And Another Thing: MMO Subscription Numbers

MMO Subscription Numbers

‘And Another Thing’ is a regular column where one of the Oceanic Gamer team get an issue off their chest. If you’ve got a pet peeve or controversial issue you’d like to write about, drop us a line. This week’s column sees us welcome Darren Taylor to the fold – great to have you on board Darren!

There is a lot of talk these days that MMO success is a result of how many people are subscribing. World of Warcraft appears to be once again over 10 million subscribers whereas other MMOs are lucky to break several hundred thousand. Trion Worlds (the makers of Rift) has stated with its relatively small number of subscribers, that it is highly profitable and was awarded extra funding to further develop the game and expand into other countries.

To be honest, I am really not concerned with subscription numbers when playing as long as there is a healthy chat, people running around and it’s relatively easy to get a group for a dungeon or quest.  In fact I find Rift one of the easiest games to get a group in, even compared to the behemoth World of Warcraft.

Rift and The Secret World have done some great work to get its players to feel that their servers are thriving with life. Rift recently cut out the limitations of factions, enabling players from both factions to be in the same guild, group for the same instances, in effect doubling the population. Cross-server chat and grouping also increases the pool of people available. The Secret World has done something similar with its dimensions, enabling players to communicate, group and quest with anyone on any other of its servers, hence its much-advertised single server technology.

In both games, the world is very alive and no matter what time zone you play, you can always find people to group with. You don’t often see people complaining about populations, as they never seem to have a lack of players willing to do something in the game.

Star Wars; The Old Republic, with its huge following at launch did one thing very wrong with its perception of population. I bet you all know and remember the instance player numbers at the top of your screen everywhere you go. I tend to call it the “worry meter” and unfortunately it proved to be just that. How often did you see people complain that there were only 50 people in fleet on their server? I am willing to bet that if that player number wasn’t there would have been less complaints and less concern. It seems they may have corrected that a little with group finder, cross server and also their take on mega servers, although I am not sure how the Aussie servers are doing as of late.

I think that all MMOs will embrace the one server mentality in one way or other and players will always have someone to group and play with even if there are only a few hundred people online at a given time.  From a player point of view, we should no longer base the success on the game based on investor calls or released figures but how each game uses their ability to bring their players together. I am happy playing games that have a reported smaller number of subscribers compared to some, as long as I can enjoy everything the game has to offer.

Do you agree?


TSW 1.4 Patch Notes

TSW 1.4 Patch NotesIt’s well and truly time for some Big Trouble in the Big Apple, and to go along with it are the full patch notes. Aside from all the new content, there’s a bunch of nice bug fixes as well, so browse through to see what love your character is getting.

Hell, everyone now gets to dance Gangnam style (/dance_gangnam_style) in The Secret World alongside the Macarena (/dance_macarena) – what else would you want!

The full patch notes for you:

Massive PvP Enhancements

Issue #4 includes massive PvP enhancements with the goal to make the conflict between the Secret Societies even more rewarding, more persistent and fairer. The update includes improvements and changes to rewards in Fusang, White Marks of Venice, Cross-Dimension Fusang, PvP Gear Progression, Matchmaking, a new PvP Mission and more! You can read all about these PvP enhancements here.

Take the Stage at the Albion Theatre

With Issue #4, you are able to enter the Albion Theatre in London and put on whatever kind of show your heart desires! Our goal is to empower players. Open mic night? Sketch comedy shows? Extensive Shakespearean productions? Cabaret? Music video? It’s really an open toolbox – you and your friends can use the Albion to do whatever you want. Check out this article on The Secret World website for more information.

Issue #4 also sets the stage for the big Raid in New York, which is undergoing final testing and will be brought Live as soon as possible.

Other brand new features available now:

  • New Auxiliary weapon : Chainsaws! Pick up the mission from Dr. Aldini in New York to begin!
  • Starter Decks – Nine decks have been added for players who finish the inner ring of combat abilities.
  • Character size slider has been added to character creation and the plastic surgeon!
  • Reticule targeting mode is now available. Toggle this mode on and off via the T key.
  • Slaughterhouse Nightmare mode is now officially open!
  • Pick up these brand new Missions:
    • All Roads Lead to Rome – from Mama Abena in London
    • To Sir with Love – from Hayden Montag in The Savage Coast
    • The Red Thread – from Callisto in Carpathian Fangs
  • New Lair Missions are available. These require you to have finished another mission first. These prerequesite missions will award an item which will help you in the new Lair missions.
    • The Last Strand (Kingsmouth Town)
      • Required mission: Coralations (Item: Red sargassum barrel)
    • The Cover-up (Savage Coast)
      • Required mission: Nobel Calling (Item: Dynamite)
    • The Whole Truth (Blue Mountain)
      • Required mission: Picking Up the Pieces (Item: Ward stone)
    • Up In Smoke (Scorched Desert)
      • Required mission: Blood Garments (Item: Sufferer’s raiment)
    • The Black Pharaoh’s Guard (City of the Sun God)
      • Required mission: The Trinket Trail (Item: Plenarius artifact)
    • Restoration (Besieged Farmlands)
      • Required mission: Blessed Are the Makers (Item: Enchanted statue)
    • Kreep Rush (Shadowy Forest)
      • Required mission: Seedy Underbelly (Item: Seeds of Cleansing)
    • The Shipping News (Carpathian Fangs)
      • Required mission: The Mortal Coil (Item: Tesla turret)


