Interview: The Secret World Drops Subscription

By Adam Smith on December 12th, 2012 at 11:19 am.

The Secret World has dropped its subscription and purchasing the client will now provide access to all existing content, with no ongoing fees. Ahead of the announcement, I spoke to game director Joel Bylos and Funcom’s director of communications Erling Ellingsen to find out what this means for the future and why the decision has been made now. In a frank interview, we discussed whether players can still expect regular updates and how the team hope to make the new model profitable. We also talk about the shadow cast by Guild Wars 2 and Blizzard, and the future of subscription-based MMOs.

RPS: Hello. So, The Secret World no longer has a subscription cost. Let’s talk about that! Presumably, this means you’ll be looking for ways other than a monthly fee to earn money through the game?

Bylos: What we’re doing is we’re still having the client price.

Ellingsen: It’s important to point out that we’re not going free to play. It’s buy to play.

Bylos: Yes, it’s buy to play. More like Guild Wars 2. There’s still an optional membership though, but the way that we’ve targeted it, that we think is best for the game, is that the $30 client gives the full experience. Buying a membership gives additions, such as in-game cash for outfits and things like that and a discount in the store. You do get an item that’s subscriber-only as well. A cosmetic item that’s only for subscribers – or members. Members is the right phrase now!

RPS: Terminology!

Bylos: The hardest thing is changing all the terminology.

Ellingsen: It’s not an MMO anymore! Just kidding. (laughs)

Bylos: The idea is that lifetime members and people who go for a membership now will get extra in-game cash, discounts in-store, a cosmetic item every month that boosts their XP, usable once a day. The way we’re aligning that is that we don’t have rested XP like WOW, so this is like our rested XP for people who take a membership. We’re trying to give an advantage for being a member rather than taking away from non-members.

RPS: Is the in-game store going to be more important now, from a business perspective? To add more content and increase its attractiveness?

Bylos: Without a doubt. We have to increase the average revenue per user in the store. The first function of doing that is having more people in the game. You can’t achieve more store sales without having a higher population. The store does become more important. The client fee is important as well but we’ll probably do more regular updates to the store and put more focus on that.

RPS: There was an interview a couple of months ago in which you and Ragnar spoke, and you said that GW2 had been, if not necessarily a shock, a game-changer.

Bylos: Yeah. We tried with the subscription model and we knew the momentum was against us, especially in the gamer mindset. People have become more and more fed up with subscriptions.

RPS: Do you think there’s a future for them at all? I get the impression that you guys really believed in the benefits of the system, particularly in regards to regular updates.

Bylos: Oh, we do. We tried to be a responsible subscription company and release something every month to give value for that money. Ignoring that I work here, I felt that as a gamer, that is what I’d want to see from a subscription game.

But it really hasn’t paid off in the end, so we have to make some changes to bring more people in. But in terms of the subscription dying, I think Blizzard are laughing at us all from atop their thrones. Whenever I hear people say that subs are dead, I point to the biggest money-makers in the industry.

RPS: But would you agree that it’s becoming more and more difficult for a smaller company or newcomer to attract subscribers?

Bylos: Absolutely, yes. What I think we’re seeing is that the margins are being pushed so you have to be a big company to create this huge, AAA quality game that people want to pay a subscription for forever. Blizzard have a lot of momentum and social factors as well. They are the Facebook of games with WOW.

I don’t want to take that away from them but if they release Titan and offer a subscription, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble getting people to pay out for that. But people who aren’t as large, like Funcom, we tend to live vicariously from game to game. Profits from one game have to fund the next one. I don’t think Blizzard have had that problem for the last ten years or so. I think that companies like us really need to evaluate where we’re going to land and I don’t think subscriptions are the way ahead.

All of this will tend to push things in different ways. You’ll have your Kickstarter, crowd-funded very niche MMOs and then the big, NCSoft-backed GW type MMOs. NCSoft are the largest MMO publisher in the world. And then there’s Blizzard and companies like that, and then in the middle tier there’s companies like us, and we’re being pushed to one side or the other.

RPS: In some ways, TSW is a niche game in its field. The emphasis on story and written characters, even the modern setting. It doesn’t necessarily marginalise its appeal but there’s a buy-in that people have to accept, and with all that, it feels like quite a high budget game. It seems to me that there’s probably a lot of expense in terms of bringing in actors, getting mo-cap done, for new content.

Bylos: I think we do it on the cheap! (laughs) I know that Bioware had something like forty animators working on Mass Effect 3 for all their custscenes. We had two guys and they’re fantastic at their job. I can’t speak highly enough of them. To deliver three of those motion-captured scenes a week, which is the rate they were delivering at just before launch, is incredible.

I think, absolutely, we have a very strong veteran team in terms of doing stuff like that so it doesn’t cost us as much as it might seem from the outside. But it does take us longer to produce content, probably because it’s high quality and the bar has been set to a point where if it becomes lower quality people will notice immediately.

