Funcom's Martin Bruusgaard and Joel Bylos share their plans for The Secret World, including the New York raid, new locations and much more.
I stand at a subway station, the grey tile and fluorescent lighting providing a pale backdrop for a small handful of commuters stranded at Hantell Street Station. A news report echoes around the entrance hall, streamed to a huddle of sorry faces crouched around an iPad. The reporter has no idea what’s going on. But then again, no one does.
The ground shakes, dislodging streams of grit and dust from the ceiling. I decide to press on; ignoring the half-hearted pleas from one of NYPD’s finest, heading down the steps to the Seventh Avenue Line. There’s no service today, not any more. The loudest noise on the platform is coming from two German tourists arguing with each other. Something about Dusseldorf.
One of the subway trains has made a mess of the Downtown end of the platform, bursting through the roof and into the daylight above. Sensing an exit, I dash through the middle of the mangled train car. Emerging above ground, I’m just in time to see Air Force jets scream above. Sounds of the military are all around, with tanks rolling through the city streets and helicopter gunships circling nearby. Whatever’s going on, it’s big. It’s going to take a big team to take it down.
Welcome to New York
“We want players to take this seriously,” I’m told by Joel Bylos, Funcom’s Lead Content Designer, as he walks me through The Secret World’s first raid. “It’s not some cave where you fight a dragon at the end; this is a real location in the world. The Secret World has always been about keeping the secret world hidden; it’s been part of your job. And so the events have completely broken some of the normal people here.”
One of the CGI movies released before launch definitely pointed towards this particular raid, with the part-demolished cityscape providing a Cloverfield vibe. As we climb up through a multi-story carpark, winged monsters fly past the narrow gaps between each level. Bylos adds: “We want players to be asking themselves: at this point, is it possible to keep the secret world a secret? Because this is going to be on every news channel in the world.”
The careful use of set-pieces and NPCs is intended to help players immerse themselves in the raid and build up suspense, before delivering a cool boss fight. There are no trash mobs or mini-bosses to distract us, with Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard stating that they’re “usually just bags of health that you need to grind through in order to get to the fun stuff.”
To reach the epicenter of the ongoing chaos, we need to pass through an office tower first. Unfortunately this one is home to QBL Media, a subsidiary of the far-reaching Orochi Group, and the Fox Media of The Secret World. Passing through, we discover the news reporter whose voice was heard in the subway entrance earlier. He stands in front of a gaping hole in the side of the building, paper and debris being blown around in the wind. As we approach the edge, the street below is torn open, sending railcars and concrete in all directions. Rising up, a creature some ten stories tall unleashes a violent roar, its tentacles reaching fifty yards in each direction. And in a few months, following the launch of Issue 2, players will have the chance to fight it.
Bruusgaard explained why they felt it was the right time to release the first raid, after being impressed with how groups had tackled Nightmare Mode 5-man groups. “It’s incredible to see how players just dive into the ability system and come up with tactics and combinations that we didn’t even think of, and manage already to do a lot of the nightmare modes. We applaud them – that’s exactly what we wanted to do. They should be rewarded for being clever and finding these combinations of abilities that let them progress. But they need a new challenge now. So we made a raid for them.”
The team settled on a cap of ten players for raids for two reasons: five-player groups already have their challenges, but ten players is a reasonable size to still have synergy between abilities. As Bruusgaard explained, “if we went any higher than ten, it would be difficult to plan out any group synergy. It’s important to have synergy within your own build, but you should also have some sort of synergy with the other players. If you think about planning that for thirty, forty people, it would be quite a big headache.”