Originally posted by Aradune
Originally posted by MrMelGibson
Originally posted by Aradune
Originally posted by MrMelGibson
Originally posted by azzamasin
I sincerely hope this project gets off the ground not because I want to play I or I think it will be successful but because I think it will show the world and more importantly show the old school EQ playerbase that it was in fact their rose tinted glasses that clouded their judgment. But some may stick around but for the rest of us I'm hopeful that some elements of old school MMO design should be left in past.
The only problem is that I doubt these people would actually admit to the fact afterwards. But, I do agree with you. I don't really have a big opinion on the guy. From what i've read though. I have to say he is a shady guy.
Put aside Vanguard and everything else for a second. The fact that he had the balls to pay himself a 3 month advance. Yet, not pay his employees anything is pretty strange and almost criminal. Whoever supports this guy and his projects in the future. I hope you think about what his done to people in the past.
I haven't posted much on this, but this more recent rumor that I paid my team 'nothing' needs to be addressed:
1. The original team were absolutely compensated. They were contract workers, and each month they would be assigned tasks and the amount they would receive in compensation was right there, in their contract, as an exhibit. They knew how much money they were going to make for that month.
2. The vast majority of the money we raised via crowdfunding went to the team. I am not going to post dollar amounts in regards to what I or anyone on the team received.
3. We worked on this game from September 2013 until the disagreement re: funds occurred in April, 2014. So the amount in total they received and I received was for 7-8 months of work. There was no '3 month advance'. I compensated myself for that 7-8 months of work and I compensated the team for that 7-8 months of work. They were paid for getting done what was in their contract exhibit and for the work done prior to having any money (pre-crowdfunding).
4. Additionally, the founding members (the majority of the original team) received between 4% and 10% equity each in the company via stock.
I regret that there was a disagreement over who got how much money and that this caused an exodus of much of the original team. That said, the team I've re-built since April is getting even more work done, more quickly. That's not to say the original team didn't work hard -- most of them did -- but most of them also were doing contract work on the side, or even worked a full time position and then worked on Pantheon in the evenings. The majority of the team I've more recently assembled don't need nearly as much money to live off of and therefore most of them put most of the day into Pantheon and not other projects.
Lastly, I'd like to address team composition. The original team were all MMO industry vets. The team I have now, not so much. I have had great success in the past building teams that are a mixture of wise industry vets and hungry newbies. Right now I mostly have newbies, and that is in some ways a disadvantage (and in other ways, an advantage). But the goal right now is to continue development and to fill some additional positions (for example, a CEO would be great). Then, in a few months, re-start the quest for angel investors. Once we have funding, I have a long list of industry vets who have contacted me and let me know they are ready to join VR as soon as I'm able to bring them on as employees. So while we do lack the industry vets right now, that will no longer be the case once we bring in the first round of funding that we need.
In the meantime, please check out the details, screenshots, and movies we post on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pantheonrotf?focus_composer=true&ref_type=bookmark every 1-2 weeks and witness the measurable forward progress we are making with the team I have now.
I'm glad to hear you respond. I'm also glad your game is still in development. What I would like to ask you Mr. McQuaid is what is your response to what your ex-employees have said on facebook and I suppose other sites. Are these mere rumors? Or is there some truth to what has been expressed?
I honestly don't have the time or energy to keep track of who said what and when, so you'd have to be more specific. There are certainly rumors, half-truths and hyperbole out there and most of what I do come across isn't directly from ex-team members but rather from others who have taken it upon themselves to continue this crusade against Pantheon. There are also dollar amounts being mentioned that really should not be due to privacy and signed contracts and NDAs. This puts me at a disadvantage because I should not be talking about specific dollar amounts or who was paid and how much.
The dispute was directly related to how much money I received vs the rest of the team. In the vast majority of cases a corporation does not reveal salaries or contract payment amounts to their employees or contractors, especially not executive compensation. But when I was asked for details as to where every dollar went by a team member, after being accused of taking far more than I did, I decided to provide that information to the contractor, who then released those details to the other contractors. Some of the contractors were unhappy as to my compensation and put pressure on the entire team to walk away from the project with the intent that the project then die.