RPS: One of the things I thought from the beginning is that to continue the stories, you’d committed to a fully-voiced world and if you step away it’s immediately noticeable. There’s an aesthetic, a standard, and is there now a danger that you have to lower that bar, or even to move away from monthly updates and to follow a more traditional expansion pack route?

Bylos: While I’m game director I don’t want the bar to drop at all. As lead content designer I was responsible for setting that quality level in all cases, so I don’t expect the quality to change.
As for updates, I don’t really want to say monthly, because then people want to hold us to a 30 day plan, but the aim is to carry on with regular updates.

RPS: Not to switch to larger expansions then? One of you guys recently compared TSW’s subscriptions as being like a HBO subscription – customers expect updates for the money that they’re spending, but if people are buying in and then not spending every month, they could well be happier to wait six or even twelve months for a big content drop.

Bylos: That’s not for us. I encourage people to think more about the game like Borderlands 2 now. You buy the game and then there are packs, but free updates as well. Like, we sell the issues – we’ll be about to release issue five when this goes out and that will continue – six, seven, eight, nine, ten and so on. Within those issues there will be some free content and some DLC, paid content.

As you mentioned, one of our greatest selling points is story, so we might bundle up a mission pack and sell that to people through the store. But there will still be some missions added, PvP updates and raids and things like, which are completely free. That’s the area where we’re aiming to expand, continuing to give people pieces of the story.

The difference now, and this might sound a little tongue in cheek, is that with a subscription model, in six months you come back and pay fifteen dollars and get everything. With this model, you’ll have to buy episode by episode to get everything you might want. That’s a difference I would draw, but the analogy of having a series is still the same.

RPS: Beyond the good feedback, including from a very important man, there have obviously been a lot of difficulties. The team is a lot smaller now and financially the game isn’t where you want it to be, but it’s clear that you still believe in it. This feels like a big change. How difficult is it to find ways to make this work? In the past, the subscription model was always described as a driving force behind regular, quality content.

Bylos: We’ll see how this pays off! I really can’t tell you. We have to see if people are still willing to get into the game. Personally, we believe in the game. Nothing has changed there. We’re excited about the stuff we’re delivering every month. We’re excited about the missions in issue five.

One of the things that me and Ragnar discussed and that’s happening now relates to the fact that we recorded a lot of dialogue and cinematics before release that haven’t been used yet. So we’ve been ‘shotgun firing’ those into the game. As they run out, we’re moving into a stronger, tighter story focus in the missions.

In issue five you’ll see the first example of that. “The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn” is a story about a conspiracy nut who lives on Solomon Island it’s about investigating his disappearance. It’s a chain of missions that we expect to take two or three hours to play through and it fills in plenty of backstory. That’s the direction these DLCs will go as well, telling self-contained stories. The one for issue six is about getting five hours of gameplay into a story people will be interested in.

That will work out well for us. In terms of the voice actors and animators, we can concentrate our efforts, and also create a much more coherent experience for people.

RPS: I stupidly said, when issue 2 came out, that it was amazing how you were able to get all the required voice actors back together, but obviously they were recordings kept back from earlier sessions. Now that you’re moving on to new recordings, does that give you more chance to take into account the characters and stories that people are most interested in?

Bylos: I tend to read all of the community feedback, obviously not all of it is useful – that’s the internet – but we run loads of polls about favourite characters and stuff like that. We make note of those characters and we tend to like them ourselves as well. We do have lists of characters that people love and that nobody seems to like.

Then we ask, is there more of that story to be told? If people continue to give us feedback we’ll continue to listen, but when you’re directly selling story packs, people will vote with their wallets. If a story is amazing, we’ll see the results in terms of sales. From a design perspective, I enjoy that we get to make small experiences that are very focused for every piece of DLC. That’s fun to contemplate. In Egypt there are going to be some very cool setpieces happening.

RPS: Does it feel like you have more flexibility then, now that you’re moving away from that immediate post-launch phase when so much content was pre-built? I know there are set points to reach, the end of specific acts and the opening of new areas like Tokyo, but do you have a bit of flexibility now as a writer and designer?

Bylos: Yeah. There has been a lot of stuff that was lingering and that we wanted to get in. For example, the raid was something that we’d started on before launch but took a long time to get in post-launch because it’s a very complex thing. We have other raids planned, and things like that, that we can now work on.

We do have more flexibility in terms of the story direction mechanics. You lock down mechanics for launch but then can experiment and add new stuff. We’re adding interactions in the world with the auxiliary weapons – imagine points in the world where rocket jumping is available to get across gaps. These are things that weren’t planned a long time ago but that we enjoy the idea of.

RPS: And in terms of adding an entirely new zone, Tokyo, do you have a date for that? Realise that I’m asking this knowing that release dates are nonsense and that you just said you don’t want to be tied down to 30-day promises and the like. (laughs)

Bylos: We’ve always said early 2013. We’ll be there in the first half of 2013. It’s in production and I don’t know exactly when it will be done at the moment.

