Chaos Theory: ‘Never say never’ for The Secret World housing

    
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I have to admit, so many dreams were shot down this past week when the news came out suggesting that personal housing would never make it into The Secret World. I felt as if my soul had been crushed a little; I know I am not alone in my desire to live more fully in that fantastic world via my own personal space. The pain was mitigated slightly when Producer Scott Junior clarified his statement to emphasize the difficulty of such a task instead of the impossibility of it. Still, I had to know just how hopeless the housing situation for TSW was, so I sat down with Junior and Lead Designer Romain Amiel to find out, bracing myself for the pain of lost hopes and unfulfilled dreams.

Their answer was music to my ears: Never say never!

Hope for housing

Between Junior’s forum Q&A and Amiel’s interview, things looked pretty bleak on the housing front. Many players came away with the feeling that there would never be housing. That’s exactly why Junior and Amiel wanted to offer clarification. Amiel reminded me that when the game launched, the devs insisted there would never be mounts in the game, and now look! So never say never. It just turns out that whatever system is actually implemented needs to fit into TSW, and that takes creative thinking and development.

Before you get your hopes up too high, however, know that there’s no way housing will be heading into the game anytime soon. It’s not even on the roadmap. But also know that its absence there isn’t because it won’t ever happen; it just can’t happen right now. Junior noted that the roadmap itself is done by year so 2015 is already set, but there is always 2016 and beyond. How far ahead? There’s no real answer to that, but Junior said, “The reaction to [the news], even if we might have been taken out of context, has made us reevaluate housing, and the team has been tossing around other ideas of different ways to do it and add it to the roadmap at some point.”

Players may not realize that they’re not the only ones who want housing. Amiel revealed that long before Funcom’s big restructuring a couple years back — pretty much right after launch, in fact — the team members were asked what big tasks they wanted to take on next. The overwhelming answer was housing! And it turns out that there was plenty of discussion and planning as a result. Amiel said, “We fleshed out a lot of designs.” The team is sitting on those plans and ideas now (more on those below!), waiting for the right time to focus on them again, perhaps even by working them into a future issue.

Why and why not

So why exactly can’t players have housing? The why seems obvious. From one perspective, it would seem that housing would bring in more funds to Funcom. I know I’d be throwing money at the screen to purchase and furnish my own pad! And I am certainly not alone in that. “The retention value of housing is undeniable,” Amiel admitted, “but it’s with a certain type of player.” Hearing the two lay out the reasons in detail for why not right now helped shed a different light on the situation.

There’s real truth to the statement that the best way to implement housing would be using a time machine. There simply is no system in the game that can do what is necessary for housing; whole new systems and new database would need to be developed. Amiel described three very clear costs to making housing. The first is that the system would need an all-new database that would save the player and his housing. What about converting dungeons? Amiel explained why that won’t work, since the dungeons immediately forget who you are once you leave, and each time you enter, it’s a random new instance. Most folks would probably like to return to their own home with their own stuff, not a random regeneration!

The second cost comes form having to create a decoration system that would allow players to personalize the house. Amiel emphasized his motto, “If we do something, we do it well,” so the team would want robust functionality. He added, “We have inspiration from a lot of very good systems out there.” The current world-building tool is completely standalone from the game, so devs would have to create a version actually works within the game, which is no small task.

The third task comes in the form of the data. We’re talking about all of the assets players would use to within their housing and all the accompanying meta data that tell the game the properties of said assets, like that tables go on the ground and paintings go on walls. And of course there needs to be a system that understands all this.

Therein lies the problem. Creating all these systems would take time, and that takes time away from other content.

Putting the story on hold

There is no denying that the number one reason people play The Secret World is its story. Amiel confidently said that 100% of players care about the story, the atmosphere, and the setting. I certainly couldn’t disagree! Housing, on the other hand, does not enjoy that much support. Some players really do want it, some don’t care either way, and some would be upset to see resources spent on it instead of whatever else they might prefer. On this I could also agree, which made his next point all the more powerful: Focusing on housing now could be detrimental to the game.

Amiel pointed out that to do the most scaled-down version of all the aforementioned points would require about six months months of dedicated work from everyone everyone on team — artists, programmers, and designers. That means no one would be able to spend time on developing other content. Now add in that it takes approximately three months to develop an issue right now and you’re looking at a conservative estimate of nine months with no new story content. I have to admit, taking away the reason people play for nine months does not sound like the best way to retain players! Housing is very much a calculated risk, and just not one worth taking. Right now the priority is on issues.

