Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dark Days Are Coming

The crucial aspect about the release of The Secret World is its place in the greater shambles of online games. It is the first in years to be in the unique position in which World of Warcraft found itself at its debut. There are a lot of players online tired of the-same-old-thing and ready to expand their horizons, the company has the funding to support a true persistent world and it has an existing playerbase, both low and high-class from its previous games while not making TSW the next in a series. It even promises players something new.
Of course, WoW also had the same freedom and funding and chose the mass-appeal course, but in their case the temptation (justified somewhat by their insane success) of being the first MMO to break onto the mass market was much greater. Now that's been done and that pie has much fewer, smaller pieces left, one can only hope that TSW's developers will feel a somewhat stronger pull towards quality.

It's a modern-day MMO. Look, ma, no elves! Good.
It has a relatively mature look to it. Almost no attempts to draw in the under-ten crowd. Better.
Instead of macho military tropes or elves and orcs, it went for a Lovecraftian dark fantasy setting.
Better and better, but wait, there's more.
Aside from other hype, there is one quality of the game that sells it to a small following, and its name is Ragnar Tornquist. He's the one who managed to make a name for himself with something as simplistic as an old point-and-click adventure/puzzle game, The Longest Journey. He is now the 'creative director' for an MMO, and whatever that means aside from having his name appended to it, it's a good sign that FunCom would even want what passes for 'artsy' street cred among computer gamers associated with such a large project.

There are, of course, many issues remaining. The Longest Journey deserves its own blog post, but suffice to say it's fans know that that its creator is capable of giving us an immersive world and interesting characters. Regardless of his indulgent art-student conceit, the man can create atmosphere. This is, unfortunately, not much of a guarantee when it comes to an MMO. I know Tornquist can create a world, but i'm not sure he can create a game.
All the niggling details and gigantic flaws that i keep ranting about in my ongoing manifesto are still up in the air, all the gameplay issues of failing to link player activities together, of centering an interactive game not on interaction and group goals but on repetition and individual self-aggrandizement. FunCom promises much of what i and other players have demanded. It won't be a real persistent world, that's unfortunately already certain, but they're at least paying lip-service to its core nerdy audience's "no classes, no levels" demands and the more mature setting i mentioned above. Still, realistically, it is likely that the company will go for the tested method of fighting for a piece of WoW's customer base instead of trying something new. The game can still be expected to slide downwards into simplicity and complacency. Gotta keep in mind, this is the same company that put out Age of Conan, of all nonsense.

What can i say. I'm jumping right back in and getting my heart broken by another MMO. I've pre-ordered the stupid thing.
I couldn't help it. The videos just look sofreakinCOOL!

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