  • When equipping a weapon which has a weapon skin applied, the weapon skin will now show correctly. Previously it would only show up correctly if you zoned in with the weapon already equipped.
  • The Master Planner achievement will now reward a costume.
  • The I Am Legend achievement will now reward an item.
  • London: Dancers in the Horned God will now leave the floor to give groups of players more space.
  • Text should no longer show up in the chat window for long-winded civilians.
  • Fixed a clipping issue with the female Preacher outfit.
  • Male eyebrows no longer clip through the glasses on the Grifter outfit.
  • Movement speed while dead will now scale with your current rank of Sprinting.
  • Seoul: the Fight Club in Seoul is now open to Illuminati and Templar participation.
  • Fixed stat modifications that did not revert when items were unequipped.
  • Raid chat is available (except in Fusang Projects).
  • Fixed shadows at the Old Asylum Approach anima well in Blue Mountain.
  • Fixed the intensity of the moon in Shadowy Forest.
  • Adjusted chair height and brightness in the Horned God pub.
  • Try these new dance emotes:
    • /dance_gangnam_style
    • /dance_samba
    • /dance_macarena
    • /dance_sprinkler
  • All the repeatable solo nightmare missions should now reward a Signet Reward Bag.
  • The missions Cellar Door and Fungal Fireworks will no longer award a Signet Reward Bag, but will give out reward in line with their difficulty.
  • New Achievements for the Albion Theatre event are available!
  • NPCs with a spawn animation will now always play the full animation (previously the first part of it could get cut off).
  • Cats were moved back to their normal locations in Roget’s place and the Franklin Mansion.
  • The mission tracker will now close when you walk away from an open mission GUI.
  • Fixed the doors in the Slaughterhouse so they will not always appear open when viewed from a distance.
  • Lairs – The Last Strand – Draug no longer keep spawning after the assault is over.
  • Added sound effects to the turrets in The Shadowy Forest.
  • It is no longer possible to sit in the air by using the chair from distance.
  • A raid leader can now invite a group with a leader that has already left the raid.
  • The Achievement Love and Rockets will be awarded to players who have already finished the mission Venetian Missile Crisis when „Issue #4“ goes live.
  • Raid chat is available!
  • Fixed an issue that caused stacks of flowers bought at the florist to decrease by 2 each time one was consumed.
  • Fixed an issue where certain clothing would cause your female character’s arms to become invisible.
  • Seoul : Dae-su’s body is no longer invisible.


  • Increased the damage dealt by all Rocket Launcher abilities.
  • Increased the damage dealt by the See Red ability.
  • Healing friendly NPCs with the Adrenalise passive equipped will no longer cause them to attack you.
  • Assault Rifle – Improved Bursts passive will now properly increase the healing done by the Anima Burst ability.
  • Blade ability Sixth Sense will now build a counter for each received glancing hit instead of having a delay between counters to keep in line with other defensive effects.
  • Added a tooltip description to the Two Cuts Blade skill.
  • The Blood Spike DoT effect now has the correct icon.
  • Added tooltip description to the Elemental Skill “Fury”.
  • Hammer ability Grip Whip will now display the correct damage value in the tooltip. This is only a tooltip change. The ability itself has not been changed.
  • Hammers – Reduced the overall damage dealt by Epicentre.
  • Breakdown no longer requires Impaired state to apply the Exposed debuff.
  • Breakdown will only apply 1 stack of Exposed per hit.
  • Increased the damage dealt by Escalation.
  • Escalation will no longer apply the Exposed debuff.
  • Intensity has been changed to no longer grant Minor Ward when hitting Weakened targets with Escalation. It will now improve Escalation to apply the Exposed debuff.
  • Increased the damage dealt by Blood Magic abilities Blood Spike, Infection, Left Hand of Darkness, Bloodshot, and Guts and Gory.
  • Increased the healing and barrier provided by Blood Magic abilities Angelic Aegis, Exquisite Corpse, and Hematic Rites.
  • Increased the damage dealt by Elemental abilities Combust, Electrical Storm, Flame Strike, Blaze, Conditional Force, Fire Manifestation, Magnetic Wipe, and Lightning Manifestation.
  • Left Hand of Darkness damage has been rechecked for accuracy in Issue #4.
  • Fixed an issue with the description of Intensity.



  • All white marks of venice in the game have been wiped
  • Prices at all PvP vendors have been rebalanced to no longer cost any white marks
  • Prices at all PvP Vendors is now somewhat lower
  • Rewards for PvP minigames and Fusang has been changed so that you on average get the same amount of rewards for time spent doing them
  • All PvP vendors now allow you to convert 100 white marks into 1 black mark
  • PvP-gear can now be upgraded to 10.4
  • The pricing of PvP-gear has been tweaked, so the time it takes to get a full set of PvP 10.4 gear is in line (but not equal to) the amount of time it takes to get a full set of 10.4 Nightwatch gear.