Quite often when a start-up company is put together, the management team will take a small salary or no salary until the company gets going, finds funding, etc. This is what I did when I founded Sigil back in 2002. I took no salary and, rather, put $75k of my own money into Sigil to keep it going while we were evaluating publishers/investors. This was something I could do because I'd recently made quite a bit of cash in the sale of Verant to SOE in 2001.
This second time around, with Visionary Realms, I was not n the same situation financially. I'd not received a paycheck for 8 months and was not sitting on a nice financial cushion like I was back in 2002. In April of this year we were very close to closing a funding deal. My debt was higher than ever and bills were piling up. So I decided to pay myself for my involvement with Pantheon just as I had been paying the contractors. I do not feel the amount was unusual given my position in the company, what my name cache brought to the game, and given that I'd not received any money for eight months. That said, in 20/20 hindsight, I should have waited for the funding to hit the bank, no matter how confident I was that it would. Then, if it fell through, and it did, I could have compensated myself for less money.
I regret what happened, but even had I taken less or none, we still could not have lasted much longer without a first round of funding. I was also disappointed to see some of the team pressure everyone to walk away from the project, to leave their work behind, their stock behind, and their passion for the project behind. I and a couple of team members decided to do whatever it took to keep the project and its vision alive. We just couldn't let that be the end. We felt and still do feel that there is a very real demand and interest in a game like Pantheon, a game with the courage to be niche and to have a defined target audience of MMO players who want a group focused and challenging game. A game that wouldn't cost 10s of millions to make because it was trying to be all things to all people.
When this was announced, that Pantheon was not dead and would somehow continue forward, this really upset some people. I don't know if it was some former team members or just their friends or some combination of the two. Ultimately I will likely never know and it probably doesn't matter. It was truly objectionable when financial and other private corporate information was leaked, again in violation of contract and NDA. But at the same time it didn't make sense to pursue things legally. I hoped the situation was over and we could start re-building the team and project, looking ahead and not behind.
But that wasn't to be. Rumors and half-truths were spread in a determined fashion. Interviews were done. Reddit discussions were seeded. Bottom-line, a small but determined group put a lot of effort into spreading half-truths about me, the company, and the game. Reputations were and are tarnished. Under no circumstances did this group want Pantheon to go forward. I truly wish that the passion that fueled this effort had instead been good cause to stay on the project, despite being upset with me. Anger and resentment seems to have overpowered the extreme passion and dedication it takes to make an MMO.
My reaction has been to keep Pantheon alive no matter what and to ride the storm out. Instead of joining the debate and argument, especially when it got ugly, I focused on building a new team. It so happened that I had a friend who had been working on a religious niche MMO for years using a volunteer only team. I tapped into her knowledge of volunteer and remote team building and much to my amazement was able to start reassembling a team far more rapidly than I thought possible. She knew people who knew people and we now have a larger team than before, full of people with energy and a strong desire to be part of an MMO team and to do so with little to no compensation and to do so remotely. I was skeptical at first, being accustomed to funded projects and a job site where we all met every morning and worked together and in person.
My friend and now co-lead and Pantheon Producer, Laurene, has done the amazing and we have a very solid team of lore writers, world builders, artists, programmers, IT people, etc, who have joined the new team. I purposely avoided the debate and arguing and focused instead on team building and starting a real development process again. Some of the dust has settled and some has not. I've now made this post and the one before it to address some flat out misinformation (that I never paid the team) and I do so at the risk this re-ignites the negativity and bad feelings and the character assassinations. But my gut told me to go for it. To test the waters, so to speak.
Regardless, though, I am not returning to be the Pantheon evangelist at this time (which is the wrong time). I am far too busy and involved both managing and working on the Pantheon project. Here's what's really important that you may not know if you haven't been following the game, maybe because you thought it was dead or something:
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is indeed fully back in development mode. We are focussing on the MMO foundation that needs to be in place upon which you build the world, implement game logic, create content, etc. The game is now truly client-server. When you run the game you log in or create an account, select a character, and then enter the world in a zone called Halnir's Pass. Your game client is connected to a world server and a zone server on a server box we control. You can move around, see other players, and chat. Your movement and status are controlled by the server; in other words, the server us authoritative. You can then exit Halnir's Pass and zone into a labyrinths of caves deep underground. This is actual zoning and you leave the control of one zone server's process and are transferred to another. Your persistent data is being kept track of by the world server, your actual data being saved to an MS SQL database.
