Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is a group-focused MMORPG based on challenging gameplay and open world high fantasy. During Twitchcon I was able to sit down and talk with Brad McQuaid (Visionary Realm Chief Creative Officer) and Corey LeFever (Visionary Realms Senior Game Designer) and talk about their game.
MMORPG: Brad, you have the background of MMO's with Everquest, Vanguard and now Pantheon. What made you came back to MMO's?
BRAD: I took a break after Vanguard. I did a lot soul searching, messed around in the mobile space and it wasn't satisfying for me. It sounds cliché, but we're not making a game, we're making a world. That's always what I wanted to do since I was a kid, reading fantasy novels, playing D&D. It's more than a game, you're creating this environment to explore. It's the thing that makes me happy. It's kind of crazy though since MMOs are the hardest genre arguably to make and I'm doing it for the third time. But I just can't see myself doing anything different. I enjoy other genres, but I wouldn't get a sense of accomplishment by working on anything else.
COREY: A lot of it I think goes back to that shared experience too. You talk about importance of the virtual world and a lot of it is the shared experience. It's us working together to overcome difficulties. Not to get too meta on it, it's the similar in game design too.
BRAD: Yes, it's about teamwork. We're a team and we've got to use teamwork. It's a big part of Pantheon. The focus is it's a grouping game, a social game. You need to go out there and make real friends and work together. It's a class-based system, you have roles. The healer needs to know what to do and the tank and you know that comradery you get by working together with people as a team. Like Corey was saying you're getting these shared experiences. I still have people coming up to me constantly and they're telling me these vivid memories of something that happened in Everquest in 2001 and they remember it like it was yesterday, who they were with. That's what we're trying to bring back.
We're not making an emulator. It's a new game, a modern MMO. We have a lot of new ideas, we definitely want to push the genre forward. You know MMO's have kinda shifted to the casual recently, which is fine. But it's left a void where a lot of the more hardcore gamers who want a challenge are waiting for a game. We're not just making the game we want to play, there are a lot of people out there saying we need a game like this.
On top of that and one of reasons why we're here at Twitchcon. I don't believe that idea the younger generation doesn't want an MMO that they would play for months and years, that they don't have the same attention span. I don't buy that. I think in every generation there are groups of gamers that love playing in a world for a long time. SO, we're here to meet streamers to reach out to people. A lot of them are playing co-op shooters or mobas, etc. You have a lot of fun playing with your friends, but it's all session based. A lot of them haven't experienced it in a persistent environment where you keep building your characters up and you getting together with your friends and the game is really a home. I think it will really resonant. How do you explain that magic that we've experienced to someone who hasn't? The way to do it is to have a streamer who understands the game and his audience and can explain it. Because a screen shot or a short video isn't going to convey everything we want to convey.
MMORPG: It seems like you're going back to that older feel of MMO's, like how Everquest was in the beginning (obviously not graphic wise). Whereas most MMO's these days are more geared toward I can solo everything in a casual environment.
COREY: We recognize that as we grew up playing Everquest, etc. A lot of us had less responsibilities than we do now. Families, what have you.
BRAD: We get that. Like Corey was saying we're there too. This is an important point, we are designing the world where it's epic, it's huge, if you want to play 12 hours straight you can. But we're designing it so that you and your buddies can get a sense of accomplishment in two-hour sessions. So, dungeons will have areas that you can safely log out, come back in a couple days and keep going down deeper. We know even our most hardcore players they have responsibilities now. We can't expect them to put in eight-hour sessions. That's an important point we want everyone to know. Yes, it's an Epic game, yes, it's challenging, yes, it's social. But you don't have to devote your whole day to it and get in trouble with your spouse or lose your job or get kicked out of school.
MMORPG: Does race choice effect class choice?
BRAD: We haven't released all the details yet. There will be innate abilities and pluses and minuses. Like maybe Ogre is not bashable but maybe he also has issues fitting into a certain area. There's pluses and minuses to the races. Same with the classes. It's really about variety and where you're at. It's very situational and gear is very important. We really want people to think who am I, who's in my group, where am I, what are we going against and what should my strategy be? Progress to the next area, names boss mob, etc. It could be completely different.
COREY: Ya, race and class will be more than cosmetic.
MMORPG: Will there be PvP?
COREY: Eventually yes. Not in the core game, but we will have separate shards for that so that we can keep the rule sets separate. So we're not fighting each other in terms of how we're balancing this around PvP. It will be spun off on its own thing so it can exist on its own.
BRAD: Generally, in our audience (and this goes back all the way to Everquest) there's people that love it and there are people who don't like it. Like Corey was saying we're really big into alternate rule set servers. You get the core game for our audience and you make it great. But then you have different servers and you have variations on the theme. You can tune it, this one's PvP, this is a race wars, this is a free for all, this is PvE Roleplaying server. Because your different sub groups within your community and you want to make them happy. So you have different shards/servers that are kind of tuned to for the different types of people that are in your community.
COREY: In a game where the focus is on the world itself. Getting back to that PvE experience, people want to be immersed, they want to tell their own tale alongside the stuff we release.
BRAD: That's a big thing too for us. Everyone knows PvE means Player versus Environment. But that usually just means an Environment is just killing MOBS. We want to bring back the Environment and have it be more than just MOBS. There are different atmospheres, like toxic or extreme cold. You might be in a dungeon and its absolute darkness in this area and you're going to need special items, relics, artifacts to make it through. So that you're actually contending with the environment, not just whacking mobs. That's just something that we've wanted to do for a long time, make the environment matter. Make traveling matter, make adventuring matter. It's not just a race to the end game, but enjoy and explore and be rewarded for exploring. Another example is when you level up often times you get your abilities and your new spells and things like that. The higher you level in Pantheon, the harder it's going to get to find those abilities form a trainer or a sage. You may have to fight your way to the top of a tower to find some ancient hermit that can teach you the latest Druid ability or whatever. It's not just all going to be handed to you. We want to proactively reward people for moving around and exploring. To get away from that power level to the end game mentality. That's fine for other games, but not for us. As developers we're working so hard making this world and making it fun from level one to whatever the max level will be at launch. The last thing we want to see is people just bypass all that content. I don't think that's fun for them and it's a bummer for us.