The Secret World GDC 2012 Preview - Transcribing and Transylvania

The Funcom team was on hand at GDC 2012 to demo The Secret World, including a look at the highly salacious Dragon starting experience (with video), clarification on the Ability Wheel and Weapon Abilities, achievements, lore, and a first ever look at transcribing (The Secret World’s crafting system) and the Transylvania region.

Dragon Starting Experience

Suffice it to say that we’ve never had to contemplate putting an intro behind an age gate before. Funcom was the first developer to bare the female breast in a mainstream MMORPG with Age of Conan, and I’ll leave it to you to decide if this goes a step further.

Dragon Starting Experience video (NSFW):


Tokyo Flashback: Dragon Edition and Egypt

We’ve seen the Tokyo Flashback before but Lead Content Designer Joel Bylos took the opportunity to point out that each faction would approach this event from a different perspective. He also noted the “filth” creeping in everywhere – black, tentacular, moldy material that would become important, he explained, as time went on.

Zombifying filth spreads through the Tokyo Subway.

Martin van Bruusgaard, Lead Designer, whisked us off to Egypt to explain a bit about how ability and skill points are gained in a level-less play experience. Players have an XP bar of sorts running across the bottom of the screen.  The bar is divided into three segments, and completing each segment earns the player an Ability Point. Complete all three and you’ll get a Skill Point.

These points may be spent in the Ability wheel (below), which provides over 500 abilities spread out over 9 weapon types (3 each for ranged, melee, and magic). Abilities come in passive (for example, buffs to damage resistance) and active (e.g. sword attack, sniper shot) varieties. Each small box on the wheel is referred to as a cell, and offers 7 different abilities.  These abilities must be bought sequentially and lead up to an elite ability. Players can equip one elite passive and one elite active at a time plus 6 normal passives and 6 normal actives.

The Secret World's ability wheel holds over 500 unique abilties to mix and match.

The point of all this complexity is that players can build unique combinations of abilities and weapons. Each weapon type has a unique resource, and players can build these resources on themselves or on their party. Building these resources allows for extra effectiveness in the damage dealing capacity of your weapons, but each weapon also has a secondary ability. Shotguns, for example, do area-of-effect damage, and assault rifles leech a portion of the damage you do back to the player as health. Blood magic, on the other hand, does damage over time, but also creates barriers to absorb damage.

Egypt looked great, with ancient stone ruins and rolling sands – almost a page out  of Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer’s playbook. Martin’s character arrived at a boss fight, and he noted that players could avoid a lot of damage by reading the animated tells of the bosses – another carryover from AoC. But Martin’s character wasn’t equipped to tank. Switching from an assault rifle and shotgun build to a hammer and blood magic build, he pointed out that every character can have different pre-set builds for different situations and that players can switch on the fly.

Blue Mountain, the CDC camp, and more Filth

Maryanne Chen is the lone CDC survivor from the zombifying “Phase Seven” of Filth exposure from the bogs near Blue Mountain, and as we went through the intro dialogue, it’s clear she could use a hug. Joel Bylos revealed one of The Secret World’s  minigames next, the “Ghost” hacking program that he used to hack the CDC laptops laying around. We found a secure webpage listing names of infected personnel (full HTML quest dialogue was a nice touch).

The Secret World CDC camp

Maryanne Chen of the CDC is having a pretty bad day.

Though Chen advised against it (Joel noted that the game employs a number of “anti-“ quest givers – direction will be clear, but not everyone will be pushing you forward), we went down into the swamp to take down the infected CDC team. Upon defeating one of the team members, we got the “Got Filth?” achievement for killing 10 filthy humans, and Joel explained that achievements earn players exclusive clothing pieces, additional experience, lore, and other items.

Achievements came arranged in dozens of categories, from PvP to ranged to dungeon and many more, and next to the achievements tab was a Lore tab, where the narrative of the game is filled in as players explore and gather information.

First Look: Transylvania and Transcribing (Crafting)

Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist described Transylvania as one of the biggest regions in the game, and while you will run into the vampire coalition (mutated thanks to Stalin era experimentation), don’t expect medieval castles and pitchfork mobs. Instead we were transported into a Soviet era village that looked half bombed-out. From here the story would take us through a mysterious forest and up into the Carpathian Mountains, but instead Ragnar and Martin introduced us to the Transcribing system.

Transcribing, he explained, is the process of taking an item, breaking it down, learning from it, and rebuilding it in the shape of what you want. Literally. Using a Minecraft-style grid, Martin broke down his Brutal Hammer into Sacred Metal, refined the components into Pure Metal, then (using other Pure Metal in his inventory) placed the Pure Metal into the shape of a hammer to create a hammer.

In addition to the base stats, prefixes and suffixes add additional effects to weapons much like a socket or slot system you find in many MMORPGs. The Minecraft take on crafting is novel among MMORPGs, however, though clicking and dragging stacked components might become a chore for dedicated crafters.

Our thanks to Funcom’s Ragnar Tørnquist, Martin van Bruusgaard, and Joel Bylos for their time at GDC 2012 as they move towards a June 19th release date for The Secret World.In the meantime, be sure to sign up for beta.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our The Secret World Game Page.

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