The Secret World – Exclusive Interview With Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist

The Secret World is, without a doubt, one of the most original and unique MMORPGS we have ever had the pleasure to play. Ragnar Tørnquist and his team at Funcom have created a game that brings to life the legends, mysteries and conspiracies that have haunted humanity for thousands of years. It is a world full of intrigue and menace and the fate of all mankind hangs in the balance.

The Secret World takes place in a dystopian modern world that is under siege from vast hordes of monsters, demons, zombies, vampires and immense, powerful gods who have been dormant for centuries. You will fight legions of fantastic creatures who have re-awakened to challenge the human race for dominance. You will journey to familiar locations such as New York, London, Tokyo, Seoul and Egypt. You will also travel to wondrous destinations that include The Hollow Earth, Stonehenge, El Dorado, Transylvania and Shambhala.

The Secret World introduces a new concept to MMORPGS. There are no levels or classes. Instead, players will be able to acquire and use all the weapons, gear and powers available in the game. With 535 powers to choose from, players can create an infinite number of builds and specializations.

Every aspect of The Secret World is well thought out, intellectually fulfilling and loaded with excitement. This is the one game you do not want to miss. The Secret World will be available to play starting June 3, 2012. Early access for those who pre-ordered the game starts on June 29, 2012.

Recently, we were granted an exclusive interview with Ragnar Tørnquist, the Creative Director of The Secret World. While Ragner will modestly tell you he is part of a very talented team, he is the genius who has turned his fascination for the hidden secrets of human history into a truly amazing game.

So without any further delay, we present our exclusive interview with Ragnar Tørnquist from Funcom:

INQUISITR:

The Secret World explores many of the histories, myths and legends that have always fascinated and haunted humanity. Ragnar, as one of the creative forces behind The Secret World, what drew you to choose the subject matter? Does the collective Legendarium of our species, which is so wonderfully brought to life in The Secret World, have personal meaning for you? Has the subject matter of The Secret World always been part of your life or did your interest start when you began to work on the game?

RAGNAR:

The subject matter truly fascinates me, and always has, for as long as I can remember. The Secret World is, in many ways, a deeply personal game, even though it’s a product of the combined creative efforts of hundreds of talented people. As director, it’s my job to ensure that everything connects into a singular vision, and in that sense, my personal interest in the setting has been hugely important.

When I was a kid, I would devour every book, movie, magazine article, TV show and comic that touched on lost civilizations, ancient mythology, cryptozoology, the paranormal or supernatural, and it’s an interest that’s stuck with me all my life. For the past fifteen years, I’ve wanted to make a game that takes place in the modern-day real world and mixes pop culture, ancient history, myths and legends and conspiracy theories together with a fresh and original story — and a few really cool twists.

All of that has inspired The Secret World, and it’s a game we’ve been working on for many years now. It’s definitely been worth it, and I think anyone who sits down to play our game will feel there’s a lot of depth and passion and character to it. I’m fond of saying that The Secret World has soul, and it really, really does. It’s a huge triple-A game with a massive team, but it’s still very, very personal.

INQUISITR:

What were some of the sources that you used to create The Secret World? Did you make use of specific source material, such as Robert Anton Wilson’s “Cosmic Trigger Trilogy” or Milton William Cooper’s “Behold a Pale Horse”? Did you use classical texts like the Bible or Greek Mythology for inspiration?

RAGNAR:

We referenced all the classics. All of them. Our writers and designers are extremely well read — and our sources are legion — so it’s very hard to nail down a single source of inspiration, or even a handful of them, although the tone of the game does take cues from Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, China Mieville, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and a bunch of others. An eclectic and ambitious mix, but The Secret World is eclectic and ambitious.

As for the classical texts, our writers have copies of the Bible and Shakespeare on their desks, but we try to go as wide and as deep as possible, from the obvious to the obscure. And part of the fun of playing this game is uncovering and identifying those sources, discovering the myths and legends that we base our lore on, digging into our historical and religious connections, deciphering our quotes and pop cultural references… That metagame is as much a part of The Secret World as the exploration, combat, character development, story and puzzle-solving.

INQUISITR:

As you are certainly well aware, end game content can make or break an MMORPG. Without spoiling the fun, what do you have in store for gamers to maintain and increase their interest as they progress through The Secret World and start to build strong characters? How will The Secret World keep us wanting to come back for more when we have gone through most of the current content?

