I’ve made it no secret that to me, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes represents some of the best raw potential that MMOs have to offer, even if the game’s initial execution left a lot to be desired. That’s why I’ve been excited by Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, the new MMORPG in development from Visionary Realms (VR), whose pedigree features the minds that brought us EverQuest 1 & 2, Vanguard, PlanetSide 1 & 2, Star Wars: Galaxies, and a whole lot more.
I recently had the chance to chat with Brad McQuaid, VR’s Chairman and Chief Creative Officer and one of the original driving forces behind the likes of EverQuest and Vanguard. Our talk covered a range of topics related to VR’s new project, including Pantheon’s post-Kickstarter campaign and Brad’s vision for the game’s niche approach.
After Pantheon’s unsuccessful Kickstarter, the team moved their crowdfunding outreach to their own website, and have acquired a goodly number of re-pledges since that time. This income has allowed them to create a demo build and a business plan, which they’re currently shopping around to investors. We recently learned that development on Pantheon has slowed as VR secures more funding, so I certainly hope that some big-money sharks snatch up the project soon.
Pantheon seems to be a game very much steeped in lessons learned from the team’s 15+ years (uncombined) experience in creating MMOs. Brad believes that the genre would be better served by a variety of smaller, more focused games than big blockbusters attempting to appeal to all types of gamers. In that vein, Pantheon is intended to be specialized for a core audience that enjoys challenging, team-based adventuring. It’s being designed around groups and raids that require you to fulfill a particular role, much like a player’s designated position on a soccer team (major kudos to Brad for the soccer reference).
Pantheon is also intended to bring back the sense of accomplishment to MMOs, where you have to play and experience the world to advance. The development team is avoiding the implementation of grind-like mechanics, and is and making the game challenging without requiring tedium. Over time, they want to offer expansions and add functionality and gameplay, while staying true to their core audience.
For Brad, creating a small and focused game such as Pantheon allows them to work fairly quickly, with a lean and experienced team and a smaller budget than is required for bigger titles. Apparently, the EverQuest team made their game with 23 people over the course of 3 years, and Brad has similar aspirations for Pantheon. Without criticizing other companies and games which take different development approaches, he believes that the market will be moving towards smaller, more targeted titles in the near future, and that his team is trailblazing in this area.
I asked Brad about his opinions on the market share between free-to-play and subscription MMOs, and he indicated that the plan for Pantheon will be to incorporate a free-to-play approach for the first few levels, followed by a subscription that will open up the rest of the game. His opinion is that the free-to-play moniker actually signifies free-to-play plus microtransactions, and that it’s difficult of make such microtransactions, like boutique items, appealing over long periods of time without selling power. With Pantheon, Brad and the VR team want to create a virtual world that is a home for players, and are not trying just to make a ton of money in the first few months of live service. The game may eventually offer some fun microtransactions, but will not rely on cosmetic items or selling power.
Overall, it seems that even though development on Pantheon has slowed for the time being, things are moving forward for VR’s new title and the company’s crowdfunding initiative. Brad and his team are super positive about and vociferously thankful to all the pledgers of their Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter campaigns, and are marching ahead with Pantheon as they open their doors to investors.
If you’re thinking about tossing some support their way, you can do so at www.pantheonrotf.com.
Som Pourfarzaneh / Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.