Adam and John have been playing The Secret World all week. So it only made sense for the pair of them to chat about it. Which they did. Find out how they’ve found their time in Kingsmouth, what’s made them laugh, what’s made them scratch their heads, and learn about tripping jaguars.
John: How much have you played now?
Adam: I’m pottering around in Kingsmouth, trying to see what’s new there. There are quite a few mission givers who were locked off in the press event I went to, so I’m concentrating on them. Trying to find all the investigation ones, so I can avoid fighting as much as possible.
John: You have to fight, Adam. Fight to investigate!
Adam: It is nigh on impossible to avoid fights. There are so many zombies and drowned things and wendigoes. The streets are busier than the cheap side of Manchester on a Saturday night. But I just run by them all. And the same with the monsters.
John: My Chaos abilities are good enough now that dispatching the annoying Townie zombies is just a couple of clicks. But I’m going to start investing back in Assault Rifles too.
Adam: Assault rifles are my poison. That and a good sword. Because of the modern day setting and in spite of the overabundance of supernatural goings on, I refuse to use ACTUAL magic. Even though my gun seems to shoot magic quite a lot anyway.
John: I picked rifles by mistake when I was leaving the Illuminati training room, thinking I’d picked up Chaos. I don’t want guns in a Secret World!
Adam: I’m the other way around! I want guns!
John: Well, that’s because a weapon isn’t actually a weapon – it’s an object through which you channel your magic. Cuh, I mean, come on, follow the lore!
Adam: I like to think I am mostly channelling bullets, but somehow the bullets have personalities and jobs of their own. Some are doctors and some are angry drunks. I think I just prefer the look of a character with weaponry slung across his back.
John: What’s surprised you most about the game?
Adam: Exactly what has surprised me since I first played it – humour. The subject matter, the exploration of pop culture, mythology and horror, is dealt with in such a self aware manner – there are brilliant lines sprinkled all the way through it.
John: I just heard references to Silent Hill and YouTube in the same conversation.
Adam: Amazing. It works though, at least for me. I understand people might find it annoying, constantly winking and nodding toward the wings, but it can almost be seen as a coping mechanism.
John: I don’t see it as wing-nodding. I see it as people existing in the real world. References to being possessed/controlled would get tired quickly, however. I’ve only seen one so far.
Adam: Exactly. These are people who live in a world gone mad, but they are quite often the few who have always understood that. Pop culture and its borrowings from their world becomes something that they can’t help but acknowledge.
John: I know from interviewing Ragnar that he’s as sick as everyone else with fiction being unaware of all other fiction. It’s great to see it so well addressed.
Adam: Yeah, I talked about the same thing with him. I think I asked something inane about how central that was, the awareness of the fiction within the fiction, and he said it was ‘totally central’.
John: For me, the most surprising thing is that I need to take notes. I was frustrated with a clue for one of the quests being incredibly opaque, and nagged someone at Funcom about it. It was then that I realised I should have been writing stuff down, marking things on the map, and remembering.
Adam: Yeah, that’s such a good feeling.
John: Those quests – they’re meant to be incredibly difficult, and perhaps not possible to solve for you. Which is such an unusual thing. But when they’re amongst the other 290 billion quests in Kingsmouth alone, you’re not lacking for something else to do. Like, right now, I’m trying to figure out what “The white ravens whisper, golden girls sorrowful, stories are never told” means. I mean, seriously.
Adam: It means kill 20 zombies and collect their feet.
John: And yet it doesn’t!
Adam: EXCEPT IT DOESN’T and that’s why it works!
John: Hehe. Those notes on the final postcard in the other piece – those are all real notes from my pad.
Adam: How are you finding skill selection?
John: I’m finding it mystifying. How about you?
Adam: Very mystifying. I sometimes feel like I’ve unlocked an ability that’s incredibly similar to something I already have, and then chide myself for not being more careful. I’m not entirely sure how effective some things are, but I’m enjoying exploring the possibilities. I think that side of things will make a lot more sense when I start ploughing through dungeons and having to recognise my specialities in a group.
John: Yeah – the descriptions are a giant mess, designed for MMO experts wot I am not. They need a significant overhaul, which hopefully they’ll get before release.
Adam: Yeah, they’re almost like equations sometimes, at least to my tiny mind. I look at them and think ‘but will it kill things like wot I want it to?’ Usually it does, so that’s good. You’re Illuminati and I am Templar, which makes us enemies of a sort. What are you making of the style over substance that your American infidels stand for? If they can ever put down their lattes and bother to stand at all.
John: It seems to be a sect/philosophy entirely focused on sarcasm. Every time I phone in a quest result, I get this scathing, sarcastic response. Which are great. I have an example here:
“Ugh, Orochi. Trace the life cycle of any product or service and it’ll eventually lead to an Orachi subsidiary. They’ve infiltrated ever sector, including ours. It’s pretty much impossible to piss without getting some on them.
And they so overreact when you piss on them.
So what are they doing in Kingsmouth? More importantly, how do we find out without them knowing?
Fly-by surveillance posing as a teenage science project isn’t bad. If push comes to shove and shove comes to pinning everything on a scapegoat, we’ll just use the kid.
Feel free to pretend I’m kidding.”
John: I mean – that says everything about the game for me.
Adam: Brilliant. And the personality of the factions is strong enough to colour so much of the experience, I reckon. The Templar feel like they might be super-earnest and at times they fall into that, but there’s a weariness about them too. They’re fed up and tired of carrying the ball and believing, rightly or wrongly, that they’ve had to do all the dirty work throughout history. And now they’re a bit bloated, concerned by the amount of middle management and paperwork needed to keep a lid on things. It’s a much more dictatorial and bureaucratic existence. And I don’t have an example because I’m disorganised.
John: Heh. So, what have you looked up in the real world as a result of playing?
Adam: Without giving too much away: artists, Latin translations, lists of esoteric symbols. My browser history is part ‘art history major’ and part ‘potentially dangerous cult member with terrorist tendencies’.
John: Have you checked out any tripping jaguars?
John: Someone mentioned them in passing to me. They’re real.
Adam: This is good news.
John: I’ve also been reading newspaper archives for Kingsmouth’s local rag on their website. I just keep thinking, in reaction to all these things: World Of Warcraft never made me do that. It’s actually trying to be something different, isn’t it?
Adam: It really is, althoug not necessarily in the ways that people might expect. The combat, the lack of levelling, the classlessness – that’s not, to me, what’s really different. It’s the setting. Because it’s not just a visual design or a script, it’s a constant presence through everything that’s happening. It’s not just associated with our world because of how it’s dressed up.
John: Yeah. Although I do still worry about that level-less-ness, because I haven’t the faintest whether I’m going to win some fights before I run screaming from them.
Adam: I don’t mind that. I wandered into the woods, knowing that it was probably a bad idea because of how creepy and lonely they were, and when it turned out that it really WAS a bad idea and I had to run screaming back to town, I felt like I’d learned something. I wasn’t running away from a number that was higher than me and I liked that.
John: It does of course guide you as to how tough a quest is going to be for you. Which is helpful. I just tend to avoid anything green.
Adam: I have a terrible habit, or at least a habit which would be terrible if I was playing with a group, of getting distracted and running around just looking at things. I sometimes forget I’ve got a couple of quests on the go.
John: This is why playing in a group sucks.
Adam: And it’s great that all that exploration and inquisitiveness actually pays off sometimes. I’m told something by a character and I think, ‘hang on, I’ve been to that place’ or ‘I know what he’s referring to. I read it!’
John: Yes – you’d likely have noticed the thing by the bridge. I didn’t.