Originality almost killed The Secret World

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Layoffs at Funcom were mainstream at least...

Games get a lot of flak these days for being generic half-baked ideas wrapped in a conveniently popular genre, but the thing is, playing it safe can be profitable. The Secret World is one such game that took a chance though, trading tried and tested gameplay ideas for more experimental design philosophies, and while the MMO is pretty damn good overall, several bugs kept it from being a classic. And that approach was a mistake, says lead designer Martin Bruusgard.

Talking to the the PA Report, Bruusgaard said that the difficulty with coming up with an original and creative vision, was that it almost never made it to the market, before being dumped along the way in the design process. “It’s a shame to say, but I think it’s very, very few cases where you can sit down and make the game that you really want to do, and it turns out to be a success,” Bruusgard said.

Unfortunately I think that in order to be a success in today’s market, you need to make the game a bit more commercial. You have to consider what sells. You just have to. Not doing it is a huge risk. Yes, you might get lucky and everything works out great, but I would not do that again.

Bruusgaard then elaborated on how the game should have received a little mass-market engineering, as the level-free progression system that it used became less of a draw, and more of negative aspect of the finished game;

I think we probably should’ve gone for something that was maybe a bit more familiar. "It’s all familiar, but with a twist, and I don’t think we should’ve twisted that many things. I have to stress I really like the game the way it is now, but if I’m thinking about making the game a more commercial success, I think we should’ve gone more commercial.

And believe it or not, the finished product was actually made to lean towards the mainstream appeal, as extensive playtesting resulted in a game that was less “intricate” and “convoluted” than originally imagined.

Still the game has begun to turn a profit lately. Thanks mostly to the fact that the majority of the staff over at Funcom has been pink-slipped. It’s hard these days to really release a game with a high price tag that has stacks of original content within it.

Game publishers need to make a profit in order to keep operations afloat, and going mainstream is one way to do that. While indie games thrive, maybe the industry needs to slowly introduce more of these elements into big name titles, and gradually wean gamers towards something that is more than just another kick, shoot and bliksem title.

Last Updated: October 9, 2012

Darryn Bonthuys

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