More on Funcom’s Secret World Woes And Why It’s All Your Fault

I guess we could have predicted the Illuminati were day traders.

Ryahl at TSWGuides (which TSW players are probably already familiar with as a site for build discussions) posts an in-depth analysis of why Funcom shot itself in the foot with The Secret World’s launch – covering both the missteps made in planning and pitching the game to investors post-Age of Conan failed launch, in a post-WoW, post SWTOR, and quite possibly post-subscription model environment, but also that, well…

The Secret World is NOT an easy game.  It’s challenging and complex in an industry where content is generally spoon fed.  To mine a quote, “no one has ever gone broke underestimating human intelligence.”… …It’s hard, it’s different and it’s innovative on a number of fronts.  Contrary to what fans will tell you on boards, that’s not always what they want.  They claim it, but they often buy what they know (risk aversion).  Games that break the mold usually have to grow into their business model, they don’t get to start that way.



17 thoughts on “More on Funcom’s Secret World Woes And Why It’s All Your Fault

  1. Stabs says:

    The only problem is with the industry’s perception of success. Were TSW a book it would have been critically acclaimed, a copy purchased for most public libraries and might even have crept onto the syllabus of a few daring lit courses.

    Not every book needs to sell more copies than 50 shades of grey. Not every MMO needs to sell more copies than WOW.

    The stupidity of this is that Funcom talked up the numbers so much rather than realising that every non-Blizzard MMO is a niche game.

  2. jeremy says:

    yep, this game needs an IQ at least above 80. Therefore we need to fight a lot with Wowtards and gw2 fanbois who are upset because TSW makes them feel “stoo-pid”.

    • Tuba says:

      You know anyone with an IQ below 80 is considered mentally retarded, right? It really should be anyone with IQ above 110 so that the player base is of above average intel…;)

  3. Thomas Valley says:

    They needed to take a lesson from Turbine, who spent nearly a year retooling the original Asheron’s Call after it turned out people were too stupid to figure out how to cast a spell or that carrying money adds weight.

    • Tiresias says:

      No. No no. No no no no no no!

      For the love of pie… the game has been out for not even a calendar quarter yet! Just let it sit.

      Imagine if EVE Online had taken your approach and gotten rid of the infamous “learning cliff” in that game. There is no doubt in my mind that the game, which right now is a HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL title, would be a completely forgettable failure. I recognize that CCP has done an incredible job with EVE despite not enjoying the game AT ALL myself.

      I cannot remember the last time a quest in an MMO made me stop and think, and I’ve been playing MMOs for (much) longer than I care to admit. And while there is a place for the action-packed, somewhat-routine systems of TERA or WoW, TSW is specifically designed to not just “feel” different but actually “be” different.

      Are there aspects that I don’t like? You bet. Anything with Morse code in it I just Google; Morse is an ancient, almost completely deprecated form of communication that even sailors and pilots don’t use anymore — I know because I am both a sailor (USNA grad) and a pilot (private license). It is horribly difficult to decipher Morse without training and experience, so I count on other people… which is JUST FINE because they may have a problem with the cryptology riddles that I not only breeze through but actually enjoy.

      Some aspects of the combat system grate on me a little. The entire premise in most non-group situations is to hit your builder 5 times then hit your two weapon-specific consumers once each. Playing in a party completely and utterly changes that dynamic, but the basic combat system could use some incentives to make it more than a 3-button affair most of the time.

      I’ll stop with the examples of the negative; everyone will like and dislike different things. However, Funcom needs to recognize that they have a title that, by design, will not have broad appeal across the spectrum. The goal should be to find a way to make what they have profitable, just like CCP did with EVE.

      Some of that effort may involve smoothing rough edges. Some of that effort may involve changing core systems. What they don’t need to go is change the entire formula in a mad grasp for money.

      As a reminder: it took years before EVE became profitable. Now it is one of the most successful and recognizable MMOs — hell, one of the most recognizable GAMES — on the market. CCP stuck to their formula and now even people who don’t play the game enjoy reading about the game.

      They did this with slow progress, iteration, incremental changes, and community involvement. Niche games attract passionate players; Funcom should remember this.

      • UnknownSubject says:

        Some different factors here are:

        1) Funcom being a public company, not a private one like CCP was.

        2) EVE cratered at launch and only continued because Simon & Schulster (sp?) who published the game sold the publishing rights back to CCP and (as far as I can find out from public sources) effectively wiped its development debt. Then CCP started with digital distribution which was unique at the time and helped get players in the door. TSW is playing in a very different space financially.

        3) CCP started small and so could build on a niche audience (and then over-extended last year and dumped people / projects) while Funcom has spent too much to be niche.

  4. Every MMO is a niche game. But each generation has its EverQuests and WoWs, and people forget that those products are outliers. They are niche games as well, and were never budgeted for the success they achieved.

    I’ve heard the concern expressed that MMOs won’t get funding if they don’t inflate their projections. But in those instance anyone doing the bullshitting in hopes of getting funded and ideally become an outlier themselves, are ultimately at fault – all the way down the line.

