Chaos Theory: I’d fund The Secret World for Funcom if I could

    
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Funcom is in trouble? Say it isn’t so! No, seriously — giving it words feels like personally putting a nail in the coffin, as if I am jinxing it or something. Discussing the matter feels like some sort of betrayal of my love for The Secret World. It’s just not something I relish dwelling on long-term. But going all ostrich and burying our heads in the sand really won’t help any, either. Ahh, the old darned if you do/don’t conundrum.

While no one could argue that the company hasn’t been struggling, fans of TSW have still been hoping for the best for the horror and conspiracy-laden title. How could we not? To lose a treasure like The Secret World would be a huge blow for the genre. Sure, plenty of folks would ask, “Who’s really going to notice? The game is pretty niche.” Yes, it is. But that does not negate the fact that it’s also one of the few out there that dared to really break free of the mold that has a stranglehold on the MMO genre. People demanded different, and they got it. It offers something very special that would be a tragedy to lose.

Because of that, you better believe I would buy TSW if I could. And I hope someone with the funds to do so sees it for the gem it is and snatches it up.

If you get it, get it

With Funcom’s search for investors out in the open, we all know that the clock is ticking for our favorite game. We can no longer live like a youth, infused with illusions of invulnerability. We can’t just ignore the threat of impending loss; we know our game’s existence is hovering over the precipice of uncertainty. And as we peek over that edge into the void, we experience fear: fear that our game will disappear into oblivion. The end may very well be coming, and we’ve got to deal with that… unless someone steps in and prevents that from happening. But that’s a fear in and of itself!

As much as the demise of TSW would be a tragedy, there is another fate worse than death: that someone will buy it and continue developing the game. Wait, you cry. That’s exactly what we want! Not necessarily. This fear is based on someone taking the game and totally remolding it onto something it isn’t and was never meant to be — to take a game and bastardize it. At least with death you can let go. When it’s still there everywhere you turn, you can never fully grieve and come to terms. You can’t sit back and enjoy those memories. Instead, players are taunted with “it’s here, but it’s not”; it gets in your face and constantly reminds you of what once was and you could never have again. I’d much rather see The Secret World halt in its progress and be enshrined in my heart for the amazing thing that it is now than have it get WoW-ified and turned into another cookie cutter snoozefest.

As much as I want some angel investor to come forward or a great company to buy the title and keep it alive, I have one major caveat: Only get it if you get it. Ideally, whoever rescues this title would have a great appreciation and understanding for the unique nature of TSW. Even if the knowledge isn’t intrinsic, these benefactors would see the value of keeping those who do know the game’s focus inside and out remain on the team, leading development. People who know that the story is paramount, that alternative play though sabotage and investigation missions is crucial, and that atmosphere is everything. And let’s not forget keeping the cash shop cosmetic and fluffy!

Ousting armchair analysts

One thing i really don’t look forward to during this time is the increase in armchair financial analysts who will insist that if only Funcom just did things they way they thought they should, everything would have been just hunky dory. I am telling you all now — you are wrong. You don’t know what you are talking about. You do not have all (if any of) the insider knowledge, so no matter what your job is or what you have experience in, your opinions are just as moot as everyone else’s on the outside. Heck, for that matter even many of those on the inside! You don’t know the ins and outs, the inner workings of the company, the decisions, the possibilities, the limitations — nothing. Go ahead and discuss opinion; just don’t try and pawn it off as fact.

Do you know what? Even if everything went perfectly there is still a chance the game would be facing closure. The fact is, everything is a chance. Making a MMO is a big gamble. Even breathing is a gamble (especially if you are traversing a casino floor during a Vegas convention!). There are so many factors involved that even doing the right thing in every instance can still lead to disaster thanks to some chance variable that no one had any control over, let alone could predict. I have no doubt devs have put their hearts into The Secret World and have made decisions to benefit the game and its community. I wish I could say the same for Funcom as a whole, but in my limited dealing with the inner workings I have serious doubts that some of the suits had any real understanding of the game. People who have limited understanding making decisions is a pretty decent recipe for disaster.

Final farewells

While I am an optimist at heart, I fully realize that my TSW days may be numbered. If worst came to worst and we must lose this beloved world, there is definitely a better way to see it go. While some might opt for the pull-the-bandaid-off-fast method of moving on, I personally think that as far as sunsets go, Star Wars Galaxies had the right of it.

If you missed the SWG shutdown experience, know that it basically entailed all subscribers getting a few months of free access to check everything off their in-game bucket lists. On top of that, devs actually tossed in features that players had been looking so forward to even though said features weren’t quite completed. The biggest thing was atmospheric flight. Only SWG vets can appreciate how much that feature was longed for. Yes, it was bittersweet to get just a quick taste of it before losing it, but what a great note to end on.

Some people might feel that the sunset was too long and drawn out; I disagree. The way it went down in SWG folks were able to make and relive memories, to reconnect with friends and the community, and to say goodbye. There is something to be said for having time to come to terms with it all… before it is gone forever. To see those places you never had time for before and do those things you always put off until tomorrow. And let’s not forget having the time to take those screenshots! I’d fill up at least a TB hard drive or two trying to capture all the amazing sights in game. If it unplugged too quickly, folks would have shoulda/coulda/wouldas heaped onto their grief.

