Bylos Goes Bonkers

Everyone knows that the world is coming to an end later this month. But for Funcom's Joel Bylos, it just became a lot more real.

Bylos is Game Director for The Secret World, which, as you know, is all about conspiracy theories. Heck, they even have an End of Days alternate-realtiy game campaign running to capitalize on the potential apocalypse.

None of this sits well with Bylos, as you can see in video, which was clearly captured candidly and off-the-record.

End Of Days

As is well documented by this point, our world will end on December 21st, just a few short weeks from now. Far be it from Funcom to let a perfectly good cataclysmic conspiracy event to waste! Get ready to dive into another The Secret World alternate-reality game.

Raid In New York City - Live Today

Ok, all of these game releases, expansions and new content patches are getting old. Actually, from where I'm sitting, it's pretty freakin' awesome!

The Secret World: Big Trouble in the Big Apple

The next update for The Secret World is coming November 15th. This update, Issue #4: Big Trouble in the Big Apple, is the largest update to date for the five month old MMO.

The biggest feature being added in the patch is the game's first raid set in New York City, hence the title of the issue. The 10-man raid has the team fighting through the subways and streets of New York before facing down the raid's final boss in the middle of Times Square.

The raid is only one part of the update. Players will also have access to:

  • The Chainsaw – The 2nd auxiliary weapon, this weapon is good for tanks due to its strong melee, hate generation, and defensive abilities.
  • The Albion Theatre – Players can rent the stage and perform shows using props and effects available from loot or the in-game store.
  • PvP Update – New PvP Reward Vendors and new Quests in Fusang Projects
  • A couple new Investigation and Action Mission
  • A new Lair Mission in all of the Lairs
  • Height Slider in Character Creation
  • Nine new starter decks
  • Reticule Combat – This optional new feature will target skills based on where the reticule is pointing. Move the mouse instead of the tab key to target enemies to attack or allies to heal.

The Preview Video for Issue #4 is out now showcasing all of these updates.

Matt "Mattsta" Adams


Funcom's Craig Morrison On The Future of MMOs

I'm sure you remember the recent interview with Matt Woodward, where he described how MMORPGs can thrive by not competing with World of Warcraft? Well Craig Morrison, creative director for The Secret World at Funcom, has come out with a similar spin at Gamasutra recently

You know, you look at the results for The Old Republic and you see a game massively invested in. I don't know their budgets, but I'm guessing something five or tenfold what we've spent on Secret World, at a conservative guess -- where they can retain a million subscriptions and that's a failure. That's a very harsh situation to be in for a genre.

We need to find ways where we can build these worlds. People tend to forget that EVE Online started with 10,000 customers and held that for the first few years, and then it grew organically to where it's now up to 400,000 accounts. And we have to have the space to allow those games to develop like that, because they build better games.

An MMO at the three-year point is a far better game than the MMO that released. And I think we have to find a way as an industry -- and specifically as people working in this genre -- to let that flourish, because that's how we'll build better virtual world games in the next five, 10, 15 years.

It's taking that approach to it, rather than this huge bet that we're going to spend 300 million dollars in the hope of making 2 billion from having a huge mass market, instant hit. When I think the true potential of the genre is in that more slow-boiling, building game that might build up and up and organically build a community.

He also talks about World of Warcraft's influence on the market, system-based games, and free to play. But I wanted to point out that quote, because it's very reflective of a lot of the MMORPG market right now. Investing into the future and the world in which you're building is what makes the MMORPG so enticing - that's why FireFall still has my eye hooked for the future.

Julian "Mirai" Williams

The Secret World: Reticules and Spines

If Joel Bylos set out to impress fans with a list of new features for The Secret World, he certainly achieved it. In a comprehensive livestream presentation, Funcom’s Game Director demonstrated reticule targeting in-depth, before showcasing the new Albion Theatre arriving in Issue #4. He also touched on PVP and animation updates, before hinting at new features and locations we can look forward to next year.

The idea behind reticule targeting is to create more immersive combat, particularly when using firearms such as rifles and pistols. This is done by using a third-person ‘over the shoulder’ view, with abilities aimed at whichever target is underneath the reticule. While this does bring TSW closer to that shooter feel, it’s mainly to aid with rapid target switching and selection.

