talk)

      • johnwalkersmother says:

        After watching the cutscenes enough it’s clear why the character doesn’t talk- no one ever pauses long enough to get a word in edgewise. There are some long winded mofos in the Secret World.

    • malkav11 says:

      You actually can’t repeat investigation missions (at least, per character, but I’m not currently seeing any real reason to run more than one character.). Presumably for exactly that reason.

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