Chaos Theory: 2017 was a big year for the Secret World IP

Well, 2017 was interesting. It’s not often that your favorite game starts off as one game at the beginning of the year and then ends as another game — all while still being the same game. Sure, updates and expansions make changes, but major overhauls aren’t as common. And setting aside the original and remaking it even less so! But that happened with The Secret World, which morphed mid-year into Secret World Legends. It’s the same game, but not. Confused? Even if you’ve been following the game(s) semi-regularly, it’s easy to forget or miss a few details. And if you are new to it all, no one would blame you for not being in the know as to what all has transpired.

In 2016’s year-end retrospective, I noted, “Not going anywhere is better than going away!” We didn’t know how prophetic that statement would be for TSW. For 2017, I can follow that up with, “Going where it did is better than going away!” This past year was obviously a big one for the Secret World IP. It’s also been rough, stressful, and ultimately rewarding. Here’s a look back at it.

Hope lost, hope found

It isn’t a stretch to say that by the start of this year, many TSW fans were feeling that the chances of getting new content was slim. It was sparse enough throughout 2016, having all but petered out in spring. Of course we were all yearning for more story, and we knew Season 2 existed in written form even if it wasn’t fully developed. I blame no one for losing hope in ever seeing this content in TSW. (Turns out they were right, but that is getting ahead of ourselves a bit.) Then came February.

Hope at last, hope at last! Funcom announced that The Secret World would be relaunching. We were told that the combat that many complained about would be revamped, and other changes and fixes would improve the game. That all sounded positive. The remark about all story content being free also sounded positive on the surface, but then you wondered: What would this payment model be? Could it keep our favorite game alive? Frustratingly, more information about the change wasn’t very forthcoming, so speculation was what we had. At least we wouldn’t have long to wait, since the relaunch was in March.

Except, it wasn’t.

The first big change we saw in March was the addition of a new community manager to the Secret World team. Adding more staff is a yay! As the days of the month ticked by with still no information, it was looking very unlikely that the relaunch would make its launch window. And then right at the end of the month we get the big news: The relaunch isn’t happening. Instead of a relaunch, we were getting a complete reboot. The Secret World was transforming into Secret World Legends. Things were definitely a-changin’.

Checking out the changes

Even through Funcom offered FAQ for this huge change, there were many more questions, which were answered in part during various exclusive interviews with Game Director Romain Amiel. We learned that TSW would not be turned off but just put in maintenance mode with no future development. To get new story, players had to move over to SWL. And by move, devs meant start over. Yes, we learned that every player had to remake in the new game. This, obviously, did not set so well with a number of players; many folks spent years building up their characters with gear and cosmetics.

As bad as that news felt to fans, we also learned it had to happen — both the reboot and the need to remake. Without the reboot, the IP would just be shut down and be lost forever. And Amiel emphasized that SWL was different enough that there was no possible way to transfer characters. Good news at least came in the form of the announcement that all TSW players would be getting all weapon unlocks for free in SWL. Additionally, many of the cosmetics, pets, and sprints would also be transferred.  There was also the chance to reserve one of your characters’ names for the reboot.

Still there were many questions, and many worries. People needed to see and understand what was happening. March then ended with the beginning of the Legends beta. You’d think that beta would help diminish the problems, but they seemed to escalate a bit instead. Being a TSW player did not entitle you to getting in the SWL beta, which really rankled a few folks. (TSW folks weren’t invited en masse until June 9th; before that it was by email invite only from sign-ups.) Within days there was a NDA leak that sent waves throughout the community. The beta was far from complete, and the changes pretty drastic in the eyes of some. Yet many still couldn’t see for themselves and that only heightened concerns. The devs then did a stream the next day to show off some character creation, tutorial, and combat changes. Info trickled in about weapons, UI changes, how to unlock stuff in free-to-play mode, and more as the weeks went by. I even finally got a beta tour for a peek inside to share !

3…2…1…launch!

Devs may have still hoped for a spring release; they technically only missed it by a few days with the June 23rd head start and June 26th launch. (The Steam launch, however, was delayed until July 31st.) After a half year of stress on both the parts of the players and the devs, folks could finally get in and start playing for keeps. That didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing, though! News about patron benefits wasn’t revealed until the head start began, the SWL launcher overwrote the TSW game files forcing folks to have to restore in order to log back into the original, customer service experienced some troubles and limitations., and Tokyo wasn’t even in at launch

But through all the bumps, all the slow trickles of information, I feel that the devs have been listening to concerns and working hard to provide players a better experience. This is exactly what gives me hope for the game! For example, plenty of changes were implemented based on player feedback right at the start, such as veterans getting three character slots, improved patron benefits (twice!) and weapon unlocks, more inventory, auction changes, and more. Of course, it would have been preferable is such things were worked out in the beta, but at least they were worked out. Currency exploiters were quickly banned, and The Whispering Tide event was adjusted quickly to play better. As time moved forward, the conversion of Funcom Points was finally addressed; it was way later than what should have happened, but it was worked out and devs even implemented a compromise suggested by the community to the problem the conversion plan created. And one day after the raid update happened, the team adjusted controversial lockout timers.

