Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve replayability
In my opinion, a lot rests upon The Secret World Issue #8's shoulders. While the past few issues have offered up top-notch story arcs, I gobbled them up quick and then looked sadly at an empty plate while wishing for seconds. It's the blessing and curse of quality content that takes a lot of time to make and far, far less time to play through.

So our eyes are on the promise of Issue #8's scenario system and the possibilities that it might bring. MJ did a great job of touching on the potential there, but I'd like to add that the game sorely needs a system like this because there are only so many times you can run the same missions and dungeons before getting really restless.

It doesn't have to be just up to scenarios to cure the replayability blues, however. Off the top of my head, I can think of three ways that the devs (given appropriate time and resources, of course) could add more layers of fun and activity into the current framework of The Secret World.

Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
The Secret World needs housing. It needs housing so bad that I start to go cross-eyed in frustration that it's not there yet. If there was ever a game that screamed for housing, what with a modern setting, home cities, and lavish detail paid to the existing structures in the game, this would be it. When I consider how cool the outfit and theater systems are and the obvious affection the devs have for giving us freedom to express ourselves in the game, housing seems like the logical next step.

So let's assume that housing makes it in. How could this increase replayability? Simple: You integrate it with the full game world. Don't just limit housing to an instance and a vendor who sells you everything you need. Take a cue from RIFT and have some of the better houses be rare drops from dungeons. Or what if you got a nifty hell-themed motel room if you ran one of the hell dungeons 10 times?

But what I'm really thinking here is that a majority of housing items could be fixed as quest rewards. Just as some quests award outfits or special items, they could also be expanded to including furniture, decorations, and items for your home. I've long been a fan of the notion that a house in a game should be a (functional) trophy case that shows off where you've been and what you've done. Putting housing quest rewards in would be a huge incentive to going back and re-running these old missions.

Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
I am really not a fan of TSW's achievement system as it stands right now. Sure, it's there, but it feels half-hearted and without much purpose. The UI is awkward, there's no way to link to your achievements to tell your cabal that you did them, and apart from a sparse handful of outfit pieces and titles, there are no rewards.

This is a missed opportunity because the structure is already in place to urge players to go on a worldwide achievement hunt. All that's needed are rewards to compel them to do so.

Recently, Guild Wars 2 overhauled its achievement system to make the UI more attractive and tie the achievement score to a tangible reward platform. Overnight, this turned achievements from something that I barely noticed to something I actively sought out. I'm one of those players who does enjoy achievement hunting, but I'll rarely do it just for its own sake. I have every reason to believe that TSW could tip the scales making achievements an engaging aspect of the game instead of its current vestigial tail status.

Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
Chaos Theory Three ideas to improve TSW's replayability
Missions are all well and good, especially the first time through, but you repeat them enough and they lose all their luster. I hate seeing missions become just another thing to grind and urge Funcom to go beyond merely allowing us to rerun them by adding a new layer on top.

Here's what I propose: After you run a mission the first time, it should unlock alternate (and optional) challenges for that mission when you rerun it. Maybe the game will challenge me to run it within five minutes or pick up all of the secrets or avoid tripping alarms or what have you. If the player can accomplish this, then the end reward will be even better -- and perhaps offer exclusive goodies unobtainable anywhere else.

This isn't an original idea, of course. Many video games offer alternate modes to increase replayability, and players really take a shine to those. Right now I'm playing through Plants vs. Zombies 2, a game that vastly extends its offerings by challenging me to beat the same stage with certain limitations or fun challenges. Even in MMOs, we often see dungeon bosses come with challenge modes that unlock achievements and special rewards. So why not with solo missions?

If I didn't think it's currently impossible, I'd love to see quests come with branching points where you can make decisions to impact how the quest plays out. Maybe in the future, eh?

I don't think these ideas are pie-in-the-sky flights of fancy. They can take what the game already has and add a bit more onto it, and in so doing, give us so much more to do than we currently have. I hope that Funcom is looking into ways to increase replayability, period. Don't let it all rest on the promise of Issue #8 to cure all ills.

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ and Justin every Monday as they infiltrate 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 or justin@massively.com and they'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.