It’s certainly been a week of expansion news! More than one game that had sworn off expansions in the past has circled back to them. That isn’t a bad thing in and of itself because expansions are pretty awesome! Not everyone, however, is celebrating: Such news has some Secret World fans feeling left out (and maybe even a bit jealous) as they, too, would like a big, meaty expansion to fill their favorite game with oodles of additional goodness. But even without expansions, TSW is still steadily moving ahead. In fact, this past week has delivered a few more small steps along the road of progress. Between soliciting player opinions to new cosmetic mounts to new currency, Funcom shows that you don’t have to have mega expansions to keep delivering — and that’s not even counting the latest DLC issue.
Perhaps the biggest little news was revealed during The Streaming Ones, a Friday night dev stream: Hail to hoverboards! This is the sprint customization that Lead Designer Romain Amiel told us he was personally looking forward to the most back when sprints were first revealed. (Sorry, but back then I couldn’t spoil the surprise!) And who can blame him? Who doesn’t want to ride around on a hoverboard a la Back to the Future? Amiel then teased a clip of the hoverboard in action on Twitter, and a longer video soon followed highlighting its cool stealth feature. The stealth may last only 20 seconds, but that’s plenty of time to get past some of the troublesome aggressive obstacles littering the various lands.
Officially called the Hover-Tech Stealthboard, this new sprint is available in the item store right now for 1440 Funcom or Bonus points for a single character or 1800 for an account-wide unlock (for Grandmasters, that is; add 20% more for free players, 10% for subscribers). With such a deal on the account, why wouldn’t you nab one for every current and future toon? I did, and I don’t regret it. I am having a blast zooming all around. I can’t wait to see the skate park in Kingsmouth populated with daredevils trying some aerial stunts.
But the coolness doesn’t stop there. The hoverboard will be joined by yet another new sprint showed off during that livestream. This time, it’s a military motorcycle. This will make the fourth motorcycle skin available between the quest, the item shop, and the event goody bags. Players can obtain the motorcycle randomly from a military duffle bag in the item store or from the London merchant Mr. Knickknack for 50 lucky coins.
I’d like to note here that I actually like the addition of the dev streams and various teasers to the mix of information dissemination; it lets us see that work is indeed progressing.
Your opinions matter
No matter what stage a game is in, I like to know that player opinions actually matter in the minds of devs. Admittedly it may not always be about giant things, and player opinions may not necessarily affect the outcome of certain stuff (we know what players say they want and what is possible do not always coincide), but just knowing that devs are thinking about players’ desires and concerns is heartening — especially in the gaming environment. Admit it: You have to wonder whether developers of some games would even recognize their playerbase if they were in a room surrounded by it! That’s why demonstrations of such an attitude are always welcome, such as the recent poll the TSW team put out.
In this case, the poll is in regard to what items people would like to see implemented in the item store. Yes, this is about the cash shop; as the community manager posted, “This will begin our new series of community feedback regarding items, services, or other things you might want to see in the store.” Better to have offerings that are desired than trash no one cares about, right? This round is asking players to choose three from the following list: hair, body modifications (like tattoos), weapon skins, accessories, sprints, animations, pets, veteran items, and services (like name changes). If you want your voice heard on the matter, jump over and chime in.
Just to be clear, this poll is not the first time I have witnessed the team actively listening to player feedback, solicited or not. One big example is the whole housing issue in the not-too-distant past. When devs remarked that in-game housing was not on the map to becoming a reality, plenty of players expressed disappointment. And the team listened! Producer Scott Junior revealed in an interview shortly thereafter that the reaction “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.”
Another way I see devs listening is with the introduction of the new Lucky Coins. Why? I can totally understand when players are frustrated that they can’t get the one item they want from the special event bags (currently the military duffle bags) even after buying tons of them. So when players asked for a way to get the most coveted items they wanted, the team came up with something that didn’t diminish the value of those rare items yet still made them available. Basically, each bag a player buys rewards one or more coins — hence the item store loyalty program comment Amiel made. Using the coins, players can then buy the most coveted items directly from the London vendor. Amiel also noted that the coins can be given away at other special times, and I hope that devs follow through with that, else I can’t really see how anyone could save enough coins up! There was also mention of previous bags’ wares becoming available. While that isn’t the case right at the moment, I am looking forward to when they are; there’s a pair of hippy pants I am dying to get my hands on!
Does that mean there haven’t been occasions when devs decidedly didn’t listen? I am sure players can rattle off an example or two without even thinking about it. And I don’t disagree — except with the New Player Enhancements, which I think do show that devs were listening. I also realize that just because devs listen does not mean they can always act on what is said; there are tons of other factors involved. (Just for the record, I know in the case of one particular instance involving a bright green mankini, the devs themselves were not the ones not listening to players, so that one I won’t lay at their feet.). But I like the precedent that devs take players’ thoughts and feedback into account.
Digging the DLCs
As much as I would also like content that continues indefinitely in The Secret World, I know it isn’t feasible, especially with a game whose studio is struggling. I’d love for the spookiness and story that the game is famous for to continue unabated no matter how fast or slow I consume content (and I purposely go slowly because I don’t want it to end!). It just can’t happen. But I’ve been digging the DLC model that TSW uses. It may not be as much content as I want with each dose, or as frequent; it never could be. I’d be all for having new issues weekly if I could! But not having to wait a full year between releases is so much better and more fitting for a game so focused on story. We’ve had 12 issues spread across three years — that’s not too bad.
I spoke earlier about how I appreciate the devs taking time to care about the opinions and feedback of players. I also see this exhibited in the DLCs. As much as I love investigation missions, spooky stories, and housing, I am happy that the DLCs actually cater to the broader spectrum of players. Not every DLC is going to contain what every player wants, and I sincerely appreciate that the team is taking time to add content for the different groups. You can see this in the most recent Issue #12 that is all about dungeons and raiding. Those certainly aren’t my two favorite pastimes in the game, but there are players who really enjoy it. They want/need more for their playstyle, and devs are providing. Even if that means I have to wait longer to get more of what I really want, I wouldn’t trade their current system for one that benefits me personally more as it would then feel as if they are turning their backs on part of their playerbase.
In all, while I’d like an expansion for The Secret World as much as the next fan, I won’t weep for not having any. I think the DLC model works for this game. I am pleased in the small steps forward and confident that development is still progressing, promising me more conspiracy goodness. It won’t be long now before we have the remainder of Issue #12 to sink our teeth into.
Besides, Halloween is almost here, and that’s even better than a DLC.