The Secret World Issue #11 Quality of Life Improvements

The Secret World, Orochi Tower, Tokyo

Today Joel Bylos, game director for The Secret World, released the February 2015 Game Director’s Letter and in it details the road forward for the completion of the Tokyo storyline. I haven’t discussed The Secret World in a while, but it is still one of the games I consider myself an avid player of. I even went so far as to purchase a Lifetime sub, figuring why pay every time for every little content update, when a solid one-time payment will net the points I need to continue playing for a long, long time.

My character, a pistol and elemental magic wielding Illuminati darling, is currently parked in Tokyo awaiting the next update, having finished the latest fantastic installment. A long term goal is to seriously update the QL level of my Tokyo gear, but the amount of grind needed to get there is significant and would involve running the same stories over and over, with the only new amusement of attempting to conquer some of the more ludicrous achievements. Not that bad, but playing other or new games for the first time is way better than grinding, and so he sits waiting.

The Secret World, Tokyo

Nothing says The Secret World like a chain smoking detective wearing a rabbit suit.

From hearing players reactions to The Secret World overall, there seem to be two patterns that emerge. 1) Not a lot of players tend to make it past the area of Blue Mountain before quitting, and 2) the amount of time it takes to kill one mob anywhere is exceptionally high. These are linked, though, as the difficulty curve really ramps up in those first couple of zones. Higher difficulty, AND a significant uptick in kill time? Even I didn’t get through it unscathed the first time I played, I remember taking a break around that time, too.

However, it wasn’t until I hit the end of the Beaumont story in Blue Mountain that the game finally clicked for me. That’s when it dawned on me that this wasn’t just another zombie story. That TSW really was much deeper than it was letting on. But I had to get to that point first! Thankfully, improvements are coming.

The Secret World, Tokyo, Inbeda

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Let’s take a look at that letter, shall we? Here is a rundown of the impending fixes.

  1. Reduction in the amount of time it takes to bring down monsters pre-Tokyo. – Hugely necessary. As I said above, this is a large issue for many players.
  2. Reduction in the mob density in the higher packed areas. – Not as necessary as 1, but welcome. It was very easy to trigger a string of never ending fights, and is one of the main reasons I started using a more AoE-centric build, as did others.
  3. Loot buff for rare mobs. – Sure, why not? A little extra blue gear, being the step between uncommon green and epic purple, never hurts.
  4. Overall mission reward restructure. – Nice. This will definitely help new players, as it was possible to hurt yourself in the early game. Understanding how gear works in TSW goes a long way.
  5. Story mission reward restructure. – Also nice. Leveling gear is leveling gear, though. It could be handed out like candy, it doesn’t matter a whole bunch. Like any other MMO, your gear only really starts to matter when it starts becoming farther and fewer between to acquire.
  6. Transylvanian story rewards an epic weapon. – Nice, but wait… Will we be able to go back and get this? A piece of epic gear has been awarded for the completion of every mission pack so far on offer. If they’re throwing this in there, will it be a retroactive reward for all? Epics aren’t that common to come by, after all.
  7. Upgraded tutorials. – Nice, but this may not be as helpful as they think. You can put up signs right in front of peoples faces sometimes, and they still won’t read them.
  8. Map improvements. – Doesn’t say specifically, but I’m thinking map icons. Can’t hurt.
  9. More achievements. – Always good for those that want them.
  10. Fast travel system improvements. – It’s about time. Not that there wasn’t a perfectly good workaround for it the entire time in game. Our characters are very hard to permanently kill as lore, so the fast travel amounted to killing ourselves, and then using the spirit world to choose where to resurrect. Badass, but way too much suicide involved. Now it’ll just be a point-and-click system. Not as badass, but more intuitive. I’m cool with it.
The Secret World, Tokyo

TSW has that way of making you come back for more.

The letter also went on to detail how when we finally enter the Tokyo Orochi tower that we’ll be met with an ever shifting dungeon. One of the downsides of grinding the TSW missions is that the missions are the same every single time, so the entertainment level drops after the first couple of times. So, at the very least, redoing the tower over and over again, at least it’ll be moderately different each time and up its replay value.

Overall, sounds like good stuff. Nothing monumental, but not every update needs to be on par with Beowulf. This will hopefully help bolster community numbers as players aren’t as fatigued when they reach Blue Mountain, and so might improve the overall population. TSW has one of the best communities in any game running, and more players will only make it better.

// Ocho

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10 thoughts on “The Secret World Issue #11 Quality of Life Improvements

  1. Oh iiinteresting. I shall have to plop TSW back on my radar and give it another try when this drops. I have to admit, too many mobs too quickly respawning gets frustrating, and the time taken to kill things when there’s so much wandering and confusing quest directions involved can get a bit much too. There’s only so much lost-getting a Jaedia can take!