Reticule targeting isn’t new to TSW, with the feature present in early builds up until 2009. It also became one of the most requested features on beta and live forums, encouraging developers to work in their spare time to bring the feature back. It’s even possible to use reticule targeting to transform TSW into a first-person shooter, although weapons are not currently shown in this view.

Bylos stressed that reticule targeting is a “beta feature”, encouraging players to shout about how they’d like to see it evolve. Funcom are also doing their part to respond to feedback, with Bylos urging members of the development team to take a greater role on the forums.

The Albion Theatre also opens in Issue #4, giving players the chance to hire the theatre and put on performances. A stage manager can adjust lighting, backdrops and even the weather, while group members act out scenes. A boon to role players and virtual thespians, the new stage is sure to create drama.

In a sustained art attack, the livestream also brought news to those who like to look good while dishing out the pain. Seventy PvP uniforms, which are currently in-game but unused, will be available in a future update. Bylos is also looking to improve the Fusang Projects large-scale battleground, but is focused on getting the match rules right before considering a cross-server approach. One upcoming tweak is to introduce an Underdog mission, where the losing side can win support from a giant mechanized guardian.

Bylos also expanded on the upcoming animation improvements, explaining why changes are needed to the Dreamworld engine that TSW is built on. It comes down to providing further freedom of movement between limbs and a more flexible skeleton, allowing for smoother leg blending and better upper body movements. While these won’t be completely new animations, there will be a long-term project to improve animations, once the technology has been implemented.

A mixture of further features were hinted at, including a magical auxiliary weapon,  an expanded crafting system, puzzle raids, and further clothing. While the team is excited about opening Tokyo as a new playfield next year, Bylos also mentioned that even more locations are in the works. Something about dinosaurs, perhaps?

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer

Planning a Secret Future

It’s been less than a month since Joel Bylos took the helm as Game Director for The Secret World. Since then, the Australian designer has been devising plans for the future of Funcom’s flagship MMO, touching on everything from future updates to core mechanics.

Sharing those plans in a blog update today, Bylos first mentioned the way in which the Lovecraftian MMO divided critics, eschewing traditional levels and classes for a gear and ability based progression system. While the theme and style might not be to everyone’s taste, the team is looking to target some of the key areas which dragged the game down.

First on their list is an update to player animation, making character movement more fluid. Requiring an update to Funcom’s proprietary engine, there are also hints of other games in embryonic stages, described enigmatically as “future Dreamworld projects”

The great news is that the production line of new content is still running smoothly, with Issue #4: Big Trouble in the Big Apple due out soon. Along with the New York raid that we previewed at Gamescom, we’ll be able to channel our inner Ash Williams by charging into combat with a Chainsaw, the second auxiliary weapon. Further updates are also confirmed, with issues 5 and 6 arriving in the coming months

Other planned changes include a revamp of abilities to remove “filler” and ARG-style puzzle raids. The team has also been working on a reticule-style targeting system, which Bylos is planning to showcase in a livestream on Friday 12th October. Further details are promised shortly.

For our own opinion of this unique MMO, check out our first impressions and one-month-in review. And, if you’ve not yet tried The Secret World, Funcom are offering a 3-day trial to get you started.

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer 

TSW Podcast Drops Hints Of Future

Funcom's latest bout of layoffs and the staff changes worried many people for The Secret World's future. But, in a recent episode of Flash Point podcast, new TSW Game Director Joel Bylos had positive things to say, including that three of the people let go were rehired.

They also have lots of stuff planned beyond the Halloween update, including a new aux. weapon in Issue 4, more monthly updates, the higher difficulty settings, and the introduction of group investigation missions. Rest easy knowing TSW is going to do just fine.

Julian "Mirai" Williams

The Secret World Half Off This Weekend

The Secret World, still one of the best MMORPGs on the market right now in my opinion, is half-off for this weekend only. That drops the price to 25$, plus whatever fees may apply and gives you a month to mess around in Funcom's dark and gorgeous depths. 

Julian "Mirai" Williams

The Secret World Issue #3 is Live

Do you like seasonal events in your online games? Then the newest issue of The Secret World is up your alley. Not only is this the update adding a new Action and a new Investigation mission, it's also a preparation for Halloween. Available now is a quest chain that ends early November, which sets up a new villain and storyline Funcom has promised "they will get into later." New costumes and special pets, new items, and new dungeons, this is an issue you won't want to miss.

Julian "Mirai" Williams