RPS: That content adds a completely new location and playfield. With the smaller team, is there a risk that building more new locations is out of your scope and that it’ll be story packs from here on in?

Bylos: No. It’s a matter of adjusting team expectations. We don’t need to deliver 1500 by 1500 playfields every time. They can be 500 by 500. As long as I’ve been a designer, it’s been a matter of adjusting to the box that you have.

With that said, with the team we have we are still very strong. The development pace is strong. The guys are delivering a lot of stuff and even though losing a lot of people slowed us down a bit, we didn’t lose 50% of the team and 50% of production. It was more like 50% and 20%. That’s people getting better at the tools and the job, and adjusting to the situation.

Ellingsen: It’s also important to point out that making this change doesn’t mean we have less resources – hopefully it means we have more. But of course it all depends on how this goes. But we have our business cases and we hope that this makes us grow and provides more resources.

Bylos: I think subscription puts that psychological barrier in peoples’ minds. I think GW2 got the best of both worlds in that regard. They removed the psychological barrier of subscription but also have the client price that keeps out undesirables. We think that’s a very good idea and there’s no bones about that.

Check back later this week for the remainder of the conversation, in which we discuss the challenges ahead and future content in more depth. And then Joel asks RPS some questions of his own.

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94 Comments »

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  1. Choca says:

    The game must really be tanking for them to drop the sub when they kept saying they wouldn’t do it anytime soon.

    Too bad it’s still a boring dungeon grind once you run through the “levelling” content…

  2. ran93r says:

    Happy happy joy joy. Looking forward to jumping back into this.
    I subbed for about 3 months and loved it.

    • f1x says:

      Aye, this is the chance I was waiting for aswell :)

    • 0positivo says:

      If they make combat less atrocious, I might consider it too

    • Wombats says:

      EXCELLENT! Love this game but would rather savour it like a good book.
      If you haven’t tried it, do. Its a brilliant mystery adventure story.

    • innociv says:

      I think if they made it $50-$60 at the start and no sub, they’d probably have sold more than 5 million copies by now. :(

      Now I can’t help but think it’s too late to buy it. But.. Hm.. $30 I think I’ll get it.
      I loved the beta. My friends love it. I only didn’t love the subscription fee. I think it’s a lot better than Guild Wars 2(Though not 1, except story wise). Only thing holding me back is that I’m playing too much.
      Planetside2 and dota2 right now. I think I’ll wait until after Christmas at least.

      Edit: Nevermind. I caved and bought it now since it’s $22.50 on GreenManGaming with coupon code GMG25-CFGY3-4THJI

  3. unangbangkay says:

    Awesome, I bought and kept up a sub for about two months (after the free month) before ending up submerged in Star Trek Online and a brief dalliance with The Old Republic’s free trial. Almost fitting that a game that’s quite a lot like Guild Wars in many ways ends up with a model similar to Guild Wars (with a way better story).

  4. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    See, now I might actually take the plunge. It still amazes me that more MMO makers didn’t look at what ArenaNet did (and do) and have their model be the next big thing and not F2P, which, for me, still makes me think that I’m going to get gouged at some future date. The idea that a premium boxprice *and* a subscription could work given the downward trend in games pricing and the sheer volume of games coming out these days was laughable from the outset. It worked in the past because there was less to compete with.

    • Groove says:

      Yeah, I’ll probably pick this up at some point now that they’ve dropped the sub. If every other game wasn’t also amazing I’d have this as definite buy.

  5. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    Tempted to give it a go without a subscription fee — looked interesting but didn’t really want to cough up a tenner a month (or whatever it was) for the privilege. £25 for the full thing though (or cheaper if it’s on sale sometime) sounds pretty promising however.

  6. Slinkyboy says:

    So people who used to be Subs realized they paid for a game that wasn’t even worth paying monthly, which is why the new business model. Sucks to be subscribers.

    • frightlever says:

      If they’re subs they probably enjoy being abused.

    • Premium User Badge

      Dilapinated says:

      Isn’t that like saying Team Fortress 2 “Isn’t worth paying anything for” then? It seems like a fallacious argument. Nobody’s saying what the game’s worth, merely what’s most pragmatic for the developers at this time.

    • innociv says:

      I have friends that subbed for a little bit, and enjoyed the game, and are just happy they don’t have to pay a sub now. I don’t know of anyone who actually subbed for more than a month or two past the free month, though. Great game, but I think it’s mostly sheep that think any game’s yearly price is worth 50 games from Steam sales and Humble Bundles.

  7. Rovenkar says:

    It’s amazing that developers really believe that it’s sub system’s fault here.

    SWTOR is a mediocre game with sub-par story (compare it to ME or Witcher – hell, compare it to KOTOR!) and low lasting MMO-type appeal. It tanked.
    GW2 has awful story, pretty graphics and mediocre to good game design. It’s tanking right now, if NCSoft financial reports are to be believed.
    Secret World has awful combat, average story (despite all that “we’re like old-school point-and-click quests in terms of story” hype) and clunky graphics. Guess what, it tanked.

