TSW: Decision Made, See You in a Few

Days, that is, not months.

I have just pre-ordered The Secret World.

Reserved a name (though not the one I was using in the Beta and would have been thrilled to have – damn fast people!)

Presumably being this late, early access for me may be only 24 hours, but whatever, it’s not a biggie and I’m not a rush-to-endgame type.

So what got me off the see-saw?

I mean, there were quite a number of good reasons why I should delay getting the game.

There’s still plenty of bugs and some instability, which would benefit from more time and more fixes, yielding a more polished final experience for myself.

The graphics aren’t as great as they could be if I waited for myself to buy a new computer first. (I would be spoiling myself for maximum potential impact for the cutscenes, as that would only be achieved on beautiful ultra-settings AND being new and novel on a first playthrough.)

The game would likely get cheaper – all games are at their most expensive when hyped just before their launch – and maybe even go free to play at some point.

The game could be missing content in the higher leveled areas we haven’t seen – it’s obvious Funcom is rushing this launch (maybe thanks to their EA overlords.)

Or pull a bait-and-switch on us later in terms of story and quest quality (neither of which is new given the prior precedent set with “Failcom” in Age of Conan.)

The PVP is extremely dubious at present (and is likely to remain so for at least a while) in terms of team balance (Templar was dominating on one server and Illuminati on another…)

…and skill design (you can’t reset AP/SP for PvP, so in the early days at least, a PvE solo build is going to get owned by someone who prioritized a PvP build over PvE. And PvP/PvE skills are not unlinked – can you say inevitable nerf outcry?)

Whatever would possess me to think it is a good idea to go play TSW like… now? (Almost.)

Mostly I read Ragnar Tornquist’s AMA on Reddit (you can scroll down to narwal_bot’s summary of the questions he answered), and started thinking about some of the things he said.

If you read his answers, there is a general gist that he acknowledges that there’s still stuff missing in TSW at launch, and that they’ll like to be putting more in post-launch.

Here’s the stuff that made me think:

(Some extraneous comments trimmed for clarity, see the link if you want the jokes and the thanks and feedback)

Question (TBTakaTBT):

What is the biggest thing you don’t like about the game in its current state? What would you like to see done to make it better?

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

Not enough kilts BY FAR.

There are things we would have liked to do for launch — including an LFG tool and more character customisation options — that we’ve pushed to post-launch, but the great thing about making an MMO is that you actually get to go back and fix, add to, polish and expand upon the original game.

The Secret World isn’t done simply because we’re launching it. This is only the beginning. The beginning of a long– No, not doing that.

Question (batlib):

What’s your ideal post-release roadmap for TSW? Or does that fall under “saying things people will interpret as a promise and burn you at the stake for later”?

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

I enjoy a good burning at the stake.

My ideal post-release roadmap? New content and new features on a regular, ongoing basis. Which is what we’re aiming for. We’ll let you know very soon what that actually means.

Commence the burning!

Question (karmaleenash):

  1. I get no sliders, etc. for cc but new heads by launch?
  2. New skin tones to get away from the ethnically stereotyped tying of facial type to skin tone?
  3. New hairstyles and colors by launch?

Not asking for the moon, here. Love the game. The creepy, eerie, lovely world deserves some better characters. To me, that cc is the weakest link in a game that has more potential than any I have played in years.

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

  1. No new heads for launch, but that’s definitely something we want to do in the not-too-distant future.
  2. I don’t think we’ve gone for anything stereotypically ethnical — we’ve simply tried to find skin tones that match the heads. But we will take all of your feedback under consideration.
  3. Nothing that isn’t in the public Beta right now. Again, we will be expanding on our character customisation options going forward.

Question (mflash):

Are there plans for a continued storyline after the game is released?

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

YES! Definitely yes. We have a pretty massive storyline planned, and our writers are working on fleshing that out as we speak. Well, not literally, it’s Saturday and they’re done with their work for launch, so they’re taking a rare weekend off, but you know what I mean.

Question (CrazyStreetBum):

I vaguely remember from the old days of the Internets, back when Anarchy Online was still in beta, that you had planned a four-year storyline for the game.

How much of that storyline actually happened? I know that at least part of Shadowlands was foreshadowed back in Prophet Without Honour (assuming that the Vanya in the books is the Unredeemed of the same name), but the part about Omni-Tek having ties to the Omega (among other story hooks) seems to have largely vanished.

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

Plans and stories change as new people start working on it — and that’s how it should be. When I left Anarchy Online (in very capable hands, mind you) the writers and designers, together with the community of players, decided to take things in a different direction. And I’m totally fine with that. They made something even greater…although a tiny part of my brain keeps nagging me to go back and tell the story that I’d planned out.

With The Secret World, however, we have built such a deep, solid and complex storyline into the very fabric of the game — every little detail MEANS SOMETHING — so whoever takes the reins in some distant, post-apocalyptic future (where I’ve become a grizzled, leather-clad warlord and am no longer working on the game) will have to follow through on our SEVEN YEARS OF STORY CONTENT (TM) plans. Otherwise it all falls to pieces. Jigsaw pieces. Being part of this enormous jigsaw puzzle of a story. As it were.

Question (buemba):

Any plans to expand the TLJ/Dreamfall universe with comics, short stories or anything else that doesn’t demand as much development time as games?

As for Secret World, what’s the game like post level cap? Raids?

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

No concrete plans, but that’s certainly something I’ve been wanting to do. I’ll think about it again after my body and brain becomes capable of thinking about anything besides TSW.

There are no levels in The Secret World, but you can keep training new abilities and learning new skills, you can participate in PvP, explore the world in search of lore and achievements, replay missions, visit our lairs and fight our world bosses — and get to grips with all the post-launch content we’ve got planned.

