The Secret World

The-secret-world-639x479An interesting new MMOG is the Secret World. Much is being made of its class-free system, but for me the real innovation is in the spatial relationship of meaning to the geography. Thank heavens (or is it a plan by the Council of Rome) that we have finally gotten away from quest hubs. Instead, as you run through the zombie apocalypse, you see a smashed delivery truck and a package that is interactable. This leads you on a little mystery that is of independent narrative interest, and gains heft in the circumstances of the game. A package being delivered to - whom? Are they still alive? And why would someone here want a radiation detector? These symbols on the package - do they mean something? Is this a lost love situation, a consortium of devils, back-handed political shenanigans - or something else? OK, so you get to combine shotguns with lightning bolts if you want, but to me that's not the big draw. The big draw is running around in a varied and unpredictable signficance space, something that WoW had all but killed.

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Comments on The Secret World:

bearly_ninja says:

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Posted Jul 9, 2012 5:49:02 PM | link

Mark says:

What I love about the game is that you actually have to pay attention and think! One quest had me brush up on my art history. Another on base64. Etc.

Also, something I've longed for in MMORPGs is some semblance of meaningful decision making ie. decisions with consequences in quests, such as found in single-player RPGs (well, at least the western style ones) pretty heavily. And it might be that TSW makes you choose between sides! (tho I haven't played far enough to know if this is true)

What I really, really dislike about TSW is that it seems monster placement on the maps is geared more for groups... Very difficult for a single player to explore that space, which I agree with you, is great, without attracting unwanted attention from monsters that never, ever lose aggro.

Posted Jul 9, 2012 7:07:55 PM | link

Edward Castronova says:

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Posted Jul 9, 2012 8:53:40 PM | link

Lisa Galarneau says:

Cool! I just started playing - the first night was a dud. I found myself craving City of Heroes! But I will try again... after all, I wrote this ode to my hope for it: http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2012/01/my-cups-runneth-over.html/

Posted Jul 9, 2012 9:31:20 PM | link

SpiritDied says:

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really liked the morsecode quest X3
got the game without any high expectations at mmoga.com and was amazed by it ~

Posted Jul 10, 2012 5:36:50 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

Owl Vulture
Arm JarStand Mouth DoubleReedLeaf

Posted Jul 10, 2012 9:04:16 AM | link

Stabs says:

"The big draw is running around in a varied and unpredictable significance space, something that WoW had all but killed."

Is this just the wheel coming full circle? I remember games before WoW as having quests laid out in a fairly logical order. In Baldur's Gate you might leave Candlekeep then meet someone on the road who needed your help, basically the same structure as The Secret World.

Then WoW innovatively introduced the "Christmas Tree" quest hub system that, back when it was fresh, people really liked.

In other words the real art is not the game design technique but the timing of using it at a point where it seems refreshing and the alternatives seem tired.

Now that Christmas Tree quest hubs are ubiquitous, scattering the quests in a story-driven way feels fresh.

Posted Jul 12, 2012 11:56:57 AM | link