    So within a year we have three cases of mediocre games tanking. Yet not a single dev between these three companies talks about gameplay/design mistakes they made. Oh no, it’s not us, it’s the payment model!

    That would be funny if it’s not that sad.

    “It’s becoming more and more difficult for a smaller company or newcomer to attract subscribers” – no Mr. Journalist, it’s not! Just release a good game like devs used to in the past. Like, dunno, CCP have done with EVE. Or many small devs do outside MMO market. “Your game not sucking” is the most efficient way to good sales.

    Prediction: SW will be completely F2P within a year after this “no sub” stunt does nothing to improve their profits.

    • trjp says:

      NCSoft put a lot into GW2 – I suspect they put in more than the players wanted, even, because they failed to understand why GW worked for them.

      GW wasn’t a particularly brilliant game – it fell behind even WoW in gameplay terms and yet it maintained a userbase/popularity/sales for FAR longer than you’d expect such a game to do so.

      What they needed to do to follow that up was make an updated version of the same game – the expansions did well, just make an overhauled core game with new classes and proper MMO mechanics (GW was never an MMO anyway) – but instead they’ve chosen to make something far grander and more complex.

      and it’s lovely – it really is – it’s the first MMO I’ve played in a LONG time which captured my attention for it’s sheer breadth of content and novel ideas – BUT

      It isn’t Guild Wars and it gets overwhelming and ‘samey’ quickly. All the new players lose interest and a lot of the old players have returned to GW!!

      How it will pan out tho – well it’s a bit different here because they’re still selling games at £30 each – and then they’ll sell a shitload more at £20 and a shitload more at £15 and then there will be an expansion and so on – it has the potential to keep making money for them.

      • Strabo says:

        Wait, GW 2 is tanking? Granted I didn’t really have the time to play over level 30 (and it somewhat sucks if you aren’t in the leveling wave, since 70 % of the quests aren’t doable alone), but I found it a nice enough game.

        • I Got Pineapples says:

          It’s doing profoundly sorta okay I guess maybe.

          It did well on box sales and hours played kinda plummeted when pandas came out. to the profoundly sorta okay levels of other profoundly sorta okay games that other people like.

          So…it’s sitting kinda wear guild wars 1 sat when it was still thing.

          And I mean you can argue that doesn’t matter because it doesn’t have a sub. And that’s okay too. But not really.

          • Brun says:

            This. I played GW2 for about a month but as soon as Pandas hit I was gone and haven’t looked back.

      • Rovenkar says:

        Well, the “tanking” point I made about GW2 isn’t really about it not making money, I believe it does that. It hasn’t achieved what NCSoft expected it to achieve, that’s for sure. Will they break even? Dunno, but I suppose they will. Will GW2 ever be a resounding success? Definitely no.

        So we have two examples of sub and one box-only, all three not really successful. Why on Earth do they talk about payment model here, as it’s clearly not the reason for failure?

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          How do you know what NCSoft expected, and how do you what they would deem a success? The company’s most recent financial report says GW2 was its biggest selling game for the quarter. That’s bound to go down next quarter, but I can’t see any evidence for your claims.

          • frightlever says:

            You’re arguing with a crazy person. Best let him tire himself out.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      Keep in mind the particular snap shot included in the financial report was for a small-ish window of time after the games release, so perhaps GW2 is not performing as well as LIneage 1 for the quarter because it’d had like 2 weeks of sales.

      That said, yeah.

      Outside of events, the game is kinda deserted even on my relatively high pop server and I just going on my own anecodtal, purely unscientific evidence and also the xfire numbers, I guess, I’m gonna say that if Guild Wars 2 /was/ a subscription game we’d be hearing a lot of cries of Doom right now.

      • Shooop says:

        There’s plenty of those on the game’s forums. Personally I hope they’re true because AreaNet really did shoot themselves in both feet.

        There’s not enough incentive for people who’ve hit level cap to do anything but grind dungeons to get the rarest items so the world you can explore is empty. It’s a MMO without multiplayer.

        And then there’s the unavoidable fact that MMO RPG combat has and always will suck immeasurably. A doge mechanic that you can’t use more than twice every 20 seconds or so is like putting a band-aid over a hemorrhage.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      I think you’re being a little harsh, but there’s definitely a bit of that. Compare how much enjoyment I get out of TSW or TOR to something like Far Cry 3, and it is a little damning.

    • Bladderfish says:

      Average story my arse. TSW had some of the best story I’ve ever seen. It is the best MMO for story without doubt. TOR was crap in comparison.

      Just saying :)

      • Rovenkar says:

        For me the best way to rate the story is “how much I will remember in half a year” approach. You tend to remember stuff that stirred you emotionally, the rest is getting replaced by newer games. Bonus points for me remembering the names of the characters – thats the sign of a truly engaging story.

