It's a new week and we're going to start things off by going in a little bit of a different direction. One of the upcoming MMO's that I am really looking forward to is The Secret World. Take a look around their official website if you're unfamiliar with the title. The "press blackout" on the game will be dropping this week and I am looking forward to all the new information that will hopefully emerge. Oh and while we're on the subject, can we get some pre-order information please? The game is supposed to launch in April and you can't even buy it yet. Hey Funcom, I want to give you my money! In any case, once the blackout is down I will be posting a lot more about this game as I try and familiarize both myself and my readers with what I consider to be a very promising title. But today's post isn't going to be about the mechanics of the game. No, I'm going to start by addressing something that many of you might consider either strange or unnecessary: What kind of character will I be in The Secret World?
TSW poses a rather unique problem for MMO players such as myself that take the "concept" of their character more seriously. And by this I am not referring to skills, or stats, or classes. I am referring to WHO your character is; what kind of person are they? What motivates them? Where did they come from? What are their goals? These questions typically don't matter from a gameplay perspective as your character accomplishes the same quests and goals as everybody else. But from a personal "satisfaction" perspective, they are important things to consider for a player like me. So how does TSW make this more difficult? Because this game takes place in a very unique environment, at least as far as MMO's are concerned.
When you look at most MMO's the setting and context is something very far removed from "every day life." They take place in entirely different worlds, or at the very least an entirely different time. There is often little or no connection between the world your character is living in, and the world itself that we exist in. There is no doubt when you roll an Orc Shaman in World of Warcraft or Dwarf Cleric in RIFT that you are placing yourself in a world completely different from our own. Azeroth and Telara bear little resemblance to life as we know it. TSW changes this. In this game, the setting is literally "here and now." It takes place in 21st century Earth... albeit a fantastical one in which magic, demons, and the undead are all common place, but it is OUR Earth nonetheless. You will travel to places you can see today. You will interact with people and organizations that you can see today. In fact one of the gameplay elements that Funcom is emphasizing is the puzzles and quests that can be solved by seeking information in the real world.
What this means for me (and potentially other roleplayers as well) is we have to think a bit more... "honestly" about the kind of characters we want to create. It is easy to go "outside yourself" to create a character in a world totally unlike our own. Often you are an entirely different race, living in an entirely different world, dealing with entirely different problems. It is easy to "place ourselves" in a totally fictional recreation and pretend we are something else. I am finding that concept more difficult with TSW. I will be playing a human being living in 21st century Earth. And while we are often told it is "easy" to be someone that you are not on the Internet, I would argue that it is much more difficult than we would like to believe. Outside of purely sociopathic (or psychotic) personalities that would find that level of deception simple, most human beings tend to act, talk, and behave as they normally are. "Living a lie" is not an easy thing to do, and it only takes one "slip up" to bring it all crashing down. Obviously there are no significant consequences like that in an MMO, but the underlying principle remains the same.
So who will I be in The Secret World? Do I create an avatar that looks like myself? Do I create a backstory with similar experiences? Do I justify my actions with similar beliefs and goals? Or do I try and create a completely different persona? As I said at the outset, for many of you this is probably a moot point and you're wondering why I "wasted" an entire post on the issue. But I find it fascinating from a roleplay perspective. I am highly curious as to what kind of RP community will emerge in TSW and how people will act playing characters that are essentially living in the same world that we are in. Just one more reason that I hope this game catches on and is at least successful enough to run for a good length of time.