Ragnar Tørnquist Answers Ten Ton Hammer Reader Questions for The Secret World

One of the coolest benefits of being a Ten Ton Hammer Premium member is that every once in a while you get to ask the devs of your favorite MMO
One of the coolest benefits of being a Ten Ton Hammer Premium member is that every once in a while you get to ask the devs of your favorite MMOGs questions about their games. This week The Secret World fans are in for a treat. We spoke with Ragnar Tørnquist, Creative Director and Senior Producer at Funcom for The Secret World and asked him your questions. Ragnar graciously obliged.

Metal asks: What kind of death penalty will The Secret World have?
Ragnar Tørnquist: We don't want to mete out too much punishment willy nilly. Taking risks is part of the fun of playing. Dying - or, well, not dying; we don't have actual 'death' in The Secret World - is going to be an inconvenience, sure, but I wouldn't call it penalty. Whatever happens it's going to be closely connected to our lore and setting, and it's going to make sense and feel fair. Players will be able to jump right back in and join the action.
Metal asks: Taking into account that there are demons in The Secret World, does this mean that hell and heaven exist in the game?  
Ragnar: Yes and no. Our philosophy is to be as inclusive as possible regarding all religions, to make room for any kind of interpretation based on world view - religious or secular. The mythical and spiritual elements of The Secret World are quite agnostic...as far as that's possible. Yes, we make references to hell (and heaven) but we don't make any definite statements or lock ourselves into a single world view. It's a balancing act, but one that's important in order to preserve the mysteries of The Secret World - as well as the real world. Do you really, really want to know the capital-T Truth? Thought not.  

Combat in the shipward of The Secret World
Combat in the shipward of The Secret World
Metal asks: Can you tell us more about crafting in The Secret World?
Ragnar: No. Not yet, at least!
Rocqu asks: What is in The Secret World to help promote player community? (For example: player housing, guild halls, in-game Facebooking, choke points (places lots of people have to go to to get something done in game), raid systems?)
Ragnar: We've already mentioned the hub cities which are going to focus on the social and communal aspects of the game. Aside from that, we'll have plenty of features that promote the community - some obvious, some not so much - but we're not quite ready to announce what those are quite yet.  
OneEyeRed asks: What are you going to do to break the traditional 15-year-old mold and format for MMO gaming? (For instance, the constant "Oh, it's a new NPC with another twenty quests" dilemma.) Someone needs to break this tired format and offer something different. I really want to get excited about TSW but the genre has made me leery.

Ragnar: Is that a question or are you just venting? I hear you! We hope we can provide something a little different, and we're striving to make changes where we feel the genre could benefit from a change - like the role-playing system, how missions are presented, the mix of different types of gameplay, and so on.
OneEyeRed asks: Could you go over how combat works to some extent for us?
Ragnar: In detail - no. But we've already talked about how players can equip seven active powers and seven passive powers before heading out to do missions and fight monsters, and that choice - from hundreds of available powers - is really the driving force behind the combat. The mix of powers, both actives and passives, and the powers equipped by your team mates, is key, and these powers are designed to work together to create powerful 'combos'. This makes the system really unique and a ton of fun to play. Also, since we don't have classes in The Secret World, you can buy and equip any powers you want, creating a totally unique hybrid character - if that's what you want - or a super focused one if you prefer to play an archetype like healer or tank. For example. It's a very flexible and very deep system that will hopefully keep players engaged for a long, long time.
Anacche asks: In creating such a rich and diverse lore, from many controversial topics, was there anything that you wanted to do, but felt it was too taboo?
Ragnar: We're not afraid of taboos! Certainly nothing that we really wanted to do. Meaning we're probably going to piss some people off, regardless, but we never set out to be controversial. We just wanted to build the type of world we all wanted to explore and play in.
Anacche asks: Being a fan and loyal slave to the Age of Conan, should I feel pretty well at home in TSW or will I still find a learning curve?  
Ragnar: It's a very different game in a lot of ways. But if you've played MMORPGs before - Age of Conan, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars - you'll soon feel at home in The Secret World. We're not reinventing the wheel, but rather focusing on those elements that are key to our gameplay and setting. It's not a carbon copy of anything that's out there, that's for sure.
Anacche asks: AoC was heavily criticized for being what some would describe as being half-cooked and unpolished outside of Tortage (although it's pretty well consensus that Tortage always has been a spectacle for all MMO lovers to behold). Is launch polish a major focal point this time around for TSW?  
Ragnar: Absolutely. My job is to make sure everything is as polished as possible, that every little bit fits together and feels right, that we're launching the kind of game that both me and the team can be proud of. We don't intend to let this one go until we're all happy.

Tearing up the junkyard in The Secret World
Tearing up the junkyard in The Secret World
Anacche asks: Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft worked together quite a bit, and Howard contributed quite a bit to Lovecraft's lore. Many people are pointing at the perceived Lovecraft references in what little we've seen in TSW--was this a conscious connection? Should we be expecting more early 20th century dark authors to feature prominently in Funcom MMOs?
Ragnar: I've been a fan of Lovecraft since I was way too young to read Lovecraft, and The Secret World was influenced - partly, in addition to many, many other influences - from the very beginning, before Funcom acquired the Conan license. So it's a coincidence but a happy one. I think most people in Funcom appreciate a bit of darkness. Maybe it's a Scandinavian thing?
centrik asks: I got into the TSW beta via that AoC subscription offer. On my AoC account page, I have the TSW beta icon thingy. When should I expect to hear more?
Ragnar: We haven't made any announcements yet.
centrik asks:  Does this mean I'm guaranteed access at the beginning of the beta, or just at some point throughout the process?
Ragnar: We're not ready to talk about this yet.
Abyssus asks: Your previous MMOGs have always had enough great ideas and eye candy to make many an MMO gamer drool, but what have you learned from the post-release failings of Anarchy Online, and Age of Conan, and how are you going to ensure The Secret World doesn't suffer the same fate?
Ragnar: I'm probably not the right person to talk about Age of Conan, since I didn't work on that game, but we hope to create a game that balances the eye candy with solid, long lasting gameplay, and we're putting a lot of focus on longevity this time around - to make sure that players always have tons of stuff to do, even when they've churned through all the content. Also, our plan is to make sure the content feels high quality throughout, that there's no sudden dip after leaving the starting zones. We've got an extremely stable engine and server setup at this stage, so we don't have to worry too much about the technology. Our focus is primarily content.
Anacche asks: AoC pushed the bar massively in terms of brutality and violence in an MMO - where will TSW sit on this scale?  
Ragnar: Brutality and violence isn't a focus area for us. Of course, you fight demons and vampires and the walking dead - creatures from your darkest nightmares - so there's definitely some blood and guts, but no more than you'd find in your regular Hollywood movie.
Anacche asks:  Is there anything you really wanted to do in TSW that you just couldn't due to time or technology restraints? Is there anything you really wanted to do in previous MMOGs that you couldn't accomplish until TSW?
Ragnar: There are of course tons of things we'd love to do that we don't have time to do, but that's the nature of game development. And the advantage with MMORPGs is that we're never done. We can keep improving, keep introducing new features and new content for years and years. And that makes it a lot easier to launch a bit smaller - focused and polished - and then build bigger, adding to that solid base. You'll find that we'll have tons of things up our sleeves after launch, things that will make it worthwhile to stick around and see where the game is heading.

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