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Fanboy glee and schadenfreude

The press embargo on GDC was lifted yesterday, and my concentration has absolutely gone to shit because of it. Fortunately, I”m experiencing a brief lull in workplace responsibilities due to spring break, allowing me to do nothing but read articles and watch videos. All covering one game, of course.

This game has a way of holding your attention.

The flood of information Funcom has released in the last few months was carefully crafted to generate the most hype possible, and I’m falling for it full-tilt. Yes, even though it involves a guy with full-body tattoos wandering around a seedy Seoul hotel wearing only a loincloth and a frown. After nearly four years of following this game as it developed, greedily slurping up the paltry dribblings of information they released along the way, I am now gorging myself on this wealth of in-game footage and reviewer analysis. I typically don’t pay much attention to professional game reviewers; their scores match up with my own tastes too erratically to be of much use in determining whether or not I’ll like a game. However, in the case of The Secret World, I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything that they’re saying. Refreshing take on the MMO? Check. Classless, free-form character development? Check. A simple crafting system not based on grinding lists? Check. Near-continuous reiteration of how this game is doing everything The Old Republic tried to do, only doing it well?

Check, motherfuckers.

Of course, there lies the tell-tale ridge marking the passage of a writhing, burrowing fear that The Secret World will not be what Funcom is showing it to be. Never having any interest in the Conan mythos beyond Jon and Al Kaplan’s song on the subject, I never played Age of Conan. General Internet consensus rules it enough of a failure to haunt every goddamn thread relating to The Secret World, though. I understand that AoC and TSW were developed by separate teams, so I’m hoping that the latter will dispel such trepidations handily.

Still, there were legions of players hoping The Old Republic would be the scion of a new age in MMOs. BioWare played up that angle and failed to deliver. As much as I’m enjoying watching their forums erupt in acrid self-consumption, a quiet voice is whispering that the same may happen with The Secret World. I don’t doubt that it will bring new elements to the table, but I’m still ever so slightly worried that it won’t do it well. A buggy launch, or disjointed features, or ludicrously overpowered builds. Yes, every MMO has bugs at launch (something the feral bands of comment jackals always seem to forget), but will they be irritations, gimps, or full-on crippling? This unknown quantity makes me apprehensive.

One thing I’m not concerned about, however, is the P2P/cash store model that The Secret World will be using. Despite having wadded too many panties to count, this particular feature doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m old-school enough to recognize that a P2P system is essential if you want a game that works well, looks fantastic, and delivers quality updates. Yes, there are a lot of F2P games that are fun, but P2P games tend to achieve a higher level of all-around quality. Furthermore, Funcom has confirmed that the cash store will be strictly vanity; no IWIN buttons for sale, just a lot of fancy getups and other things that make your toon prettier to look at. WoW does this (fuck you and your sparklehorse). EVE does this. Both games still function with both dedicated and casual followers. I have never puchased vanity items in either game despite my years of playing, and it hasn’t impacted my experience in the slightest. Far be in from me to speak to the entitlement complex that supposedly infects the majority of Internet denizens, but seriously, shut the hell up about this being a “greedy” maneuver by “grubby” corporations. Funcom is taking an enormous financial risk with The Secret World: they’re introducing new ideas, new gameplay, and a completely original world into an industry that rewards sequels with enthusiasm and innovation with vitriol. That is not the MO of a greedy dev team. In my mind, the epitome of a cash-hungry, soulless game company is one that buys rights to a mega-popular IP and makes the gameplay identical to another mega-popular IP.

Oh wait.

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