We have been revising and extending the lore and story behind the game. We should have a world map in the next couple of weeks. We've settled on the races and classes we want to have at launch. We've decided that there will be nine playable races to start out with and three starting cities on three separate continents. We want players to be able to find their friends quickly in Pantheon because this MMO is all about grouping and working together and playing your role effectively as a team player. You'll be able to teleport between the three starting cities with ease, again to facilitate grouping, guilds, and the player community in general. That said, the game is also about exploration and adventure, so don't assume there will be teleports out in the rest if the world. Keeping your group together and replacing one group member with another when the first has to leave will be very doable. Teleporting around the open world so you can avoid danger, not so much.
Recently we've been growing our world building team and we currently have four on that team. We will need more, but so far so good. They are using World Machine along with other tools that work well with our engine, which is Unity 3D. Using this tech and tools has rapidly accelerated development in many ways. Ultimately what it allows us to do is to build the game in the sequence and order that makes sense from an MMO development standpoint. In 1996 when we started work on EverQuest, this was not possible. In 2002 when we began work on Vanguard, this was not possible. In the past much of the team was gated much of the time. MMO projects would begin with lots of discussion and documentation, usually far more than what was truly beneficial, because the designers and artists we're waiting for and gated by programming. You had to wait for a display, even a simple one. You had to wait for the engine to exist to the point where you could actually build a zone and run through it. You had to wait on even a simple UI because it really wasn't that simple. You had to wait for real character models to at least be initially designed before you could enter a zone and run around.
Bottom line, the tech of the day forced you to implement your game NOT in the order that made sense. What is really the stuff you want working first? It should be the aspects of the game that are game defining and what sets your game apart, what's unique or key to the vision behind the game. With Pantheon, that's adventure and combat, followed by item acquisition, with important features like character customization and presentation coming just about last. Note I said it was important. Just because it doesn't make sense to implement something until much later by no means makes that feature or tech or mechanic less important.
But you do need to identify the features and mechanics of the game that are fundamental to the games success. With Pantheon, much like EQ1, Vanguard, etc,, as mentioned, it's all about adventure and combat. If exploring the world is boring and if fighting a group of mobs mundane, then the game has failed regardless of how good it looks or how realistically your avatar is rendered. The problem in the past was that you couldn't really log in, explore, and do battle until, say, 3 or more years into a 5 year development cycle. Sure, you could write up detailed low level design documents. Sure, you could create an intricate and detailed world in Campaign Cartograoher. But you couldn't play it In-game. You had to wait and wait on tech and tools before you had the opportunity to really play the game and make changes and tweaks.
Today, in 2014, that's all changed. With Unity and all of the plug-ins and tools and tech you can rapidly get to the point where you are really working on the true game itself. That's why, if you have been watching announcements and screen shots and movies since April, you are seeing a pre-alpha game that seems to be missing things you might have expected to be there. Again, with Pantheon, the core of the game is adventure and combat. So the plan to get from point A (starting real development) to point B (adventure and combat) is to implement only what we MUST to get there. The game must be client-server. The game's servers must be authoritative (so hacking is difficult). You must be able to log into the server and then choose a character and enter the game. You need to be able to travel from one zone to another (adventure and exploration). You need to be able to see other players, communicate with them, and then group with them. You've got to be able to create mobs, assign them characteristics, put them into an encounter, place that encounter in the world, and then have the zone server keep track of them, tell your client to display them, etc. And then you need to be able to fight them. You need to be able to create abilities and spells, and assign them to player characters and NPCs. And, finally, you need tuning knobs, allowing you to adjust abilities, levels, defense and offensive values, preferably in real time.