Stonehenge and El Dorado

  • PvP matchmaking system tweaked
  • PvPPerformance stats on all players wiped for this change
  • If you are lower than QL10 you now get Equal Footing in minigames


  • Fusang has been merged into 3 battlegroups for higher player population:
    • Group A: Cerberus, Arcadia, Leviathan
    • Group B: Drac, Kobold
    • Group C: Daemon, Grim, Huldra
  • Fusang Reward scheme changed into a tick-based system
  • Fusang PvP-missions no longer reward you with black marks.
  • PvP vendors with upgrades for your faction’s turrets and custodians are available near your faction home base anima well
  • A new PvP mission, The Underdogs is available for factions that are outmatched in Fusang.


  • Lairs
    • Vulkan’s persistent area effects will disappear after the encounter ends.
    • Nobel Calling – Blueprint rewards changed for a different lair boss.
  • Hell Eternal
    • Piston Predators should no longer stack in the encounter with the Flagellatrix Superior.
    • The “Enflamed” environmental debuff in Hell Eternal now stacks up to 10. At 10 stacks, it kills the affected player. Don’t stand in the fire!
    • Eblis will no longer cast Solar Collapse twice in a row if interrupted.
    • Eblis’s life drain, Consummation, can no longer be interrupted.
    • All players should now be able to see damage dealt by Eblis’s spell Consummation.
    • Eblis should now be more consistent about stunning his target during Consummation.
    • Eblis’s spell Cast Out can no longer be interrupted.
    • Eblis’s vortexes should now appear more quickly on phase transition.
    • Particles have been adjusted in the fight with Eblis to more accurately reflect damage areas.
    • Corrected several locations where players could become stuck. Fixed several world design issues.
  • Slaughterhouse – Fixed an issue with an invisible NPC in the NKL-107 fight.
  • Added the Slaughterhouse Nightmare mode to the LFG list.


Story Mission Templars

  • Virgula Divina: If you enter the playroom keypad code before receiving all clues, your mission will now update appropriately.

New York

  • Questions and Answers – Leah’s arms no longer clip through the desk during the cinematic for tier 5.
  • Just a Flesh Wound
    • Fixed an issue with the Flesh Blob’s casting particles.
    • Your character will now wield a visible chainsaw in your hands when cutting through the wall.
    • Fixed the particles when collecting from corpses.
    • Added sound effects when hacking with a hammer.
    • Corrected placeholder names for abilities used during this mission.
    • Added goalmarkers for the major goals of the mission.
    • Mission now updates for all party members when one person uses the tube.
    • The loose limb will no longer despawn permanently if you die while fighting it.


  • The Pick-Up – Cassandra should no longer respawn twice or more.

The Savage Coast

  • Crime and Punishment – Feedback is provided when the player fails 3 times at entering the code.
  • The Black House – Strange candle will give the lore when used, but will only trigger the fire once every 5 minutes.
  • The Black House – Tier 3 urn screen effect will no longer play on other players’ game clients.
  • Hell and Bach – Wicker will now spawn in the middle of the circle in Tier 2.
  • Theme Part Tycoon – Angry Clown should spawn as normal.

The Blue Mountain

  • Ami Legend – Ami now has subtitles when she speaks during the mission.
  • Ami Legend – Assaulting ak’ab will spawn when player leaves and re-enter the assault area.

The Scorched Desert

  • The Living Oil – The letter will no longer remain stuck to your character’s foot after finishing the mission.
  • Fixed an issue that would sometimes make the crystals unresponsive during the mission The Big Terrible Picture.

City of the Sun God

  • The Prompt for the Pinnacle will no longer say that it is a solo instance (since it can be joined in groups).

The Besieged Farmlands

  • Mortal Sins – Cucuvea now holds an object in her hand during the cinematic.
  • Examining the drawing in Tier 1 of ‘The Kindly Ones’ will no longer provide group credit.
  • You can get the Statue from Mortal Coil and multiple players can use the statue if the mission is failed.

The Shadowy Forest

  • Mortal Sins – Fixed an issue with the tier 10 puzzle that prevented some instances of it from thinking they were solved properly.
  • Singing Stones – Corrected an issue where players could not interact with rocks during different tiers of the mission.

The Carpathian Fangs

  • They Mostly Come at Night – Mr. Ruffles will now be worn properly on your character’s body.
  • The Shipping News – The mission will no longer break after one person uses the console.