  2. Pingback: TSW: Funcom starts to listen to reason | Bio Break

    • I don’t think any part of the letter implied that. As far as I can tell, it’s still going to be all London for that still. The only implication I got was that they were making the map easier to read. “to improve the communication of connections between locations”… I could be wrong, though. That phrasing is about as muddled as you can get.

      • Nope. All respawning is done on a map by map basis. In fact, he mentioned a change so that when you die you would automatically respawn at the closest anima well, whereas currently when you die you have a choice of wells. The quick travel is a minor change at best, but it’s a less confusing system.

  3. 1.Reduction in the amount of time it takes to bring down monsters pre-Tokyo. – Hugely necessary. As I said above, this is a large issue for many players.

    Not as necessary as many people think it to be. I never had any issues with TTK in SC or BM even when i was new to the game. On the other hand, i already in those areas was keeping an eye on my setup and was paying attention on how to improve it, instead of “just play and care for a good setup in higher area zones”, which players got indoctrinated to in other MMOs.

    What really IS necessary here is not nerfing the mobs, but to provide players with much more guidance and information right from the start and through the beginner zones, to help them build and maintain a good setup.

    Much more on my thoughts about that can be found in my comment i added here:
    biobreak.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/tsw-funcom-starts-to-listen-to-reason/

    2.Reduction in the mob density in the higher packed areas. – Not as necessary as 1, but welcome. It was very easy to trigger a string of never ending fights, and is one of the main reasons I started using a more AoE-centric build, as did others.

    The only place where i think that this could be a necessity for the enjoyment of the player is the Ak’ab area. On the other hand, i consider the current Ak’ab density and behaviour a good training ground for people who still need to learn combat movement. Once you got that down, they become very manageable.

    3.Loot buff for rare mobs. – Sure, why not? A little extra blue gear, being the step between uncommon green and epic purple, never hurts.

    Aye. Sounds allright.

    4.Overall mission reward restructure. – Nice. This will definitely help new players, as it was possible to hurt yourself in the early game. Understanding how gear works in TSW goes a long way.

    Yea. I find it a bit sad that it actually is necessary to remove options, but i saw enough players who terribly gimped themselves by wearing all tanking-talismans and never understood that minimizing your attack rating indeed resulted in slow killing speed. Thus this move unfortunately really makes sense. [People are too much used to the railway of other games. If you get a reward for your class in any traditional MMO, it is useful for your class. In TSW you have no class, so you have to know yourself what is useful. As a sufficiently high number of players seems to be unable to do that, the game unfortunately has to assume that they soloplay is the highest directive and hand out gear accordingly. ]

    5.Story mission reward restructure. – Also nice. Leveling gear is leveling gear, though. It could be handed out like candy, it doesn’t matter a whole bunch. Like any other MMO, your gear only really starts to matter when it starts becoming farther and fewer between to acquire.

    Actually some well placed blue weapons talismans might make quite a difference for progression there, too. The line of thought is just like at point #4, but with people seeing “blue is better”, those are more likely to be used. So if the “thinking is for other people” player gets suitable green talismans from missions and still replaces them with loot-drop tank talismans, he still is likely to keep the blue talismans slotted. If those blue tailsmans now are well designed and actually don’t follow the “blue is more specialized” approach, but instead are actually slightly better green talismans (so, some health, good attack rating, hit and penetration rating and no glyph slot) it becomes much more likely that even the completely ignorant player now automatically has somewhat reasonable gear slotted. This is as much full speed for the railroad as TSW can possibly gain without implementing classes. (On the positive: the informed player can still adjust his setup and the intentionally-dumb one can still completely gimp himself. )

    6.Transylvanian story rewards an epic weapon. – Nice, but wait… Will we be able to go back and get this? A piece of epic gear has been awarded for the completion of every mission pack so far on offer. If they’re throwing this in there, will it be a retroactive reward for all? Epics aren’t that common to come by, after all.

    Up to now FC always made sure that such rewards were also delivered to players who already did the missions before rewards were added. This has happened in the past and so i expect the same to happen here. For me the more interesting question is, how they define “epic”. I personally would expect purple QL10 non-custom weapons, although i also would not complain if it’d be a custom weapon, as i still can use some. 🙂

    7.Upgraded tutorials. – Nice, but this may not be as helpful as they think. You can put up signs right in front of peoples faces sometimes, and they still won’t read them.