    Blaming the customers is fucking retarded. It has nothing to do with whether or not the game is hard. If you’re making a hard game, budget for that shit. It’s called a business plan.

    The problem is, we get all caught up in our own bullshit, get all starry eyed, and then wonder when the millions of people we need to break even never show up.

    Or worse, the do show up, and we never considered that making high fidelity content, without factoring in sufficient lead time prior to launch to create post-launch content, leaves us sitting there with a massive case of shrinkage on our hands.

  5. mcl says:

    Listened to the “play along with the dev’s” video from earlier this month.

    There are several ‘thresholds’ in the game.

    By the time you get out of Kingsmouth, for example, they expect you to know and to be familiar with wielding two weapons and starting to use synergistic effects.

    By the time you get to Transylvania they expect you to start learning individual mob behavior and abilities and being able to tweak your deck of active and passive skills to over come the challenges before you.

    For example I was running the story line last night and came across some genetically hopped up vampires guarding choke points to my progress last night.

    They had a buff that read “+50% to damage” and another buff that read “when an affliction effect stacks 5 times on them they get a -50% to damage”.

    Earlier in play a typical modern kidee gamer said this in chat:

    “Are you ‘jeli’ that we can Google things now when back in the day you had to reason to figure them out?”

    My reply was “Google critical thinking, problem solving, and reading comprehension. See how much that helps you.”

    TSW is built to be “like water”. If you think that in a game there is one “best build” then it will be disappointing to you.

    There is a twitch element with the active dodging of aoes and casting from mobs and players alike but there is also a flexible system of skills that the devs, most importantly the lead designer, intend for you to use and swap builds as needed to over come individual challenges.

    The Transyvanian maps are huge and have a lot in them and by the time you are out of Egypt the dev team expects you to be wearing your big boy/girl pants on and kicking some tail.

    This may have a less than positive effect on gamers and the marketability of the game but to be quite honest a game that challenges both my fingers and my mind makes me happier than a pig in fresh mud.

    For once the industry has given me the game that I deserve and I will do anything I can to support it.


    Tractor photo showing how happy I am in TSW:

  6. PacifistCC says:

    All the EVE comparisons…

    EVE became successful in the long term because a hard core group of PvP’ers carried it for the first 3 years (average amount of players online went from 3k to 7k) in that time. They played the game more or less 24/7.

    After that all the player generated content attracted enough fresh blood.

    I don’t remeber any MMO after that, which had an interesting enough PvP. It was either an after thought (TR), or unbalanced (AOC, WHO) or gear based (Rift).

    I don’t know anything about The Secret World, but if there is no long term PvP in it, it will die too.

  7. Numtini says:

    TSW is a fantastic game, the best I’ve played in years. However, my reaction to a beta invitation and its launch was “LOL Funcom.” I didn’t even bother to try the free beta. It was only after so many of my friends were playing it and singing its praises that I ever gave it a chance.

    TSW was never going to be the next WoW, but it’s a solid game and I’m certain it would have done better from a company that didn’t have Funcom’s well earned bad reputation.

  8. Arkazon says:

    I always thought the quests and the world were fabulous. The thing that killed it for me and my close gaming friend really was the lack of available / varied powers. We didn’t complete Kingsmouth, but we were dismayed to only have 7 buttons at a time (felt like an incredibly small amount, but I suspect it is necessary for the way the skills are built). It also felt like many of the higher tier skills were identical to lower tier ones, perhaps with just slightly tweaked numbers.
    I regret that we never got to delve deeper into the debuff system and playing off of those in a strategic way.

  9. Brian Green says:

    As someone who ran a PvP focused game during a time when you couldn’t visit a blog site without reading comments bellyaching about how there were no good PvP games, I find it utterly shocking that people say one thing then behave in ways that are completely contrary to what they say.

  10. bobfrompinecreek says:

    I really don’t understand lum’s obsession with free to play. f2p is a fad, the money hats what their box sales, their subscription fees, AND their morally bankrupt cash shop sales and we have plenty of games where players happily pay for all 3. F2p is what you do when your game isnt good enough to move a box or get a sub fee. hence dying games switching over to f2p. You don’t gain more players with f2p… you gain *different* players altogether. This fresh batch may be bigger than the old one, so the cycle of bleed off and decays begins aknew.

    The reason f2p is hot in korea is because koreans with their lightspeed internet pirate the ever living fuck out of everything and it is near;y impossible to sell them software legitimately. Even then, many of their f2p games still maintain the option of a subscription based system with monthly perks or benefits. Blizard’s already set the standard of triple dipping, now they even have people gold farming for them with their real money auction house in d3, time to let go of your archaic ideas old man!

      • Jeeshman says:

        He also left out the Judean People’s Front. And he failed to explain why it is that DDO, LotR and EQ2 are faring much better financially since changing to the F2P model, with DDO actually being able to afford to put out an expansion for the first time ever.

  11. Jason Dunn says:

    I did not play TSW but I agree with him. MMO players talk big and behave small. Blizzard’s loot slot machine which pulls mobs instead of slot reels is exactly what most people want. Instead of barstools in casinos, they sit in ergo chairs and are convinced they’re doing something different, which they are not.

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