  • Energy Drink – Leech consumables will now give a leech effect equal to the power listed in the item tooltip.
  • Fixed an issue that created bald spots on hairstyles when wearing the female Pirate Hat.
  • All Male Templar uniforms have been dyed to a nice deep red, to match the female outfits.
  • Pure Anima – Max Health, Attack Rating, and Heal Rating will now stack with Anima – Block Rating, Crit Rating, Crit Damage Rating, Defense Rating, Evade Rating, Hit Rating, Penetration Rating, Physical Protection Rating, and Magical Protection Rating. You will now be able to have one Pure and one normal Anima buff active at the same time.
  • Sov-Tech auxiliary weapon moulds now transform auxiliary weapons into the correct Soviet look and not Orochi.
  • Signet of Corruption should now display the proper rarity color when attached to an item.
  • Signet of Thirst will no longer cause friendly targets to gain hate towards the user.
  • Internal cooldown on Signet of Thirst was updated to match the displayed value on the item tooltip.
  • Signet of Serenity should no longer cause friendly targets to gain hate towards the user.
  • Signet of Temperance should no longer cause friendly targets to gain hate towards the user.
  • Signet of Fury will now gain stacks for each successful hit rather than each successful attack.
  • Rocket Launchers will now display that they require 10 skill to equip when equip requirements are not met.
  • The male Snakeskin outfit now looks more like snakeskin.
  • Signet of Obedience will no longer stack higher than intended. This is a visual change only and does not affect the damage bonus.
  • Blue and Purple versions of Signet of Obedience will now properly provide the damage bonus.
  • The rifle Crushed Will is now worn like other rifles on the back.
  • Black Mark of the Morrigan proc effect will no longer trigger passives.
  • Black Mark of the Morrigan proc effect will only gain 1 stack per second.
  • Signet of Equilibrium and Signet of Benediction will no longer cause friendly NPCs to attack you after you heal them.


  • Increased the maximum purchasable inventory size to 250.
  • Increased the maximum purchasable bank size to 300.
  • Changed Enemy Evade Chance in the character sheet to Enemy Evade Penalty.
  • Changed Enemy Crit Chance in the character sheet to Enemy Crit Penalty.
  • Auxiliary Blueprints and the Moulds they create are now Green quality items instead of White to facilitate Need/Greed rolling.
  • Made improvements to the Raid menu.
  • Added an icon for Raid missions.
  • Fixed a problem when players were seeing a highlighted gear mouse cursor but received a “Too far away” message.
  • Resource bars for Fist and Hammers no longer stay at 0/5.
  • Stats should now update correctly on your Character sheet.
  • Fixed an issue where clicking on the Ability Wheel would sometimes bring up the Auxiliary cells instead of the Main Wheel cells.

The Secret World Issue #4 Preview Video

Hot off the presses, a six-plus minute video for the upcoming Issue #4 content update: Big Trouble in the Big Apple. It covers off graphically all the previously announced new content, including the PvP changes we talked about earlier this week.

Jump in and have a look for yourself:

There’s not a lot in there to dislike, and I applaud the innovation / sandbox nature of the Albion Theatre although the cynic in me wonders how successfully it’ll be used.

Over to you: is Issue #4 appealing to you and if so, which parts in particular?

PvP’ers Get Big Love In Next TSW Update

Funcom’s Senior PvP Designer, Rasmus Harr, has done up a nice little blog post about some pretty big PvP changes happening for The Secret World with the upcoming Episode #4 content update Big Trouble in the Big Apple.  

Fundamental overhaul is maybe a better way to summarise what’s coming:

  • Improved rewards in Fusang
  • Total wiping of White Marks of Venice
  • A new PvP mission called The Underdogs that helps factions struggling to be competitive
  • Cross-dimension PvP in Fusang
  • Changes to match-making

It’s a hefty list of changes, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go down. If you’re a TSW PvP’er, let us know what you think!

The Secret World Issue #3

Funcom as promised have rolled out the Issue #3 content update for the Halloween event. There’s a brand spanking new video for you to check out, then don’t waste anytime jumping in-game as the event only runs through to the 1st November:

So – who’s pumped for some dark halloween action?

The Naked Gamer: It’s A Secret

The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

I recently read an interview with Martin Bruusgaard, ex-lead designer for The Secret World, on Penny Arcade. While I enjoyed the interview, there was one quote that stood out to me which I just couldn’t agree with.

“This may be a radical thing to say, but I think it would have helped if we actually had levels in the game. I’m sort of ashamed to say it, but I think that might’ve made things feel more familiar when it comes to players tracking their own progression and telling how strong they are, and knowing where to go. I think people got lost because they don’t have this number telling them how strong they are,” Bruusgaard said.

I feel it’s selling the players a bit short that the concept of an obvious progress indicator like a level is required to track our personal growth. The Secret World has quite a few progression benchmarks already, like the level of our weapons, our ever increasing skill level, and there are even faction rankings. I really don’t think it would have made much different if they did put some mystery numbers above everyone’s head.

This leads me to something I have always wanted to say to every game developer out there: there is nothing wrong with your game. There really isn’t. All games have their good points and their bad points, and there is nothing wrong with that. Sure there are nasties like bugs, down-time and other issues which aren’t fantastic, but they can’t change how awesome your game really is.

That does mean though that there are problems elsewhere. One of those problem I think is marketing and I’m not talking paid advertising here. There is something companies have been using for years and it’s completely free and perfect for MMOs: word of mouth.

I actually avoid MMO adverts –  I grew tired of hearing buzz words like ‘revolutionary’, ‘first ever’ and ‘dynamic’. A MMO needs to be able to sell itself and using as many fancy words as possible will only bring hype and then disappointment. When selling an MMO it’s not about selling boxes, it’s about selling subscriptions. Even free to play games aren’t immune from this. You need your player base to keep playing the game so they keep buying your product whether it’s a subscription, expansions, item cash store or  anything else to keep money coming in.