Junior admitted that the team could put a cheaper housing solution with stuff the game supports right now. However, Amiel emphasized that such a scaled-down feature with no game play could leave most people feeling extremely underwhelmed and disappointed. Then the team would possibly spend more time and resources trying to cobble together something to make it better and still not come out with a product devs are happy with. Instead, when housing is done the team wants to do it right and have a spectacular system in place from the start.

Of course, housing could end up tied to an issue, which could bring it to the players sooner. Junior noted that to open up the player apartment might be doable as a piece of a mission in an issue that opens for players to visit and then just remained open after. Will it happen? That way is more possible. Like the snowmobile opened the door to mounts, having the work done for another (especially story) purpose makes it easier to have it available to players.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

While we know that there is no way housing can happen in 2015, the fact that devs already have some ideas in mind is pretty heartening, not to mention intriguing. So what’s the scoop? Junior told me that since the game is all about the story, “We would want to make it very gameplay focused housing, not just somep lace people could go and RP and have a party. [We want to] have it tied into the actual systems of the game, the progression of the game, and the story of the game.” Junior described having neighborhoods where cabals build their houses together. He also described one possible idea for using neighborhoods that got me pretty excited, but they’re not ready to talk about it just yet.

Of course, the system will a double-edged sword. It could be a negative as people will start hanging out in their houses and cabal neighborhoods instead of congregating together as they do in Agartha, making access to other players more difficult. Amiel pointed to the hubs in EverQuest II; after the massive guild halls went in, the main areas emptied out. Amiel noted that devs tried to make London the central hub for gathering, which is why certain things like the bank and mail are only found there, but players migrated to Agartha instead. This concern would also need to be addressed so new players would have access to veterans who can help them acclimate to the game when needed.

Even with the possible negatives, housing and neighborhoods still sound great to me, and I look forward to the day they can be implemented — even if it is a long, long way away. I’ll hang on to my hope, and I’ll look forward to inviting you in for a visit.

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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ItsmeMario
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ItsmeMario

Ok folks. I know the article/blog is about housing, but since so many are talking about combat, I want to talk about it as well and I don’t care that months has already passed.

I had played TSW since its release, payed some months of subs, then decided to buy the lifetime membership just to learn that in a few months the game would became B2P with no more subs. Ok, they give me points every month. I’m the type of player who spends loads of cash with toon appearance/customization, then buying that lifetime thing wasn’t bad after all. 

The thing is that just after TSW became B2P my wheel was complete, I had played all dungeons, story, pvp… everything that was available at the time. I loved the story, still at times I think it could be better delivered, but hey about that part it’s just me, can’t tell about anyone else. I never found combat bad, honestly for someone who came from SWTOR, TSW combat was very fluid. I never had any problems with starting toons – compared to SWTOR, they are more or less the same way: almost no skills, spamming the same thing over and over again till you can unlock more things. After completing the whole wheel, well, those who say that it’s totally different, yes and no. Yes, because then you can have any build you feel like, and no, because it wasn’t bad in the beginning (again my personal experience).

I agree that TSW has been doing for years what WS (Wildstar) claimed as something new. I’m among the ones who were like “meh” about WS telegraphs. I played WS and the combat is quite similar to TSW, the difference is that the telegraphs sometimes draw crazy shapes on the ground. Though on WS the abilities are visually more magical, more colours and particles. Also there you can double jump, and even a “simple” jump is way higher than that on TSW, of course WS is cartoon-ish, so no need to be convincing, but it really creates the impression that combat on WS is “better”, while it’s just the same. Anyways, WS is as dead as TSW, so a battle to prove which is better is not necessary. 

Now about GW2. Well, it is and it is not GW2 fault that TSW didn’t do well during release. It is mainly because we, players, prefer to repeat what we’ve been told than finding out by ourselves what we think about something. GW2 has a number 2 in its title, which means that there was a previous installment. Happens that GW had a large and loyal community, while TSW just had Funcom, which is a name people love to hate, sometimes not even knowing why they hate it. I, for instance, never care about the companies: to me all of them are evil and just want to milk our money. Then EA, BW, Turbine, Carbine, Bethesda, Arenanet, Funcom, etc, etc. I don’t care which is the company, I’m their customer and I’m buying a game: if I like I buy it and play it, if I don’t, I just don’t buy it. I don’t care if it’s made by Rockstar, Maxis, or you name it. Before TSW I never heard about Funcom. After TSW and after all the delays Funcom made to TSW, I don’t hate them. I know it’s a small company. I have seen their game – TSW -, which is a beautiful game. It was a great experience and it was totally worth of my time – I just don’t like the facial options when you create a toon. lol But again, unfortunately Funcom has lots of haters (I’m not debating if they have a reason or not to do it), and while people on youtube posted videos telling how GW2 was cool, a good amount posted about TSW, but instead they were telling how bad the combat was, how the first minutes in the game were a really bad experience and it was typical coming from Funcom. If you think I’m lying just do a good search for videos around the date TSW was released and you’ll understand why people love to tell the TSW combat is bad, which is not.