Before TSW went away, I’d hope we could get access to whatever was being worked on in order to check it out; let players mess with it even if it isn’t perfect. Additionally, if our world were to shut down, I want to see everyone have access to all issues for at least a couple weeks just to experience everything they possibly can. Me? I own all the content and there are still a ton of things on my TSW to-do list! I’d also like to see the cash shop opened to everyone with prices all marked to free for those last days, just so folks could have fun with what is there.

After official servers close, I admit I would very happily take my own private server so I could relive everything whenever I wanted. I know that is unlikely, but a girl can dream! Even if it is a pipe-dream. Of course, the ideal is for the game to stay the course — keep developing and delivering the amazing stories and atmosphere that we can’t get elsewhere in the MMOverse. I know that I am wishing on the next falling star.

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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arc_salvo
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arc_salvo

Wild_Phil You’re right.  I really liked their single player games, and was wondering why there weren’t any more.  Since MMO’s are an increasingly overcrowded and competitive space, I wonder why they threw their eggs into one basket like that?  MMO’s are declining in general and the writing was on the wall even previously.

arc_salvo
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arc_salvo

deganderson Dajhryne I agree.  It was bad enough before that (most combat is “spam 1 5 times, then hit 2 and 3, then if your health goes down, press 4 for you panic button, rinse and repeat.”  

It’s a very grindy combat system with not that many buttons to push, and honestly, you press most of the same buttons repeatedly, and many things just take a long time to die.  It’s not as dynamic as WoW’s combat, with resources suddenly appearing, certain abilities being buffed, conditional attacks and powers lighting up to freshen things up…

…I feel like Secret World’s combat is one of the weakest aspects of it, along with the Sabotage missions, which are punishing, lack stealth options, and don’t feel like true stealth.  A lot of gameplay design in general seems unimaginative and heavy-handed.  Very “brute force” in terms of feel.

arc_salvo
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arc_salvo

Syco_at_Twitch Estranged I think the graphics are good (overall) but I see your point about the Polygons.

arc_salvo
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arc_salvo

Zardoz1972 I agree with everything but the aux weapon.  Those things are vital to my playstyle and even soloing.  They also fill in gaps in your regular rotation if you’re mostly melee or ranged focused.  They can give you extra options at a range you’re normally not capable at, and give you a lot of situational power at that range too.

arc_salvo
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arc_salvo

Well, I wish they’d just increase QoL features, streamline what they have, and make progression smoother, and give better tutorials and explanations for their systems.

I also wish they’d stop penalizing melee so much.  It was bad enough before Tokyo, at Tokyo itself everyone started to have HUGE aoe spots on the ground that made it hard to avoid damage and deal damage at the same time.

I feel like Funcom knows how to get atmosphere, story, graphics, sound, music, and all that right, but they fail with gameplay.  The Sabotage missions are way too unforgiving for me (and frustrating because you start over every time you get caught), the combat is too data-entry-y, and a lot of systems are obscure and poorly explained, and don’t do enough to gradually introduce and educate new players.

Plus, a lot of the decks are just plain useless.  For soloing, PVP, grouping, whatever the goal is, they just aren’t built well for anything!  Lastly, I wish they’d fix the introduction to the AEGIS system.   That put a brick wall into my progress, was unfun for me, ruined the flow of combat, and made an already overly complicated system even worse, which made me quit.

They did well by reducing time to kill and making combat less punishing and grindy, but they still have a ways to go to make the gameplay more accessibly for the average customer.  I don’t want it to be “wow-ified”, but they could learn things from WoW about “keeping the flow going” when soloing and such.  Basically, less frustration, more fun, more accessible and easy to learn combat and gameplay, with a less intimidating presentation.

mbbrazen
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mbbrazen

MJ Guthrie mbbrazen  sure I take your point there. Not all armchair analysis will be good and most will not. People are incredibly naive about how difficult it is to make a game, much less a AAA game. But let’s leave a window open for those people who do have the savvy and can add something substantive to the discussion.

mbbrazen
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mbbrazen

SallyBowls1 mbbrazen Bluetouchpaper sorry for late reply..was traveling.  I don’t know. Funcom has been amazingly resilient over the years. And it takes quite a while to shake out whether there are interested buyers or if the company can restructure in some way. Ultimately, it may be the end, but it seems to me the amount of doom is premature at best. And MJ thinks Landmark is gonna make it…so I don’t know about how she is making decisions on these things (said with great respect and a smile).

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

The hotbars thing is stupid. I’ll propose something else. Run Speed 6 as subscriber only. The Augment Wheel as subscriber only. AoC already does that with their AA system. And the largely utility Aux Weapon slot as subscriber only. Could you live with that? None of it is necessary to do all Dungeons and even the Raid.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

Zardoz1972 EA were distribution partners in the beginning, but I’m not sure they’ve retained any interest in the game after that.

As to EA’s shop model for SWTOR where basic interface options like hotbars are locked behind a paywall… 
*backs away slowly*

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

Depends. I have heard that EA wanted it at one point. They would make the Cash Shop huge and pay wall a lot of things. Like they do in SWTOR. They would probably keep some of the Devs. But they would reduce Augment grind and other things that many have requested. Do you feel that would WOW’ify the game? Personally, I would accept that.