I know whenever I think about how I first heard of the games I’m interested in, it wasn’t advertisements. I think about the gaming news sites I visit, the gaming communities I’m involved in and my friends. Normally it starts with some sort of official announcement of a new game in development. Then the gaming news sites will start spreading it around. Then the gaming communities will start talking about it and finally your friend mentions this cool new game they heard about over that well-earned Friday night beer.

It does seem sometimes that publishers don’t really think about their target audience. It seems most publishers like to target existing MMO players, but is this really effective? MMOs are as different from each other as any other game – just because you play one doesn’t mean you will be interested in another. When I started playing The Secret World, the thing that hit me was nostalgia for games like Tex Murphy and Dog Day. The fact that it was an MMO and I’ve played MMOs previously really seemed inconsequential.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The Secret World might have had a disappointing start but it did have a great launch and a lot going for itself. Now the game seems to be getting out there more and appears to be gaining momentum.

I just wish it didn’t start out as such a secret.

The Secret World Reticle Combat and More: Live Stream

Overnight Funcom ran a live stream for over an hour, showcasing a range of things. They opened with a demo of the reticle combat, which is still in beta but is slated for release in the 1.4 update and will be further improved from there.

There’s a lot of footage of the feature in action, and from what I’m seeing I’m liking it a lot and if you’re a fan of first person shooters you’ll probably see it as a big improvement as well. In between all the gameplay footage, Game Director Joel Bylos answers a bunch of community questions, so it’s well worth a watch. Here’s the stream via

Watch live video from mmorpgcom on TwitchTV

Do you like the reticle combat? Is it something you’ll definitely use?

Joel Bylos’ Open Letter To The Secret World Community

TSW Episode 4There’s been a few days of teasers on upcoming content in The Secret World and its culminated in a fairly lengthy blog post to the community by Game Director Joel Bylos. He confirms a number of key aspects of future content, including:

1. The new weapon will be the chainsaw (no surprise there after all the hints)

2. There will be new reticule combat i.e. you can choose to use it or use traditional targeting

3. London’s Albion Theatre will be a roleplaying venue

4. Issue #4: Big Trouble in the Big Apple is coming pretty soon

5. A new animation back-end for TSW’s graphics engine

6. Combat and abilities are being reviewed

7. Increasing conflict between the secret societies

8. Puzzle Raids

A lot of this was alluded to in our recent interview with Joel, but it’s good to see some of the details fleshed out further.

You can read the post in full here – or if the official site is blocked for you at work, here’s the post in its entirety for you:

Hi, all –


Are you sitting down? Comfortable? Good. Let’s talk about our game.


I say our game because once an MMO goes live it is no longer a collection of ideas, features and dreams in the heads of a group of developers, but rather a living, breathing thing. It belongs as much to the players as the designers. It becomes, in essence, a collaborative project.


For those of you who do not know me, my name is Joel Bylos and I recently stepped into the new position as Game Director on ‘The Secret World’. For the past two years I have been the Lead Content Designer for the game, and my primary responsibility was to lead the team who developed content such as the investigation missions. Before coming to ‘The Secret World’ I worked as Lead Designer on the critically acclaimed ‘Rise of the Godslayer’ expansion for our ‘Age of Conan’ MMO. I live and breathe MMOs and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can help shape the future of ‘The Secret World’ and lead a team whose ambition is to push the genre forward and create new and different MMO experiences.


As I step into the new position as Game Director, Ragnar Tørnquist will remain in his role as Creative Director and I very much look forward to continue working with him. We have been a team for many years now and we will continue working closely together even though his role has shifted a bit and I am now in charge of the game’s vision and development.


‘The Secret World’ may not be the perfect game for everyone; in fact, I think it is safe to say that it is one of the most divisive MMOs ever made.


Looking at reviews, ‘The Secret World’ scored everything from 90 to 40. I have never before seen an MMO that has been both praised and criticized to such an extreme extent as with ‘The Secret World’. One minute PC Powerplay gives us a solid 90 saying ‘I love this game unequivocally’, next Quarter-to-Three slaps us with a 40 saying we have been ‘…unable to make the game we designed’. Some reviewers loved the game, others did not and that is completely understandable. On the other hand, if we look at user scores, we are one of the highest rated MMOs on MetaCritic the past decade and on we come in second place on the list of top voted games in front of some the most critically acclaimed MMOs ever released.


I think you can interpret that in many different ways. To me personally, it tells me that ‘The Secret World’ hit a nerve. When we set out to make ‘The Secret World’ we made a decision to at least try and breathe some new life into a stagnating genre. We play these games, we love these games and we tried to listen to what people wanted – what they were saying in forums and chats and blogs about how and why the MMO genre was becoming stagnant. And then we set about changing the formula, rethinking old concepts and introducing new ideas.