You won’t run out of things to do.

Question (Warskull):

So… Age of Conan was very buggy and unfinished. In fact at least 6 months in a number of huge bugs were still around (stats literally did nothing ffs.) Anarchy Online was also famous for having an incredibly buggy, unfinished launch. Why should anyone expect The Secret World to be finished? What has changed at Funcom?

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

Both of those games came out a long time ago, and were made by different teams. Will there be bugs in The Secret World at launch? Oh, for sure. It’s impossible for us to catch and fix absolutely everything. We’ll keep patching and fixing the game on an ongoing basis. But there won’t be any bugs that will detract from the fun of playing, and it will be the most polished game Funcom has ever released.

[Me interjecting: Oh that’s for sure. Not that Anarchy Online or Age of Conan are the best comparative examples, but definitely TSW is better than those.]

Question (VideoGameMusic):

Can you give some insight if possible on how Funcom manages their franchises? I was a huge fan of Bloodline Champions but that game’s player base died out pretty fast once they stopped advertising for it. Will The Secret World end up only being alive past the two or three year mark?

Also, will TSW have a freemium system like most Funcom games?

Thanks in advance for any answers.

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

Anarchy Online is still going strong, eleven years and counting. Age of Conan is on its fourth year. So yeah, I’d say it’s a safe bet we’ll be alive and well past the three year mark. We take care of our franchises.

[Me interjecting: With a small playerbase, but yes, they don’t close up shop as quickly as some other companies might.]

Question (whyufail1):

I completely agree, but the contradiction I see here is that there is a MASSIVE cash shop planned as well. I honestly prefer subscriptions to pay for continuous development, but the cash shop placed on top of that just seems like double dipping (paying a sub to develop content that is then being sold back to me…). You can say “well that content is being developed outside of the subscription budget” but without transparency, you could really say that about anything. It’s the biggest thing keeping me from trying this game at the moment.

(I am actually bringing this up for a reason. If there is a convincing enough explanation as to why I shouldn’t feel like the community is getting ripped off, I would be buying into the game immediately as I approve of nearly everything but the payment model. I’m honestly not just trying to be difficult.)

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

Our item store sells cosmetic (vanity) items only, in addition to services like extra character slots and dimension transfers. The production of those cosmetic items is, in fact, supported by the revenue from the store — it does cost a bunch of money to make things like clothing outfits and pets. Good thing is: you don’t have to spend a dime in the item store if you don’t want to. There will be plenty of clothing added to the game post-launch, so unless you’re really keen on that cowboy outfit (yeeha!) you can safely leave the store alone.

Question (Zhaosen):

Hi, hello. First thing, i am 50/50 on the game atm. My biggest influence is how character customization will be handled. You answered it earlier i believe about how you plan to add more character customization in the future and i just want to focus on that.

1.Can you elaborate/give an idea to how the future character customizations will be? (ie: more sliders, presets, hair, etc…weight/height?)

2.Will there EVER be a dye option? because frankly…i dont really want to end up looking like someone else =/…and ive already seen about 4 of me running around in the beta (which is not bad all things considered but still).

3.Clothing options, will you only add stuff as microtransactions or will you also be updating the ingame buyable ones as well?

I’m honestly on the fence about preordering or just waiting for a month after.

Answer (RagnarTornquist):

We actually had this discussion over lunch yesterday, so, informally:

  1. More sliders, more presets, more hair — yes, for sure.
  2. That’s something we’re going to look into, long-term. Clothes-crafting would be awesome. That might even get ME to start crafting, and that’s saying a lot.
  3. We are DEFINITELY going to be updating our in-game vendors on a regular basis. We’ll be making at least as many clothes for the vendors (purchasable with PAX) as we will for the item store — although the latter does support the cost of producing new clothing. It ain’t cheap.

Honestly, the more people buy and play the game at launch, and let us know what they/you want, the more we can deliver. If everyone waits with playing, we won’t be able to produce nearly as much as we’d like to — and we’ll always listen to our players first and foremost.

Bolded emphasis mine. And that’s the phrase that slid me down the see-saw.

Let’s face it. We don’t know how much of what Ragnar says is just pretty words and smoke and mirrors like Paul Barnett’s “Bears bears bears.” He might just decide six years of slaving away on TSW is more than enough conspiracy crap for one individual and run off to make the Longest Journey 3 or something else. (Which would make some people happy, but not me, sorry, I’m a heathen, I haven’t been able to get back to that game since I encountered one of -those- “forgot to take an important item at the start” gamebreaking adventure game bugs.)

But I do know what I like. And I like The Secret World’s modern day occult underground setting. The immersiveness. The voice-acting. The characters. The stories. (More so than the vapid cartoony mainstream pap that is SW: TOR.)

Missions that treat the player as being smart and intelligent. Missions that involve stealth and research and clues and puzzles. A combat system that involves both movement and active reaction, as well as build planning for synergies and the flexibility to change and adapt builds and tactics on the fly.

It makes me excited to hope that maybe, just maybe, some of that seven years of planned story content will actually come to pass. Maybe there will be more ARGs. Maybe there will finally be an MMO that does world-changing story arcs right.

Most of me is a pragmatic realist and a cynic beyond that eternal optimist core though. It probably won’t happen. The odds are against The Secret World beating the odds.

But if enough people don’t support it, now, at launch, it has no chance at all.

( I have made no secret of the fact that I appreciate an MMO that innovates and does things differently than being a typical WoW clone. I will put my money where my mouth is. Even if all I get is thirty days of the existing storyline experience, it’s at least worth the box price to support the devs having worked for years to give us that look at the secret world.)

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