Chaos Theory: The lowdown on The Secret World’s motorcycles


Ever since The Secret World’s debut dev livestream two weeks ago teased motorcycle mounts, players have been abuzz with anticipation. The desire for vehicles in the game stretches way back; more than two years ago I mounted a campaign to bring scooters, bicycles, and even motorcycles to the game. I just knew it could be done, and now it is happening! From the moment that first screenshot was shown in the last minutes of The Steaming Ones accompanied by the promise “This is coming to TSW,” speculation has run wild. Perhaps the mounts will be scenario-based. Maybe they will be time-based, with the motorcycles effectively running out of gas and stopping. Some suggested that the bikes will be nothing more than an advanced sprint.

Amid the excited conjecture, a number of fans have also voiced concerns about how the machines will affect the immersion and player-experience in the game. Will the scenery fly by at a rate that players can’t soak up the nuance? Will the ambiance be ruined by the revving of hundreds of engines on the streets?

Now, much of that conjecture — and hopefully the concerns — can be laid to rest. I spoke with Lead Designer Romain Amiel to learn more about these new mechanics, which aren’t actually mounts. Better yet, Amiel says that players will be able to experience the feature, currently dubbed the Custom Sprint system, for themselves next week.

Mount mechanics

Two years ago I argued that not having the ability to snatch that 10-speed bicycle you walk by was actually quite immersion-breaking in a game dedicated to atmosphere. When running from filth-infected monstrosities or giant bugs, who would pass by a bike and think, “Nah, I am faster on foot.” I asked how many fans have come upon a bicycle or a scooter in TSW and had the instant urge to hop on and take it for a spin, and pretty much everyone had had that thought. Heck, I’ve even wanted to ride that little red tricycle (*cue Dr. Demento*). I offered a number of ways for the use of vehicles to be a fun addition without sacrificing what is great about the game, from having them be occasional spawns to limitations on time or zones. Great minds must think alike because we’re finally getting vehicles, and devs have taken care to make them fit with the theme.

How will the system work? To start with, it is not technically a mount system; it’s a sprint system. We (sadly) won’t be grabbing a bike someone left lying around in the world and making a fast break for it. Instead, we’ll collect special visual effects to accompany our current sprint level. These customizations will be stored in a special UI — just as the pets are — that players can access to change at will. Basically, it’s another way to give players more customization opportunities. If you have too many cool customizations and are a bit decisionally challenged (as I am!), you can also let the game randomly choose from among your collection or a selected favorite few.

The effects themselves include new animations, optional FX, and vehicles. Players will earn these various sprint customizations as achievements and pick them up as loot drops. It’s another way to reward players. Some customizations will also be available for purchase via the item store.

In addition to the effects, two additional sprint upgrades will be available to buy for pax from the Advanced Faction Fixer in the hubs. Level V will increase your sprint speed to 125% of normal speed, and level VI will increase your sprint speed to 150%.

Immersion, FTW

Just as it is to us, fitting in with the TSW theme is important to the devs. That’s why you’ll see various restrictions on the three different categories of the customizations: on foot, classic, and extraordinary. On top of the default sprint animation, on foot will include new animations and special effects that will work anywhere. The classic type contains vehicles, including the motorcycle from the screenshots, that can be used anywhere except inside buildings and dungeons (+10 for immersion!). The final type is contains special vehicles that will really stand out and can be used only in adventuring playfields (read: not in stating cities), in Fusang, and in Agartha. Another +10 for immersion here.

Think about it: The starting hubs are still out in the real world, and we wouldn’t see anything like jet packs or hoverboards on the streets of Seoul or New York now, would we? However, it wouldn’t look too out of the ordinary in Kingsmouth where things are anything but ordinary! As Amiel put it,

“In order to keep the mood of The Secret World and preserve the Lore, we created the Extraordinary type. Those vehicles would probably raise too many eyebrows in the otherwise quiet street of Seoul or London. Players can still show off those more extravagant looking machines in Agartha or in any open playfields.”

What kind of vehicles are we talking about? My money is seriously on hoverboards! Not only did Amiel say, “I seem to remember one of those vehicle types being used in Back to the Future II maybe?” in the announcement post, but he also mentioned in our conversation how he’s always wanted one since he saw the movie. Who hasn’t?! I am right there with him, and if we can’t have it in the real world, why not in our Secret World?

For now, however, we know only that the motorcycle is on its way. Amiel assured that many other vehicles are in the works.

Born to be hog wild

Now, about that bike! We know the motorcycles can pop wheelies thanks to Amiel’s tweet, but some players might be disappointed that the motorcycle physics do not realistically mimic the real world in all respects. Amiel told me that this is intended to boost the fun factor:

“We went for usability over realism, so you can jump and you can turn really fast. The first iteration had more of a slow-turning vehicle style, and no jumps… meaning it was fun for two minutes and then extremely frustrating.”

In other words, all customizations are designed with usability in mind, so players can jump and turn swiftly even when using a vehicle.

How do you get one? While a few sprint customizations will be released with next week’s update and more later, only one classic will be available immediately, and that will be through the item store. For $20, those who don’t want to wait until they can acquire a motorcycle in-game can purchase the Premium Classic customization pack that includes:

  • a special mission (with cut scenes!) from Moose to unlock the bike,
  • this exclusive bike as the mission reward,
  • a unique Nitro Boost with its own animation, and
  • Sprint VI.

If you don’t want to buy and are patient, there will definitely be other Classic and Extraordinary mounts — including motorcycles — available outside of the cash shop either as achievement rewards or as drops (and so forth) in the future.

I don’t know about all of you, but I am so stoked to jump in and get my own set of wheels. I am looking forward to have a reason to put my motorcycle helmet on! But as Amiel said, the bike is only the beginning. There are many more customizations planned, and he’d also like to hear your suggestions! He said, “If you have any cool run animations or vehicles you think would fit TSW, feel free to let me know, or have your readers submit ideas.” You heard him: Submit those ideas!

Is it real? In The Secret World, rarely is it not. Conspiracies, ancient legends, paranoia, secret societies, chaos — they all swirl together in a cacophony of reality. In Chaos Theory, MJ Guthrie infiltrates this secret world, exposing the truths that lurk beneath the surface. The big question is, can you handle the truth?
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