        I can recount my Bounty Hunter’s story in SWTOR, I can tell you what happened in Spec Ops: The Line, Witcher 2 or Mass Effect. Are you sure you will be able to tell me much of what SW has shown you in half a year’s time?

        • The Random One says:

          I don’t think I’ll ever forget “Sex, Drugs and Rockefeller”.

        • 2helix4u says:

          I can’t remember word one of the SWTOR agent story (Agent, we need you to run a long way, kill/grab something) but I can still remember lines from the bee-poems from Secret World even if I didn’t play past the first world because they were intense and evocative and I wanted (and want) to know what all that stuff was about..
          It needed some kind of player input in dialogue because NPC monologues got faintly ridiculous after a couple hours but the quality of writing and story seemed much higher than old republic, even if my personal character investment wasn’t as high (or more likely both sitting at around 1-ish).

    • Cinnamon says:

      Guild Wars 2 and TOR fell for the obvious strategy of doing so much to capture the WoW audience that they lost their own characters in exchange for unrealistic hype that couldn’t possibly live long past release.

      I think that Secret World has a different sort of problem in that Funcom suffer from a combination of not having the resources and perhaps buying too much into their own hype. Their share holders in their Norway find them to be a more exciting company than they would if they were American. Places like RPS give them hard hitting questions like, “some people think that Dreamfall had bad gameplay but I think that they don’t understand that you are huge geniuses and they can’t understand how you turn down to up and up to down, don’t you agree?”

    • IRiver says:

      “You’re just like every single character I’ve ever written: Fucked from page one. ” – Sam Krieg

      And I could tell you thousands more…

      And I’m really sorry for you if you think SW has an avarage story.

      Btw, EVE even has a story? Because as your logic goes that’s an avarage MMO as well.

      You know what? I’d rather play with SW which has an awful (at least in your eyes) combat and a fantastic setting/story than with that gridfest, boring, Story WHICH NO ONE CARES WOW.

    • Skyfall says:

      Ok, as a player of TSW (which is my first AAA MMO), the attitude that TSW has “awful combat” and “clunky graphics” perplexes me, because I have no idea what you mean by either of those things. Are you comparing the game to other MMOs, or games outside the genre (with different conventions and/or constraints)?

      Can the people who have posted that they hate the combat and/or graphics in TSW please link to screenshots/videos of what they would consider non-awful combat and non-clunky graphics?

    • khomotso says:

      There’s much to disagree with in your post, but I’m on board with the core point: I wish more people were rethinking game design in this genre, and in a deep way, not just faffing about the edges. The whole industry needs to go back to the drawing board, and so the existential crisis is on some level encouraging, even if nothing’s yet rising from the ashes.

      That may be the encouraging thing about the collapse back into buy-to-play. If the business models are no longer organized around keeping subscribers for years on end, and caught in the usual ruts around class balance and endgame raiding, that shakeup might be enough to let in a little fresh air.

  8. derella says:

    I’m looking forward to popping in once in a while to check on things. I haven’t played since the 2nd week after launch — will be interesting to see if the things that really bothered me have improved.

  9. trjp says:

    I think the core issue with the game still remains – that the whole idea of a ‘Secret World’ is ruined by it apparently being packed-to-the-gills with lavishly dressed morons who leap around constantly…

    The entire concept never suited being and MMO – the problem wasn’t the subs, it was a fundamentally bad design idea in the first place.

    The odd thing is, they could have made it into a smaller-scale thing – a solo or perhaps co-op thing with ‘multiplayer events’ and not only would they have gotten away with it – they might even have been able to sell a LOT of DLC to the players (e.g. subscription by the back door).

    Hey ho

    • Bhazor says:

      Pretty much.

      Also it cost so much and took so long that I’m amazed they didn’t go under. I highly doubt they’ll ever break even.

      Should have been a series of single player/co op games. Theres no need for the MMO aspects when the best parts are the writing.

    • Vizari says:

      The problem is the crap combat system. Probably one of the worst in any MMO ever.

      Almost every complaint I hear about the game is about the combat system. I’d be happily playing the game if they had done that a lot better, as I enjoyed all other aspects of the game.

      • MacGuffin says:

        It really is the combat, it’s just so boring and repetitive, even for an MMO, it’s awful. Also, I hate that my character doesn’t talk in an otherwise fully voiced game. It makes the NPCs I’m talking to seem either rude for not letting me get a word in or insane for responding to dialogue that I’m not saying.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        Yep, I considered buying and subscribing even at 60 bucks and 15 a month (US), but the combat was so terrible that I won’t even play it for free until that’s fixed. If that’s ever fixed.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I have to agree the whole “shoehorn a cool adventure game into a bog-standard MMO quest treadmill” is TSW’s biggest issue – at least for me.

      Were it a game more confident in doing its own thing – perhaps by taking a survival horror approach to enemies and resources – it would stand out in the MMO space as something wholly unique. But instead we have these lovely stories and puzzles hidden away under a crust of stale MMO tropes.

