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Some more articles about SW from Massively


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Instead of making multiple posts on some of the news from massively I just and combining these into one post.


Funcom's Bylos named creative director on AoC, AO, and TSW

by Jef Reahard on Feb 26th 2013 11:30AM

Funcom has announced that The Secret World creative director Joel Bylos is now the creator director for all three of the firm's MMORPGs. This includes TSW, Age of Conan, and Anarchy Online. Bylos has penned letters from the game director for TSW and AoC, while AO's Dave "Ilaliya" Williams passes the torch via a forum post.

Bylos' TSW letter talks additional content plans up to and including Issue #12 (the live game currently sits on Issue #5, with #6 scheduled for early March). Bylos has a special place in his heart for AoC stemming from his time as the lead designer on the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, and his initial game director letter reflects on both coming home and the opportunities for expanding Hyboria. He also talks a bit about the pros and cons of having a single production team working on three live titles.

Finally, outgoing AoC producer Craig "Silirrion" Morrison recaps his four years at the helm and hints at a "new opportunity within the MMO world."

[Thanks to David for the tip.]


The Secret World dev blog expounds on Issue #6 PvP changes

by MJ Guthrie on Mar 4th 2013 12:00PM

When Issue #6 Last Train to Cairo was announced for The Secret World, a new PvP ranking system was briefly touched upon. In today's dev blog, system designer Tim Donks goes into more detail about this new feature as well as the matchmaking system.

In response to player requests for PvP rewards, Issue #6 is introducing Battle Ranks. By gaining PvP experience (which is shared among all group members who are present and alive at the time of the enemy kill), players can climb the ranks of PvP prowess, earning special tokens along the way to spend on various PvP rewards, including uniforms that are automatically equipped when entering PvP. An important note about PvP experience: Less XP is earned for each subsequent kill of the same player within the battlegrounds, Fusang, and the fight clubs until nothing is gained. This diminishing rewards system resets for each new trip into a PvP zone.

Once the update hits, players will also be able to queue for multiple battlegrounds at the same time. Also expected in Issue #6 -- or shortly thereafter -- players' wins and losses in PvP matches will be tracked to improve the matchmaking mechanic.


Chaos Theory: The Secret World needs bug spray in Egypt, stat!

by MJ Guthrie on Mar 4th 2013 5:00PM

Talk about timing.

Recently, you all voted that I continue my adventures on my Templar. The timing was impeccable because right in the middle of that vote, The Secret World's next issue was announced. And where will this update be focused? Why, in Egypt -- right where my Templar just so happens to be! Fortuitous for me, to be sure. So I have been (mostly) happily blasting my way through the desert with a shotgun at my hip and a rifle slung across my back, enjoying new-to-me content and anticipating the upcoming new-to-everyone goodies.

But not all timing has been good. As mentioned, I've been mostly enjoying my tales in the desert. Why the caveat? There's a bit of an infestation in Egypt, and I am not talking about the beetles that want to devour Said. The place is crawling with bugs! Besides swarming with giant locusts and their tentacled proboscises, Egypt also appears to have a higher prevalence of glitches. I have never encountered so many bugs in all of TSW as I have in a couple of days in that zone. And all at a time when the dev team is dealing with relocation and hasn't been able to jump right in and douse the area with a giant can of Raid.

The timing is particularly bad because it's unfortunately right when all eyes are turning to Egypt on the eve of Issue #6. How this release plays out will have lasting affects on the game and how folks view it.

Bad timing

Isn't it just my luck that the zone with the impending update -- the one where everyone would be soon be converging -- is the one experiencing a high degree of uncompletable quests and randomly repopulating NPCs? You could say I have great timing... as long as your voice is dripping with sarcasm.

