Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid on skill memorization, mana management, and combat prep

When an MMO is deep in development, it’s natural for players to want to know the answers to everything, down to the tiniest detail, like can I have a purple mohawk, can I build an empire doing nothing but selling pie, and can I gank elves with impunity?

I don’t know the answers to these questions when it comes to Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, and if Brad McQuaid does, he’s probably not going to tell you either. In fact his latest dev blog explains why it’s pointless to get too deep into the details right now, in spite of the fact that the community is antsy to know everything about spells and abilities and how it all works.

“It makes more sense to discuss the high-level vision and the philosophy and goals regarding these systems than the specific details and mechanics,” he writes.

“At this stage of development, it seems more prudent and to be more productive and helpful if we discuss what we’re trying to accomplish should we limit the number of abilities you can mem (again, just one example of many) as opposed to exactly how this system works in detail, how many slots there might be, etc. Having a dialog with the community at this point regarding what we’re trying to accomplish at the high level, what our goals are, and what we’d like to see happen is something we love to do. On the other hand, setting in stone how many ability slots there will be, or the exact group size we’re shooting for, or any other similar specifics seems pre-mature.”

So what can he answer? The game’s skills are “memorized” akin to something like EverQuest, and you’ll want to change them up depending on where you are — there won’t be one winning configuration for everything. On the other hand, you also won’t be tediously flipping your skills constantly, but you’ll be forced to prepare for fights. Mana management will also play a more distinct role than in “what we’ve experienced in recent times.”

Check the whole piece out on Pantheon’s blog.

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13 Comments on "Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid on skill memorization, mana management, and combat prep"

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SeedEve

Back to the roots of MMORPG then, which is most welcoming for me :)

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Armsman

Welcome back to 1999 and EQ ;)

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agemyth ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

“Memorizing” spells isn’t all that different from what we have in a lot of modern MMOs with very limited skill bars. Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, TSW/SWL, Elder Scrolls Online, and others functionally have “mem’d” spells.

Being able to swap a new spell in battle, as in EQ1, is fun though. I’m curious if all classes will have their abilities function like spells the way most games to these days. I don’t think they would have all of the melee classes rely so much on auto-attack these days :P

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Wanda Clamshuckr

If there is mana management, then I’m going to take a wild guess there will be people distributing crack? Pleeease make enchanters/CC relevant again.

I’m taking a hard look at Pantheon, as it has had my interest for a couple of years now. If it hits the right notes for me at launch, then I will definitely give it a fair shake.

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Vertigo Teaparty

Do you love inventory management? Then you’ll LOVE managing your spells, too!

Joking aside, I could possibly see this working IF 1) It’s very quick to do 2) You have plenty of slots and 3) you do it rarely. Juggling spells in EQ1, while rare, was never enjoyable and added nothing but pointless micromanagement and book staring. Generally though I dislike limiting spell selection.

Mana management is a good thing, and I like the idea of using lower level spells at times to save mana. However, if “mana management” turns into sitting on your ass while you alt-tab between the occasional spell cast then, no.

I also agree that it’s silly to get tied up into specifics now vs looking at things from an overall view. Those specifics can change for a lot of reasons so not point in getting bogged down in them.

I’m very skeptical about this game but am definitely willing to give it a shot. I do dislike the direction many new MMOs are going with fast leveling, mass killing trivial mobs, etc. so will be nice to see a change.

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Jack Kerras

I don’t understand what people dig about slow leveling.

It has always, to me, seemed like the whole process of leveling a character is meant to teach you how to play your class and the game, and that the ‘endgame’ content is almost always the actual game.

Why spend 150 hours in an incredibly lengthy slog of tutorial content when the interesting, challenging, and remotely relevant stuff is always at the end? Often even locked behind quest chains, keying requirements, etc.?

It just seems like a shitty game. ‘max level’ isn’t an achievement in basically any case; the game is almost universally designed to lead you there, unless max is 50 and the ‘endgame’ content begins somewhere around 30-40, complete with gear that you can keep around (IE horizontal growth and continuing usefulness of items with powers, like Destiny’s Exotics, in building specs), etc.

None of that shit is present during leveling. Hell, you spend a long time in most MMOs with one, maybe two actual powers, just waiting to learn how to invest talent points, when ‘learn’ just means ‘gain access to a totally obvious, near-instantly-solved mechanic which almost universally has either one or few correct choices’. Dungeons are always blindingly easy, since most people complain endlessly about things as simple as ‘don’t stand in circles’.

I just want to get past the place that’s designed for everyone to do and get to the place that’s designed for people who pay attention and invest in mechanics. :| Why do I have to spend a hundred hours getting there? It’s just spending time I could be enjoying the game on samey, me-too bullshit I’ve done dozens if not hundreds of times by now.

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thalendor

First, let me acknowledge I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a quick leveling process followed be spending most of your time at max level, just that it’s not my current preference. I can’t speak to why other people might want slower leveling in games, but here’s the thing for me.

Most current MMOs, as you pointed out, are based around a trivial leveling process to get to the “endgame” where, at least for a player like myself and, apparently, you as well, the “real” game begins. The problem, for me, is that I want to get through that leveling process as quickly as possible to get to the “real” game, so I end up pushing through it as quick as possible and don’t enjoy it very much as it feels like a speed-bump to the “real” game. Conversely, once I get to the end game, now pretty much all of the solo content, other than mostly uninteresting and repetitive dailies, are done with limiting my options for what to do when there’s nothing else going on or I don’t have much time to do anything else.

