Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Can You Keep A Secret? Doesn't Look Like Funcom Can.

You know that feeling, when when someone tells you there's something you can't do and even though you didn't want to do it, weren't even thinking of doing it, now you know you can't do it, you really want to? Yeah, I bet you do. Well, I had it today, when I read this news item at MassivelyOP.

It's a long time since I last thought about logging into Secret World Legends. No, actually, that's not entirely true. I thought about it yesterday, funnily enough, although not because I wanted to play. 

It was while I was running through Great Cleave in New World, looking at the dirty snow and wondering if it was the most convincing winterscape I'd seen in an mmorpg. I've always been something of an afficionado of imaginary snow. One of the first articles I ever wrote for a comics fanzine was called "Good Snow Art". 

There generally isn't all that much "good snow art" in mmorpgs. Rift wasn't too bad, particularly when it came to blizzard conditions and whiteouts, but even there everything was absolutely pristine, as it is in most games. 

Snow zones tend to share a certain unreality with lava zones. Make everything the same color and then add some glare so it hurts to look at, that seems to be the general principle. Even the Guild Wars 2 art department, otherwise exemplary, seems to throw up its hands at the thought of grading fifty shades of white. 

New World has some very odd ideas about representing weather but the art team has done a pretty good job with snow. The covering in Great Cleave is scrappy, trodden down with the dirt showing through along the tracks and not too much lying on the exposed rocks. It feels cold and bleak and wintry without the slightest hint of wonderland.

It's good but it's not as good as the snow zones in Secret World, Carpathian Fangs especially. At least, I don't think it is. It's been a while since I was there. Maybe I'm remembering it as better (or more realistic) than it was.

So, yes, I was thinking about logging into SWL just to go check. Probably wouldn't have done anything about it. Even if I'd wanted to do a post comparing the two, I could just have flicked through the hundreds of screenshots I've already taken there. No need to go to the trouble of patching up, logging in, finding the right portal in The Agartha and running halfway across the map to get a photo.

And I doubt I'd have done the post, anyway. I've posted about my feelings for snow before. I don't have anything new to say (Although when has that ever stopped me?)

It's likely nothing would have come of it, if it hadn't been for that news item, telling me I couldn't log in so I shouldn't bother trying. I tried to ignore it all day but by teatime I couldn't resist checking to see if the issue had been fixed. 

According to the update at MOP, Funcom was "looking into it". At least that suggested it wasn't intentional. They hadn't just shut the game down and hoped no-one would notice. 

I found my login details and clicked on the icon on my desktop. The patcher went through its usual four-stage routine, downloaded a few files, then handed me on to the authentication server and thence to the login server... and that was as far as I got. 

I could have left it at that. I'm sure Funcom will get things sorted eventually. They'll give us some notice before they sunset the game. They're that professional, at least.

In a way, it might be for the best if they did close the servers and call it a day. I would lay good odds that The Secret World and/or Secret World Legends would be back in emulated form in short order and I'd also bet that whoever set that up would do a better job of curating the IP than Funcom have.

For now, though, Secret World Legends is still there, even if no-one can log in. And so is the original game. I'd forgotten about that but the MOP article confirms "the original Secret World server is still up and operating", unaffected by whatever's troubling the newer version of the game.

I'm sure everyone can guess what's coming next...


It really wasn't that difficult. I found this post on the forums which explains the process in five very straightforward steps. I added a sixth, almost certainly unecessary, step of my own by copying the entire SWL directory and making my changes there. It was 50GB so I wouldn't recommend it. I'll be deleting mine when I'm done.

Once I'd gotten the config file sorted all there was to do was run the patcher again. There was a gig and a half of data to download, which went very slowly. I wrote most of this post while I was waiting. Other than that, the whole process was perfectly smooth.

It's been many years since I last saw my TSW character. I tried to remake her as closely as possible in SWL but I can see now that I didn't come all that close. My SWL character's something of a show-off. The original's more introverted, less flashy, a little bleak.

The other character on the account, who I remember making but not playing, seems to have suffered some kind of identitiy crisis in the long lay-off. Whoever they were, all that remains is a string of numbers and a blank space.

Once in game I spent an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the settings, trying to get the controls to work. Unfortunately, the Nvidia GeForce Experience overlay, which I didn't ask for and can't seem to switch off, overwrites TSW's native controls. That's why the screenshots in this post aren't very good. 

It also took me the best part of half an hour to find the right portal in the Agartha to get to Carpathian Fangs so I could get a few pictures of snow. When I got there, winter seemed nowhere near as well-rendered as I remembered but there were a lot of werewolves wandering around so I was a little on edge. I may not have been appreciating the finer details.

All in all it was an interesting little expedition. It was very nice to reacquaint myself with my original character but somewhat to my surprise what that did was demonstrate that, emotionally, I've moved on. She didn't feel like my "real" character. I could sense an absence. She didn't seem to be quite there in the way my SWL character is.

That might all change if I were to play her regularly but there's precious little chance of that. It's good to know that I can drop in for a visit if I feel the urge, all the same. 

And who knows? One day it may be the only Secret World game left. I wonder which has the more players these days? There were several people in the Agartha as I was bumbling around and there was some activity in general chat. I'd log into SWL to compare but, oh, wait, that's right! I can't.

Let's hope Funcom get that fixed and soon.


  1. The last time I played SWL had a heck of a lot more players than TSW. Agartha was always hopping in the former, there never seemed to be more than a handful of players on at any time in TSW.

    They are two of my absolute favorite games. TSW is the better game through the first zone to me, but the ramp up if difficulty in later zones is too much for me. SWL is the only one I have played all the way through.

    Regardless, the storylines that runs through the games are absolutely amazing. I very rarely gotten so sucked in to the setting of a game, online or off. When I finished playing through everything, I was really sad that there was nothing else to do, and that there probably will never be anything else to do. I mean apart from take up raiding, but that has never been my joy.

    1. As I often say, TSW/SWL is still the high water mark for mmorpg writing and voice acting, although I usually undercut that compliment by pointing out how low that bar is. High water over a low bar, eh? Geez, good thing I'm not writing for mmorpgs or the bar would be even lower.

  2. SWL has more players, but you need to be in Agartha to see that. It is really noticeable when the seasonal events are up. SWL's zones have limited player caps. Funcom wanted the revamp to feel more lonely, more immersive by going with a more coop game player count instead of the traditional large MMO player count.

    Oh, for Geforce Experience, you can turn off the overlay by clicking on the settings wheel that is just to the left of your account name. The In-Game Overlay option is the third option section of the left column of the General settings. I run with mine off since I use a different program to capture my screenshots.

    1. Ah thanks for the tip. I thought I'd done that but apparently if I did it didn't take. I'll try again.

      I was being slightly sarcastic about the relative populations of the two games, having read MOP's comment on the very low numbers playing SWL on Steam these days. I don't use Steam for mmos unless that's where I actually bought them, though, and I imagine most people play SWL through its own launcher.


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