The Secret World: The Most Technologically Advanced MMO To Date


March 15th, 2012

By Andrew Burnes

At a recent event GeForce UK’s Kris Rey sat down with Rui Casais, Funcom’s Chief Technology Officer, to talk about The Secret World, the Norwegian firm’s internally-developed, massively multiplayer online role-playing action game. Plunging players into a world of conspiracies, secret organizations, and demonic monsters, The Secret World is eagerly anticipated by PC gamers, as evidenced by over 750,000 beta test sign ups.

Due out June 19th, The Secret World’s development is in the final stages, allowing Funcom to talk about the game’s many features at length. And as we had Rui on hand, Funcom’s top technological mind, we enquired about the game’s graphics tech and how it will enhance your experience.

“The games we have been making go for that realistic look,” said Rui, referencing Age of Conan and Anarchy Online, “and that lends itself very well to high end graphics and rendering features.” For The Secret World, Funcom has implemented DirectX 11, allowing the firm “to push the technology even further.”

“It’s easy to say you’re running a game in DirectX 11, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it looks better,” he continued, referring to the API’s efficient, performance-improving technology.

“You actually need to put some work into it, so the main thing we’re doing that really adds up is Tessellation, where instead of just having a texture that pretends to have geometry, which is normally a Normal Map, we take that texture and generate a Displacement Map that then generates geometry at run-time, so it’s not just the pebbles on the road that from certain angles look like they have depth and volume, we actually take that fake depth and volume and convert it to real geometry.”

“We’re pushing millions and millions of triangles just to get this smoother picture. It produces some amazing results.”

That’s not all, Rui has been busy changing The Secret World’s engine “from a forward lighting to an inferred lighting engine,” which allows his many developers, “to add a lot of interesting new features that are especially visible on higher end graphics cards.”

“Things like High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting with Adaptive Tone Mapping, particle fog, high frequency and low frequency Ambient Occlusion, and Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) that we worked together with NVIDIA to develop and integrate, that runs great on all kinds of configurations and just provides a nicer, higher quality picture.”

“We can safely say that we are one of the best looking MMOs out there.”

Rui and his team have also developed a brand new technology called Displacement Aware Skinning, allowing tessellated game elements to interact correctly with one another, eliminating unsightly clipping. Combined with server-side PhysX, this new technology creates one of the most physically-connected worlds seen to date.

And finally, for NVIDIA GPU users, there is native stereoscopic 3D Vision support, and multi-monitor Surround support.

“It just looks so cool,” said Rui, enthusiastically with a big smile on his face. “It’s an MMO, there are always more User Interface elements, more team elements, more raid elements, and things like that. So having many monitors is really great, because you can just push stuff around and have the main combat area in your main screen and the additional UIs in the separate screens – it’s very useful.”

For even more on technology and The Secret World's game mechanics, check out the complete video interview below: