The Secret World – It’s an Adventure!

The Secret World

The latest beta weekend for The Secret World has just ended and while I’m still quite excited for the game I’m starting to have some worries as well. Specifically, while the game is close to what I’ve been looking for I’m not sure that most people playing are looking for the same thing I am.

The Secret World is a game based on exploration, investigation and discovery. Yes, there are combat missions. Yes, there are missions where you have to “go to location x and kill y of critter z”. But the main story missions require thought and investigation.

Based on what I saw rolling past in the chat window, I’m not sure most players realize that. I easily saw hundreds of requests for “What is the solution to (some mission)?” It isn’t clear if the players in question had tried to solve it on their own and failed, but a number of them were rejecting hints and demanding the solution. They are trying to power through the content just to get their characters leveled up.

They’re looking for end-game content. The problem is that in this game the game isn’t about the end-game. As the cliché says; it’s about the journey, not the destination.

The beauty of the investigation missions is that the solutions to them aren’t in the game! You have to do real research yourself to solve them. While some players will welcome this challenge I think it is frustrating a far greater number. This isn’t an MMORPG. This is an MMO Adventure Game; an MMOARG.

Let me give an early example from the main story mission “Dawning of the Endless Night”. And yes, I will spoil it so if you don’t want to know then skip away. The rest of you, jump down past the spoiler bird.

Spoiled Bird

OK, a quick runthrough of the first few steps. When you first arrive in Kingsmouth you get the quest “Drowning of the Endless Night”. This is the main story mission for Kingsmouth and the Savage Coast where you are tasked to discover what caused the Doom That Came to Sarnath Kingsmouth. The first step of this is to talk to the various survivors in the town. Sheriff Bannerman mentions Reverend Henry Hawthorne, Madame Roget and Norma Creed.

When you talk to Norma Creed she tells you how the fishing boat the Lady Margaret was thought to be lost at sea and how everyone in town was relieved when it returned, but that the fog and the monsters came after it. She suggests you look on the Lady Margaret for clues.

The Lady Margaret is at the end of the dock. After fighting your way to it you fight and kill its captain and retrieve his logbook. This tells you that he is afraid that several crew members will need to be treated by Dr. Bannerman. So it is off to talk to him.

Dr. Bannerman is in the Sheriff’s Office. He remembers treating the crew members but was forced to abandon his files. They are still in his office. So you go to his office (conveniently located next door to the Sheriff’s Office) and enter what is a solo instance.

Inside you find a computer but the files are locked and you don’t have the password (and Dr. Bannerman won’t give it to you). You have to figure it out on your own. You do have a few clues. There is a picture on the floor of a fireworks display with a note saying that he and his wife met at a fireworks display choreographed to his favorite composer. Then, when you use the “password hint” function on the computer you get “song of the seasons” and “1723”.

If you Google “composer seasons 1723” you will discover that Vivaldi composed the violin suite “The Four Seasons” in 1723. The password is “vivaldi”

This is only the first of many such missions (you don’t want to know about the middle step in “The Kingsmouth Code”) and that seems to be what is bothering a lot of players. They just want to get the password so they can get on with the mission. They don’t want to experience the story or the lore, they just want to level up their character.

Solving puzzles like this is routine for adventure gamers. MMORPG gamers… not so much.

OK, I suppose that some of the people asking for the solution had legitimately tried to solve it on their own and got stuck. Someone who just looked at the picture and not at the password hints would have trouble, for example. But I think the difference in mindset between the two types of players is going to hurt the game. The usual MMO players will rush past the content in order to get to the end-game, only to find that it isn’t there.

I really wish this was a single-player game, not an MMO. I really love the game and the world; I just hope it manages to stick around.

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