RAGNAR:

The end game is crucial, but, as with many other areas, The Secret World approaches this a bit differently. We have always looked at our entire game as an end game: without any classes or levels, there’s much more focus on the horizontal progression, and players will spend a lot of time exploring different paths in the Ability Wheel, combining weapons and skills in new ways, going head to head in our PvP battlefields and persistent warzones, and expanding their arsenal of weapons and talismans in order to play different roles where needed. Our dungeons also provide a really solid challenge to even the most experienced players, and explorers and adventurers will find plenty of reasons to return to the adventure zones with regular investigation mission updates. Not to mention the deep crafting system, the lore and achievements, the leaderboards, the huge amount of clothing to unlock — and more.

We believe there’s more than enough to do for everyone, regardless of play style — PvP and PvE — after they’ve played through the first act of the story mission and reached the highest rank in their secret society. The game definitely doesn’t stop there. We’ve made a world for players to live in, and it’s a world that will keep growing. We look forward to updating the game with more content post-launch. But more on that soon.

INQUISITR:

While betas can give players a good feel for a new game, it is often hard to tell how PVP will turn out when the game goes live. Several recent big name MMOS have fallen flat with many players due to the disappointing implementation of PVP. What will make PVP in The Secret World grab and hold player’s interest? What will your game offer avid PVP fans that will make them want to play The Secret World?

RAGNAR:

We’ve done a lot of Beta-testing on our PvP modes, both internally and externally, and players are really enjoying our mini-game based battlefields and persistent warzones — particularly the latter. Fusang Projects is just fantastic fun, pitting all three sides against each other in an ongoing, 24/7 battle in a Chinese city for control over a temple built on top of an ancient source of immense occult power…

The PvP in The Secret World is closely tied to the story and the lore, with all three secret societies having to adhere to the rules of an organization called the Council of Venice. The Council has defined the rules of engagement that the factions have to follow, or they’ll risk being banned. Of course, as far as most players are concerned, this is secondary to the PvP mechanics — and rightly so — but we have always striven to make everything in the game an integral part of the story and setting, down to things like vendors and the auction house, and I think players will feel and appreciate that, even when it’s just background. The iconic locations — El Dorado and Stonehenge for the battlefields — combined with the unique three-sided conflict and the flexibility of our skill system means that PvP will be dynamic, challenging and fun. It may sound like I’m just quoting our bullet-points, but I really believe PvP to be one of our strongest and most entertaining features.

INQUISITR:

The decision was made to postpone the official release date until July 3, 2012. What was the reasoning behind the postponement? Certainly postponing the game to improve the content and hone it to perfection is a lesson that was learned by Funcom after the release of The Age of Conan. Was the decision made by your team or by upper management at Funcom?

RAGNAR:

When we moved our tentative release window earlier this year — from April to June – it was to spend more time polishing and perfecting the game, something that’s helped immensely. That decision was made by the team in collaboration with upper management and marketing, and it was a decision based on our desire to make this the best game we could possibly make.

We recently pushed the game’s release date another two weeks, but that was for market reasons. This has also given us the opportunity to focus more on the Beta Weekends as well. It’s important for us that everyone who’s interested in trying out The Secret World gets a chance to do so, and we have nothing to hide — we’re really proud of the game, and we’re having a ton of fun playing it ourselves on a daily basis.

INQUISITR:

What are your personal ambitions for The Secret World? What would make you feel all the years of hard work were a success?

RAGNAR:

That’s easy.

It’s worth all the hard work if we’ve made a game we enjoy playing ourselves – mission accomplished! — and one that our community and fans and, hopefully, the rest of the world will find fun and interesting and challenging and different and, perhaps most importantly, emotionally engaging.

I want you to feel something when you play The Secret World. The game has a soul, it has life, and there’s really nothing else like it out there.

And I’m very, very happy about that.

FINAL COMMENTS:

This concludes our exclusive interview with Ragnar Tørnquist. He has shown great passion for creating a truly outstanding MMORPG. He has designed a vital, exciting world that combines incredible originality with all the fun and excitement any gamer could ever want. Judging by over 150 hours of play time in the press beta, we think Ragnar and his team have achieved all that they hoped for and much more. If you play any MMORPG this year, you should play The Secret World. It is just that good.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to thank Ragnar for taking time from his incredibly busy schedule, 23 days before early access begins, to do this interview. We would also like to thank Erling Ellingsen, Director of Communications at Funcom for making this interview possible. The people at Funcom are without a doubt the most accommodating and helpful professionals we have ever dealt with in the gaming industry. We salute them.