The Complicated Alternate Reality of The Secret World and its Secret Seals

The Secret World officially launches next week, on July 3. It's a somewhat unconventional approach to the MMORPG genre, set in the sinister, secret underbelly of the real world, the 21st century Earth we all inhabit. And while developers Funcom have been running the standard closed beta and public beta weekends, something more sinister has been going on around the edges.

A woman is tracing the path of a serial killer. There are clues available for the finding, dotted around the internet and around the world. And through working on them collaboratively, would-be sleuths loyal to the Templars, Illuminati, or Dragon have been slowly working their way through the mystery.

It's an alternate reality game, and ARG. And while ARGs are often used as part of a would-be viral marketing campaign for games and movies, for a game like The Secret World it's particularly apt. The entire point of the game and its story is to make us re-evaluate the history we thought we know, and to wonder if we should have paid a little more attention to our myths and legends. Funcom is dancing right along the edge of the world-that-is, and the stories we've been taught, carefully sprinkling just enough seeds of doubt around to grow a garden of conspiracy.

The tale has been unwinding through seven seals, and those who haven't yet jumped in can still follow along and catch up before the end with the instructions in these guides. In very brief, the story so far:

The first seal made everyone think about the Eye of Providence, and introduced us to a young woman we didn't yet know.

Seal two introduced a traitorous Dragon agent, and revealed that a serial killer is at the heart of the mystery. Our mysterious brunette was revealed to be on the case.

The third seal took us to the siege of Leningrad and Joan of Arc. We learned that our detective is Astrid Massing, and that she'd be attending a mysterious meeting at "Alcatraz."

Seal number four offered participants a chance to become a rogue agent. Three succeeded. Thanks to their assistance, Astrid was able to gain more access to the serial killer's profile.

In seal five, the Russian royal family began to tie into the story, as did a strange, elite organization and their semi-secret annual meetings. Astrid acknowledged which researchers were helping her get closest to a solution.

The sixth seal began to tax participants' endurance. Where most could be solved in a manner of hours with some group work, Seal Six took days and delved into the seven deadly sins. It also drew us from Biblical mythology to... Cthulu.

The seventh seal? Well, that's in progress right now. The Blackwatchmen issued a new mission yesterday, warning only, "A small group of rogue agents is currently building a weapon." And your mission? Stop them. At any cost.

Want to jump in on the maddening puzzles? Go to funcom.com, click anywhere on the page that isn't a link, and hit "33." It's a rabbit hole that goes deep. Good luck finding your way back out.