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GDC09: Interview with The Secret World's creator, Ragnar Tørnquist


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With our unveiling of The Secret World, we were also able to have some time to ourselves with Ragnar Tørnquist, the creator of Dreamfall and, of course, The Secret World. While our look at the videos and basic fact sheets were interesting, we wanted to get to the heart of the matter. What should lure us into this dark, fantastic world? What had Funcom learned since the launch of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan? And how many times can we have one man say the words, "I can't talk about that?"

We put Ragnar to the test in our interview, and his responses were certainly enlightening. Interested? Join us as we brave The Secret World with the creator himself.

So, regarding combat, all players are human, yes?

Yes, that's correct, all of the players in The Secret World will be human.

So if everyone is human fighting this great evil, is there any kind of PvP? Why would we fight each other?

I'm not going to be talking about PvP today. *laughs* I can say that everyone has a common goal, which is to defeat the darkness that rises, but it will be more complicated than that. There is a reason for PvP, but that's for another time and another place.

Now, the team of TSW, is this a dedicated team, or have people on this team been pulled away from other titles?

No, it's been it's own team. This team formed after Dreamfall was done, and most of the team is made of people from Dreamfall, especially artists and designers. We've also done hiring and gotten new people onto the team, and as Conan has wrapped up we also got a few people from them and Anarchy Online as well.

It's like any other developer, people gravitate from team to team depending on where resources are needed. Right now we are getting close to 100 people on The Secret World, and we are going to keep growing with mostly the new people that we hire.

This project started before Age of Conan, but what have you learned from Age of Conan's launch that you can apply to this?

*laughs* I knew that question was coming! But no, you're right, the original project, called Cabal, started in 2002. I think that Conan had a pretty good launch and it's holding incredibly well. I mean it's one of the best selling PC games in the last year, which is really fantastic.

In terms of a launch, Anarchy Online had a horrible launch, but the game was pretty deep. Once they actually fixed all of the bugs, the game has obviously lived ever since and is still going strong. With Conan, they had a pretty smooth launch, but I think people realized that aspects of the game weren't quite what they had hoped for or what they had expected.

I think a combination of those two launches shows us the importance of not only a technically perfect launch, in terms of server uptime and things like that, but to also have a game that's proven to work for a long time, to have a longer beta period, to make sure that we're very very confident about the RPG system, and to invest that extra time. I think that's our team's takeaway; to be absolutely sure that we have the content and the mechanics that will support people for a long time and not just for that initial launch month.

We really, really respect alot of what the Conan guys have done, and I think the combat system worked really well, and I think there are elements of that game that we are taking away. With that said, we are a different team and we had our designs in place before Conan was launched, and we have made our decisions and we feel those are the right ones. Hopefully Conan will live for a long time and hopefully we will be able to live peacefully with them and not cut into their player base, as we are two completely different games.

You talked about having everything "technical" there, so do you have any schedule with closed beta, beta, launch?

Ohhh... you're not the first to ask that question. Yes, we have it, and no, we're not going to tell anyone.

*laugh* Not even a year or anything?

Heh, no, we have those milestones and we try as much as we can to stick with those milestones for cost reasons. But I think that speaking of them before we're ready to do so is just not a great thing. We're also going to re-evaluate our position, like are we in the right place for the game, does it play like we want it to play, are we confident, do we have to change anything, you know? Maybe then we'll be more ready to say, "Yep, we're going to stick with this date," or maybe we'll change it to another date.

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