      When I first read this article I was excited: “Hey, I should buy the box and support them, can goof around a bit and see some of the story.” But as I think about it, I realize I would just play the game for a couple hours and then give up, because subscription or not, the basic mechanics of get quest > kill 30 things > turn in quest would drive me away in short order. Hell, based on my time in the beta, even if I tried to ignore every kill 30 zombies quest and just do the investigations, I’d still spend most of my time wading through the shallow sea of time-wasting trash mobs which seem to have inundated every inch of TSW’s world.

      So I dunno. I might get TSW now and see what the fuss is about. Or I might just go back to DayZ, where I can leisurely explore the world without bumping into a new monster every few steps.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      Honestly, I wish developers would just *stop* constantly wanting to make MMOs. Imagine all the development money that would get freed up to make an actual good game because it’s not going to server upkeep and other stupid MMO-necessary overhead. It takes millions more to make a shoddy piece of crap MMO than it does to make a great AAA single player game. That a loooot of money to invest in a lottery ticket. Because that’s what making an MMO is these days (and hell, when hasn’t it??)

      On top of that, all these devs are constantly building what amount to single player campaigns anyway. When was the last time you even saw an MMO whose concept was not essentially a “Massively Singleplayer Online Game” with everyone playing for themselves together? That’s all you ever see! So they WANT to make a single player game, they TREAT it like a single player game, and they execute their MMOs AS single player games! Then they act surprised when their game fails. No one wants them and you clearly don’t want to make them! Give it up, people!

      • khomotso says:

        I think that’s right. And then maybe when the herd has thinned, people who *really* want to make online persistent worlds and have novel ideas about them could start to put up some smaller efforts that grow organically as their concepts prove out (a la Day Z). Part of the problem has to be the pressure to have massive populations and huge launches at the outset.

        I think we’d see much more interesting games if the ‘massive’ part weren’t such a strong design driver, and more of the focus went onto the ‘persistent world’ part.

  10. Nexozable says:

    Looks like they’ve taken the Guild Wars 2 approach by making it a buy to play title, smart move. I might actually give the game a try now.

    • trjp says:

      A smart move would have been to do that when the client still cost £30+ – not the £5 TSW’s client has been discounted to…

      • malkav11 says:

        That was a temporary discount that no longer exists. Go figure.

  11. fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

    My ex-CoH buddies have been playing this a while now, and on Friday I finally caved in and bought it. Looks like I got it just at the right time!

  12. RProxyOnly says:

    I’d be willing to try this game now.. well, ONLY if it doesn’t absolutely require Origin, I’m not installing that on any of my systems EVER.

    As far as subscriptions being dead.. no, I don’t believe they are..HOWEVER, people in general, aren’t going to continue to pay $15 for every subscription game that hits the market, $15 isn’t some magic number. The fact is that subscription payers (enough to keep a game going) play WOW.. that’s NOT going to change and there simply isn’t enough of a market left to sustain another of equitable size, smaller are more than possible, but another company backbone like WOW.. no, never.

    Unless future prospective MMO’s accept that WOW makes money and nothing will ever come close and start charging a REASONABLE subscription fee, of NO MORE than $5, every single attempt at a new game launch WILL FAIL ABYSMALLY AND UNSURPRISINGLY.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      why the Origin hate?

      • otaku4225 says:

        Yea, I don’t really get that. THe customer service being horrible is what I’ve always heard, but steam’s isn’t much better. Timewise, it is helpful though if anyone gets back to you. Origin gave me a shitload of free games and the client is nicely designed.

        • malkav11 says:

          The client and webstore are not “nicely” designed. They are horrible clunky messes that are slow slow slow. That’s why I don’t like Origin. Not saying that there aren’t still things Steam et al could do to improve their usability, but Origin’s still back in 2000 as far as that stuff goes.

      • RProxyOnly says:

        I simply don’t like their data retention and use policies… Origin is anti customer DRM.. Steam, however (which I don’t really use either), is more simply a game client, with protection.

        Origin is completely different to Steam, although they both serve the same purpose, Origin does it all in such a manner as to be unacceptable to me.

        I will NEVER install Origin on a system belonging to me.. that’s also the main reason I’ll never play TOR.. paid or f2p.

        • Droniac says:

          Since when do you need Origin installed in order to play SWTOR? That’s never been the case.

          All you need is an EA Account (which they now call Origin) and the game. Just download the installer from the site, install it and play. You don’t need Origin at any point in that process. Heck, you can add the game to Steam and launch it from there just fine.

          You can opt to install the game in Origin, sure, but that’s hardly a pre-requisite.

        • Tuor says:

          Yeah, just as an FYI: TOR has its own launcher. It doesn’t use Origin, though you do have to use Origin to actually buy the game; you do not have to install it on your computer.

          Frankly, I refuse to install Origin on my system, too. OTOH, I no longer play TOR because I got bored of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jonfon says:

      It’s on Steam too and direct from their own website.