The higher incidence of glitches actually took me by surprise. As far as I can remember, I have only personally encountered two bugs that really affected my gameplay to any significant degree. First there was The Hunger in Kingsmouth. When I'd get to the wendigo at the end of the trail of mutilated body parts, it would glitch at 50% health and never run away to allow me to follow and get the next update. The second one involved the Black House in The Savage Coast. You remember the spot, where the ashes of Carrie Killian wouldn't spawn at her grave? Folks would group up with others from different instances of the zone in order to port over and complete the quest. In many other cases, what I heard people referring to as "bugs" were just a matter of not completing the objective successfully.

But that changed once I stepped Egypt. And while not every bug I have encountered has prevented me from completing my tasks, I would have preferred avoiding some until they are fixed to prevent undue frustration.

A roadblock between Carthage and Cairo

The first bug I encountered in the land of sand was the sabotage mission From Carthage to Cairo. I couldn't ever click on the guy or his laptop to detonate the charges. Apparently I wasn't the only one, as a query in general chat revealed that the quest has been broken for a while but is expected to be fixed in a forthcoming patch. There was nothing I could do, so I moseyed along and hoped that I'd remember to go back and restart the paused mission at some point.

Between a golem and a hard place

Shortly after brushing off one mission I couldn't complete, I was hit with a second. OK, slightly more annoyed now. Have you noticed that the step that's bugged is never in the beginning but near the end? It's only after you've gone through pretty much everything that fate yells "psych!" and snatches away your completion. In this second case, I freed the golem in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, but he didn't budge.

Thinking user error was the culprit, I spent time puzzling things over but found nothing else I could possibly do. So I finally resorted to checking a guide (heresy, I know!). It turns out I completed everything as outlined, but the big ol' hunk of animated metal still wouldn't budge. At this point, I was grateful that the mission logs records paused missions, otherwise I might start forgetting what still needs to be done. Now just to remember where to find it again...

Save me! And me! And me...

This next quest actually had two different bugs. The first was a glaringly obvious one bug even though it didn't affect gameplay, other than hiding a mob or two. The second, however, was declared a bug by my companion, who had run the quest before and noted the difference to me.

When heading into the hotel for the mission A Lion in the Streets, we were faced with... well here, you have to see it:

Yep, we had to rescue the townsfolks, but their rabbit-like reproduction and eerie synchronized dance made me wary to let them loose! Would you want people like that wandering your streets? Next thing you know they'd be spewing pea soup! Ah, but although I endeavored to let them out anyways, only the original mission-mandated three would leave -- the others just remained there, apparently sealed to their boy-band dancing fate.

The next bug did affect our gameplay, but thankfully didn't prevent us from finishing our mission! Unsurprisingly, it happened at the end. Down in the basement, we met a very benign Great Jinn in front of the final cages, which weirded my companion out a bit because he'd always had to fight him in the other room.

After freeing the captives, we were instructed to kill the boss, Great Jinn, so we did him in right there. For a final boss, he was a bit of a ectoplasmic cream puff. Ding! We got the update and moved into the room to free the Council of Venice representative, when what to our wondering eyes emerged from the portal? Why, none other then the Great Jinn -- this time with a better arsenal! We killed him again, but not before my companion misses all of the freed captive's dialogue while dodging attacks during the battle.

We completed this mission, but experiencing that many different bugs in a single gaming session kind of dampened our spirits, sp we decided to take a break for the night.

Pest control needed ASAP

Admittedly, I haven't been in Egypt enough to know for sure, but I'll go out on a palm tree limb and say that the bugs in this area are a bigger issue now precisely because the team has not been able to devote a whole lot of time to the game. With the restructuring and relocation, resources have obviously been stretched tight. Those were definitely extenuating circumstances, so I'm sure I'm not alone in cutting the devs some slack.

However, with the announcement of The Last Train to Cairo, that reason just won't wash anymore. Fair or not, how this next update comes out will have a lasting effect on how people view the TSW team as well as the game going forward. Announcing Issue #6 was a double-edged sword; it got folks excited that things were back on track, but now they expect them to be back on track. The feeling will be, If there is enough time to create new content, there must be enough time to squash some bugs. And people wouldn't be wrong. If the current bugs aren't addressed and are compounded with new ones (all updates come with a glitch or two), the team will lose credibility and folks won't give them much leeway from here on out.

