Set in a world just like ours, The Secret World asks what would be if all the monsters, myths, and legends we’ve told over the years were actually true…and gives you a chance to kick their butts. We sat down with Martin Bruusgaard, Lead Designer on The Secret World to pick his brain about it all as the game launches today.

EGM: Instead of your typical class or level systems, The Secret World touts being ‘highly customizable’ when it comes to your characters so there isn’t the standard level grind of a lot of other MMOs. How do you think this will affect the draw of your game to the more hardcore MMO player who is used to these systems and how does this customization feature work in powering up your character?

Martin Bruusgaard, Lead Designer: I think hardcore MMO-ers will find this as a very welcomed break from the norm. I think players have been waiting for a game where they’re not locked down to a class, but rather let the players forge their own play style. Remember that when you play a class, you are locked down to that class forever. If you want to try a new class you have to start a new character and then play through all the content you played before, while your friends are all in the endgame. In The Secret World you can swap out abilities whenever you want, except for when you’re in the middle of combat. This means that the different strategies to take down a difficult encounter multiplies thousand fold, and this has always been the design intent; To give players the freedom to make smart decisions, and reward them for it.

EGM: The game takes place all over the world in both real world locales and fictional settings. With the real world settings it is easy to draw inspiration from, but where did you get your designs for the mythical places your adventure in The Secret World will take you?

MB: What do you mean by fictional setting? Everything is true! Hehe, joke aside, we have a fantastic team who have investigated all types of myths and legends all around the world. We developed many different concepts for the different locations, and went with the ones that seemed most plausible in our real world setting. Since we are mimicking the real world, OUR real world, it’s very important that even the fictional locations are believable. We are trying hard to make it feel just like another place you can visit. What does El Dorado look like today? What is all this machinery doing in Hell? Play the game and find out!

EGM: Aside from these mythical locations, much of the game draws from various mythologies, local legends, and pop culture and even features time travel. How was it to try to strike a balance between these creative elements to make them still feel new and refreshing to players?

MB: As I mentioned, we have a great team that investigates all these different elements of our world, and a lot of the challenge are incorporating this into the game world in a believable fashion. I really hope players will appreciate the amount of research that has gotten into the game. Everything from NPC names, to item names to little snippets of information you can pick up through the lore system. Some players will probably enter our travel hub, and think “Cool, they have a travel hub”, but I hope most of our players will actually Google why it’s called Agartha…

EGM: A key to any MMO is PvP. Talk to us about how The Secret World‘s PvP works in a world without leveling and what makes it stand out from the competition. 

MB: First of all I should mention that we have 3 factions, The Templars, The Illuminati and The Dragon. Having three sides in PvP always creates more interesting gameplay. There’s never 2 sides just butting heads, but one always have to look out for that joker in the mix.

We have 3 different kinds of PvP. In each hub, we have a fight club, which is a free for all PvP arena. This is a perfect spot for players to practice dueling, or just to test out their builds. Players are also already making plans to host PvP tournaments there. In addition to that we have the Battlefields. These are legendary locations all over the world, which the secret societies fight over. The two locations we launched with are Stonehenge, and Eldorado. Stonehenge is a king of the hill type of match, where each of the three secret societies has sent a team of five players to battle over who gets to control the power of Stonehenge. In Eldorado, the secret societies have sent a team of 10 to battle over some ancient Mayan artifacts. This is a capture the flag type of gameplay, but the twist is that instead of bringing the flags back to your base, you have to pick a spot on the map and defend them with your life.

Finally we have the Warzones, which are persistent PvP playfields that can hold up to 275 players simultaneously. Players fight over control of different facilities, and the cool thing is that the bonus for controlling these facilities is distributed across the whole secret society, not just the ones fighting. So you can basically go in there, kick ass, and become the hero of your secret society, since they all benefit from your efforts.

EGM: Another thing that we noticed makes The Secret World stand out a bit is the audio. From the moans and groans of the undead to the citizens you try to help, it sounds like there is a voice actor for every character in the game! What went into the audio production in the game and how important do you think it is to setting the supernatural mood?

MB: We are putting huge emphasis on the sound in our game. We have gotten some fantastic music composed that really sets the tone perfectly if you’re walking in a back alley in London, exploring the forest in Transylvania or traversing the desert in Egypt. We have also gotten some world class voice actors to give life and soul to the various characters the players will encounter. We give out quests or missions as we call them, a bit differently in our game. The characters the players will meet in the game world will never ask for anything specific from the player, but rather tell them a snippet of their own life and the situation they’re in. Therefore it’s very important that their voices are first class, and that the players believe and empathize with them.

EGM: The elephant in the room is obviously you guys have a subscription base going in. You’re starting to see a lot of MMOs move towards the Free-to-play route. Was this ever an option for you guys? Is there a possibility of that happening in the future? What made you stick to this route?

MB: We’ve obviously considered several business models, and we concluded that the subscription model was the right one for The Secret World. There is definitely still room for the subscription MMO provided you can supply the level of quality both in the launch version as well as in the ongoing updates after launch.

EGM: You’re wrapping up the beta here as the game prepares to drop July 3rd. How important has the beta been towards making the push to the final product and making those last tweaks to the game world, especially so close to launch?

MB: It’s been incredibly valuable. We have had some fantastic testers, which actually focused on testing, instead of just playing the game for a couple of hours to see if they will buy the game at launch. We have reacted to their feedback continuously, and have patched very frequently. We have also set up runs with the testers where the developers went in as observers to see what issues the players were facing, what they could potentially exploit, measure the difficulty rating, etc.  It has been a very successful beta in our views, and we are very grateful to all our testers.

EGM: The game’s story does come to an end after a long and winding road, but are there any plans in the future for add-ons possibly already in the works or a fourth faction maybe to play as aside from the Dragons, Illuminati, or Templars? 

MB: We have lots of plans for the coming years! The story does not end, but a chapter finishes. It will give the players some closure and more understanding of The Secret World universe, but there are still questions to be answered. As the players play the game, they will realize that there are definitely other factions at play here, but if the players get to play as them remains to be seen. We will release our post launch plans, and our content update info relatively shortly after launch.