In July, the audience grew as SWL launched on Steam, but that came with its own confusion, as players had to take extra steps to ensure their game client was on the platform they wanted after some were automatically converted.

August saw something unexpected with the announcement that Johnny Depp had the rights to produce a Secret World Legends television series. That was pretty fun news, and fans hope to see it come to fruition.

July saw the release of the first part Tokyo in game, with the rest coming in September and the revamped Orochi Tower in October. And throughout the summer and fall new systems have been implemented, including the build manager, the emote window, mission inventory (and better stacking!), talismans, the anima allocation system, and other QoL improvements. Three big events also happened (which also improved along the way): the one-time only Whispering Tide, Samhain, and Krampusnacht. And all this is great, but we admit that we more than improvements and events, we want more story!

More is coming in 2018

Now the game — this version — has been out six months, and it has already changed. It has improved. But folks are more than ready to get to season 2 of the story. Devs themselves started the hype train back up in November when Amiel started teasing aspects of it on Twitter. And I was boarding. Would we see the new season soon? I think it really is going to happen thanks to the relaunch. My reasoning is based mainly on two things (no, not that the game laid out a roadmap and the executive producer assured that story content was planned for years to come in July). First, it is because the game is definitely receiving development love, and it is taking cues from the community. I can’t be the only one that feels that SWL has gotten more attention and work on it than TSW had seen in a while. Second, in November Legends was openly credited as contributing to the third consecutive quarter profitable quarter for Funcom. Those are good signs! A game that brings in money is a game investors want to keep around to keep bringing in more money. And to do that, they need to keep building it up.  (OK, it also didn’t hurt that former lead writer Joshua Alan Doetsch had been back in the studio and appearing on SWL livestreams noting he was doing a little work there!)

As much as I want more story, I do also hope QoL and other improvements keep coming. I personally would love to see players be able to trade between their alts via special bank or mail or something instead of all of us having to sit alone in our own personal cabals to utilize the bank there. (A way to toggle those mission barriers would also be super spiffy!)

I am more enthused about 2018 for Secret World than I was for 2017. Things are definitely on an upward trend, and that’s so much better than stagnant — or flatlined! It’s going to be an exciting year, and for that I say thanks to all the devs and folks who worked hard to make sure we still had a game to go to. It may not be a perfect world, but it is our Secret World.

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24 Comments on "Chaos Theory: 2017 was a big year for the Secret World IP"

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hurbster
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hurbster

I was expecting at least a graphics overhaul which we didn’t really get.

xpsync
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xpsync

I’m sure something was improved graphically. When i was firing up the old version for vanity transfers i was literally omg this looks like crap compared to the new version. I dunno tbh, but something must have been improved graphically. My toon looks so much better in swl, a complete overhaul, no, but improved dramatically yes.

hurbster
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hurbster

Yeah they look a bit better, making everything else look worse.

xpsync
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xpsync

In some places i’ll agree with that, in other places things just pop so nicely, toon looks so sharp on an amazing landscape, then off in some other area my toon looks like crap.

Weird game, but that’s a plus not a minus.

As long as the dungeon’s are running at peak performance, i’m good.

hurbster
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hurbster

Lighting maybe ?

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Probably.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

All i wanted to post was.

Nice read MJ, and so happy to have you in our corner :)

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

So glad most of the peeps posting here have moved on and are not playing SWL tainting the amazingly friendly community within SWL.

Unfortunately they will all be back when season two launches, c’est la vie. They will locust that content, then we have to endure all whining about how season 3 is… aggg we all know the rinse repeat moaning these peeps have, i don’t need to get into specifics of the rinse and repeat of their qq life styles.

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dm_jim80

I’m glad that people who never experienced TSW’s storytelling the first time around or gave up around Kaidan were able to use the relaunch…rebranding…whatever as another chance to give it a go. I’m glad FC managed to make some moola in the short term.

For me though, the best part about the relaunch was that it convinced me to finally play ESO. The old wags were right. ‘Just go play a different game.’

xpsync
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xpsync

“or gave up around Kaidan” lol, more like gave up by Blue Mountain, twice!