      Honestly I’ve no idea if I want to try it. The setting is very attractive to me (seems very Call of Cthulhu) but I’m stumped about the game play and combat system and if it would appeal to me.

      • The Random One says:

        They may have changed/be changing it, but up to about a month ago you could get a three-day trial. I recommend checking it out while it’s still going.

        • Premium User Badge

          Jonfon says:

          Thanks. There’s a Free Trial page alright which I found via Google. But following its instructions (Go to front page and sign up for a free trial) doesn’t seem possible. So I’ve no real idea what the story is with it.

    • Minttunator says:

      TSW does NOT require Origin! :)

      • RProxyOnly says:

        Not at all?

        Good to know, thank you. I can see myself giving this game a go now. :)

        • soco says:

          to RProxyOnly:

          Also, TOR doesn’t require the Origin client either, at least it didn’t when I played for the few months after launch.

          It is sold through the online Origin store, but doesn’t require the Origin client.

          Although if it is the fact that it is an EA game that keeps you away from TOR, and EA is Origin, then I understand.

          • RProxyOnly says:

            Yep, I accept this, however, the ‘plug in’ that allows Origin to monitor your online activities and data trawl (in the context of playing the game) is actually built into the TOR client and still sends your information to the EA servers.

            But, yeah, I generally just stay away from EA products.

  13. jhng says:

    “…we tend to live vicariously from game to game.”

    much like many MMO players — how ironic.

  14. adonf says:

    I knew I had bookmarked this for a good reason:
    http://savygamer.co.uk/2012/12/06/the-secret-world-pc-4-37/

    (Doesn’t work from here though, maybe UK only. Bummer!)

  15. megazver says:

    If you haven’t played this, you definitely should buy this now.

    There is about a month’s worth of really good story and characters in this.

    • Shooop says:

      So? GW2 has probably more than that in it but it’s neigh unplayable because the mechanics you have to struggle with to get to those characters are so awful.

      And word is the mechanics of TSW are even worse.

      • Brun says:

        I don’t get why people hate on GW2’s combat mechanics so much. It’s pretty good as far as MMORPG combat goes.

        • Shooop says:

          It’s still typical MMORPG combat and that has and always will (without something truly revolutionary) suck harder than a Dyson in a black hole.

      • malkav11 says:

        The writing in GW2 isn’t even close to being as good as that of The Secret World, and the setting is nowhere near as unique (in the MMO space). GW2 has its pleasures, but they’re different pleasures.

  16. The Random One says:

    “Whenever I hear people say that subs are dead, I point to the biggest money-makers in the industry.”

    Strange, I thought League of Legends was free to play.

    On topic: I would think having a sub and not charging for the client would have been more profitable and push away the ghost of monetization, but whatever works.

    I tried the free trial period. It’s the best MMO I’ve ever played, but sadly it’s an MMO. Every battle consisted of me repeatedly shooting a bunch of dudes while walking backwards and whether or not I won seemed to depend solely on how high my Arbitrary Numbers were. The few battles that tried something different just stressed how inadequate the combat system was for anything more elaborate.

    That said, I can see myself picking this up on a sale and giving another whirl to the muscular dude I was forced to play with. It’s more than I can say for Guild Wars.

    • frightlever says:

      Walking backwards? You should Google “circle-strafing”. Walking backwards in an MMO just lands you into some re-spawn’s lap.

      • The Random One says:

        I think I wasn’t able to circle-strafe because I couldn’t walk sideways and turn at the same time? Maybe it’s I who is bad, not the game.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      On the other hand, let’s not pretend there isn’t a certain amount of ‘Let’s pretend WoW doesn’t exist’ in these discussions.

      Though, interestingly we’re also starting to get a certain amount of ‘LoL? What’s LoL?’ as well.

    • Brun says:

      LoL may have a huge playerbase, but is it really one of the biggest moneymakers in the industry? Doubt it. Kind of an apples and oranges comparison there.

      I agree though that his comments about Blizzard are proof enough that some people in the industry still have themselves convinced that WoW wasn’t an extremely lucky one-off success, the product of excellent timing by Blizzard and a good deal of cultural and technological zeitgeist.

      I think Blizzard are laughing at us all from atop their thrones. Whenever I hear people say that subs are dead, I point to the biggest money-makers in the industry.

      He’s insane if he thinks Blizzard will ever release another subscription MMO. They’ve already confirmed that Titan (whatever it is) will be F2P. So even those “biggest money-makers” believe that subs are dead.

      • I Got Pineapples says:

        Bluntly, a huge part of it is that Blizzard are actually really good at the unglamorous end of game design and most people kind of gloss over it.

        • Brun says:

          I don’t see what’s unglamorous about it. GW2 is a great example of what happens when you don’t have any engaging endgame activities.

          It may be trendy to hate on “raiding” and “endgame” but it’s what keeps successful MMOs on their feet, subscription or otherwise.