When you raise the bar like that, it is easy to miss a few targets. For ‘The Secret World’ it meant that some things worked wonderfully, while other aspects of the game did not. Depending on what is important to you when playing the game, ‘The Secret World’ may either be the best MMO experience of your life or it may simply not live up to your expectations.


As a team we need to identify and improve areas that made it fall short of those expectations so that everyone can appreciate what we and so many of our players firmly believe to be true:


That ‘The Secret World’ is one of the most fun, exciting and unique MMOs ever made.


So below you can read a mission statement – what am I planning to do to make sure that ‘The Secret World’ becomes the game that we all want it to be.


First and foremost I need to provide our players with good, solid content updates on a regular basis, just as we have released three substantial updates since launch. I also need to do everything in my power to convince thousands of gamers out there who still have not played ‘The Secret World’ that this is a universe worth immersing yourself in. It is a crowded market out there and we have a lot of competition, so I know that we will need to make improvements but also expand on the game’s unique strengths to make it stand out even more clearly.


It is definitely going to be a challenge and fortunately I am bringing one of the most talented teams ever with me into the fray.


Our sleeves are rolled up. We have our war paint on. We are ready for battle.


What… you want details? Some more meat on that bone? Oh, alright.


After I took over I have had several exciting and incredibly inspiring meetings with the team where we have evaluated the game and looked at what we want to do to improve and expand upon the game in the months and even years to come.

I am very happy about how quickly the team is delivering the new updates; the fact that we have released three solid content updates in less than three months after launch is a good indicator of our commitment and we hope that our subscribers feel that they are receiving the value they deserve. Going forward we will continue to crank out more content-laden updates. And while parts of our team are already working on creating the content that will be introduced to the game next year, we are also hard at work wrapping up Issue #4 which will be in not too long, as well as Issue #5 and Issue #6 that will appear in the next few months.


‘Issue #4: Big Trouble in the Big Apple’ is going to be a treat for people who enjoy amazing battles. We are packing tons and tons of good stuff into that update that truly builds on the strengths of the game. We are reaffirming the strength of the modern-day setting by introducing the first raid set in a devastated New York City where players must battle a towering Eldritch horror in the ruins of Time Square. And you can forget about trash mobs and gunning it to get to the end boss as fast as possible; in true ‘The Secret World’ style we will be using the raid to tell a story and immerse our players into our world’s rich atmosphere.


Of course, Issue #4 has plenty of other content as well. We’re introducing the second auxiliary weapon – the Chainsaw – to add even further depth to our freeform progression system. We are also opening the doors to the Albion Theatre in London where players can put on plays for each other and receive rewards. It may sound like a small thing, but I am excited about the fact that we can provide our role-playing community with more content and that we can make London, which is our primary social hub, an even more interesting place for players to hang out.


I am also happy to reveal that Issue #4 will be introducing one of the most requested features during Beta: reticule combat. This is something I wanted to bring into the game from the moment I put on the Game Director shoes as I feel it makes combat a lot more direct and exciting. We are not forcing it upon anyone, though. You will be able to freely switch between traditional targeting and the reticule depending on what you feel is best for you.


I will actually be showcasing this feature in a livestream that will be held Friday, 12th of October. We will provide everyone with the details on how to tune in as we get closer.


Now all of that is short-term stuff, Issue #4 will be hitting the live servers in not too long. We are, of course, also making plans that stretch well into the future.


I have often encouraged journalists to make the comparison between the game and a television series. We launched with the first season, and we are winding towards the big end-of-season cliff hanger, which will then kick off the second season. Questions will be answered and replaced with entirely new questions as you dig ever deeper into the secret world. The second season will include a wealth of new content, including Tokyo, a major new region that brings with it new monsters, myths and legends to the game.


Our ambition is not just adding more content and fleshing out more of the storyline. We want to make improvements and enhancements to the core gameplay and mechanics of the game.

A few concrete examples include the work we are currently doing on improving the animations in the game. We know this was one of the major complaints both in the beta and after release, and we are looking at how we can make player animations feel more fluid and natural. This entails implementing an entirely new animation backend for the Dreamworld engine, which will allow us to make improvement in both ‘The Secret World’ and future Dreamworld projects.

The systems team is also taking a close look at the current abilities in the game and will be attempting to make sure that every ability has its place and that nothing feels like filler. We are also looking at combat and how to make that even better experience. You will see some of the changes coming on the new auxiliary weapons, and then, as time permits, we will be going over some of the older abilities and freshening them up with new mechanics.


One of the things that players have requested we improve on is the secret society conflict. I feel this is perhaps the feature we strayed furthest from for launch. We did a good job of establishing the identity and feeling of three unique factions, but I do not think we managed to firmly establish a conflict between those factions in context with the gameplay. So the team is designing several features which will serve to bring this conflict back to the forefront, and while it is a little early to talk about what they are, I can say that I am really excited about their potential in tying together both PvE and PvP into the overall conflict.


Another thing we are working on which I am really excited about is what we internally like to call ‘puzzle raids’. One of the most heralded features of ‘The Secret World’ at launch were the investigation missions that merge adventure-game puzzle-solving based on real-world research and brings it into an MMO setting. ‘Puzzle raids’ are sort of group investigation missions and a throwback to our alternate reality gaming (ARG) roots which ‘The Secret World’ were such an important part of the game prior to launch.


