The Secret World First Interview with Producer Ragnar Tornquist

This week Funcom has unveiled its first screenshots, video and fact sheet to tell us about their new upcoming MMOG, The Secret World. The game is set to take place in a world within our own, where monsters and magic exists. And now, for the first time ever, Senior Producer and Director of the game, Ragnar Tornquist, was able to answer some of our questions about the game in this exclusive Ten Ton Hammer interview.
This week Funcom has unveiled its first screenshots, video and fact sheet to tell us about their new upcoming MMOG, The Secret World. The game is set to take place in a world within our own, where monsters and magic exists. And now, for the first time ever, Senior Producer and Director of the game, Ragnar Tornquist, was able to answer some of our questions about the game in this exclusive Ten Ton Hammer interview.

Questions by: Garrett Fuller, Ten Ton Hammer
Answers by: Ragnar Tornquist, Senior Producer and Director of The Secret World, Funcom

Ten Ton Hammer: Our first look at The Secret World reveals some amazing footage. Tell us about the trailer.

Ragnar Tornquist: It’s one of (at least) four trailers that will show off various locations, monsters, clothes, items, powers and weapons you’ll find in the game – and which will also introduce some of the characters you’ll encounter in the story, both in the game…and outside.

Ten Ton Hammer: Talk about the demon, is it even a demon? Also what ability is triggered from the girl’s tattoo? It really is amazing stuff.

Ragnar Tornquist: Thanks! Yes, it is a sort of demon, but I won’t tell you exactly what sort of demon it is. (It’s not a very friendly kind. Yes, there are friendly demons. Or at least friendly-ish.)

And I can’t really divulge the precise nature of the girl’s powers – although you will be able to gain those powers yourself in the game. Eventually.

Ten Ton Hammer: In your fact sheet you talk about not having to level a character, that characters will be free to choose the skills they want in order to fight monsters. Can you tell us about the freedom you are giving players?

Ragnar Tornquist: As much freedom as we possibly can. We’re getting rid of classes and levels, and we’re going completely skill based.

Players can be exactly who they want to be. They can develop any kind of character they want to develop – combining powers and abilities how they see fit, whether that’s sticking to a template or creating a unique hybrid.
Even better, you’re never stuck with the choices you’ve made. If you want to reinvent yourself at any point, you can. You don’t have to make a new character and start from scratch – instead, you pick up some new skills, shuffle the deck (so to speak) and keep playing. We don’t want anything to get in the way of having fun, and we believe in empowering players from the moment they start playing – making sure there’s no steep entry barrier or endless leveling curve. In that sense, and as we’re fond of saying, The Secret World begins where other MMOs end.

Having said that, we’re putting a lot of focus on character progression, and someone who’s played the game for six months or a year will be (and look) a lot more powerful and have a lot more gameplay options and cool gear than someone who just started playing. And there are places and situations where only the most experienced are welcome. But new players can quickly get to a point where they’re reasonably skilled and can join in on the fun almost anywhere in the game world.

Also, you’ll be fighting kick-ass demons and hordes of undead using cool weapons from the moment you create a new character – I swear to God, no dinky swords and diseased rats.

Ten Ton Hammer: You chose the modern world as the setting for the game; can you tell us about why you made this choice? What areas will players be able to explore?

Ragnar Tornquist: The real world is a unique and wonderful playground. There are so many true stories, ancient myths and folktales, urban legends and conspiracy theories, so many mysterious and exciting locations, monsters and demons and gods, forgotten cities and lost civilizations, strange creatures and mystical lore, so much reference material to draw on – it really is the perfect setting for an MMO.

The locations we’ve revealed so far are the three hub cities where players create their characters and start playing – London, New York and Seoul – and two large ‘adventure zones’: New England and Egypt. There are more locations, and after the game goes live it will keep growing. The original codename for The Secret World was ‘The Entire World Online’, and that’s my ultimate goal: twenty years down the line, I want us to have covered all the greatest locations in the world. And beyond. (There’s more to our world than just this world.)

Ten Ton Hammer: You are giving players plenty of quest options in the game. Can you talk about the types of quests and how they will be interwoven into the storylines?

Ragnar Tornquist: There won’t actually be any ‘quests’ in The Secret World – there will be missions. Semantics, perhaps, but our missions are quite different from traditional quests, something that’s crucial to how this game will look and feel and play. It won’t be like any MMO you’ve ever played.

