Chaos Theory: Mounting a campaign for vehicles in The Secret World

Chaos Theory  Mounting a campaign for vehicles in The Secret World
It makes sense that while I am spending a week traveling about in this world, my mind turns to the subject of travel within The Secret World. Thankfully, some aspects of transportation in reality are not a part of our online world; I don't know if I could stand being stuck on a tarmac out at the Kingsmouth Airport! But with all the trappings of various vehicles littered all about the landscape, it's difficult to not want to snag one for personal use.

The desire to add these mechanical mounts isn't even about the need for speed; folks already have various speed boosts, and the world doesn't need to get smaller by our traveling each zone at an even quicker pace. It not about getting somewhere more quickly; it's about the feel of a living, immersive world. How many of you have come upon a bicycle or a scooter in TSW and had the instant urge to hop on? Or what about the slick motorcycle, sitting there, begging for a rider? I'm certainly not one to say, "Pfft, forget those sweet wheels; I prefer hoofing it when evading zombies." Having to walk on by is an immersion-breaker in a game where ambiance and immersion are two of the defining features.

So if the goal is to enhance immersion without making the zones seem even smaller, how would mounts work? I'm glad you asked!

The Secret World screenshot
Is it really so difficult to envision grabbing a random bike that's lying around? There is already a precedence for interactive environment in The Secret World. Just think of those innocuous-looking bear traps littered about Solomon Island -- they may look like just a bit of background flavor, but they clamp right around your leg if you step into one (or in my case, jump in "just to see"). And what about picking up cartons of orange juice, bags of kitty litter, or boxes of ammo for other quests? Since we can interact with our environment to some degree, let's expand on it.

Slow rider
Addressing the issue of speed is the easiest part; to prevent zipping though the zones like a squirrel on a caffeine high, just make the vehicle speeds equal to the enhanced anima run speeds. Obviously a bicycle could travel faster than a human running, but remember that the super-speeds of the bee-blessed (bee-cursed?) are not normal run speeds. The zones would not be traversed at a rate any higher than those who have purchased the quickened anima for 500K.

I want to ride my bicycle!
As you may have noticed, I have focused my remarks on vehicles of the two-wheeler variety. I do that for a reason. I am not suggesting that Funcom open up all the various cars, trucks, and vans for players to use. Besides, many of them are crashed into poles or run into ditches. And I am not sure I'd want to enclose myself in a tin can with zombie splatter all over the inside anyways. The studio can explain our inability to use the cars and trucks scattered about by the fact there are no keys to start them. After all, how many of us can actually hotwire one? *cough cough* An empty gas tank can certainly prevent a joyride as well. Also, perhaps all of those four-wheeled vehicles sport manual transmissions, and we know that few people actually know how to drive with a clutch! As for planes, how many of you have the know-how to pilot one? I thought so.

The Secret World screenshot
However, those bits of logic cannot be expanded to include bicycles. One, there is no key to thwart us; as long as you have legs, you can power the pedaled machines. I have yet to run across a single legless Dragon, Templar, or Illuminati. And the transmission? A broken chain could be a deterrent, but there is a definite lack of clutch. Motorcycles, on the other hand, are more like cars as far as the logic goes, but riding a Harley is just too cool to not want it added along with the bikes!

Tour de Solomon Island
But even if it makes sense to be able to snag one of the many bicycles lying around, how can that be implemented in game? We already know it is possible in the gaming world; just look at Grand Theft Auto. I'll leave the programming nuances to the actual programmers, but here's how I envision the result.

The Secret World screenshotMy suggestion is to make some bikes usable in game, but not all. With such a realistic world, you know folks are going to naturally check what they can interact with when they come across things -- I certainly do. And items don't even need to have that yellow outline; you never know when some hidden Easter egg might be nestled amid the background art (think back to the bear trap). So how about when you mouse over and try to click a bicycle, you get you can get a message saying that you notice the chain is broken, the tires are slashed, or something of that sort that denotes it is unusable? Maybe the nearby owner yells and prevents you from absconding with the wheels. But every once in a while, you should be able to pick it up and use it, at least temporarily.

I'd also suggest giving bikes limitations so that they aren't permanent additions to a player's inventory. Remember, we just want some flavor in the game, not a speed boost. Maybe after a while, something breaks on the bike or a mob mangles it; it is a rough world we live in now, after all. Another thought is that folks can rent some wheels from the bike shop in Seoul but have to return the bike after a certain time or else it gets repossessed by the shopkeeper. You can't tell me you've run through that shop without wanting a bike at least once!

Additionally, although movement between the zones on Solomon Island through the tunnels makes sense, traveling with the bike through Agartha doesn't. Perhaps movement through Agartha forces it to be left behind. After all, it is plausible that the magical bee dust works only on smaller items on your person, such as weapons and clothes.

The Secret World screenshot
So there you have it: a few ideas on increasing the immersion of The Secret World though the addition of rideable mounts. Understandably this type of change would take a bit of time to implement, but I am patient. Just give me a sign that tearing around town on a trusty Schwinn or BMX is in my future.

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every Monday as she infiltrates The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to mj@massively.com and she'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.