Interview: The Secret World Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist Talks About the Future of Funcom’s New MMORPG
The Secret World launched little more than a month ago, impressing many with its eerie atmosphere and challenging our brains with its original investigation missions.
It’s no mystery that I enjoyed and still enjoy the game a lot (you can read my review here), but the first few months after release will be the most crucial in establishing the game’s place in the market.
I had a chance to ask a few question to Ragnar Tørnquist, that is standing at the helm of The Secret World as Creative Director and Senior producer. As the punch line of the game says, Dark times may be coming, but according to Ragnar the future is quite on the bright side.
Giuseppe: With the game’s launch finally in the past, can you share your personal ideas about the most important priorities to ensure the success of The Secret World in the short and long term?
Ragnar: One of our key priorities is to make sure the game evolves and feels like a living, breathing world. We have announced that we’re releasing monthly updates — called ‘issues’ — that will contain new missions, new features, new weapons, abilities, characters, stories and monsters. We released the first issue, Unleashed, on July 31st, and the team is hard at work on the second issue, which will be announced very, very soon. Again, these are monthly content updates, ensuring that our players won’t have to wait forever to get new content and new reasons to log back in and continue playing.
We’re also listening to our community and our players, and communicating with them as much as possible, to ensure that we’re taking their needs and wants under consideration. Our community team, as well as our key developers, are active on the forums and in various channels, and we do listen to our player base. After all, they’re paying to play The Secret World, and it’s our job to make sure they’re having a good time and getting their money’s worth.
We also have slightly longer-term plans, of course, including our first raid and new adventure zones — set in new geographical areas — and we are going to talk about both of those very, very soon.
G: When The Secret World was announced, I was pleasantly surprised by its setting. With the predominance of fantasy and science fiction MMORPGs, creating a MMO set in the modern world seemed to break some kind of taboo, let alone something tinted with a dark horror hue. What inspired the setting of the game and what determined the choice?
R: Exactly that — the fact that no one has done this before, and to us, it felt like exactly the kind of setting we wanted to play in. The real world, but slightly twisted; a world where everything is true, every myth, every legend, every fairy-tale and pop cultural cliché. I love fantasy and sci-fi worlds, of course, but there are so many of them out there, and the modern-day real world is such a rich and exciting and deep source of inspiration… It’s a setting I’ve personally wanted to explore for over a decade, and we finally had the perfect opportunity to create a brand new, and yet very familiar, world for an MMO.
G: We already know that The Secret World is going to expand to other areas of the world. Can you give us any hint on the locations we’re going to visit in the near future?
R: We will be making some announcements very soon — and the clues are all in the game!
G: There’s been talk about improved character customization options coming in the future. What will they entail? Will they be limited to broadening the choice within the elements we have now, or maybe we’ll get entirely new elements like tattoos, piercings, accessories and the like?
R: Improved character customization is on its way, and we’ll be talking more about that as well in the very near future. We have already said that we’re aiming to release The Modern Prometheus — plastic surgery — and Ockham’s Razor — a barbershop — by the end of August, and that’s still the case.
G: Personally, Investigation Missions are hands down my favorite part of The Secret World. I know I’m not alone in this. Will we see more focus on those in the future? Is there any chance that they’ll ever be made repeatable, maybe with lower rewards? There are quite a few I’d love to play again.
R: Our first issue — Unleashed — contained a number of new investigation missions, and that’s the plan for future issues as well. Our players love investigations, and we’ll be giving them lots of tough challenges to get to grips with in the months ahead. Our second monthly issue will have some of the best investigation missions yet!
G: Sabotage Missions are also a lot of fun. Are there any plans to add some typical elements of Tactical Espionage Action games like the ability to hug walls, lean around corners and crawl to reduce the chance of being discovered, or maybe tranquillizer guns to put patrols to sleep?
R: We haven’t planned on including any more intricate stealth mechanics quite yet, but tranquilizer guns sounds like a fun idea!
G: I know it’s a little early to talk about this, but I hear a lot of players that would like, in the future, to play as members of Orochi corporation, or even as Phoenicians. Is there any chance that in the future we’ll see other playable factions, or the game is set in stone on the three-ways conflict we have now?
R: There will only ever be three large secret societies to choose between in character creation…but that doesn’t mean players won’t be able to gain allegiance — or work for — other entities in the game. In fact, the conclusion (and beginning) of the game’s story mission hints at something like that. As for Orochi and the Phoenicians…well, their roles are going to become more apparent over time, and players will be able to interact with them in more meaningful ways in the future.
G: At the moment it’s not possible to travel to another dimension or another instance within one dimension without having a friend there to use as a “homing beacon”. This tends to be a bit of an obstacle for those like me that like to travel around looking for random roleplay, and the RP community of The Secret World is quite sizable. Is there any chance we’ll get a nice interface like the one we have in Age of Conan that will let us travel across dimensions and instances on our own, maybe visualizing the number of players present in each?
R: There aren’t any plans for that right now, but it’s something we might consider for future updates. For the time being, the ability to join your friends on other dimensions means that players have a lot more flexibility than they do in traditional server-based MMOs.
G: Currently London is definitely the most popular of the three cities for players to congregate, meet and roleplay. Is there any plan in place to valorize New York and Seoul? Can we look forward to other urban environments in the future?
R: Yes, and yes — definitely! There will very soon be more reasons to visit New York, with The Modern Prometheus setting up shop in Brooklyn — and before the end of the year, Seoul will get Execution, the tattoo parlor. As for other urban environments…we are going to make some announcements soon.
G: Thanks a lot for your answers. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers, before we wrap this up?
R: The Secret World is just getting started! There are tons of exciting things on the way, from new investigation and action missions, to new features, new weapons and abilities, new characters and monsters — and the story will continue, bringing the player to intriguing new parts of the world. The team is hard at work delivering regular content updates, so stick around!