The Secret World at GDC 2012

Posted on Thu 03 May 2012 in video games

I just watched the presentation of The Secret World at GDC 2012 in its full length and there are several topics I'd like to address before heading back to other matters. In this article I'll be using the shortened TSW when referring to the game.

User interfaces

If you know me then you'll be aware how unwilling I am to put up with a bad UI. A great UI is an essential part of any modern game - or at least it should be. Making the UI fun to interact with lessens the impact of immersion breaking when players have to sift through menus in order to change settings, find items or read up quest information. While most of the things I've seen in the demo have been pleasant - like the skill wheel - some haven't. I really wish we could get away from using sliders for things they're just not suited for. Making the face selection or hairstyle selection a slider makes no sense at all, because in contrast to, say, jaw width, different hairstyles are not polar opposites on an index. Thumbnails would be a preferable option. Using sliders for this sort of option is also detrimental to online games because you can't easily show which ones are new either due to a patch or an expansion. Using thumbnails you could easily slap some small "new" signage onto the newly available ones. Try that using a slider.

Character looks

I'm never quite sure what to think of the character models of TSW's character models. While I may be spoiled by the extraordinarily prettiness that TERA Online left me with, I'm just not convinced that their facial features are up to the latest standards in video gaming technology. They look okay when compared with older games, but they're most certainly not up to date with the latest tech. On the other hand that might be just me expecting more of little details again.

Little touches

TSW has a certain love for detail which can't be ignored. The developers offered only some examples during the demo but I was impressed how well things are designed.

  • Songs heard in karaoke bars may trigger new quests due to their lyrics.
  • You get a UNIX inspired hacking terminal when accessing foreign computers but after a successful hack your program may obtain a HTML-formatted copy of the data which makes accessing the information on your device significantly easier and enables pretty graphics all the while explaining why this was possible.
  • The three different factions may arrive at key locations of main quests in different way, all the way fitting in with each of their story arc and characteristics.
  • The crafting system is a kind of memory game which uses different ingredients as well as their position on a grid to determine the outcome of crafting. That process is aided by the option to dissect your equipment - called "transcribing" in the game world.
  • Time travel to a certain dungeon in the past is done via a trance.

There's other things that make me want to play the game too. Their achievements are linked to real bonuses, like money or items, not only nice pictures. Dangerous environments facilitate the need to be constantly aware of your surroundings in battle. There are obtainable "lore pieces" that tell the whole story behind TSW and form a narrative line on its own.

If there's one game I'm incredibly curious to see how much of a success it will become, it's TSW. Yes, I keep Guild Wars 2 in mind, but that's unnecessary, since GW2 will be successful anyway.