    I personally think that this actually is key. While nerfing mobs here and there just means that the same players now will run into a wall only a little later at another place. So the cries and quitting will be just the same. A the same time it really would make no difference if new tutorial videos or tooltips are being added. They already now contain a lot of information (i did watch them) but people just skip and disregard them. I have watched some “new to TSW” videos and people there did just that. They ignored all information openly provided to them by the game and thus made it up to Blue Mountain without ever really understanding the builder/consumer system or using a second weapon, not even speaking on how to properly use passives.

    I’ve written a lot on that topic as comment in biobreak.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/tsw-funcom-starts-to-listen-to-reason/ but to cut it short here:

    I think and fear that the weapon chamber tutorial has to be more of a “prison” for the player. It has to make him pick not one but two weapons, give him a few more skills (so he has one consumer of each weapon on the bar) and force him to repeat the build/consume cycle at least three times. Lock him into the room until that part is done. That alone should already drive some essential information home. Perhaps even add in some more “in between” training missions in the weapon room later, between the zones, to repeat some mechanics and teach some more.

    Next to that, add much more and especially more clear information to the existing starter decks, offer intermediate decks (so, improved versions of the starter decks, similar functionality but more powerful due to more AP invested) and rework the existing top tier tecks to actually be useful. Also provide all of them with information of what they actually are good for, instead of making people guess from a vague description. Reasonable decks with clear description on their function would really help new players a lot.

    So i nstead of hitting the people with a brick wall when they run into enemies which they chose not to prepare for, rather hit them with an information-covered brick (and many more small information-covered pebbles) before they reach those enemies.

    8.Map improvements. – Doesn’t say specifically, but I’m thinking map icons. Can’t hurt.

    Yea. Probably helpful for a new player, we’ll see.

    9.More achievements. – Always good for those that want them.

    Sure are welcome. 🙂

    10.Fast travel system improvements. – It’s about time. Not that there wasn’t a perfectly good workaround for it the entire time in game. Our characters are very hard to permanently kill as lore, so the fast travel amounted to killing ourselves, and then using the spirit world to choose where to resurrect. Badass, but way too much suicide involved. Now it’ll just be a point-and-click system. Not as badass, but more intuitive. I’m cool with it.

    I also very much welcome that. Running just for the sake of running sure is a way of using up time, but that’s the way of other MMOs, not of TSW. (At least i see it that way, after all dungeons are also not crowded with trash but all bossfights and fun, unlike in any other MMO. ) And suicide-traveling always felt wrong for me, so the new way of traveling certainly is a good idea.

    • Haha! Wow! Thanks for commenting! I agree with you on a lot of that, but it’s all a double-edged sword. From our perspective, we got through it just fine. It was hard, but it showed us how important the game considered stuff like positioning, precise builds, etc. How sometimes individual challenges needed specific skills to overcome. Lessons that would come in handy in the much harder dungeon, nightmare, Transylvania content. So that part of the game was part of the learning curve.

      But for every person who gets through it and finds it galvanizing, there is another that is not as skilled or serious a player and finds it uber frustrating. From their perspective, it felt like being thrown to the wolves, and if the content was *that* difficult, then the rest of the game is probably more so. Those people it pushed off.

      The further we go towards Issue 11, 12, 13, etc. the less Funcom makes their money through game box sales and the more it makes from DLC/content sales. Well, if a player gets turned off by that difficulty, that’s a potential loss of the DLC that player would’ve purchased. So close, and yet so far. These updates will not affect us, the galvanized and veteran players, in the slightest. I might get that one epic (which, if it’s anything like the other DLCs, I expect to be a 10.1 custom really), but what do I care about restructuring of leveling gear. I certainly don’t, but to new players it helps. And new players are what Funcom wants. The Issue 11 stuff is for us, the vets, but they can’t make stuff just for us, and nor should we want them to. Games age, players age, players priorities change, the game needs to be flexible to adapt to new players. New players are what creates a healthy game.

      I’m hoping this will encourage new players to give it a shot, those that were put off by the difficulty. Not all will be able to handle the top level difficulty, but that’s fine. Eventually areas like Tokyo will be nerfed to make them easier, too. I remember leveling from 1-60, max level, in WoW, as a Prot Warrior all the way. You want to take about a high time:kill ratio, those times made TSW’s look like nothing. 🙂 And now look at WoW, how quick can one level to 60? Nerfing early level content is just the natural evolution of MMOs.

      So I agree. We figured out just fine how to handle gear, how to position ourselves so we didn’t aggro 50 mobs, how to tweak our builds to eek out damage, even in the early levels. … but this update isn’t for us. This update allows us to take canes in hand and yell at all the wippersnappers to get off our lawns! Kids today… but seeing kids is better than seeing nobody at all.

  4. I think the fast travel will feel weird to me. I never got used to the waypoint system in GW2 and this will be very similar – albeit only in the same zone. Eh, guess we’ll see how it goes. I think overall, the changes are positive.

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