Eurogamer: No-one could accuse you of playing it safe with The Secret World, but a lot of recent MMOs have shown that there really are no safe bets in this market anyway. Do you think it's riskier not to take risks at the moment?
Ragnar Tornquist: That's absolutely right: it's riskier not to. This game has evolved a lot. At the beginning it was more of a World of Warcraft-type game, but then we realised at a certain moment that there's just no point trying to create WOW in a different setting. Why would you want to do that? We respect WOW, and I think people are going to keep playing it forever and ever. We're not trying to capture the whole of that market: we have no illusions about that.
We want to set up an alternative, really, and I think MMOs have to come at things from different angles in order to create a market that's more mature in terms of why people want to play. At the moment, people play MMOs for a single kind of reason, because there's really only one type of MMO, and most of the games look the same anyway. We want an alternative - the same as APB is doing, for example.
Eurogamer: Your skill system seems to present a fresh take on character advancement for an MMO: do you think too many games bring all the genre's baggage along with them? Is it liberating to start chucking things out?
Ragnar Tornquist: We don't have classes and we don't have levels, so progression in the game is very horizontal. It's all about gathering different powers and increasing your skills. It's all about finding the way you want to play, and us catering for that. If you still want to play as a tank, you gather tank powers, or if you want to be a healer, you gather those types of powers. It means you can create hybrids a lot more easily, too.
But it is definitely about removing elements: taking away some of the grind and frustration. We're taking away that feeling of sitting down to play a new MMO, and having to spend 100 hours before you actually start playing the real game. I don't play like that. I want to sit on the couch for one hour, and play the game and have fun doing it. I don't have the time and the patience for MMOs where it feels like a job. Again, some people might see that as a risk, but we see it as a proven system that we're just tweaking, and hopefully creating something that's both established and new at the same time.
Eurogamer: On the subject of perception, is there a danger that with your complex narratives and ambiguous agendas, you end up being seen as the Thomas Pynchon of MMOs? Or are you pitching for that?
Ragnar Tornquist: [Laughing] Don't tell marketing we're doing that.
Eurogamer: Are you including so many different conspiracy theories into the plot to try and compensate, maybe? Are you trying to ensure that there's still something for everyone?
Ragnar Tornquist: That would be cheating. Obviously we don't have absolutely everything, but we like to say that everything you ever thought about the world, it is true: all the different crazy theories, they all have some basis in truth. And that's the texture to our universe. Nothing is too crazy for this game.
The Secret World is in development for PC and Xbox 360. Read our PAX preview to find out more.