Bugs notwithstanding, I enjoy the game and don't want to see TSW lose face, so hopefully we'll soon start seeing fewer of Egypt's programming bugs (hey, who's for fewer locusts as well?). Because I think this team and game deserves to catch a break, I'll be crossing my fingers for a smooth content release... and also praying that something else doesn't break!

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every Monday as she infiltrates The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to [email protected] and she'll jump on the case!


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Here is some more


Did you hear? The Secret World music contest winners announced

by MJ Guthrie on Mar 6th 2013 12:00PM

A few weeks ago The Secret World offered musicians the chance to weave their original melodies into the fabric of the conspiracy-laden game. Many heeded that call and over 300 submissions were received, some containing multiple compositions.

Instead of the originally intended five, 11 selections were chosen for inclusion in TSW. The winning music -- with titles like When Scouts Go Bad, I'll be the Death of You, Save Me, and The Zombie Stare -- will be introduced in Issue #7. Players will hear these pieces played on different radios throughout the game, such as those at The Ravens Knock and Susie's Diner in Kingsmouth, PC Bang in Seoul, and London's The Crusades nightclub. Congratulations to all the winners!

[Thanks to Samantha for the tip!]


Funcom's Joel Bylos on the centralized TSW, AoC, and AO team

by MJ Guthrie on Mar 7th 2013 5:30PM

By now, most MMO gamers are pretty familiar with the fact that Funcom underwent restructuring. But what does that mean; what exactly did it entail? The term "restructuring" in itself signifies changes but does nothing to actually enlighten folks on what the changes are. Other than the fact that Joel Bylos was named creative director for all three of Funcom's titles -- Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, and The Secret World -- and that the team will be in one centralized in location, we know little of the details.

How many developers survived the restructuring and relocated to remain on the team? Is this move foreshadowing one or more games slipping into maintenance mode? How will the coveted dev attention be divvied up? What does the future hold? Devoid of facts, players are left left wondering about how these changes will impact their favorite games.

While chatting with Joel Bylos in an exclusive interview, I was able to ask some of these very questions.

Massively: With such an upheaval, many people are curious as to the new structure of the centralized live team. How many developers currently comprise the new team? How are their roles divided?

Joel Bylos, Funcom Creative Director: The new team consists of developers with a very wide range of different skill sets. The elements of any production team at Funcom have always been the same: AI designers, gameplay designers, coders, 3-D environment artists, character artists, animators, UI designers, cinematic directors, and writers. Everybody is able to work on both Age of Conan and The Secret World because of the flexibility of our DreamWorld engine technology. The world building program, Genesis, can just as easily create the savage lands of Hyboria as the mist-cloaked towns of New England. Our other tool, Gaia, allows us to create items, monsters, spells and abilities, visual looks packages, achievements, and more, which can be used in all of the projects. With such a flexible tool base, it is easy for the gameplay designers to switch between projects quickly and efficiently.

I also think it's a great thing to have people who worked on one game give their creative input on the others. That can quickly turn out to be a real benefit for each game as we're sharing ideas and solutions within the team. In general, we are putting together roadmaps that include all of the projects; the designers will switch between projects as required.

Were more people lost from certain games over others? For instance, you indicated that the core of the AO team still exists to care for many aspects of that game because of its inherent differences in coding and databases. Is there an equal number of devs from both AoC and TSW, or are their numbers lower since those two games share more of their basic structures?

The Age of Conan team lost more people than the other projects (as a percentage, of course, Anarchy Online had fewer people to begin with). The reasons are relatively simple: Almost all of the people on The Secret World have experience with Age of Conan in their various positions. The Lead Systems designer for The Secret World, for example, was formerly a Systems Designer on Age of Conan and worked on all of the classes and the AA system on Age of Conan. So he has experience with both games that really couldn't be found elsewhere in the company.

