This past week we had the chance to interview Brad McQuaid and Chris Perkins about the work on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. The game is really in great shape despite not making its Kickstarter, and recently secured the seed funding needed to make Pantheon a reality. MMO fans will have a lot to look forward to as the team has a playable solid core game, gotten its first round of funding, and hit solid internal milestones. Let’s have the guys bring us up to date on the project and give you a few details you may not have heard.
Brad began talking about how the project now has four full working zones to explore. They also have all the classes in the game playable from level one through ten. Basically the core set of PC and NPC skills are added to the game. It has been great to see these separate parts come together. The team can finally play Pantheon as a game and tweak all the starting areas of the project. Brad continued to talk about how MMOs have evolved and what Pantheon is doing to move the genre forward. There was a huge time for MMOs back between 2005 and 2010. Lots of games came out but lacked the innovation that really made the genre great. Also, from 2010 to 2015 it seems like so many non-MMO games have taken what made MMOs great and incorporated their mechanics, while MMOs themselves have not evolved at all.
Pantheon is geared toward players who want the social experience. They want to team up and explore a world populated by other players. Brad said that the team has been looking back at early MMOs to see what made them great. Groups want to play together in an epic world and that is what his team keeps as their core message. However, they want players to stay together. They want them to be able to log out of large dungeons when needed and come back and join their friends later. Years ago you had to run through the dungeon to get to you friends.
There will be meaningful travel opportunities according to Brad, though instant teleportation to friends is not one of them:
Pantheon will have meaningful travel -- players will need to travel to new areas and face the dangers that come with such a journey. That said, there will be spells like EQ's Call of the Hero, which summons an ally to your side if he or she is grouped with you. There will also be a system similar to Vanguard's Caravans, where a player can log out in a group and then log back in and still be with the group, even if that group has moved. There will also be additional ways to help groups come together and stay together. But it's also important to note that this doesn't mean people will be able to travel ad hoc, anywhere in the world, at a whim, especially if they haven't traveled there by foot or horse at least once (e.g. players will need to unlock regions by traveling there).
Chris stepped in to talk about character progression. They still want a very hardcore game. But they are very sympathetic to how gamers’ lives have grown over the years. Most cannot put the hours in that they’d like. Chris said that Pantheon is definitely a hardcore game. However, players can get a great epic experience from about two hours of play. That is what the team is striving for. They want to pioneer a hardcore game in the modern era. He agreed that MMOs have suffered from a sense of sameness. You still need to invest yourself in the game, but players will find a solid balance with regards to progression. One of the ways the team is accomplishing this goal is with horizontal forms of leveling. Rewarding players for encounters, discoveries, and progress. All of these elements are not tied to leveling. They want a game where players really feel like it is worth it to get to the top level. It has to mean something, so they cannot wait to get there. They don’t want leveling to just look like a giant ladder. This is really where the story or lore of the game kicks in. One way MMOs have progressed is by adding in very strong single player content to the game.
The challenge for the development team is really when to show the content they are working on right now. They do not want to build too much hype too early and then are forced to cut content that they could not deliver. We asked if they would consider releasing the early parts of the game, but they said it is too risky as player expectations are so high. The long beta is really what benefits a game most because it allows players to voice their opinions. The developers are able to make strong changes based on feedback. Access too early just does not make sense and no one seems to understand that alpha and beta are just that: early looks and testing phases.
Chris also explained that as a hardcore MMO player even he got burned out on MMOs. Now it is time to reimagine elements like quests and raids. Making them more fun for the players, and evolving them into something more than timesinks and gear grinds. Just button mashing or following known strategies gets boring after years. Pantheon is for the MMORPG fans so they want the game to be unparalleled in depth. The want it to have impact on the players when events happen. They want more rewards for exploration and story discoveries. Both guys mentioned the environment as playing such a key role in the game. If an area is dark and gloomy, it is most likely dangerous. Players should be rewarded for exploring those areas and finding the stories within.
Chris and Brad have a strong vision for Pantheon. One that really ties back to the MMOs of old that a lot of us came up the ranks playing. It will be great to see where they take the game in the coming months. We will bring you much more on Pantheon as the team continues to announce more updates for the future.