That's pretty much it, although I'm sure I forgot a detail here and there. Are there other aspects of the game that are also important, and maybe even essential? Of course. How about items and looting? How about different modes of travell? How about how exactly you level and progress? GUI? Inventory? Character creation? Character appearance and customization? All of those are super important and they need to be worked on and made impressive and polished. But we don't need them now. Our goal is to make adventure, exploration, and combat working pre-alpha. That gives us pre-alpha, alpha, and beta to make what's fundamental to Pantheon is polished, balanced, configurable, tweak able, and, wait for it: FUN.
And that is why I'm so crazy excited about this game and this development process. We're going to be grouping up, exploring, and killing mobs in a matter if months, not years. Let me segue back to what we've accomplished and do a quick recap. We have real client-server, so I can log in, choose a character, and enter the world. I can interact with other players, albeit primitively. I can see them and chat, but not group up. I can travel from a zone to another. The tools, plug-ins, and tech needed to create an outdoor or indoor zone have been chosen and implemented (thanks Monty!). So what's next? Well, we have to get two separate paths in production and not gated by someone or some thing. First, if adventure and exploration are fundamental, then we need a detailed world map with cities, dungeons, points of interest, climates, etc laid out using a vector based app (campaign Cartograoher) so we can zoom in, add more detail, and then zoom some more. Then we need to break that world up into zones and decide what zone connects to what other zone and where. Then we need small design docs describing the zone with text and pictures if possible. Finally the world builder has his map and design doc and he or she can start actually creating the zone using the documented procedures and plug-ins and tools and tech. And if you want a huge world, then you want an army of world builders working in parallel, hopefully not gating each other. What about the art assets that go into the zone? Well, here's where we have a huge advantage again that didn't exist in 1996 or 2002: We have the unity store where we can purchase already made art assets. Are we going to ship the game full of purchased assets? Of course not. But, and this is key, the world builder is not gated by the art team, waiting on assets to be created in Maya so he or she can then plug them into their zone. In fact, even though the funding is not there to hire those artists yet, the world builders can proceed and make measurable forward progress. Again, where are we at? We have identified the plug-ins, tools, and tech that work with Unity and built one outdoor zone and one indoor dungeon zone. This process has been documented as well. And we have 4-5 world builders who have begun their first zone. And the map and zone write-ups have begun, but they're not where they should be. Hey, just keeping it real.
Back to the game. We've logged in and we are exploring and zoning. Next we need to be able to create mobs, define zones, and then create encounters. Encounters are defined by one or more mobs and have various attributes. Once you've made the mobs, zone definition, and encounter, you need to place those encounters into the actual zone. Then when the zone is run, it has the data it needs to show those mobs in-game. Where are we at? The windows app that talks with the database was started by yours truly about 2 weeks ago. You can create mobs, zone definitions, and encounters. Next we need to be able to place the encounters and then the zone server needs to get all of that data from the database when the zone is loaded up. Then we will start seeing mobs when we enter the game and start exploring. How close are we to this point? A couple weeks max, hopefully sooner.
So that's where we are at. And we've made it to this point building on what was there in April plus stuff that we had to re-write or add. Add in the time it took to build this team and I think we've achieved something extraordinary in a little over two months. I want to pause here and let you know one reason I've written all if this up to this point. Because we are a crowd funded game at least up until we find that first round of funding (likely an accredited angel investor) I feel we owe it to everyone whose donated to us their hard earned money examples and proof of measurable forward progress. This is why we recently committed to the community that we would show examples of this measurable forward progress at least every 1-2 weeks. And I hope it also convinces many if you who may still be sitting on the fence to pledge money to us sooner as opposed to later. We need money to buy tools and plug-ins and servers and Unity licenses. And then, even though the team is technically volunteers at this point, I do like to paypal them some $$ when I can. Every little bit helps, trust me.