How do they work? Well, for example, in London there are red phone boxes scattered all over town. One day, those phones will begin to ring. Answering those phones simultaneously with a group of people will provide every member of the raid with a single phrase…


… and there you go, tumbling down the rabbit hole.


‘The Secret World‘ is a journey, one that began as an idea in the mind of Ragnar Tørnquist then grew to envelop a development team, a community and finally hundreds of thousands of players all over the world. We have created a game that offers something unique not only to MMO gamers but to anybody who enjoys mature, intelligent gameplay and interesting characters in a darkly detailed world.


We are committed to this journey and we are committed to the unique vision of ‘The Secret World’. Together – heads unbowed – let us continue to battle the rising darkness.


Oh, and before I forget: we would greatly appreciate it if you helped us spread the word by sending your friends and family to our website where they can register for the free trial. I have heard the Illuminati, the Templar and the Dragon are all looking for new recruits!



Joel Bylos

Game Director

What’s your take on the post: does it give you a good idea of where Funcom are thinking of taking TSW?

The Secret World Halloween Event

Secret World HalloweenIn case you missed it, over at Funcom Senior Designer Tanya Short has posted a blog on the upcoming Halloween event for The Secret World.

It’s due to hit around the 15th October, and its epicentre is going to be Kingsmouth, so more advanced players will get to return to a starting area for some fun. Madame Rogêt and Deputy Andy get an increased role in the story and there’s a new PvE role for the Stonehenge area.

Have a read of the full post here but be aware there’s some potential spoilers so if you’re a purist who likes to be surprised, then maybe stay right here.

Over to you: are you pumped for the Halloween event?

Download The Secret World Sound Effects For Free!

This has made my day. The Secret World‘s Audio Director, Simon Poole, has put up a bunch of sound files from the game up for you to listen to and to even download. Go have a listen for yourself here right now!

There are a few pieces of TSW music and related soundscapes there as well, although you can’t download those pieces, only stream them.

I downloaded the sound effects file and created two short files that are useful for SMS alert tones on any iOS phone. You can download the zip file right here:


Then just add the files in the archive to iTunes, sync your phone and you’re good to go! And remember – you can’t use the files to make money.

Text Summary of Joel Bylos Interview

For those you aren’t into podcasts, below is a summary of the topics discussed in our interview with The Secret World’s Joel Bylos.

As you’ll see, there’s a range of interesting topics covered. Please note: the responses are my interpretations and paraphrasing. If you want the words direct from Joel then please listen to the original interview.

Here we go:

Question asked by Question Paraphrasing of answer by Joel Bylos
  Any other teasers for future plans or upcoming issues? Nice hint about next auxiliary weapon in Issue #4. New York Raid, player will be going back to their old friend Dave Screed AND meeting other characters from the CGI. Halloween event – all the background content is now patched, ready to be put live. Not a typical Halloween event, will need to dig through old irish lore. Puzzle raids will be available in a ‘few months’.
  How confident are you that the monthly update schedule can be adhered to, especially once you get through all the mapped out future content and have to start creating additional content with the heavily reduced staff resources. We now have a set pipeline for content releases including better bug testing and we’re confident it’s all possible. We also have an overlapping development plan to help ensure stuff comes out regularly.
  Different body-types, instead of the standard ‘one-body, many heads’ in a future update? Looking at other options with body shape but the clothing is attuned to the body and clothing system doesn’t allow different body shapes. Trying to ninja some other things that will make people happy
  Do you see any parallels between TSW and AoC? Learnt hundreds of things from AoC. Big two were consistency of content throughout the game and that the technology needs to be completely stable (approx 95% of AoC users who left the game, left when they reached Tortage and the city killed their computer because the tech wasn’t stable enough / framerate too poor.
  What’s your overall feeling about the MMO genre and the ‘game-space-in-economically-challenging-times’  
  Reviewing MMO’s. Are all reviewers gibbons? How do you review an MMO given it’s depth, complexity and essential time commitment. Should reviews be promoted only as ‘first impressions’ with caveats? Should it be illegal, on pain of death, to ‘review’ any MMO before the third content patch drops  
  Fluffy question… Rift giving a buck per Storm Legion purchase to a ‘save the pandas’ charity. Great fun from Trion poking fun. Important to acknowledge Blizzard have done important things for the MMO space, just wish they’d lose some more customers to TSW 😉
David Tell us a little about your journey from Australia to Funcom  
  How good was the response to the lifetime subscription offer and is it something likely to be offered ongoing? Think it’s going well but haven’t seen numbers recently. Lifetime subs are a big part of the core audience.
  What’s a measure of success for TSW over the next year? Current team is still in place and growing, customer base is growing, and in general that it’s a game people talk about in 5 years as an influential game on others. In-game want to fix PvP and other things that can be done poorly, more inter-faction conflict.
  Without mentioning other MMOs by name, what mistakes have you seen them make that you’ve already avoided or hope to avoid? Play lots of MMOs but don’t really judge them from a developer perspective. More about having our own rules – we were always committed to no-class system, no gathering professions, making crafting really good, can’t kill another human unless infected or enemy faction. Just having those sort of guidelines to drive the vision of the game. Investigation missions were a key thing that was non-negotiable. Future marketing should be based on the story aspects, not gear progression. No desire to go beyond tier 10 gear in general.
The Angry Postman Joel, TSW had an incredibly dedicated (yet small) audience almost from the onset. Long, detailed ARGS catered to that audience, and yet it seems very little was done to advertise the game outside of this core group of people. Do you plan to help get the game more mainstream attention going forward? The game is awesome, and unique and needs to be played by more people. Yes -we need to promote the game more widely and we’ll be attempting to do that
Ed Goldstein The Secret World delivers a solid story, but the largest complaint from the community is that there is a lack of scaling to prepare people as they move from zone to zone. I think the largest problem is that once they hit Blue Mountain the casual player finds that if they did not build their character correctly that they’re incapable of continuing on their own. We misjudged difficulty. We made Kingsmouth easier and Savage Coast slightly easier then Blue Mountain was where we wanted the difficulty to be. We don’t communicate clearly enough on skill point allocation. Looking at making story boss fights a little easier. Starter decks coming in 1.4 which will help as well as based on the inner wheel to give guidance on good builds. If you do roughly 70% of mission in an area you’ll be fine to move on. Hell Hotel wasn’t meant to be first area people went to in Savage Coast – was a legacy development issue.
  “So my question is a little complicated, do you see any method by which you can either educate players that when they zone complete that they have some understanding of the goal they are working towards to allow them to say, “”Wow I’m ready for the next zone.””  
  Failing that, do you see any chance of granting those confused players an opportunity to reset their skill points? (The largest problem seems to be players spending too many points in weapon skills as opposed to talismans. I.E. they have 5-6 weapons at rank 3 at the end of Savage Coast, but only major, minor and talismans at 1-2 ranks. – At the end of savage coast level by the way, talismans should be at 4 minimum.  
  This is not limited to Blue Mountain by the way, the same is true of Egypt, City of the Sun God, and finally Transylvania. (Though I feel that in many cases Transylvania is easier then City of the Sun God.)  
Belladawna Does your new position mean you can out drink Ragnar? Always been able to out-drink Ragnar 😉
  Are there any plans to build a high res in game model view? One is used internally, aware of third party options, no plans for official one at this stage
hyperjumpgrandmaster (Reddit) What are the plans to make PvP more meaningful? Is there a timeline for any of these changes? Open World PvP is not very likely to happen a all – too much of the game relies on that being the case. Cinematics don’t offer protection while being watched. Issue #4 will see changes in Fusang and PvP that doesn’t require the player to go to a specific location – factions fighting each other during special events etc.
  “Are there any plans for open world PvP outside of the fight clubs? Maybe a “”hostile”” server where PvP is always on after reaching a certain amount of skill points?”  
Voodoo Shark (Reddit) Are there plans to streamline current skills and mechanics? Definitely looking into streamlining – some skills too similar across weapon types. Will also address on auxiliary weapons with some new mechanics. Another new auxiliary coming in Issue #4 update
  Will there be a more consistent free trial? Big changes in trial set-up – announced in around 2 weeks

Flash Point 42: The Secret World / Joel Bylos Interview Special Edition

The Secret World Joel Bylos InterviewThis is a special edition devoted to our interview with The Secret World‘s Game Director, Joel Bylos. Episode 43 will be live tomorrow if TSW isn’t your thing, although it’s worth hearing a senior MMO designer’s ideas all the same. If you are into TSW then you’re in for a treat as Joel covers a lot of areas of the game and gives some hints on the future of the game. A big thanks to Joel for taking some of his valuable Sunday morning at a park with his family to speak to us.

Points of discussion:

– Joel’s journey from Australia to being game director at Funcom
– What being Game Director involves
– Question from The Angry Postman: promoting TSW outside the Alternate Reality Game niche
– Transparency of Funcom/TSW with the struggles over recent months
– Question from Ed Goldstein: scaling between zones
– Question from Belladawna: Does the new position mean Joel can outdrink Ragnar?
– Question from Belladawna: Plans for an official hi-res model viewer?
– Question from Hyperjumpgrandmaster: Making PvP more meaningful, open world PvP an option?
– Question from Voodoo Shark: plans for streamlining skills and mechanics?
– Question from Voodoo Shark: ongoing free trial offers?
– Any other teasers willing to be disclosed? (Yes – including a heavy hint on Issue #4’s auxiliary weapon)
– The impact of layoffs on the team and optimism for the future and bringing some people back
– Can the output of issues be maintained?
– Ability to change body-shape in the future?
– Lessons learnt from Age of Conan?
– Lessons learnt from other MMOs?
– Rift doing panda charity donations (and a lame joke from the host on funding a different type of panda)
– Comparing TSW, GW2 and WoW combat
– What’s a measure of success for TSW over the coming year?

Post your thoughts on the interview below – we’ll have a summary of Joel’s responses posted in 24 hours or so but nothing beats listening to the full thing – enjoy.

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