And coming back to GW2. I’m sorry, but you can’t compare them. My heart hurts to say this: but GW2 combat is indeed superior to me. Why I think that? Ok, TSW has an immensity of skills, but which I really used? And what about rotations, resource builders, spenders… GW2 has none of that: not that many skills, but no rotation required since many skills are situational, and must be used when it’s needed. With much less skills you do the same TSW does or even more. You can complain about any other aspect of GW2, but when it comes to combat it’s the same argument you use to justify TSW: you haven’t played enough yet. Still, I must remind you that I’m not saying that TSW is bad game. I still love it and the memories and moments I had on it. It was really fun.

But why then people love to bash TSW combat? I’ll tell you now why, and it’s not because of rotation, resource builders, etc. FF XIV has rotations, no dodge and worst: global cooldown. SWTOR has rotations, no dodge and kind of global cooldown. WOW has rotations, no dodge… and the list goes on… but then, all of them have better ANIMATIONS and more eyecandy-ish particles. TSW is visually just too dull, compared to them. And, unfortuantely, that’s what really sells. People don’t really care that much about mechanics, if they did, FF XIV would have failed, since it’s the worst combat I have ever seen taking into consideration the date it was released.

Then instead of fighting if it’s good or not, if you want houses or not, if you want TSW to ressurect, you would want Funcom to polish the way combat looks and, of course, create more content and more areas. Housing being a market or not won’t make crowds come to a game which combat looks dull during the first minutes of gameplay. One thing is “Oh I showed to a friend and after some time he loved it” and another thing is guide-handing a huge mass of people, which is something that the game really needs. TSW community has always been smarter, then don’t act like Wildstar leetists that deny their game lags and runs bad even on gaming rigs. Denying a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, no matter how butthurting it may feel.

That’s it. It’s quite likely I won’t read your reply. So feel free to agree, disagree or to bash anything I’ve said.

Styopa
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Styopa

Personally, I’d like it if they’d better use the city-spaces they have.  They’re so setpiece and dead, with seemingly 99.9% of toons (not in Agartha and not adventuring) standing in the London mailroom.  I get that they wanted London to be the hub of hubs (sorry NY and Seoul), but it’s not – AGARTHA is the hub of hubs, with this little critically-important cul-de-sac of London that you have to go to occasionally.

Aglethe
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Aglethe

CrowingOne Aglethe omedon666
The way people phrase things is a factor yeah, it’s important to try to be constructive. It can be hard though for people to put into words things that happen at a mostly subconscious level and on a millisecond time scale.

Aglethe
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Aglethe

PinkCiritty Estranged CrowingOne Klaus92 GameGirlGames
Part of the reason people harp on about that stuff is because those kinds of things are so very important to “game feel” (I’ve already linked it in my response to @CrowingOne below, otherwise I’d post Chris Franklin’s video on kinaesthetics here, though it’s probably one that desrves to be spamed a bit) which in turn is a vital component of the enjoyment many people receive from playing games.
Often the difference between good and great in games can come down to a tenth or even a hundredth of a second (heck 60 fps vs 30 is a matter of 16.66ms). There was a James Recommends video on Extra Credits a month or so ago about Distant Star ( https://youtu.be/mPokovkI73M ) that was an interesting example of this. James spends half of the video talking about what turns out to have been a .3 second delay in edge scrolling and how much that was driving him up a wall while he was playing it. The discussion has some interesting spill over into the comment section as the developers (Blazing Griffin and Scott Boyd in the comments) responded to the issue, why it was there, and what they’d done about it.
TSW does have a lot of great dungeon design with some interesting mechanics and as @aboomwithaview mentioned they’ve been doing much of what Wildstar does for years now. The difference though is one that comes down to polish.
A lot of it probably ultimately has to do with budget (much like the housing issue the article is about), in terms of what it would cost to really tighten things up vs what they want to focus on doing and who they’re trying to reach. 
It’s not something that’s going to bother everyone (or they can at least look past it) but it does in some ways limit TSW’s appeal. Which is a shame, because it does have so many good things to offer.

