With The Secret World, Funcom Has Mastered The Art Of The Buggy MMO Launch

With The Secret World, Funcom Has Mastered The Art Of The Buggy MMO Launch

In June of 2001, Norwegian video game developer Funcom released its first massively multiplayer online game, Anarchy Online. It is considered by many to be the worst buggy MMO launch in the history of the genre. This week sees the release of Funcom’s third MMO, and it might be the best buggy MMO launch of all time.

In the days when online fantasy games like Asheron’s Call and EverQuest were taking the world by storm, Anarchy Online offered something decidedly different. Instead of elves and dwarves it offered nimble Opifexes and the brutish Atrox. Instead of swords and sorcery players wielded nanotechnology and laser rifles. The game system was as unique as its setting. It was something fresh and new, and the players lined up in droves to play it.

In June of 2011 Anarchy Online went live, and it was horrendously broken. Players couldn’t take two steps onto the planet of Rubi-Ka without rubber-banding back in place. The login servers would break. The servers regularly crashed. In the rare times that technical issues weren’t a problem, billing issues took over, driving perspective players away in droves.

Funcom worked tirelessly to fix the game, and then worked even harder to win back the players that had been put off by the horrid launch experience. They even created the first MMO free trial expressly for that purpose.

Anarchy Online eventually became one of the best MMO games ever released, and the community it fostered, however small, remains one of the most dedicated in the genre.

If only that launch had gone well things could have been so much different. Compelling content is only compelling if players can experience it.

By 2008, MMO players were completely sick of generic fantasy role-playing games. Funcom confirmed this by releasing Age of Conan, an MMO based on the source material for many a rival game.

Age of Conan wasn’t a bad game; it just didn’t do much to separate itself from the crowd. There were plenty of small bugs at launch, but you didn’t hear a lot of complaints because not a lot of people cared enough to bitch about it. Especially where there were much larger issues at hand, like a complete and total lack of end-game content. Funcom figured they had time to patch that stuff in after launch. Speedy players disagreed.

Age of Conan continues to be played to this day, but you hardly ever hear about it, because it’s not all that interesting. Working content is wasted on an ultimately uninteresting game.

And so, combining these two lessons, Funcom has launched The Secret World a game riddled with small, non-game-breaking bugs and compelling enough that the players are willing to put up with it.

This weekend, during the head start, I stood with a throng of players around a bizarre mechanical device on the coast of New England, desperately trying to deactivate it as monsters randomly attacked. The device was covered with smaller components; touching them in the correct order would deactivate it.

Only it didn’t.

The quest was bugged; it had been since prior to launch, but bugs never kept Funcom from launching a game.

The quest works now, as does the one where you have to collect a woman’s ashes that never spawn, or the one where the point you have to click to activate a gate is nearly hidden from view, and the one where the boss fight would randomly break in mid-battle. Many others remain broken, and with players progressing deeper into the game every day, more bugs will surely be uncovered.

But I don’t mind. Most of the players don’t seem to either. This world is an interesting one, glitches and all, so we’ll keep playing around Funcom’s construction.

In fact, one might say the glitches and bugs enhance the experience. One quest required me to follow a white raven that was supposed to launch itself into the air upon my approach. It did not. I discovered through general chat that the quest was only bugged in certain instances, and that if I could group with someone in a working instance I could get the job done.

Community interaction through shoddy coding! Brilliant!

And since The Secret World is set in the modern age, one can even use the bugs to their advantage. I have a character on the role-playing server that’s role-playing a man that believes he is stuck in an MMO, and when bugs occur he can be quite vocal. The arguments I get into are exquisite.

So congratulations, Funcom! Not only have you launched your greatest buggy MMO yet, you’ve made at least one player’s experience that much better for it.


  • ” I have a character on the role-playing server that’s role-playing a man that believes he is stuck in an MMO”

    I’m so meta, even this acronym

  • I’ve only encountered one bug so far, one of my quests wouldn’t advance past a certain stage. Other then that though my games being bug free. It’s easily the smoothest MMO launch I’ve ever played. Definitely a lot better than TOR’s launch.

    • Can’t be sure since I didn’t pick secret world up, but since Tor was one of the smoothest mmo launches I’ve ever seen I’m doubtful it was smoother.

      • “Can’t be sure since I didn’t pick secret world up, but since Tor was one of the smoothest mmo launches I’ve ever seen I’m doubtful it was smoother.”

        erm .. TOR is famous for being on of the roughest releases of an mmo… its server stability at release was even worse than that of STO.

        • Are you kidding me? I heard zero complaints in the RP community except that some servers had queues.

  • Yeah I only have 3 complaints about the game

    1.) some quests are bugged and don’t advance past certain points. Will be fixed soon as that is a huuuuge problem.
    2.) not enough clothing options, specifically for men since there seems to be almost 2x as much starter clothes for ladies
    3.) Graphical errors and some glitches to be expected in any game, but these can sometimes force blurry low res textures onto me for a good 5 – 10 minutes before something updates and everything goes back to normal.

    Oh and the ability to hotkey gear sets would be cool, since I run with a single target only and group target skill setups.

    • Do you need to repeat your insults to the author, or is it that the lack of attention the first time is getting to you. Would you like a troll-sized biscuit to sooth your pathetic ego?

    • Agree, I read this ‘story’ as a barely veiled insult / back handed compliment to Funcom.

      Although there are some bugs in TSW (like just about any/every other MMO at launch) it has to be one of the smoothest launches I have seen and it brings a very fresh take on the same/same fantasy genre. Many nay-sayers are actually becoming supporters after giving the game a go themselves.

    • This article is…silly. Every MMO that comes out has bugs, why target Funcom? Just seems like a witch hunt.

      • Funcom game is released. Funcom games have a history of shitty launches. People want to know if this one is too. Answer: Sort-of, but not really.

        How is this not relevant and timely?

  • “driving perspective players away”
    Lol – what perspective would that be? 1st Person? 3rd person

    >> Prospective <<

  • I never understood roleplay servers!… What do you roleplay? You’re a character in an escapist world. What else needs you to be more convincing?

    • I think its more for people who like to truly ‘play’ as there avitar. Rather than just play the game, they role play there avitar in the chat when talking to other players aswell. That being the only real diff, it is a sad sad world.

  • I’m sorry but this “article” is skewed and backhanded and cannot be included in serious MMORPG commentary due to it’s complete lack of non-biased, unsolicited tripe. It’s almost getting towards troll territory… where’s a good editor when you need one?

  • First of all, it’s timely – some of us WANT to know from someone other than fanboys how the launch has gone, in case it’s worth jumping into. Funcom’s previous experience is definitely worth mentioning, since this is also a Funcom game. It’s not unreasonable for those of us who’ve heard about or experienced those launches to want to know if this is more of the same. To prevent it from being a beat-up, it helps to give others who WEREN’T in on that some background on why the question might be asked.

    Additionally… I’m not sure which way it’s biased. Is it too favourable? I’ve heard previously that TSW is an uninspired, buggy, disappointing pile of tripe. This article leads me to suspect that it might not be. Are you annoyed that it’s luring people in to a shitty game, or are you upset that he pointed out some flaws in your darling? I don’t know the reference point here.

  • Funny thing is, I have been playing since launch and have not experienced *one* bug yet. I heard about the quest mentioned being bugged but they fixed that right away. Sure there were a few in Beta but all
    games have that. The author of this article really hasn’t played the game much, I can tell. He is probably one of the people complaining that a quest is bugged when in actual fact its just obscure or challenging.

  • I’m not digging this game. It feels like an alpha game outside of the cutscenes. I can’t see myself paying for the 2nd month.

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