TSW for me was awesome, but the a-hole’s and the absolutely crappy control’s yeah i could never get past BM. Now… SWL, I’ve not been this invested in an mmo since EQ2. Pretty much been solo’ing mmo’s such as ESO since walking away from EQ2 back in 2008. Getting into a Cabal with loyal dedicated Secret World players is a bonus.

hurbster
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hurbster

I preferred the old controls.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

I hear that almost daily from peeps in the Cabal.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

Not surprising really. Also, Skill Wheel.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Haha that too, but not as much.

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athiev

Based on Steam charts, subreddit activity metrics, and Google Trends data, it looks likely that SWL is currently at a population and activity level similar to the lowest points in TSW’s life. It might still be making more money — but if so it’s by the gross tactic of monetizing harder, rather than by reaching a broader audience. Either way, it’s hard for me to see an argument for optimism. Even if Season 2 happens, it’s going to be built by the people who decided to turn all gear into an exponential AEGIS grind… I hope things get better. But what I really hope is that they’ll repent and decide to publish Season 2 on TSW as well as SWL.

xpsync
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xpsync

lol, ahhhh the doom and gloomin peeps always make me laugh. The game is literally packed, been to Agartha lately? Gone to hel at any hour? Never have issues getting a dungeon run when i have to pug one? Oh yeah so dead, lol. Thanks for the chuckle :)

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

MJ, ever the optimist : )

I wish I could share your optimism, but I’ve long since fallen off the wagon. I need to finish up Transylvania and actually complete Tokyo, but I’m just running out of motivation. I barely even log in for my daily lockbox keys anymore, something that I did for months even when I wasn’t actively playing. Couldn’t even find the motivation to do the holiday even since it largely seemed like the exact same thing that they did during flappy bird/halloween, just reskinned again.

I want to be optimistic again, and I’m glad with some of the changes they’ve made (anima infusion system or whatever it’s called is nice, and makes gear less of a pain in the ass), but it really does feel like the game lost a lot of the initial head of steam it built up with its launch. Funcom’s poor communication hasn’t really helped on that front, I imagine.

Oh well, I’ll keep trying to find the motivation to finish up the current content and do a bit of grinding, but the lack of information about what’s coming around the bend isn’t helping my dulled levels of excitement/interest. Hopefully they can change that soon.

xpsync
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xpsync

I think with every mmo, meeting the right people makes all the difference in the world.

Reader
Hirku

I started playing again recently for the sake of finishing the original story and I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing anything in-game or out that suggests the future is looking bright. They’ve made some small improvements to gear progression, but it’s still a tedious system. Other than that all I’m seeing are a tiny population and no new content in sight other than a very underwhelming teaser shot. If Funcom doesn’t produce a good amount of high-quality story content then this game is dead meat, because they’ll have nothing else to sell but relief from a numbing grind.

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Bruno Brito

Honestly, i still have the same doom and gloom feelings. SWL is a bit less convoluted, but it’s also lacking a lot of what made TSW…well, TSW.

Time will tell, but i’m not holding my breath. This sounds like the F2P Relaunch of Wildstar.

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Melissa McDonald

Tried SWL, and I can’t come to any other conclusion that this was a complete fiasco. They abandoned the game I liked, and the new version seems best played on a tablet not a PC. Ultimately they hardly changed anything about it, except to force me to start over again, with what seems like an inferior client. And “rumours” of new character models and things like that are mostly smoke and mirrors.

Seriously, this is one of the most baffling things a game company has ever done with their flagship MMO. If you like it better, or like it at all, bless you. I’m left feeling like it was just a really bad decision.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Mel, you need to get into end game. Running high end dungeons, there’s no words! I’ve not had this much challenge and fun since early years of EQ2, team work is key. MMO’s just don’t have this anymore they are all a spoon-fed solo-fest.

And i have to use my disclaimer: I could not stand TSW controls or the community of ass hats, so never got past BM, and in the long run that worked out well for me as this is all new to me and the players, they are the best, so friendly, so helpful, and the controls OMG so much better, my view is SWL is only the TSW done right.

Following the game, streams, ect no worries season two is coming.

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Loyal Patron
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ogged451

Considering that at one point they “intended” to start season 2 this year (see the MOP interview with Tilty), having one – nondescript – screenshot of season 2 is certainly big.

A big disappointment.

Reader
sophiskiai

I’ve enjoyed TSW, and am looking forwards to new story content, but am worried about the game’s continued financial viability now that most of the whales from the initial launch have either stopped playing or (judging by posts on Reddit) already maxed out their gear, AP, & SP.
How much of the game’s money comes from lockbox sales (for many people even the main value of monthly Patron status is the lockbox keys it gives) and how badly will that be affected by the lockbox backlash?

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