Aglethe
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Aglethe

CrowingOne omedon666
It’s sort of a tricky thing though, the language for discussing and critiquing “game feel” ( http://youtu.be/MrFk4NIGCo0 ) is limited, and most players aren’t even aware of the concept (at least not in a way they can articulate) in the first place.
So while a lot of the X is bad stuff may be bandwagoning, and it’s certainly poor criticism, it may also be the most honest feedback many people can give. 
As frustrating as that can be.

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

Oh, and ‘not on the roadmap’ imo equals ‘never in 2015, likely not in 2016, we’ll see for 2016-2017’ haha.

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

If they do it, they should just start off by giving us the basic apartment we have in 1-2 cinematics, using the same items in it, plus others you get (some retroactively) from achievements and stuff. Then see from there.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

Hmm. It is a tricky balance. To somehow integrate the development of a system that would work for player housing, into the development of the main focus of the game content delivery – i.e. story and missions and instances and pvp. The Dev team can do one or the other but not both without seriously compromising everything. That means figuring out a way in which a housing system can be built that ties in with existing content so that stuff is still released to give players what they’re actually here for, while building up the systems needed for housing. I’m not expecting Rift Dimensions here, much as something like that would be nice, but I do appreciate FC not wanting to just throw in some kind of half-baked room and a handful of basic furniture.

So here’s a couple of ideas off the top of my head:
Scenario tie-in
We need more scenario modes/locations etc. Who knows what’s happening with those; they’ve been talked about since before the first – and currently only – set were released. How about a defensive barricade/tower defence style mode where you’re in an area with a bunch of randomly generated things appropriate to said area (pallets, crates and forklifts in a warehouse for example), survivours that need to be protected and an incoming pile of mobs more densely packed than the standard mode. You have to place the stuff you find in such a way as to form protective barriers for survivours and to funnel mobs into situations where you and your group can take them out. It’s like the current mode but would be more intense and add more strategy to how you lay out your chokepoints. Perhaps chuck in stuff like electrical cables you can move around to electrocute mobs, barrels of toxic goo you can place and spill that snare/dot mobs etc. There are elements of this in already existing missions in the game that can be drawn upon, and it would also require developing an in-game verison of the worldbuilding tools in a limited context. It would refine collision detection, and add in item moving and item manipulation via rotation, placement etc. The setting and available objects are limited to keep it simpler at first, but it lays the groundwork for expanding what can be done. We had Issue #8 that was largely about the introduction of the Scenarios so another new set of them could form another Issue base.

PvP Scenario tie-in
As a direct result of the above, opening up those defensive barricade Scenarios for side vs side (vs side?) PvP scenario where instead of mobs and survivours, you have enemy players and some sort of point you have to guard by making use of the randomly generated objects you find. We’ve been promised PvP scenarios for ages, so this ties into several things!

Theatre tie-in
The Albion Theatre allows for setting up stage plays with backdrops and so on. My experience with it is pretty limited but s part of a social event in a quiet month some new systems could be introduced to allow more depth in terms of what you can and can’t do with the stage. Music, lighting etc perhaps? Test run for music, lighting, backdrop etc systems for player housing.

Training room tie-in
How about instancing the current faction training rooms per team (as a precursor to a Cabal Training Room) and allowing people to pick and choose what sort of dummies they want and where to put them within each instance? Introduction of item manipulation and crossover with combat systems.

Startup Apartment tie-in
A mission that takes you back to the apartment you were living in when your anima first went boom. You can move stuff around in it, perhaps clean it up because yuck, what a state you messy lot left it in – maybe under orders from your faction so that it can be sold/let/whatever to someone else and tie up that loose end you left. That could leave it open to be ‘re-acquired’ as a first player housing location. It can be used to revisit the character’s Beecoming as part of the story, as a way of measuring how far the character has come during Season 1. Timing-wise this looks more likely to be part of an early Season 2 interlude :p

LordOfBread
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LordOfBread

so….. housing confirmed? yay!!

omedon666
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omedon666

Or they realize they don’t owe anyone an explanation, and the game isn’t entitled to their patronage, nor is this comment thread.