Funcom is taking hedge trimmers to its Montreal offices today. Senior Game Designer Tanya Short posted the following this afternoon on her Twitter account: “When your branch shuts down, I guess it’s less like being fired and more like honorable discharge. Thanks for going down with the ship! Bye!”
Massively contacted Funcom for an official statement. Director of Communications Erling Ellingsenconfirmed layoffs but assured us that Funcom’s games will continue on: “We are currently in a restructuring process and the Montreal office is part of that process along with our other branches. This process unfortunately involves a reduction in staff, but the studio is not closing down. It will continue on, but in a different form and function than today. Anarchy Online, as well as The Secret World and Age of Conan, will definitely continue to operate and be an important part of the company’s focus going forward.” He said that the studio would provide more details when it had finished with the process.
With the end of the world hitting the planet on Friday, The Secret World’s fifth monthly update could obviously only be enjoyed if it hit servers before then, right? So good news — Issue #5 is live right now! So you can right hop in and help one of Solomon Island’s denizens avoid meeting her end with bad hair and find out what really happened to Tyler Freeborn.
Along with the usual assortment of new missions and investigations, this update adds a third auxiliary weapon (the quantum bracers), allows players to assign inventory items to hotkeys, opens a new nightclub in London, and makes all investigation missions repeatable. Want to see what’s in store come Friday when the End of Days special event starts? Get a glimpse of the Harbingers themselves in the Issue #5 preview video after the cut.
New Game Director Joel Bylos dropped several juicy tidbits about the future of The Secret World on theFlash Point podcast. One of the biggest of these is that Funcom is growing once more following recent layoffs. “We have already brought back three people,” he said, “It gives us hope and it’s great to see those faces back at the office.”
He said that a second auxiliary weapon — which players assume to be the chainsaw — is coming with next month’s Issue 4, and the Halloween event scheduled in a couple weeks will have players digging through Irish lore books. If you like the game’s investigation missions, you’ll be pleased to hear that The Secret World will be introducing group versions of these types of quests.
But will the team be able to keep up with the monthly updates? Bylos is firmly confident that it can be done, as the structure for issue development is in place.
Bylos admits that it’s “absolutely vital” for the studio to advertise the game better and communicate clearly what the game is to potential players. He also said that the team is working on helping players overcome the game’s higher difficulty, particularly with starter decks that are coming soon and easier story boss fights.
Funcom’s new CEO is tackling tough questions about the future of The Secret World, saying that the studio is prepared to take the title free-to-play — if need be. In an interview with GamesIndustry, Ole Schreiner said that TSW was developed to be subscription-based with the options to change the model down the road.
“We tried leaving our options open during development so that we could launch with a different model should we have decided during development that’s what we wanted, but eventually we did settle on the subscription model and that’s what informed much of the game’s design,” Schreiner said. “That said we definitely have the tools to turn The Secret World into a free-to-play game — or even hybrid — should we decide to do that somewhere down the line.”
Schreiner admitted that it’s become difficult for subscription titles to thrive in a F2P-dominated field. He added that The Secret World is now a “profitable operation” following the studio’s restructuring: “Despite the obvious challenges, I definitely think we’re heading into a promising future for Funcom.”
Remember that badass CG trailer for The Secret World that featured four of the game’s factional NPCs joining forces to duke it out with a big nasty in the remains of New York City? Well, that might be our first clue about TSW’s next update.
Funcom’s new content initiative continues at next week’s Gamescom event as the firm will be releasing details of The Secret World’s first raid encounter. According to a report at IncGamers, the raid will “involve a giant monster crawling out of the subway system [and] attacking a partially destroyed New York.”
We don’t know for sure if the old trailer is related to the new raid, but there are a lot of similarities (including an errant subway car and what looks like the blasted remains of the Big Apple).
The world of MMORPG making is one that has left many a grave by the wayside from new and established developers who have tried and failed to make their all encompassing world succeed. Funcom’s effort, ‘The Secret World’ released at the start of July through Publisher Electronic Arts is not their first foray into the MMO world, having already cut their teeth on previous games ‘Age of Conan’ and ‘Anarchy Online’. However, ‘The Secret World’ has been developed since 2007 so the developers are keen to make sure that their newest offering lures in the players fast.
