Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom sat down with The Secret World Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard to go in-depth on crafting, server architecture, persistent warzones, and PvP rewards!
ZAM: Speaking of persistent PvP and these warzones, other MMORPGs - Star Wars: The Old Republic being the most recent one - have run into significant problems with faction imbalances in open world PvP. Without direct developer interference, how are you going to balance server populations and faction imbalances in persistent PvP?
Martin: First of all, all of the resurrection spots in the zones are elevated, so it's impossible to spawn camp. You have to jump down to get back into the playfield. So if people are camping you, you can freely hearthstone back to Agartha.
Secondly, your home base - which you can always spawn at - will be locked off with a one-way wall that only admits members of your secret society.
When it comes to population imbalance, we have a cap and a quota. We haven't released final numbers for these zones because we're still trying to push it up as high as we can while still maintaining performance, but let's say, hypothetically, that it's 99 people. Then we say that 33 of those spots are reserved for Templars, 33 for Illuminati, and 33 for Dragons. If there are 33 Templars in the zone, and zero Illuminati, the 34th Templar to join the zone will remain in the queue; he cannot enter. But the Illuminati have their 33 slots, and they can come and go as they please. So that's how we solved that problem, and it has to be solved, or else you will always have factions getting steamrolled and you leave it rife for exploitation (not to mention crashing the zone).
ZAM: So what happens if you have way too many people in the queue, waiting to get into the persistent warzone?
Martin: At launch, there will be one persistent warzone per shard. We're already in development for another persistent zone, however, we're not going to enable it until we see how popular this one is. We don't want to dilute the PvP players, and you need these zones to be populated. We don't want too many choices to be floating around.
ZAM: Will there be any steps taken to "rein in" the hardcore players who blaze to the top? What's to stop a core group of Illuminati from playing non-stop to get an early advantage on their server so that they can continue to press that advantage by persistently dominating at the mini-games?
Martin: We have something called combat potential. It's obviously not going to be as accurate as a linear level comparison system, but we basically take your abilities, your chakra skills, and your weapon skills, and we make some comparison calculations from there.
ZAM: Weighing your overall stats and spitting out a comparable number total.
Martin: Exactly. When you go into the PvP mini-games, there will be brackets based on this combat potential, so you will fight with people who have the same combat potential as you.
ZAM: Is it ever possible to go down a tier?
Martin: No, because you can't reduce your weapon skills and chakra skills. We do some calculations based on your highest weapon skills, your chakras, and your chakra skills. For persistent PvP, it's also important to note that you can't do it until you've reached a certain secret society rank. That's approximately… after Egypt.
ZAM: Can you de-rank in your secret society?
ZAM: What happens if, say, three players just blast their way through the ranks to get to the persistent warzones? Will they be able to do what they want in the persistent playfields? Are there rewards for doing so?
Martin: Yes, yes, and yes. In order to capture objectives in the persistent playfields, I didn't want it to be so that one person could get up at 4am to grab all of the objectives. To capture an objective, you need to kill an armored guardian. The armored guardian is a big robot guy that you don't really kill, but you just disable him and, after you do so, he reactivates as loyal to your secret society. You need at least… five-ish or more people, depending on how good you are. . . [pause] What was the question again? [laughs]
ZAM: What's to prevent players from really taking advantage of the system and pushing to the top?
Martin: Oh right! Well… We don't want to prevent that. If you want to PvP, then you should try to be optimal. If people are better at making builds than you are, then they should win. It's always been the goal of this system to reward players who spend time with the ability system; to reward the players who are taking the time to look for the proper skill synergies that let them advance faster.
ZAM: So for the people who are putting in the effort to advance and rise quickly, you don't want to block them from doing so.
ZAM: Thematically, it makes a lot of sense to me, just because we have three factions engaged in a wary passive-aggressive war, and everyone's been given the tools to succeed, so it's really about whatever faction can nab those ambitious players to their side. If it wasn't possible; if a developer were to hop onto the forums to nag at the players for playing to win, it strikes me as counter-intuitive to the lore of the game.
Martin: Exactly. We don't want that at all. We deliberately made the rules of these playfields very simple. It's your arena and it's up to the players to have fun. It's very easy to cap a zone. You bring certain bombs to open the gates, and inside the gates, there will be an automated guardian to bring down. Those are the rules.
ZAM: We're running low on time here, but in terms of PvP progression and rewards, will there be PvP-specific outfits, or will there be actual game-affecting items?
Martin: For the persistent zones, if you go in there and you cap a certain amount of objectives to control the zone, then every single member of your secret society will get bonuses because of you; you will become the hero, basically. The whole secret society will also get a form of token currency - although we're still trying to find a way to distribute it - that you can spend on items.
There won't be PvP-specific items (items with PvP-only stats), and that's something I want to avoid as long as I can. The items you can get from PvP are the same power level as the ones you can get from PvE, although we're still tweaking how long it can take. We don't want PvP to be easy, for example, because then everyone will think they need to PvP in order to gear up optimally.
ZAM: So I guess PvP purchases are another of specializing yourself, similar to crafting.
Martin: Yeah, and a lot of the items are crafting materials.
ZAM: All right, I think I'm pushing on a novella rather than an interview here, so I think I'll stop for now. Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions, and hopefully we'll be able to speak again very soon to answer even more!
Martin: My pleasure, thanks!
Stay Tuned, as we might have more interviews and in-depth information for you later!
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief