chaos theory

Chaos Theory is a Secret World column by MJ Guthrie. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

Chaos Theory: Making your (cosmetic) mark in The Secret World

When talking about The Secret World, one topic that can’t help but come up is the contemporary setting. As far as MMOs go, TSW pretty well corners the market on having a modern-day, real-world environment — which is awesome! It’s definitely a plus in many ways, from immersion to relatability. However, there is more to it than just feeling like you can fit in the world: There’s also actually becoming a part of the world. And since TSW can already seriously blur the lines between reality and game, making players a permanent part of it is not a stretch.

In a way that few others could emulate, Funcom has found seamless ways to give players ways to make their mark on the game, to naturally incorporate them into the world. Back in 2013, this started with a musical contest that brought the winners’ compositions to the in-game airwaves; to this day players wandering into Kingsmouth’s The Ravens Knock and Susie’s Diner, Seoul’s PC Bang, and London’s The Crusades nightclub (just to name a few) will hear these melodies piped out of radios. Later that year was the introduction of a clothing design contest to introduce new fashions into the mix. More recently, players were able to enter a contest to craft the 2015 August item of the month. Beyond this, you can find plaques and banners emblazoned with player and cabal names, and there are even fashion magazines — with players characters as the models — to peruse scattered in certain establishments in New York and Seoul.

And now, there’s the new monster t-shirt design contest.

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Chaos Theory: The Secret World survival game

I’ve been thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know!) And I think I have come up with a solution to a number of the things plaguing The Secret World. Now this isn’t a “what I want to see” list for my favorite conspiracy-laden horror game — I’ve shared those thoughts many times before — but an idea to build up the game and just keep its goodness coming for a good long while. Heck, this idea even addresses some of those long-desired features that players have clamored for.

So what are some of the issues? Well, everyone is concerned about Funcom’s financials. Add to that the fact that a number of folks are underwhelmed with the implementation of PvP; it also feels like the faction system has no meaning beyond clothing rewards and deck names. And then there’s the combat period, which plenty of players are unhappy with. Then there’s that painful downtime while fans wait for the next issue to dig into the awesome story. Feature-wise, we’re talking housing, pets, and even mounts.

What idea can possibly help fix all of these? A survival game! Now before your groan disturbs your coworkers or wakes the neighbors kids, hear me out.

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Chaos Theory: Is The Secret World best when binged?

Binge watching. You know the practice when it comes to your favorite shows, but what about your favorite games? While this certainly isn’t the most profound question or vital of topics in The Secret World, it has been on my mind quite a bit this week — especially as I eagerly (and impatiently) wait to continue with the Issue #14 story line live on OPTV. Is TSW best experienced by binging, or can it be fully appreciated at a slow, steady consumption rate? And if binges truly are best, how does that effect the health and longevity of the game? These are a few thoughts I found worth exploring this week.

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Chaos Theory: Tomb-raiding The Secret World’s Issue #14 with Funcom

Remember that Indiana Jones-inspired outfit from The Secret World’s Issue #6? Today is a great day to dust it off and slip it on because Issue #14’s release returns us to the tomb-raiding life, complete with temples and doom!

Called Call of the Nameless, this newest adventure not only returns to Egypt but returns to the epic self-contained story line style found in Issues #5 through 7. There is little argument that those issues are some of the best storytelling in TSW and encapsulate the heart of the game, and it is precisely this that Game Director Romain Amiel wanted to return to.

So how does Call of the Nameless measure up to to the likes of The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn? Is it dark? Oh, yes — it is quite literally dark. Does it have story? Yes — it even has a literal story. Although I haven’t experienced the full thing (that’s saved for my OPTV stream series starting tonight at 9:00 p.m. EDT!), I did get a decent taste of the story, the atmosphere, and the mechanics during yesterday’s tour with Amiel and Community Manager Andy Benditt. And yes, I am hungry for more. Read on for my impressions of Issue #14 before it launches today, sans significant spoilers.

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Chaos Theory: The Secret World really needs player music

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man. Except, you can’t — not in The Secret World. That’s because there is no player music system in this conspiracy-rich horror game. How can that be? A world that is top-notch for ambiance and using sound doesn’t have a robust system in place to celebrate the awesomeness that is music? I’m here to say, it really does need one. We know it is possible to some degree: We already have some missions that utilize flute and organ playing in the game. So let’s expand it a la Lord of the Rings Online, or even ArcheAge.

Now, I can fully appreciate the argument that listening to the players pounding out out-of-tune pieces could very well ruin the ambiance the game has carefully cultivated. That’s true. But I believe there are ways that instrumental abuse can be mitigated.

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Chaos Theory: In The Secret World, membership has its benefits

By now, you’ve probably heard me mention a time or three that The Secret World overhauled its membership benefits and loyalty rewards. As a TSW fan, I was very excited to see these changes heading our way; I am totally in favor of getting more bang for your buck, and the new system is meant to deliver just that. As a Grandmaster myself, I couldn’t wait to log in and get my hands on all my cool new goodies. Bring on the bling! It all sounded pretty dang cool on paper, and anything that brings in more players and makes current ones happier is a total win/win. But we all know things don’t always go as planned. Now that the new system has launched, how did it play out in practice? Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the golden.

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Chaos Theory: Figuring out The Secret World in 2016

Behind you, it’s totally dark and the way has closed off. There’s simply no going back. Up ahead, everything is in shadows. You creep forward. If only you could see what’s up around the corner; if only you knew what was there, awaiting The Secret World in 2016.

