Having planned on remaining silent after their initial announcement, Funcom generously gave in to our pestering ways and decided to spill a bean or two on their as yet undercover project, The Secret World. Product Manager Erling Ellingson takes the floor...
What kind of MMO is The Secret World - heavily combat-based, quest-based, more social-based...?
Erling Ellingson: I think you'll find a nice mix of all of these aspects, but there will definitely be a lot of exciting combat and exploration. You'll find fighting classes that are not at all standard for massive online games, such as the martial artist.
As with Age of Conan, we're also putting a lot of effort into making huge, believable environments. And hey, you know how much emphasis Funcom puts on the social element in our games!
And, of course, we're known for our strong storytelling abilities, and we will make sure that The Secret World enjoys our tradition of making games heavy on story.
Tell us a little about the game's story...
Ellingson: There are a thousand stories to this game. A world of stories! The setting for The Secret World is actually our own world, close to our present time. But there is something out there, another world beyond our own. I like to think of it as opening a door in your apartment, and if you really want it, you will step into this world that no one really knows much about.
In this world there are mysteries, there are monsters and there are some very, very dark conspiracies. There are also many myths and legends from our own world, that may play a part in all of this.
When and where is the game based?
Ellingson: It's set in our own world and you will actually be exploring vast cities such as London and New York. This creates some really exciting opportunities for us as a developer, to actually set a massive online game in real-world cities. As I said, the game takes place in what is close to our own, present time, but will be battling creatures of darkness across the world and throughout time!
What's going to differentiate The Secret World from other MMOs?
Ellingson: At this stage in the game, I would say the setting. It's just something really new and exciting, light years away from elves and trolls. Now, I didn't say we won't have elves and trolls in the game (and I'm not saying we are either!), but if we do, you might actually get to see them stomping about in Times Square! Or not. If I got paid for every ambiguity in this interview I'd be a rich man.
What games is The Secret World comparative to?
Ellingson: I would say that The Secret World is really a mish-mash of different games all in one, from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis to Anarchy Online. Perhaps a little bit of Grand Theft Auto thrown in for good measure? As with all Funcom products, what we really want to do is just make something different. We created the first sci-fi MMO, and now we're creating the first contemporary MMO.
Will play be instanced or streamed?
Ellingson: We're not ready to go into too many details here, but I can promise you that we have some huge environments in the game.
The engine we're using is the same as the one we're using for Age of Conan (though we are always improving upon it, and The Secret World will launch much later than Age of Conan so expect to see a lot of improvements), and that engine is by now renowned for the massive landscapes that we are able to render - from massive mountain-ranges to vast cities.
What games, films or literature have influenced The Secret World?
Ellingson: The game director for The Secret World, Ragnar Tørnquist, is a man who reads many books and watches a lot of movies. I just ran into his office and posed him this same question, and after thinking long and hard (in fear of saying something that would reveal too much), his eyes turned sinister and he whispered... The Ring.