Bethesda's epic sci-fi RPG is here, and it's a big one. From shipbuilding to exploring the surface of Mars, our thoughts so far.
Starfield Review... In Progress
The first trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6 is finally here.
Grand Theft Auto 6 Trailer
We take an in-depth look at Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and tell you why it should be heavily on your radar!
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora - a Deep-Dive into its Potential
Range-wise, the ROG Rapture GT6 is phenomenal, and it's ideal for all gaming and non-gaming-related tasks.
ASUS ROG Rapture GT6 WiFi 6 Mesh System Review
AusGamers The Secret World Developer Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:54pm 21/03/12 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Aussie expat, Joel Bylos, who serves as Content Designer on Funcom's The Secret World. Read on, or watch for what he had to say about their forthcoming MMO...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly out at San Francisco; GDC. But we also saw something a little bit secret: The Secret World.

We’re here with Joel [Bylos, FUNCOM Lead Content Designer], who you know we’ve spoken to before. Joel, you guys are on the homestretch; June. What’s left for you guys in terms of getting the game out there?

Joel Bylos: Pretty much at this stage, we’re sort of done with all the major systems, it’s just polish, balance, beta feedback and so-forth moving forward. It’s coming together really well. Seeing everything gel is a nice stage in development, so it’s just a matter of polishing things now -- getting it nice and shiny for the consumer.

AusGamers: How has the beta feedback been?

Joel: Very good. Lots of things that we’ve received from the beta guys have made us change systems in the game. So we’ve done a lot of overhauls of different parts of the game to accomodate beta feedback and it has improved the game immensely.

It’s been good. People really love the game. Nine of of ten people who play the beta say that they would buy it or recommend it to a friend to buy it as well, so we’re very happy with that. But yeah, it’s going really well.

AusGamers: Well I just played it then -- it was the first time I’ve gotten hands-on with it -- and it was awesome. I can’t actually wait to get stuck into it.

You probably answered this question for me at GamesCom, but I can’t remember the answer: What’s the server situation globally?

Joel: We have our major server park is in New York and I think that’s what we have for now and there’s ongoing discussions about what we’re doing with Oceania and things like that. I guess that’s why you’re targeting the question that way...

There’s ongoing discussions as far as I know with people like BigPond and Telstra and things like that, so I don’t really know where we’re at with it. But it has been discussed at least.

AusGamers: Because being an expat, you’d know that we need Oceanic servers.

Joel: Yes, I know. I am aware that other companies have started doing that as well. It’s been a discussion internally.

AusGamers: Speaking of which, have you guys... I mean, obviously you’ve had your head down working on this game. But a lot has happened in the MMO space while you guys have been working on this. Have you guys been looking at what the competition is doing and are you finding things that you think “you know what, even though that’s what they’re doing, that would work really well with us”?

Joel: Yeah I think Ragnar has a very clear vision of the game for what he wanted; Martin has a very clear vision for the systems and the game and for the content, we’ve been making it sort of fit with all divisions so they all work well together to make a really nice package.

I’ve seen a lot of the competition and it’s quite funny because I feel like a lot of those guys arrived at the same conclusions that we arrived at when we started to work on this game. So it’s kind of fun to see that this period now, if you like, it’s a buzzword, but the “next gen” MMOs that are coming out this year. People are moving towards this action combat style and people are moving towards this movement during combat. People are focused on allowing people to avoid attacks during combat and really allowing people to sort of slip out of traditional class roles and all that and just expand upon the character.

So it’s kind of interesting that we made these decisions several years ago, but all these companies are sort of arriving at the same conclusions around the same time. So I think it means it reaffirms our faith that we also made the right decisions and we’re all moving toward the same place.

AusGamers: Now it’s arguable that you guys probably have the better-looking MMO on the market as well -- well, not quite on the market yet -- but it’s a really polished-looking game. What’s going on behind the scenes in terms of graphics and the engine that you guys built and that sort of stuff?

Joel: Well the Dreamworld engine is the engine that we’ve been using for serveral of our products, like Age of Conan and now The Secret World and we’ve just been working on it for a long time. We have a really great render team and we’re continually talking to guys like nVidia to make sure our render engine is using the best possible technology.

We have DX11 in the game, we have all the sort of new effects. It’s... we’re just continually working on it and we have this... Age of Conan was a very stable technology that we have been building upon. So it’s easier to take these steps forward and improve the rendering engine all the time. And the artists we have at FUNCOM -- amazing concept artists and amazing artists -- are building really cool locations, so it’s kind of a dream place to work in, in that sense. We have a lot of freedom with that as well.

AusGamers: Is there a bit of a lockout in terms of system specs or anything like that? Because if you had a machine that was five years old, would the game run very well?

Joel: The min spec that we’ve been talking about is an 8800 and a dual core -- that’s the min spec for the game. You’ll be running the game on reletively lower settings at that point, but it will run. And then, going upwards from there. 2GB of ram I think is the baseline as well.