If the answer as to what to expect were as easy and obvious as poking your head around a corner, it wouldn’t be The Secret World, now would it? In a game steeped in mystery, discovery, and revelations, answers are never just handed to you. Knowing exactly what is going to happen in the next 12 months is about as likely as making it through The Cost of Magic perfectly the very first time. But we do have clues! And those clues point us in certain directions. It’s just a matter of piecing them together and solving them. And that, my friends, is very Secret World-y
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Chaos Theory: Looking over your shoulder at The Secret World’s 2015

We’ve finally left 2015 behind. And while it is perfectly natural to want to glance back in the rearview mirror over the last 12 months, in the case of The Secret World you can’t help yourself; there’s that odd sensation of something following you. While peering back, I half expect some shadowy figure to materialize in the corner of my vision and make my heart skip a beat. This is, after all, the king of creepy MMOs that we’re talking about.

Paranoia aside, the year was not a bad one for our favorite horror game. Sure, it had some downs tossed in with the ups, but that’s how life goes. And I think the year ended positive overall, with new content, new kinds of content, and the promise of even more content to come.

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Chaos Theory: Inside The Secret World’s Issue #13 before launch

It never fails. I am too weak to resist a Secret World dev tour! Even knowing that spoilers will abound, I cannot help myself — I must see what’s in store. I call it my civic duty; after all, I need to report it to you, yes? Of course, you could just wait a smidgen and see for yourself when Issue #13 releases this week, but why torture yourself needlessly? I already tortured myself for you! I sat down with Lead Designer Romain Amiel and Community Manager Andy Benditt to play through parts of the new story, check out the holiday clothing, and (obviously) take tons of screenshots. I did manage to avoid reading the lore I collected at least.

So do you want to see what’s in Trail of Shadows? You are in the right place. Warning! Some spoilers lie ahead, but I try to avoid anything too major.

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Massively OP’s holiday gift guide for The Secret World and Funcom fan

It’s the holidays, and in the spirit of giving, I am going I’m going to give you ideas — for gifts! Instead of waxing poetic about the awesomeness of The Secret World or explaining the amazing things about it to folks who may not have tried it (yet), I’ll be highlighting awesome and amazing things you can get for your friends and family who already love the game! That’s right, today is a special gift guide edition of Chaos Theory, where discerning shoppers  — or those who just need to be hit with the +10 sword of inspiration — can search for that perfect something that says I get you.

But I won’t stop at just TSW: Funcom has other titles that also have dedicated fans. I’ll share a few gifts that might please the Age of Conan and Anarchy Online devotees in your life. And don’t think just because there is no more LEGO Minifigures Online to play that I have forgotten about those fans. Besides, we are talking LEGOs!

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Chaos Theory: The Secret World’s Issue #13 Trail of Shadows reveal

Following in the reveal footsteps of the second half of Issue #12, the details of The Secret World’s Issue #13 Trail of Shadows came by way of the official dev livestream, The Streaming Ones. And that’s not a bad thing. I have long loved my dev tours through the newest content — even though it always meant a spoiler or three. That’s because the devs’ enthusiasm for the game just can’t come through in a text announcement as it does in person. With the recent trend of livestream reveals, everyone has the chance to experience that  — dare I say, infectious — excitement.

We’ve already had a few teases about the upcoming content; today, the devs dished out even more details. So here’s the run down on Issue #13’s story, features, cover art, and collectors edition goodies as well as the upcoming PvP updates. On top of that, we got a peek at the new Christmas event rewards. Oh, and Lead Designer Romain Amiel also threw out a few tidbits about Issue #14!

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Chaos Theory: Seven reasons I am thankful for The Secret World

It is definitely no secret that I like The Secret  World. I mean, I really like it. OK, so I adore it in a hug it, and love it, and squeeze it, and call it George kind of way. Personally, I just find there are many things to like about it (and have said as much in plenty of Chaos Theory columns and Stream Team episodes). But today isn’t about my esteem for the conspiracy-filled, horror-laden title. On this day of Thanksgiving, I want to reflect on why I am thankful for TSW. It’s more than just liking the game, it’s really appreciating what the game does for me and what it means in a grander scale.

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Chaos Theory: How my walk in The Park gave me hope for The Secret World

In the beginning, there was surprise. Funcom is making a single-player experience based on The Secret World?! After a few seconds that shock melted away into excitement. Oh heck yeah — sign me up! Who hasn’t thought that TSW could make a killer single-player game (if not already be one, heh)? Then came the eagerness and anticipation as I waited for The Park, compounded even more by getting a taste of the game during my tour, then made nearly unbearable as I stared at the game on my Steam list while waiting to stream it. Finally, Halloween came and I was able to dive headfirst into the experience, full of hope, excitement, and even a little nervousness. And why not? It felt like a first date with TSW’s future. If things went well, the studio would be in a better place, which would mean more security for my favorite MMO. Success could mean good things for TSW, from more exposure to more development resources. First impressions were important.

I’m not normally one to kiss and tell, but The Park was not a disappointment. Everything about that date was awesome. I spent three full hours alternating between running and tiptoeing while exploring every nook and cranny, examining every single scrap of paper. (How I missed one achievement, I still have no clue!) It was a roller coaster ride — at one point literally — of emotions that was worth every second. And everything about the game tells me it is a portent of good things to come.

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