The Secret World (formerly known under the working titles Cabal and The World Online) is an MMORPG from developer Funcom (makers of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures), the development of which has been officially confirmed on March 6, 2007. The final title of the project was confirmed on May 11, 2007. Ragnar Tørnquist is the creative director of the game
After announcing the development of The Secret World, Funcom project director Jørgen Tharaldsen informed the press that the game uses the same engine as Age of Conan. According to Funcom, the game will blend elements of MMO gameplay with alternate reality gaming and social networking.
At GDC 2009, Tørnquist gave an interview to GameSpot regarding TSW, revealing more about its gameplay. There will be neither levels, nor classes in the game; instead, the character building will be skill-based. This way, the developers plan to avoid level grinding, allowing new players to join the game more easily. The player characters will be customizable to a large degree, particularly in their choice of clothing, weapons (which range from shotguns to swords and can be customized and upgraded), and the supernatural powers they acquire. Combat against computer-controlled monsters will be one of the game's central points and will require more of player's attention than contemporary MMORPGs. The players will be able to form teams to fight together but in an earlier blog posting, Tørnquist assured that the game can also be played in single-player mode, should a player choose not to play with a group. According to him, the game is story-driven and there will be an overarching linear plot, as well as numerous side-quests, ranging from investigation to sabotage and hunting, since diversity of the gameplay will be another central point.
In an interview to GameSpot at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, Tørnquist and the lead designer Martin Bruusgaard revealed which playable factions ("secret societies") will be available in the game. These are: the London-based Templars, pious zealots "who would burn an entire village down to get their hands on one demon"; the New York City-based Illuminati, Machiavellian pragmatists who "believe that it's a tough world where only the strongest will survive"; and the Seoul-based "Dragon", who take a neutral stance between the other two and are "all about deceiving, orchestrating chaos, and waiting patiently for its time". A personality test to determine the players' inclination towards one of the factions was made available on the official TSW website soon after the reveal. It will be impossible to change factions without creating a new character. Additionally, players will be able to create their own guilds, known as "cabals" in-game, affiliated with one of the main factions. All players' actions in the game will contribute to their ranking in their respective guilds and factions. The same interview revealed that PvP areas of the game will be located in the region called Agartha inside the hollow Earth, where the players will fight for the invaluable resource known as "anima". This idea was dropped during closed beta as they decided it wasn't entertaining enough. Large scale PvP has later been revealed to take place in big persistent warzones. There are also small minigames in iconic locations such as Shambhala, El Dorado, and Stonehenge.
The game will feature an original setting created by Funcom, with contemporary elements as well as "magic, myths, conspiracies and dark horrors." Contrary to rumors spawned by the game's second working title, it has nothing to do with, nor is it inspired by, the .hack franchise and its setting. Tørnquist debunked several rumors surrounding The Secret World, stating that "there are no aliens or sci-fi elements" in it. He also denied any connection of TSW to The Longest Journey.
At GDC 2009, Tørnquist revealed more about the setting and the story. He stressed that the game is set in the "modern day real world" but also incorporates pieces of ancient mythologies, real and false history, urban legends, and pop culture, and ties them into an original back-story. The latter is said to go back in time for 100 million years and encompass long extinct ancient civilizations. The players will assume the roles of supernatural heroes who participate in a "future war between good and evil", fighting dark monsters that threaten the modern world. Tørnquist identified the genre of the story as dark fantasy, mentioning vampires, demons, and zombies. The players will be free to travel across different locations of the world (both real, like London, New York and Seoul, and mythical, e.g. Agartha, the legendary city located within Hollow Earth[) and even in time, to pursue the overall plot and investigate new mysteries in connection to the dark invasion. The overall plot will have a conclusion but the designers also leave room for future expansions.
Source: Wikipedia, "The Secret World", available under the CC-BY-SA License.