          • malkav11 says:

            In the sense of “retaining a small core of paying subscribers”, possibly. I doubt more than 20, maybe 25% of WoW players have ever experienced that game’s endgame to any significant degree (though perhaps the Raid Finder has begun to improve those numbers?), because it requires a great deal of patience, grinding, and not only the ability to personally coordinate and excel at one’s class role, but also to find at least nine other people of the right roles to form a raid team that can also do these things on a consistent basis. (Or more, back in the day.) This is, especially with WoW’s playerbase, a hell of a tall order if one isn’t coming into the game with those people already at hand.

  17. shadow9d9 says:

    The problem is not the subscription… it is the fact that the game is simply 8 tiny separate zones with a max ‘level’ which is reached within a week or two. Gone are the days of a huge explorable uninterrupted world… replaced with poor ‘story’ and ridiculous voiceovers

  18. sinister agent says:

    Good on them for taking action, and for their apparent confidence, but they really should have done this to begin with. They lost out on a lot of players and cash with the pricing model they released with.

    Sadly I’m still not interested simply because outside of cutscenes it plays the same as every MMO I’ve hated, but good luck to them I guess. I do hope somewhere down the line they release a single-player version with controls and combat that don’t make me want to put my keyboard through the wall.

  19. Chizu says:

    I’ll probably get this now. I couldn’t have afforded to with the Sub requirements, that and the combat of the beta kinda put me off playing it. But I wanna for the questing and story side.
    So now that I don’t have to worry about paying subs and stuff, I’ll probably pick this up when I have an oppertunity to do so.

  20. Citrus says:

    Oh good, now I can give this game and SWTOR a try.

    There is no way in satan’s frozen butthole that I am paying monthly to sit through generic quests in these MMO’s. I can do that in Skyrim.

  21. Brun says:

    And then Joel asks RPS some questions of his own.

    That could be interesting indeed.

  22. RProxyOnly says:

    Went to sign up, and as per usual for an EA game, they want information that they have no right to even ask for.

    FULL Name, telephone number and address, SOD OFF EA!

    No Chance.

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      I don’t completely disagree, but what are they supposed to do for a server-based game? if your account gets hacked, tell you to get stuffed?

    • elfbarf says:

      All that EA did was distribute retail copies of the game; they have nothing to do with funding or managing the game.

  23. ShineyBlueShoes says:

    Was very close to picking this up when it was $10 around Thanksgiving, hopefully it will go low again around Christmas. :)

  24. CorruptBadger says:

    Its pretty easy to see why they dropped the sub. They had low-expectations for the game, hence the box fee, sub fee and ingame cash shop, but it garnered a lot more profit that expected, probably enough to cover initial development fees. Now they’ve recovered their loss and can see the game is slowly wilting, they wan’t to attract new customers with a GW2 one time fee. Its pretty clever in all fairness.

  25. JohnH says:

    Buying a lifetime sub for TSW was the worst decision I’ve made in the last couple of years. And this sure don’t make me feel any better. What a waste of money. I should’ve gone for the cheap booze and women option instead. ;-)

  26. absolofdoom says:

    What a surprise.

  27. newprince says:

    It’s a complicated issue, MMOs these days. I’m convinced that you can only really go in a couple of different directions. You must offer something unique. This is always interpreted by devs to change minor things about MMOs that we’ve been playing for 12+ years. This doesn’t cut it anymore. An approach I like is depending on other players to drive gameplay. Good examples are DaoC’s RvR system and APB. These systems work because you will never experience the exact same thing twice. Sure, the missions/objectives might be the same forever, but simply playing against other intelligent beings assures uniqueness. But many people hate PvP, which brings us to *gasp* PvE.

    PvE is obviously in a state of utter turmoil. So many companies have tried to shake things up in PvE, but it’s not working. People still flock back to WoW, which arguably was the last game to really shake up the formula. Granted, most of what they did was streamlining and arguably dumbing down the processes. But PvE since WoW has not measurably changed much. Even GW2’s valiant efforts don’t feel revolutionary. Is this just the nature of PvE? I don’t think so. I think what needs to happen is a major overhaul in how combat systems work in MMOs. Physics and hit detection, ‘weight’ to combat needs to happen. If I am a dude with a huge greatsword, I want to be able to Cleave something and actually cleave the damn thing in two. If I’m a guy with a shotgun, I want to be able to spray buckshot at the thing and see it bleed, and if I’m close, the thing should be blasted all to hell. If I am a guy with daggers specializing in bleeds, I want to see that thing take cuts and bleed. This combat would obviously be difficult to implement with today’s engines, but I really think it’s key to avoid the OUTRAGEOUSLY outdated and boring ‘Surround a giant NPC with 30 people who whif the air with glowy swords for 10 minutes’ gameplay.

  28. poohbear says:

    why don’t they make a smaller subscription fee? i’d have no problem paying $5/month and heck i’d probably totally forget i’m paying that! Does it have to be $15/mth or Free to play??? seriously, $5/mth from 500,000 players is A LOT of monthly income.

  29. tinafey says:

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