Video: “The Secret World” GDC Presentation

Last night I decided to spend a half hour watching Funcom’s The Secret World video from GDC. I’m not really sure why; I’ve finally come to accept that MMOs aren’t a good genre for me, but I guess old habits die hard. I’m sure I’m going to keep buying these games, playing them for a few weeks and then becoming disgruntled about them. I’m just too curious for my own good and I still long for a virtual world to call my own. Not that most of today’s MMOs are virtual worlds, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, I haven’t been paying much attention to The Secret World to be honest. The setting, or at least what I thought was the setting, wasn’t all that compelling to me. That much, at least, changed last night. The game has instances that feature “time travel” to crazy situations. The one they show in the video is of Native Americans and Vikings banding together to drive off a Mayan invasion! How awesome is that? [The Mayans sure have been getting a bum rap lately; wasn’t it their neighbors, the Aztecs, who were the bloodthirsty ones? Perhaps my understanding of history is flawed, but let’s get back to the game.]

The low point of what I saw was the combat; there was just nothing very compelling about it to me. That’s not to say that it was bad…until I play it I won’t actually know. But it just seemed ‘safe’ to me, with mobs that had very short aggro ranges and (spell-based) combat animations that looked like avatars standing in place doing their cheerleading practice. Hopefully they punch those up a bit; this was early footage after all.

The high points were character development, which looks incredibly deepcomplex, no let’s be optimistic and stay with deep. There are a ton of skills..did the dude say 500!!? Maybe I’m forgetting…it was 12 hours ago after all and I have a mind like a sieve. Anyway there are a ton of skills that you can put points into, but you can only equip 7 active and 7 passive at any one time (a bit like Guild Wars). You can change the load out at any (almost?) time though (not sure about during combat), and create pre-made sets of skills for fast switching. Anyway, it looked like there’ll be a ton of ways you can go with your character and there are no predetermined classes.

The other thing that looked cool was crafting. They’ve borrowed from Minecraft to a certain extent. You can salvage a weapon to get materials, then (this is the Minecraft-y bit) you lay those materials out in a particular pattern to make a particular item. You can then tweak the item by attaching “prefix” and “suffix” enhancements to it. The hope was that people will not only make their own weapons and stuff, but would be creating thise prefix and suffix enhancements and trading those among the populace. We’ll see.

Just a few final thoughts. At this point The Secret World didn’t give off the vibe of an AAA title; the polish just wasn’t there yet. Maybe it’ll get there, but then I almost hope it doesn’t. I’ve been having more fun with games that have a few rough spots and some personality than I’ve been having with games that are so polished that they have neither high nor low points.

I also found myself thinking about The Matrix Online while watching the video. I’m not sure why…maybe because the female character they created started in Seoul and was slinking through the streets rolling her hips like they were on ball bearings? In fact, the overt sexualization of the female characters really felt kind of dated. Y’know, the low-slung jeans with the T of a thong pulled up above the waist? It did look like that was a choice the person running the demo made, though, and that there were outfits where the outerwear actually covered the underwear. Imagine that!

Anyway, if I’ve piqued your interest, get comfortable, grab a beer or a cup of coffee, and check out the video: