Archive for March, 2012

The Secret World character builds

NOTE: This information was current for The Secret World. Since the conversion over to Secret World Legends, build theory is significantly different; so this likely no longer applies.

This is actually an update to my previous post Balance, Diversity, and The Secret World. Please take a look there for the basic information about how character abilities are built into a “deck” for your character.

In a dev blog entry from Martin Bruusgaard, lead designer for The Secret World, Martin shares some additional information about how abilities work, the syngergies between them, and refines the numbers slightly. Read the full article at: Martin Bruusgaard explains character development

For purposes of the math I’m about to do, the salient points are:

Total abilities a character can unlock: 525
Starter skills (not associated with the weapons in the game) : 3
Weapons (used to categorize abilities): 9
Abilities / Weapon: 58

A character can have up to 2 weapons equippped. The seven active abilities in the character’s deck are selected from the pool of abilities for those two weapons.

Passive abilites are not restricted to the equipped weapon, and therefore any passive ability can be selcted to be part of the 7 passives each character can have in their ability deck.


My main assumption is that the split between active and passive abilites is 50/50 and consistent across weapons. If I get additional information about the ability design, I can revisit this to remove said assumption.

Active Abilities

If I can select 7 abilities out of a pool of 58 (2 weapons * 29 active abilities each), then there are 300,674,088 different combinations of active abilities to choose from.

Passive Abilties

Since I select 7 abilities out of a pool of 264 total passive abilities, there are 16,366,799,252,232 different combinations of passive abilities to choose from.

Total Builds

To get the total potential builds, we multiply the number of active ability combinations by the number of passive ability combinations. This means there are 4,921,072,438,643,940,000,000 total potential character builds. If you’re having issues counting the commas, that’s nearly 5 million trillion potential character ability decks!


Now, gamers know that all builds are not created equal. It wouldn’t do any good to have a build where all of my passive abilities are improving conditions that my active abilities can’t take care of. Viability numbers are often a point of contention. I’ll decide that only 1 trillionth of 1 percent ( 1 / 100,000,000,000,000 ) would be good enough to be considered “viable” by most gamers.

In that case, from our pool of 4,921,072,438,643,940,000,000 builds, we’d be reduced to “only” having 49,210,724 that actually work. In other words there would still be over 49 million ways for you to build your character’s ability decks which would be useful to play the game. And that’s assuming that only 1 in 100 trillion builds were useful!

What’s this mean?

Ok, Karl, the math is mind boggling. Even the government doesn’t consider those types of numbers. But what does it mean to game play?

Well, one of the fears that MMO gamers often express is “Will the classes be balanced?” This is especially true for Player verses Player (PvP) players. Since they don’t want to choose a Warrior only to discover that Rangers are kicking their arse each time they step on to a battle field.

The beauty of a system like what Funcom is using for The Secret World is that they don’t HAVE to balance classes. They don’t even really have to balance abilities. If it turns out that one of the Hammer abilities is really good, any player can pick that ability up and use it too.

And with almost 5 million trillion ways to build a charcter, I still say that I have a really hard time believing that there will be a character build that is SO overpowerful that there’s no way for another player to counter it.