I can’t say too much about it now, but it’s got more of an open world vibe to it, and players will be able to pick and choose the kind of gameplay they want to focus on – you’re never stuck with just one option, just one type of gameplay. It’s all about what you’re in the mood for, how you want to have fun today – if you want to fight monsters, great, you can always do that, there are more than enough evil beasties to go around. If you want to dig into a mystery or an investigation, solve puzzles and play mini-games, chat with non-player characters – well, you have those options, too. There’s exploration, espionage, sabotages, story and lore – and all of these various gameplay mechanics reward you for the time you’ve spent playing. You don’t have to just keep killing things to develop your character. There are plenty of other ways to gain skills, pick up cool items and weapons, clothes, and so on.

We don’t want to limit the player to just one way of playing – we want to empower the player and allow anyone and everyone to have as much fun as possible, the way they want to have fun.

We use the phrases ‘be who you want to be’ and ‘play how you want to play’, and we actually mean it.

(Incidentally, anyone caught using the word ‘quest’ on our team has to pay a small fine. True story. I think we may have enough money for a real shindig soon.)

Ten Ton Hammer: The theory of modern day reality breaking down into the supernatural is a great setting for an MMO, what made you jump at this type of IP?

Ragnar Tornquist: For me, personally, it’s the kind of setting I’ve wanted to see in games for more than ten years – even before we started looking at making an MMO. There are so many novels and comics, movies and TV shows that take place in this sort of contemporary dark fantasy setting, and I find it really strange that no one else has made a game in a setting like this before.

Also, since I was a kid, I’ve been infinitely fascinated by ancient history, lost civilizations, cryptozoology, urban legends and conspiracy theories – so to me, this is the perfect universe for a game, and the perfect framework for telling stories, and it’s a dream come through to be working on this game.

For Funcom in general, I think we saw that there was a real potential to do something new and different, to fill a hole that hadn’t been covered by countless medieval fantasy worlds and alien planets (and we know everything there is to know about fantasy worlds and alien planets). And that also meant doing something new and interesting on the gameplay side, and not following exactly the same kind of MMO template as everyone else.

Ten Ton Hammer: How is development going on the game? This is some of the first footage we have seen, are you meeting your development milestones?

Ragnar Tornquist: Development is going really well. We’re currently close to a hundred people in Oslo and Beijing, and we’re growing every week. We’ve been working on The Secret World since 2006, so obviously we’ve got a lot more in store than what we’re showing now – but all in good time.

Ten Ton Hammer: One of the interesting points in your fact sheet is how players will be able to unlock more mysteries about the supernatural; can you explain what pieces to the puzzle they might be searching for?

Ragnar Tornquist: I would love to talk more about that – but I think I’d get in real trouble. And not just with our PR guys…

They are watching. They are always watching.

Ten Ton Hammer: You also seem to be covering a wide range of equipment for characters to use. What type of arsenal will be in the game?

Ragnar Tornquist: In terms of weapons, you’ll be seeing everything from automatic rifles and shotguns to voodoo dolls, demon familiars and arcane katanas. And dice. Those square things with dots on them? Yes. Dice.

There will also be plenty of other things to pick up and use but, crucially, when it comes to clothing, you’re free to wear anything you want. Clothes don’t affect your stats, and if you want to dress up in t-shirt and jeans instead of a heavy leather coat and military boots, you can do so – it won’t make you any less powerful. If you want to look Goth, you can look Goth. If you want to be an indie rocker, feel free to dress that way. If you’re more comfortable in a tank-top and hot pants (aren’t we all?) then by all means, go nuts.

It’s really important to us that players can look exactly how they want to look, and not be tied down to a template that’s ‘optimal’ for your character. Freedom and individuality is key, and we want players to have the freedom to choose to be who they want to be.

Ten Ton Hammer: Even though you’ll be working to fight the unraveling of reality in the real world, will there be factions? Can players work for the evil supernatural forces as well?

Ragnar Tornquist: Believe me, I wish I could tell you everything right now…but I. Just. Can’t! Dammit!

I’ll say this: Players have a common goal, to defeat the rising evil and protect Earth from the armies of darkness. But there’s always conflict, and even the good guys don’t always stand united…

Dark days are coming, people, and it’s time to make a stand.

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for your time, Ragnar. Things are sounding very cool indeed. We can't wait to hear more as the game develops.

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