So, how do you feel about Mankrik's wife?
Amusingly, right after I wrote the last post, I got a Beta weekend key for Funcom's upcoming MMO, The Secret World. Here is a quick write up of my first impressions. I'm going to cover character mechanics in a separate post.
The setting of The Secret World is the modern world, but one where the supernatural is seeping in, and organizations like the Templars and the Illuminati are dealing with the darkness. This is a very interesting choice, because a lot of history and backstory is real history. There is a great sense of mystery and a bit of horror.
The Secret World is like an old school adventure game (King's Quest, The Longest Journey, etc.) crossed with a quest-driven MMO. I hesitate to say "themepark" because the defining measure of themepark MMOs is hand-holding on the quests, and The Secret World does not hold hands. There's sometimes a little bit of help from the map, especially for kill quests, but often you just have to figure out what to do from the quest and clues.
For example, one early quest has a step which requires you to log into a doctor's computer. But the computer requires a password. In the room, there's a picture of fireworks with the caption "The day I met Helen, listening to my favorite composer". The computer also gives two password hints: "music of the seasons" and "1723". Thus we realize that the password is "Vivaldi", who composed The Four Seasons in 1723.
If you didn't know that, or weren't able to guess that, the game has a built in browser you can bring up and google things. Googling those two clues will bring up articles on Vivaldi. This makes total sense, because in a world with smartphones, Google is at most a call away.
There are other quests like that. Some of them are simple jumping puzzles, where you have to figure out how to get to the right spot. Others involve things like hiding in the shadows and avoiding spotlights which move in a pattern. There's also the standard kill and fetch quests.
Of course, the big issue with puzzle quests is that they can be solved and the answers put online. Not to mention that general chat is pretty much, "What's the solution to X?" It's like everyone asking where Mankrik's wife is, back in the Barrens.
It's a pretty interesting experience, to have to turn your brain back on during questing. I'm not really sure how this will work in groups. The thing about groups is that there is always one guy who will immediately google the solution, before even thinking about it.
I guess we'll see how all the voices who cry out for MMO innovation deal with actual innovation. The setting of The Secret World is unique, as is much of the gameplay.
However, I rather think that The Secret World will end up as a niche game, but one with an extraordinarily loyal following. I would also wager that the resulting community will be one of the best MMO communities to be a part of.