Ok, then what? Well, we continue to look for more world builders. We need an army and we need world builders now, as volunteers, and then we will need more once funding comes in at which point 1. Our volunteers can become employees and 2. We can hire world builders that need a salary before they can climb in board. Ok, back to coding. In a couple of weeks, as mentioned, we should have NPCs spawning in zones. Now comes the fun part: turn combat back on. If you looked at the movies I put together back in April to show you all what the original team had accomplished, you'll remember that primitive combat was working. In fact it was set up so you could choose different classes (ability sets) dynamically. This was classic combat prototyping which enabled us to get a good feel for how our action/reaction combat system would function. We've talked about this in interviews and on the games web site, but I'll do a quick recap here: it's sort of like real-time Magic: the Gathering. You have a set if spells and abilities you've learned and earned. When you are prepping for the next fight, you memorize a subset of your spells and abilities. Some are use once until you mem them again, while others might have re-use timers where you can keep casting the spell or triggering the ability until you run out of the appropriate mana type. And, like in M:TG, you don't just mem spells and abilities you want to use against the mobs, but you also mem Answers. You mem counter spells, deflections , etc. In fact, if you don't bother yourself with answers and focus only on the cool things you want to do, you're a noob and you're probably going to die hard.
Ok. So a lot of this was in the game pre-April and it was great being able to mess with how combat was going to look and feel. Now, in our new client-server set up, using MMO centric networking tech, we need to integrate that old code into that future current build. That's going to take some time and we want to do it right. We also need to revise and extend the functionality. Essentially you need to be able to in-game set your level, race, and class in real time. Same with the mob(s). Their initial values will be loaded in from the database, but then we want to be able to tune them in-game in real time. Then it's time to implement grouping . And then it's time to start playing this game, at its core, initially a bit primitive, but it will be for real. It won't be a demo or even a prototype. Yes, all of this so we can make adventure, exploration, combat, and grouping actually in-game and real within the first year of development.
So that's the road map for at least the next 4-8 months. What about everything else? Like I mentioned earlier, there's still a lot if important features, assets, and mechanics that need to be implemented before beta, which ideally will last a year or so, and also ideally the game is at least close to feature complete. A lot of the timing also depends on when our first round of funding comes in. But here's a perfect place to address an 'issue' that comes up sometimes when we post a movie or screenshots. Under this plan and with this tech I have hopefully explained why using Unity and the Unity Store is so key to our development plan and the sequence and order within that plan. To be clear, you are going to see a lot if store bought assets in the movies and screenshots probably up until the last year or so if development. This allows the world builders to lay out intricate and challenging dungeons without having to create art assets themselves or wait for a 3d modeler to create them in Maya. Character creation and customization? Can't ship without it, but we can also have that be one of the Last big technical hurdles as opposed to it being one of the first like it was in EQ or Vanguard. We can choose our character tech towards the end if the development cycle. This means, amongst other things, that we don't choose one now, put a lot of time and resources into it, but then much better tech appears during the last year of development and we either keep the old stuff or we painfully transition to the new tech (and this happened several times both during EQs and Vanguards dev cycles). So, in summary re: character models, you're going to see store bought models likely for quite some time. And yes, there's a method to all of this madness.
Items, climates, vehicles, customizable user interfaces, etc, etc. All of that happens in a sequence and order I can talk about another time. The main points here were to talk about the team, what we've accomplished, why you see store bought assets, the road to combat and adventure, etc. I will likely clean up this long missive fairly soon and post it elsewhere, but the questions and even accusations popping up on this thread here gave me a perfect opportunity not just to respond, but then segue into what the new team has accomplished, why are we doing things in the order we are, etc. if you made it this far, congrats!
ps. If you haven't seen the recent movies and screenshots or the April movie and screenshots I posted back then, the best place to view them all is on the official Pantheon Facebook site. Please do check them out and see where all of the money and effort went. I think what's posted is a valid and compelling argument that we've always been making good measurable forward progress on this project.
Will this title for once, be a title that promises to have enough imagination to where my fantasy character does not have to fight the same race class version of me?
In other words, will there be enough variability between classes and races where akin to epic tales that we all have come to love, orcs will not be in groups with paladins, evil types and good types will be on separate real/factions, and so forth?
I miss the old fantasy concept where we get to fight enemies that are different than us. I am so fatigued of the us vs us feel in every title where only a red heading over a character makes them an enemy. This is part of what made Varking server (VGSoH) so amazing. What a crying shame they never gave that back to us.
For those who did experience Vanguard Saga of Heroes - we need a return to the uniquely beautiful feel of being truly immersed in an mmorpg. Mr. McQuaid, listen to the music of Leth Nurae once more...tell me that doesn't move you toward creativity.