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Some Assembly Required: Getting the most out of TSW's Albion Theatre

MJ Guthrie

Say what you will about Funcom, but there is no denying that the studio is certainly delivering on its promises. Each successive monthly patch is expanding The Secret World and offering even more to players. And as promised in my inaugural Chaos Theory, today we'll focus on yet another aspect of TSW's Big Trouble in the Big Apple.

You might be asking what the conspiracy-laced horror game could have that grants it a place in the annals of Some Assembly Required. Instead of just new missions, weapons, and other adventuring goodies, issue #4 introduced a unique stage for great player-generated content -- literally. With the opening of the Albion Theatre in London, roleplayers were not just thrown a bone; they were treated to a juicy steak dinner!

From impromptu performances to elaborate productions, the Albion Theatre is a magnificent tool for player-generated content. Players can hop onstage and present well-known works or share their own creations with everyone. I was so excited by this new feature that I immediately dived in to check it out during my first post-issue #4 livestream, then returned again to try my hand at a one-woman mini-production. What I learned during my escapades (with special thanks to Tyutchev, TheChosenOne, Kiieren, and Tulkas!) can help you on your own road to TSW stardom without dealing with all of the trial-and-error experimentation yourself.

The Secret World Screenshot
Feel like giving this unique experience a try? Then head on over to London and take a hard right when you leave Ealdwich station until you reach the doors of the Albion Ballroom. Then let the fun begin!

Casting call
Trust me when I say pulling off a solo performance without at least one other person manning the stage effects and such is challenging! So chances are, you are going to want to go about creating your production with a cast and crew.

For your rehearsals, you'll want people grouped with you before entering the instance. If someone joins the group afterward, s/he will zone into a separate rehearsal stage instance than the main group. Now, the entire group can just all zone out and right back in, but if you purchased actual stage time, it will reset and you'll have to do it again. That also means you'll have to completely rebuild the set. Luckily, you can actually add people to group on the open stage to give them access, allowing a director to use multiple waves of actors in a live production.

Although only five members of a single group are granted access to the rehearsal instance and actual stage at a time, that doesn't mean that your performance is restricted to only five people. On the contrary, budding playwrights can utilize the entire theater area, staging performers on the balconies, stairs, or even behind the bar using folks outside of the group. I also noted that when a member leaves the group on stage, s/he remains on stage and retains the ability to use the controls. This allows you to maintain five actors on stage as well as a stage crew to manage effects.

Setting the stage
Here is where TSW's feature really shines: Not only is there a physical stage to present things on for the public at large, but the theater offers a multitude of tools to bring the show to life. Using tools ranging from sound effects to lighting to props, players can really personalize their production. Of course, directors will want to use the rehearsal stage to tinker with their ideas and timing before going live!

The Secret World Screenshot
The stage offers a default set of goodies in seven categories to enhance a production: curtain, backdrops, cutouts, set pieces, lighting, effects, and audio. Though meager in variety, this collection can be expanded upon; players can acquire even more backdrops and props throughout the game either through loot drops or by purchasing from various vendors (including one right in the theater, upstairs on the right balcony). And good news! One single person doesn't have to collect all of the different possibilities to be able to use them. Everyone in the group can use the control system tablet and contribute the effects and props s/he has collected. So it's a good idea for directors to get an accounting of what things are available to them for the show.

Here are a few hints for using the control tablet, which is permanently yours once you pick it up and accessed in your inventory. Props, background, and effects (such as rain, snow, and fire) are permanent until you change or remove them. Music and sounds, however, must be triggered each time you want to hear them. Stage light sand spotlights must be individually toggled on and off as well.

The Secret World Screenshot
When you're designing your set, note that where you stand -- including which direction you face -- will determine the placement of props. If you don't like how one prop looks, just click on it to remove it and try again. Be careful, though; anyone on stage can click on props and get rid of them unless you have activated the stage controller on the right of the stage that locks the stage. Once you are happy with your prop placement, you might want to use that middle controller to lock it. If, however, you hate everything, you can click on the third one to clear the entire stage. Just be sure to click the right one!

Another hint: For ease in working the controls, hit shift when the control panel window is open. That will automatically put your cursor in the control window. Something else I found useful was putting your stage manager -- whomever you want to control the bulk of your effects for the production -- out in the audience in full view of the stage, not tucked away backstage. It's much easier to time effects when you can see what's going on!

Opening night
So you've found the perfect story, you've gathered actors, and you've rehearsed the show. It's finally time to share the fruits of your labors the world, so let's get this show on the road!
After all that hard work, you want to have folks to attend your performance, right? You can just hop on stage and hope that people wander in. However, to really fill the seats, you should consider putting the word out ahead of time. So before your show, advertise! Post on forums, send word out a few days ahead of time in general chat, and tell your actors and crew to spread the news. Don't forget that folks from all the different dimensions can attend, so the prospective audience pool is quite substantial if you let everyone know. And last but not least, tell us when it will be so we can jump in and witness your production for ourselves. You never know when it might be showcased here on Massively or MassivelyTV!

The Secret World screenshot
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!

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