While Funcom is no stranger to making MMO titles between Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, there’s something unconventional about the company’s latest, The Secret World. Built in a modern setting and not a medieval one, and with mythology based on conspiracy theories and not magical deities, The Secret World has a different sort of aesthetic compared to the World of Warcrafts out there. This is all fine by Morten Larssen, VP of Sales & Marketing for Funcom.

“In a market where most of the competitors are wearing shining armor, spiky shields and pointy ears it certainly won’t hurt to differentiate a bit,” says Larssen. “We think that the world and setting Producer/Director Ragnar Tornquist and his team have created has a very broad appeal, and that the gameplay and systems they’re building will work very well in this setting. If you look at single-player games there are several major blockbusters set in the ‘real world’, and I definitely think that it works equally well for a full-blown MMO. It will also allow us to do some very cool PR and marketing initiatives as we move towards launch, which I know my team is looking forward to executing on.”

While The Secret World isn’t quite like anything Funcom has done in the past, it’s been percolating in the mind of Tornquist for a while and is reflective of the company’s past efforts. “The whole backstory for the game and the many-layered world it’s set in have been brewing in the back of the mind of Tornquist for quite a while,” described Larssen. “There is so much texture and possibility there that we all found it to be an immensely interesting setting for a full MMO. The real world setting combined with the backdrop of secret societies, urban legends and lot’s of surprises yet to come is something we believe will have a very wide appeal.”

“We’ve had very positive reactions from the fan community, which consists of two major segments,” added Larssen. “There are the traditional MMO gamers which we’ve interacted with through Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, and it’s the long-time fans of Ragnar’s previous award-winning adventure games, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. Both of these segments are very active in the community and have responded very well to the info and details we’ve revealed so far.”

Some players are still going to want to have many of the standard MMORPG conventions available, and Funcom is aware of that. The Secret World will still be a fully fleshed out RPG along with all of its unique backstory and the like.

“The game has a richly detailed RPG system and all the key drivers that you’ve come to expect from a major MMO, as well as several ‘secret ingredients’ that we’re looking forward to revealing more details on at a later stage,” says Larssen. “I’m having a lot of fun playing in the latest build, solving missions, discovering new areas, fighting baddies and finding cool loot all the while trying to unravel more on what the other secret societies are up to. I would highly recommend to join the TSW community for updated info directly from Ragnar and his team on what to expect in the game.”

Not your average MMORPG group…

Of course, being set in the modern world helps the team and fans with marketing. Certain viral and social efforts mesh more properly between the real world and the game world and Funcom is looking to take advantage of that.

“Through the release of two previous MMOs we’ve definitely seen that it’s important to start building a solid and vibrant community early on,” said Larssen. “The setting of The Secret World is perfect for using a lot of new ways to do this, through the use of ARGs, social media and other relevant methods of engaging the consumers in interesting ways. The three major secret societies in the game are also integral to this, and the community has very quickly found their personal ‘favorites’ and are using this affiliation actively both within the TSW community and through their regular social media. We launched a personality test to help you decide on your secret society affiliation at PAX last year, and it has proven to be very popular.”

“The most important thing is to start early, and to take your community seriously from day one. Having our community team and development team working closely together is one of the keys to success, as it’s not only our reveals that are important, but equally valid is the input and sentiment of the community on those reveals. Working with MMOs is a combination of a marathon and a sprint in that you’ve got to pace yourself for several years as you do the build-up, but then you have a sprint in the classic release escalation in the run-up. Followed by a few more marathons as the game goes live… Not for the faint-of-heart, but quite a lot of fun!” he concluded.