Big Trouble in the Big Apple

The New York Raid is added to Secret World Legends, but with a controversial week-long cooldown on rewards.

Those vagabond shoes are longing to stray – I want to be a part of it… New York, New York! Except I’m on cooldown for a week and can’t join you. Sorry.

The New York Raid has been introduced into Secret World Legends, giving players another type of content to experience aside from dungeons, lairs and scenarios. But for some reason the game developers thought that adding a weekly lockout timer would be a good idea. Just before the raid launched, they confirmed that this would be the case while answering questions on their official Discord server.

It didn’t go down so well with the community, and concerns were voiced. To give Funcom some credit, they’ve listened to the feedback and are planning to make some concessions. But who came up with this unpopular design choice in the first place? At lot of the time, it seems like Funcom comes up with ideas that are the antithesis of fun or cause some kind of playability oversight because they don’t seem to know how players actually play the game.

Exclusionary tactics

Ironically, the New York raid area in Secret World Legends is known as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. It seems like Funcom decided to take that literally and exclude people from being able to enter it for a week after they complete the raid.

It’s expected that there will be a set of powerful new talismans and weapons as rewards for completing the raid, so perhaps the move to lock people out and make them obtainable once a week tries to gate or control the distribution of these new pieces of gear into the general population?

The problem is that at the raid launch, Funcom decided to go with using a hard lockout timer. Once you complete the raid, a timer then begins and you can’t re-enter the zone until it expires.

The implementation of this lockout timer seems to go against the other design principles that Funcom has established for their other repeatable group activities, which use a key-based system to control the acquisition of loot. There’s no lockout on you running multiple dungeons, lairs or scenarios per day with other players – even if you run out of keys to open the reward chests, you can continue playing just to help out your other team mates or just buy additional keys for Marks of Favour.

In contrast, it sounds like just completing the raid will give you access to the loot, and so they decided to initiate a lockout to stop you getting more of it. They don’t even want you to be able to buy additional keys to have more chances.

The players’ concerns are that this makes it difficult to play together with friends, their cabal members or even just to help out random strangers who are asking to form groups in general chat. Even prolific Secret World Legends Twitch streamer Otterdown said they would quit SWL if this lockout system went ahead.

Eventually, Funcom responded, saying that they had listened to the feedback they had received from players and they would be making changes to the lockout timer system, allowing players to enter the raid to help their friends even if they were still on cooldown and receive nominal rewards instead of the extraordinary loot, which would still be obtainable only once weekly.

The NYR lockout system is something we’ve been talking about internally and we’ve seen a lot of recent feedback on the topic. We hear you, and we are looking into allowing players to re-enter the raid in order to help their friends out. I don’t have an ETA on this yet but hopefully we’ll have more soon. Thanks all 🙂

To clarify, any aforementioned changes we’re considering are not going live with the raid update tomorrow. The changes will come in a followup patch shortly after.

Reactionary tactics

This isn’t the first time that Funcom has implemented something in Secret World Legends, much to the displeasing of the community and then reacted to it with changes. It seems like they’re always in reactionary mode.

On one hand, it’s great that they can listen to feedback and act upon it. On the other hand, it makes you wonder who is coming up with bad decisions that need “fixing” in the first place? There’s even conspiracy theories that this is Funcom’s tactic intentionally, seeing what they can get away with and then implementing a last-minute change to look like they’re being awesome heroes.

It is known that there’s a Test Live server for Secret World Legends, where content gets tested out by a select group of players before it launches for the rest of us. But this seems to be a closed test. The existence of the test server or how you become a tester seems to be insider knowledge. Does Funcom randomly select standout community members from their Discord server or something?

Anyway, from the comments I’ve seen on social media, it appears that even these people doing the testing for the New York Raid had concerns about it having a three-day lockout (much like it had back in the original The Secret World game) on the test server. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the revelation came that at launch this would be increased to a full week-long timer. Who made this decision? Did they ignore their own testers?

Their “fix” for letting people into the raid zone while still on cooldown sounds like some kind of hastily applied band-aid, rather than a well-thought-out and designed system that integrates into the game intuitively. I wondered why they didn’t just remove the cooldown, allow people to raid as often as they wanted to get a nominal reward, and then shift their extraordinary raid rewards into the Challenge system which people are already familiar with. We already know from playing old The Secret World that the Challenge system can do weekly challenges for completing raids that offer weekly rewards.

New tactics

I think it’s time for Funcom to take a step out of their designer bubble and take a fresh look at the game from the perspective of their players. Understand what their player motivations are and how they actually play the game in reality rather than from what you might guess from looking at metrics.

Players want to be able to play together with their friends, whenever they want, and not be locked out arbitrarily. They play multiple characters and don’t want to be nickle-and-dimed into buying cosmetics that aren’t account-wide unlocks. Players are going to progress at different paces and creating some tiered dungeon system which splits players apart into sparsely populated tiers where dungeons never pop probably isn’t a good design choice…

There needs to be some kind of player feedback earlier on in the design process, so that by the time a new feature comes out, it isn’t universally panned by the community. Perhaps a more honest back and forth discussion, like “Hey, we’re planning on creating something called the Agent System. This is what we want it to do. What would make you want to use it and do you have any suggestions how this can integrate into every other system in the game?”

Funcom recently rebranded themselves and released a brand new logo and corporate identity. They’re calling themselves “New Funcom”. Let’s hope they actually have grown and evolved and are trying a new way.

Meanwhile, we have to live with how things are at the moment, and hope that the game will continue to improve and adapt itself to player needs. Hopefully, I can start raiding with my friends again.

2 thoughts on “Big Trouble in the Big Apple”

    1. Yep. As mentioned, Funcom had plans to patch it and let people in while on lockout. Now, I wonder what the “reduced” rewards they offer for visits while on lockout are…

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