PAX 2011: Funcom discusses The Secret World's PvP, ARG, and more

Screenshot -- The Secret World -- Stonehenge
Funcom had an impressive presence at PAX Prime 2011, and along with that presence came a wealth of information about its upcoming horror MMORPG, The Secret World. In addition to showing off the Polaris five-man instance, the team also highlighted a new solo mission demo and revealed some new information about the title.

From missions to PvP to character progression, the team had a lot to say. For the full details on both small- and large-scale PvP, skill progression, and the game's ARG and puzzle elements, head on past the cut.
Let's start with the never-before-seen solo mission demo. The mission followed an Illuminati agent on her way to meet with an informant. But as seems to be the norm in The Secret World, things were not quite what they seemed, and it was quickly discovered that the rendezvous point had been overrun by a horde of zombies and other supernatural creatures. To top it all off, an agent of rival organization the Templars was on the scene, which could only mean trouble.

The team took this time to point out a new feature that had been added to the game's engine: dynamic lights. This feature allows players to create lights to help illuminate their surroundings, whether in the form of a headlamp or placeable emergency flares. This new utility proved useful in the sparsely lit building in which the mission was set, but dynamic lights aren't all rays of sunshine. Using a headlamp or flare will also attract enemies, which can spell trouble for the player. Of course, this can also be used to the player's advantage by placing a light in a location where he wants creatures to go. These lights will also be available in PvP, where players will have more to worry about than just a mob's aggro range. In these situations, players will have to determine whether it's more important to see their way around or avoid being seen by other players.

Screenshot -- The Secret World -- Large-scale PvP
That, of course, brings us to the subject of the game's PvP. The devs showed off three of the game's small-scale PvP battlegrounds: the mysterious Stonehenge, the lost Tibetan city of Shambhala, and the mythic city of gold, El Dorado. Stonehenge, the devs revealed, will be a king-of-the-hill gametype, with a team getting points for having the most players in the center of the site's stone ring. El Dorado, on the other hand, will play host to a capture-the-flag gametype with a notable twist. Instead of each team having its own flag, four relics will spawn in the center of the map at the beginning of the game. The idea is to control as many of these relics as possible to gain points.

In the process of discussing this battleground, the team revealed that collision detection -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- would in fact be present in the game. This provides a wealth of strategic options for gametypes such as El Dorado's relic control. For instance, perhaps you'd like to stick your relic in a choke point and wall it off with your tanks. The possibilities are endless!

The big PvP-related announcement of the day, though, was more discussion on the previously teased large-scale PvP. We now know that large-scale PvP will take place on persistent battlefields, an example of which we were given in the form of a Chinese temple. At all hours of the day, players can fight to wrest control of these battlefields, and whichever faction controls a battlefield will gain a buff for all of its players.

The team presented a video of one of these battles in action; it followed a team of Dragons as it attempted to seize control of a Chinese pagoda from the Illuminati. The first order of action, the team said, was to gain control of an Anima well. These Anima Wells produce Anima charges, which the Dragon players must place on the doors of the temple in order to gain access. As the Dragons fought off a team of Templars for control of the well, a number of Chinese lanterns surrounding the area changed color to green and became emblazoned with the Dragons' emblem. The demonstration then fast-forwarded a bit as the Dragons placed the final charge on the doors of the Illuminati-controlled temple. As the doors creaked open, the Illuminati gathered on the temple steps to make their last stand. Joining the fray at this point was the temple's protector: a large AI-controlled automaton, which the Dragons needed to neutralize before the temple could be theirs. In due time, the automaton -- and the remainder of the Illuminati -- went down, and the Dragons infused it with their own magic, thereby gaining ownership of the automaton, the temple, and the warzone.

Screenshot -- The Secret World -- large-scale PvP
For both manners of PvP, Funcom announced that players would be analyzed and assigned a role upon entering a battlefield. Depending on the role assigned to a player, his outfit will be changed to role-specific armor. This gives each player a distinctive look based on his combat role, thereby allowing players to be immediately identified. In this way, allies know which players to protect and which enemies to focus on.

Moving away from PvP, let's take a look at character progression. When asked about the game's experience curve, the devs answered that there would not be one. That is to say, players will gain skill points at roughly the same rate throughout the game. The catch comes in the form of the skill system itself. Low-tier abilities in each of the game's categories (melee, magic, and ranged, with each of those further divided into three subcategories) will cost fewer skill points, whereas higher-tier abilities will cost more. So it is likely possible for players to unlock most of the lower-tier abilities rather quickly, but in order to procure the higher-tier abilities, players will have to save up their skill points before they can afford them. Once players have unlocked these abilities, they will be able to switch them out at will. There will be no respec cost or any sort of penalty for changing your abilities, which should be a godsend for players with character-ADD.

Screenshot -- The Secret World
To cap things off, we asked Funcom about the ARG elements of the game and how they would influence the overall gameplay of the title. Funcom reaffirmed the existence of Investigation quests, which will require players to search both in and out of the game for clues to The Secret World's puzzles. However, the devs also hinted at the possibility of "puzzle raids," which are large, difficult puzzles that will be added to the game on a weekly or monthly basis. The first faction to band together and solve one of these puzzles will be rewarded with a faction-wide bonus as well as further insight into the game's story. After a single faction has solved it, no other faction will be able to reap its reward, though it will still be solvable for those interested in the story.

The Secret World is currently slated for an April 2012 release date, and the game recently began The Secret War to promote beta test sign-ups. Be sure to check back frequently because we'll be following up with Funcom's newest title as soon as new information is released. Until then, you can head over to the official site for trailers, pictures, and of course, beta registration.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 26-28, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2011. Whether you're dying to know more about SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, City of Heroes, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!
This article was originally published on Massively.