To meet that goal, Funcom has recently announced that to celebrate the game’s one month anniversary since launch, from the August the 3rd to the 6th will be a free weekend of play for users of ‘The Secret World’. This was announced on the game’s official website that “any player who has any type of The Secret World account” will be eligible for the offer. Also any new users who want in on the action can do so, providing you register for the game after Friday 27th July.
However, if you expect the game to remain the same during this weekend of partying, do not despair. 30 in-game missions have been added for the celebration period where users will have to help those who need assistance in the game world. With the reward of 1200 bonus points and a free t-shirt for your character, plus 15 fireworks per character so the party can last long into the in-game nights, Funcom are aiming for a party that its customers will remember. For those who would rather aim for glory rather than party, fear not! A leader board will be implemented by the Funcom team so the top 100 mission completers of the whole game will be raised high for all to see.
Aside from these weekend perks that Funcom have announced, there will also be regular new content added to the game. Ragnar Tørnquist, Senior Producer of ‘The Secret World’ announced that the first ‘Raid’ is in development and that “The Big Apple will never be the same.” A dungeon finder tool is currently being created so gamers will be able to put teams together easier. Two new adventure zones are also being developed with further news to come to light in August.
‘The Secret World’ has garnered a favorable critical reception from the gaming press so far, with a score of 71 out of 100 from Metacritic based on critical reviews. The response from users has been higher, with a score of 8.4 out of 10 on the same website from gamers. GamesTM, The Escapist and PC Powerplay have all offered glowing reviews of the title, although the game’s score still stands lower than either ‘Age of Conan’ (80) or ‘The Longest Journey’ (91). However, considering ‘The Secret World’ had a surprisingly smooth launch (compared to the debacle surrounding Age of Conan) and over 750,000 beta testers, perhaps all Funcom has to do is keep the momentum going for things to turn out just right.
In a similar vein, some of the pre-order benefits — the Egyptian Cat in-game pet, an exclusive in-game t-shirt, and an in-game ring — are also extended to customers who enter their retail or digital game keys up until the end of today, July 6th. While that may not thrill true pre-order customers who liked being special snowflakes, that cat is darn adorable and everyone should get one.
Some secrets are out. Funcom might have slipped the launch in a day early, but The Secret World’slaunch trailer kept to the initial schedule. For just under three minutes, players can now get a glimpse of some of the secrets hiding throughout the world in the form of various beasts and monsters while being serenaded by the bluesy voice of Dinah Washington crooning (the quite appropriate) This Bitter Earth.
Watch the debut cinematic after the cut, and to catch up on all the latest about The Secret World, check out the launch-day roundup as well as Massively’s new column dedicated to the world of secret organizations, Chaos Theory.
If you haven’t settled on a faction yet for Funcom’s intrigued-laced MMO The Secret World, you might want to consider shifting your decision-making into a higher gear or investing in a three-sided coin — the time of the Templars, Illuminati, and Dragons is at hand. The three-way faction PvP will commence this Friday, June 29th for those who have pre-ordered the game. Players who have opted not to pre-order will find the game in stores starting June 3rd and can join the world on that date.
If you’d like to take advantage of the early access (and possibly kiss your weekend goodbye), there is still time to pre-order via the official site.
Curious about The Secret World’s PvP implementation? Funcom lead designer Martin Bruusgaardhas penned a new dev blog that you’ll want to read. It’s a pretty lengthy post once you consider thatTSW features three distinct PvP flavors in the form of its fight clubs, battlefields, and warzones.
Each of the game’s hub cities features a fight club, which is basically an anything-goes arena. Bruusgaard says it’s ideal for build-testing, dueling, and anything else that players dream up. You can also travel to rival faction fight clubs when you tire of laying the smack down on your allies.
Battlefields are all about fighting over legendary relics in hidden locations across The Secret World. Places like Stonehenge and Eldorado serve as the game’s answer to instanced small-group PvP, and Funcom has added a few mechanical twists in an attempt to freshen things up.
The warzone is a 24/7 persistent PvP area where the game’s three factions duke it out over various controllable facilities. The game will launch with one warzone (Fusang Project), which features perimeter defenses and an Anima Guardian that players must subdue before securing the zone. Fusang Project supports 200 players simultaneously, so look for large-scale PvP battles that reward combatants with tokens and “substantial buffs” for the victorious faction.