One of Pantheon’s main differentiators is the way we are handling Quests and Story-related content. The consistent trend in current MMORPGs is one of linear, quest-driven leveling mechanics that funnel players from quest hub to quest hub throughout their leveling experience. This is consistent with the “Theme Park” approach of modern MMOs where little emphasis is put on free exploration or risk vs. reward. Instead, players are led by the hand and told where to go, what to do and how to do it.
Pantheon is being designed with a “Sandbox” approach, where the player is free to explore and progress how they see fit. However, the challenge with a Sandbox-style MMO is this: how do you maintain player freedom and still make quests and storyline a major part of the gameplay, without forcing the player to be engaged? Our answer to that dilemma is the Perception System. Generally speaking, Perception will consist of several parts which I will describe below.
Quests will be initiated through the Perception System, which centers around a thematic window within Pantheon's user interface. The game environment will periodically send short, often cryptic messages to this window for the player to read. Perception messages can be triggered by certain combinations of in-game circumstances or proximity to in-game locations and the player is free to follow his or her Perception, or not. A small handful of examples where Intuition may be triggered (subject to change):
- The player is in proximity of a story-related point of interest (POI). Example Perception messaging: “This place resonates with greatness...”
- The player has progressed far enough into a dungeon for a quest to be triggered. Example Perception messaging: “What is that sound? It seems to be coming from all around...”
- The player has found a mysterious amulet. Once they put it on, it begins to have an effect on them. Example Perception messaging: “This amulet is feeling heavier and heavier…”
- Class-specific Perception can give insight into certain unique things. A Druid or Ranger might get a message like, "I hear an animal breathing. It is small, and close - behind that rock...", whereas other classes would not see a message like this and would not know to look there.
More details about Perception will be forthcoming throughout development.
NPC CONVERSATION PATHS
Quests that the Perception System initiates and advances will often send players in search of certain NPCs throughout the game world. Dialogue with these NPCs will be crucial towards either advancing or completing certain quests and storylines.
Instead of typing in or clicking on keywords to advance the conversation, players will choose from a set of responses at certain points throughout the conversation to advance the dialogue. Thus, NPCs will have multiple Conversation Paths a player can choose to go down, each being mutually exclusive and having unique consequences or benefits. Perception messaging will often contain clues to what these different Conversation Paths can lead to.
A key to this system is permanence. Each time a player response is chosen, it is permanent. You can quit the conversation with an NPC and come back at a later time to finish, but you will pick up the conversation at the same point you left off. Our goal in this is to increase the significance of NPC interaction while questing, requiring careful thought and planning -- we do not want “vending machine” NPCs in Pantheon.