AusGamers: Well most people have probably upgraded for Battlefield 3 anyway, so...

Joel: That’s what we consider to be roughly five year old spec actually, yeah, a dual core is, like, five year-old technology. So we think that everything should run that, basically.

AusGamers: Now you guys have -- in the short time that I played it -- tonnes of dialogue; lots of cut-scenes. Do you roughly know how much dialogue is in the game and how many of those story sequences there are?

Joel: I’m relatively certain -- I can’t say for sure -- but I think it’s around 500 unique cut-scenes. As we use motion-capture and proper acting and stuff for it, it’s quite a lot with voiceover. And we have all the incidental dialogue which is a dialogue system where you can listen to all the things they have to say.

I have no idea how much recorded dialogue there is -- it’s a lot.

AusGamers: Which is pretty unique in the MMO space as well.

Joel: Yeah well there’s certain other big games that just recently released with that, so it’s not like it’s completely unique, but I think it’s the way forward and most games are going to be doing that going forward, so I think it’s a big push. But I think there’s ways to do it relatively cheaply as well, and we’ve been pretty good at keeping our budget decent on that, without going overboard.

AusGamers: So what happens once the game releases in June? Obviously you’ll be still grinding to make sure that everything is stable. But what’s the content plans post-release?

Joel: I’m not really supposed to talk about it, but we have plans. Ragnar has a storyline that... I mean, we already know everything through the first four expansions -- if you want. So the storyline is planned out, we know where the players will be going in the world and where we want to take them; what locations we want to take up next; what playfields we want to build.

So we kind of have this big backlog of content that we want to make and put in the game and we’ll be starting on that as soon as we feel like it’s time to start on that.

AusGamers: Age of Conan kind of suffered from what people called the level 20 cap. You basically got to 20 and it was really fun, then after that it just became nothing. Did you guys actively go into this knowing that and what did you do to circumvent that?

Joel: It’s kind of my job. Being the Lead Content Designer, it’s my job to ensure an even level of quality throughout the game. So one of the things we did was we really focused on making sure that all of the playfields had an equal amount of gameplay designer attention -- which was something that on Conan we lacked; we had less of the end-game stuff than we had at the start for a little while.

Now it’s very even. There’s the same amount of designers on every area of the game; the same amount of dialogue spoken. Everything that adds that polished feeling is done. In Age of Conan, we made a deliberate decision to not have voiceover after level 20 and I think that caused a huge disconnect in people’s heads because they had this voiced area, then they left and they lost all of that.

In TSW, there’s no change -- you won’t feel the quality change throughout the game. That’s been the goal, especially for me as the Content Designer. So I’ve been following that up quality-wise. I’ve been playing all the missions in the game; I understand where things need to be tweaked up and try to make it to an even level of quality across the whole game.

AusGamers: Do you guys have a projection of what sort of server population you’d like to be hosting?

Joel: Well, we have really flexible technology. We have one server right now, which you can think of akin to what Eve Online has, where you can have everybody in the world on one server.

The only reason we have what we call dimensions -- which is the same thing as a server -- the only reason we use dimensions now, is because of the persistent PvP playfields we have. So in that sense, we don’t really have any population caps that we need to put on servers. We’ll probably just... the only way that we’ll cap it is if we see massive.. the big PvP areas are filling up and people are complaining because they have to queue to get in and there’s not enough space.

So at that point, we’ll probably start capping it off, but I don’t know what the numbers will be for that. That’s sort of what we’ll stress test as we go forward in the betas as well.

AusGamers: Ok well we’ll leave it there because the game is coming our really soon and it’s awesome; I can’t wait to get my hands on it. And just get an Australian server up and running; just do it.

Come on, you know that it has to happen!

Joel: I completely agree, and we’ll talk to the money-men [laughs]

AusGamers: Alright. Thanks Joel.

Joel: Thank you very much.
Read more about The Secret World on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 05:27pm 21/3/12
Can not wait. Faceman should definitely play this one.
Posted 05:35pm 21/3/12
Hahaha good interview Steve, I'm absolutely fanging for this.

Hearing that it has a June release has almost made me wet my pants in anticipation. I really hope they get an Aussie server up and running though.
Posted 05:42pm 21/3/12
I'm interested to see how this one turns out, what they are trying to do will be very hard to pull off.
Posted 06:15pm 21/3/12
Servers in New York... So East Coast servers only from my understanding at the moment ? Oh well - hope they do something down under then because screw playing on east coast servers.
Posted 08:14pm 21/3/12
Action and movement based gameplay on US east coast servers.... agree with Behub, Aus servers or GTFO.
Posted 11:29pm 21/3/12
Doesn't he know that Bigpond and Telstra are the same company? Without Aus/NZ servers they won't get people to leave SWToR, the difference between US and AU servers is amazing.
Posted 10:28am 22/3/12
With Guild wars 2 on the horizon, would be pretty hard for me to justify playing this.. but maybe, if it has Aussie servers I would try it out.
Commenting has been locked for this item.