The Secret World: Mad Developer Broadcasts Last Words on Enochian Frequency
Broadcasting from his apocalypse-proof bunker beneath Funcom HQ, Joel Bylos, the eccentric Game Director of The Secret World, discussed The End of Days and the future (in the event that the Mayans were wrong) of The Secret World with the Enochian Frequency podcast team.
The Secret World's approach to the holiday season is certainly a departure from the saccharin Christmas cheer overdose found in most MMOs, with a Mayan zombie apocalypse running until 7 January 2013 being the main seasonal activity. It is the first event that utilises a new dynamic content system which Bylos hinted at having other uses in the future.
The next weeks will see a Quetzalcoatl winged god-serpent dropping items across the land whilst “massive group forces” roam the world and three harbinger bosses will provide the key to unlocking “a new version of Eldorado to face the God of the Nine Underworlds.” It certainly sounds more entertaining than Santa's grotto.
Bylos was enthusiastic about the content, explaining that it was "all based on the fragments the Mayans left behind. It's a really cool event and it really does suck that we'll probably all be dead before it even gets going."
The Survival Plan
Despite his certainty that the world is ending, Bylos revealed he has planned for the future in the unlikely event that there is one. On the recent move to a “buy-to-play” model, which still requires initial purchase but has no subscription, he explained that it was not necessarily his decision, but that “the finance guys got worried and saw where things were going in terms of numbers."
Bylos identified that for many gamers, there is a psychological barrier to accepting a subscription model and he accepts that exploring other models is a necessity because of the direction in which the video game industry is moving.
Discussing the choice of buy-to-play, Bylos said, "I especially prefer it to free-to-play in the fact that if we ask people for an up-front fee, we can justify that we're giving them so much of the game. I think that's fair, because you don't look at somebody in the game and say 'okay, you're a freeloader' because you're definitely not, you've paid something to be there."
The new model seems to be showing signs of success, with Enochian Frequency co-host Rodney Orpheus identifying that the new model has resulted in new and returning players leading to increased enjoyment for existing players and better overall retention, sagely observing that “one hand washes the other”.
Bylos explained that once Funcom came to terms with the fact they "had to make a call about improving the long term viability of the game," it was really down to how changes were received by players and he confirmed that "things have been very well received."
Building the Future
Bylos explained that the latest content pack, Issue #5: The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn, is available for free now, but will become premium downloadable content in January. The next planned DLC, Issue #6, will be much larger, featuring Indiana Jones style gameplay in Egypt.
He is buoyant about the long-term prospects of The Secret World, and he sees the the new release and development strategy as a positive thing. He explained that the new development structure has advantages, allowing for the development of more "technical-side solutions", building sandbox-like features such as player housing, whilst simultaneously delivering better content, faster.
“In terms of how it affects us as a development team, it's only a positive thing, but money-wise, that's just going to have to be how things go. Right now things are good. That's all I can really hope for.”
Much more was discussed with Joel Bylos on the Enochian Frequency podcast, hosted by Petter Martensson, Rodney Orpheus and Paul Baker, including the success of recently introduced sandbox roleplay elements such as the Albion Theatre in London, where Bylos has used his own character to put on stand-up comedy routines to the regular bemusement of visitors. Intriguingly, he also mentioned a player production of Edgar Allen Poe's Telltale Heart, which apparently ran for three nights to a packed house.
The podcast team left Bylos clutching his cellphone as he apparently waited for text notification of the apocalypse. His last words were reported to be, “I really want people to try the game before we all die."
Source: CSICON – Enochian Frequency Podcast #9