|The Secret World|
|Engine||DreamWorld Engine (proprietary)|
|Platform(s)||Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows|
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Action-adventure|
The Secret World (formerly known under the working titles Cabal and The World Online) is an upcoming MMORPG from developer Funcom (makers of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures), whose development has been officially confirmed on March 6, 2007. The final title of the project was confirmed on May 11, 2007. Ragnar Tørnquist is the creative director of the game.
After announcing the development of The Secret World, Funcom project director Jorgen Tharaldsen informed the press that the game uses the same engine as Age of Conan. According to Funcom, the game will blend elements of MMO gameplay with alternate reality gaming and social networking.
At GDC 2009, Tørnquist gave an interview to GameSpot regarding TSW, revealing more about its gameplay. There will be neither levels, nor classes in the game; instead, the character building will be skill-based. This way, the developers plan to avoid level grinding, allowing new players to join the game more easily. The player characters will be customizable to a large degree, particularly in their choice of clothing, weapons (which range from shotguns to swords and can be customized and upgraded), and the supernatural powers they acquire. Combat against computer-controlled monsters will be one of the game's central points and will require more of player's attention than contemporary MMORPGs. The players will be able to form teams to fight together but in an earlier blog posting, Tørnquist assured that the game can also be played in single-player mode, should a player choose not to play with a group. According to him, the game is story-driven and there will be an overarching linear plot, as well as numerous side-quests, ranging from investigation to sabotage and hunting, since diversity of the gameplay will be another central point.
In an interview to GameSpot at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, Tørnquist and the lead designer Martin Bruusgaard revealed which playable factions ("secret societies") will be available in the game. These are: the London-based Templars, pious zealots "who would burn an entire village down to get their hands on one demon"; the New York City-based Illuminati, Machiavellian pragmatists who "believe that it's a tough world where only the strongest will survive"; and the Seoul-based "Dragon", who take a neutral stance between the other two and are "all about deceiving, orchestrating chaos, and waiting patiently for its time". A personality test to determine the players' inclination towards one of the factions was made available on the official TSW website soon after the reveal. It will be impossible to change factions without creating a new character. Additionally, players will be able to create own guilds, known as "cabals" in-game, affiliated with one of the main factions. All players' actions in the game will contribute to their ranking in their respective guilds and factions. The same interview revealed that PvP areas of the game will be located in the region called Agartha inside the hollow Earth, where the players will fight for the invaluable resource known as "anima".
The game will feature an original setting created by Funcom, with contemporary elements as well as "magic, myths, conspiracies and dark horrors". Contrary to rumors, spawned by this game's second working title, it has neither anything to do with, nor is inspired by the .hack franchise and its setting. Tørnquist debunked several rumors surrounding The Secret World, stating that "there are no aliens or sci-fi elements" in it. He also denied any connection of TSW to The Longest Journey.
At GDC 2009, Tørnquist revealed more about the setting and the story. He stressed that the game is set in the "modern day real world" but also incorporates pieces of ancient mythologies, real and false history, urban legends, and pop culture, and ties them into an original back-story. The latter is said to go back in time for 100 million years and encompass long extinct ancient civilizations. The players will assume the roles of supernatural heroes who participate in a "future war between good and evil", fighting dark monsters that threaten the modern world. Tørnquist identified the genre of the story as dark fantasy, mentioning vampires, demons, and zombies. The players will be free to travel across different locations of the world (both real, like London, New York and Seoul, and mythical, e.g. Agartha, the legendary city located within Hollow Earth) and even in time, to pursue the overall plot and investigate new mysteries in connection to the dark invasion. The overall plot will have a conclusion but the designers also leave room for future expansions.
The pre-production of the game started in 2002, but in mid-2003, most of the working team was transferred to the development of Dreamfall. The work on The Secret World was resumed after Dreamfall shipped, with many of the latter's designers (including Ragnar Tørnquist) playing key roles in the former's development. TSW is being produced at the Funcom studios in Oslo and Beijing. In August 2008, it was stated that the development team consisted of people previously involved in the development of Dreamfall, Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, EverQuest II, and The Longest Journey. In November Funcom stated that 70 people were working on the project.
On January 18, 2009, Tørnquist commented on his blog (admittedly, without Funcom's approval) that "2009 will be the year where [players] learn about the secret world", but Eurogamer speculated whether this meant the actual game release or simply the release of detailed information about it.
Following the release of information at Penny Arcade Expo, however, it was widely assumed that this unprompted blurb by Ragnar referred to the reveal of the three factions and the PvP elements of The Secret World at the expo.
On September 29, 2009, Funcom announced a reduction of 20% of its staff, resulting in "significant delay" for the release of The Secret World.
The first promotional material appeared on May 8, 2007, when a picture was "leaked" into the internet, containing a poem, a Knights Templar seal, and several sentences in Spanish, Norwegian, French, German and Hebrew. When solved, the poem led to a series of internet pages, one of them with a riddle, and, eventually, to the newly created official forum.
The websites lead to a Flash page with a countdown timer that uses Hindu (Hindu-Arabic numeral system) numerals instead of Western numbers. The timer will presumably reach zero on 12:00 AM on December 21, 2012, adjusted for the location of Funcom headquarters. According to Maya mythology, this date will see the end of the Mayan calendar cycle. Since then, a massive alternate reality game has been established in the forums.
The first teaser trailer has been released on April 7, 2009 during the GDC 2009. A second teaser has been released as well, with one more set for release in the near future. Most available teasers can be viewed on the game's homepage, however, Gamespot's interviews with Ragnar Tørnquist, on the various factions within the game, included scenes from teaser trailers unavailable elsewhere.