What Other Games Can Learn from The Secret World’s In-Game Research

So The Secret World (TSW) went ahead and implemented something that, upon consideration, seems a no-brainer—they added an in-game web browser.  Hit the “B” button and you’re taken to Google, and from there, you have access to the entire internet from within the game.  In makes complete sense for an MMO set in the modern day, especially given the need to research clues and solve things like Morse Code puzzles.  Sure, we could do all that in an outside browser as well, but having the browser right there not only keeps the player in the game, but also makes for a more immersive experience.  In several quests, it’s actually necessary to browse out to a website created by the TSW developers to solve the puzzle.  Given the number of times I’ve popped out of other games to look up information in the browser, I’m wondering why more games haven’t attempted to present their lore in-house.

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“The Serendipitous World ‘Isn’t Fun’”

At a recent meeting with a group of game developers we were discussing the merits of quest chains vs. open, serendipitous questing.

The original Ultima single-player games used an open system – as you traveled through the world you might talk with a person in a village who, if you asked him about a particular subject (using a method similar to the old Zork games – trial and error typing in your own subject line), he perhaps could tell you a story with a lead you could follow up on – he might tell you of a person in another city who knew more, or possibly of an area in Brittania where an object might be found if you investigated.  There was no guide telling the player the exact location, just the name of the city or locale, and taking of notes and using your map was certainly necessary to keep track of the thread.   At any one time you might have 4-5 threads you were following, and a decent-sized notebook.  If you had somehow stolen from the character or attacked him previously, you might not get the clue or thread in the story.  Ultima kept track of your behavior in the world.

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The Joys of Zork

I recently joined the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) in our area to find out more about what is happening in the computer gaming world these days, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear folks talking nostalgically about old-school computer games such as Ultima, Wizardry, Zelda, and yes, Zork.

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