When assembling the new team, we thought it it was important to get the people with the right skill sets and the right experience with the tools and the games.

Some folks are worried that the combined team spells impending "maintenance mode" for one or more of the games. How are resources and time split between the three titles? Will devs remain basically focused on each title in smaller teams, or will the group flow from game to game as a larger group?

My personal goal is to get a good blend of features and content for both games. As I outlined in my letters, there are ways to get double value from features that will benefit both Age of Conan and The Secret World. Anarchy Online has some dedicated developers, whereas I foresee the rest of the team switching it up between Age of Conan and The Secret World. It's also great for the designers as well because the games have some uniquely different design ethos. It will never get boring for them, that's for sure!

How will you personally divide your time between the three different games so that none will fall by the wayside?

I tend to make pretty long-view roadmaps and then stick to my roadmaps and work on each part as they come up. For The Secret World, for example, the roadmap stretches well into 2015. I am working on a roadmap that combines Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, and The Secret World so that I have a long-term overview for all three, and then I will work on each milestone on the roadmap as it comes along.

For example, I am just signing off the Issue #6 milestone for The Secret World, and then I will be looking at the next slice of Dragon's Spine for Age of Conan before moving back to Issue #7 for The Secret World. We recently completed the server merge on Anarchy Online and have been dealing with the various associated issues, then we have several internal milestones for the engine and the new player experience. After that, we are discussing systems changes and balance for the professions. I am working closely with the developers right now, those who earlier worked on Anarchy Online specifically, making sure we make the right choices for the game.

Since you've been working on TSW lately, it is understandable that you could provide a clearer content path for that game. Do you anticipate having a more detailed content path available for both AoC and AO soon?

For Anarchy Online, there is a technical roadmap related to the engine, and the content roadmap mirrors that to a certain extent. There are technical reasons, including an older data structure, but essentially the content roadmap for Anarchy Online is tightly connected with the technical roadmap. The Anarchy Online roadmap primarily includes profession balancing and the new player experience right now, as well as the new graphics engine.

For Age of Conan, the short term roadmap is examining the various things that have been worked on by the current team and picks up the work and finishing it off. That means Dragon's Spine and the crafting revamp. Once we see the velocity of the team on those, we can decide what to work on next. For Age of Conan, there is no shortage of systems or locations that we can explore.

In your AoC game director's letter, you talked about looking forward to the new Conan movie to incorporate elements of it into the game. Moving forward, will there be a focus again on the PvP element of the game?

Absolutely, I have heard a lot of voices crying out for more focus on PvP in Age of Conan. I think that if you have a game that incorporates PvE and PvP, you need to give some love to both. In The Secret World, we have made updates to PvP every time we have made updates to PvE (whether people are happy with the updates is another discussion), and I'd like to get into the same practice on Age of Conan.

Has the timetable for the crafting revamp in AoC been thrown off? Will this anticipated feature be delayed because of the restructuring?

Work continues on the revamp, and our goal is not to have any delays on it. If anything does delay it, it will be the clean-up work around the old crafting system -- removing the old missions and replacing them with new missions to explain the new system. The plan is to get it on TestLive very soon.

In your first address to the AO community as creative director, you admitted that AO intimidates you because up to now you haven't dealt with the lore of the game. How far have you gotten with familiarizing yourself with the game by playing it?

I think I may have given the impression that I've never played the game before, which is not the case. I've played the game to around 120 before with an Adventurer, but I was playing solo most of the time and never really became a part of the community. So I've started a fresh character, and I'll make some blog entries about my experiences on the official Anarchy Online website soon. In many ways I think it's going to be good for Anarchy Online having someone who can look at it with different eyes and draw upon the experience from Age of Conan and The Secret World. It's a great game and I'm definitely very excited to be working on it!

Is there any one message you want to share with the three gaming communities about the changes?

With your continued support, we will continue to deliver the experiences you love!

Thanks so much for your time.

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!


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This game is so much fun. I can't wait... CAN'T WAIT... to get back to it.