In other words, I look at the current paradigm used by most MMOs as about the worst possible. So, I’d like to see more games that use some alternative, the two that appear most obvious to me (though certainly not the only alternatives) being:
1) Just let me jump into the “endgame” from day one, with maybe an hour or two long tutorial for first-time players, and leaving the questing content that would normally be part of the leveling process for me to complete at my leisure.
2) Turn the leveling process into the major part of the game — the “real” game — instead of just having it be a speed-bump to the endgame. This pretty much requires a slower leveling process to keep everyone from piling up at the endgame within a couple of weeks.

Given my choice, I would go with the first option, but that’s obviously not what’s happening with Pantheon. That said, it appears to second option is what they’re at least trying to shoot for. Whether it works out to something I’ll like, I won’t know until after I play it. But it’s at least something a bit different from the current norm and something I at least think I might like, having enjoyed EverQuest back in the day.

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Vertigo Teaparty

A lot of the issues you bring up are design problems. Levels 1 to max shouldn’t all be tutorial. You can have challenging dungeons at lower levels that reward better items if you view the leveling process as a significant part of your game, not just an overly long tutorial that you’re forced to endure just to get to the “real” game. The problem is developers know these dungeons will only be run 1-2 times per char & by people who’ve not played in groups much so they all end up short and dumbed down. This isn’t the case if leveling is slower with a stronger focus on grouping.

I also think that this “Rush to max” design has been part of the “RUSHRUSHRUSH GOGOGOGO” mentality of the player base. I loathe how doing dungeons in many MMOs has become a speed run and woe unto you if you make a mistake or haven’t been in there before and don’t already know all the tricks.

The lack of skills thing is also a design issue. In Everquest, you obtained most of your important abilities pretty early on, mechanics wise. For example, Enchanters got Mezz (crowd control) very early on. As you leveled, you got better versions of that spell (longer lasting, AE, usable on higher level creatures, etc.) There was no waiting until level 50 or whatever to get that crucial, class-defining ability.

I could go on but you get the idea. I think a big problem is that you’re looking at slow leveling through the lens of modern MMOs. If you took WoW and adjusted the XP so that it took 10x longer to level then yes it would suck, but that’s because the game hasn’t been designed around it.

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Jack Kerras

I agree that they’re design problems; I think that the fact there’s nothing actually amusing to do until max is a huge issue. That being said, it’s also an issue that tests incredibly well with casuals, who keep the lights on and basically must be courted (a LOT), and woe betide you if you don’t.
Having a dungeon that regular, non-turbo-nerd people can’t do somewhere in the middle of the leveling curve is essentially going to act as a barrier to entry; people get to the Grim Depths, slam their faces against it one, maybe two times, and then leave the game because that’s what casuals who feel a game is too hard do.
Even if it’s an optional dungeon, it can easily act as a hard-stop, which is asking to make less money, and not something folks can really do.
As for the slower/stronger-grouping focus, I mean… that’s fine, but unless you -also- keep the content pretty light, most people are just not going to make it to endgame whatsoever. So while I recognize that there’s real monetary value in having a lengthy tutorial section that ramps up into the ‘real game’ (often depositing you there with all the comfort and grace of a slip on a banana peel, mind), I also think that it necessarily means ‘weak leveling’ plus ‘endgame’, which is just dull as a post.
I’m not sure how I’d reconcile these two things; in order to have a game, you need casual players, and lots of them, unless your game’s built to run -real- small. In order to have a satisfying leveling experience, you have to have things that will drive casuals off (see: meaningful encounters, engaging mechanics, etc.), which directly affects your bottom line.
At the moment, the rush thing exists because people want to get to the real game instead of foundering and spending their love of whatever world they’re in in the tutorial. I have never understood leveling as a journey, and I’m not sure I ever will; it’s literally designed (as it must be in today’s context) to be completed by everyone with minimal friction.
I think the problem largely lies in scope rather than in simple design choices; most MMORPGs are a path to a themepark, not a world that you live and act in. EVE is a notable exception here, with a holistic design in which every part of the advancement curve contributes to the endgame in some way, right down to the working economy. The holistic nature of its design means that there’s room for everyone, even if it’s not as guided-by-the-nose path-y as other games. I think more could be done there; I have some hope for Elyria and Crowfall in this context, but I’m not sure how it will all shake out in the end.

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agemyth ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

I think it was added eventually with macro commands or something, but being able to make “sets” of spells that you could auto memorize (even if it takes 30sec) would have gone a long way. As a buffing class it was a pain to juggle the things you needed in combat and the buffs people needed every 10-30 minutes.

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Fenna

so far all i’m seeing him doing is remaking eq1. no innovation whatsoever. welcome to back to 1999. Not saying it’s a bad thing just that ya.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

Yes it is largely based on the old EQ style but the planned innovations are easily searched on their own website.

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Greaterdivinity

As long as the process of swapping out memorized spells is pretty quick/easy, I’m a fan. It turns the system into more of a limited action bar of sorts, which I can dig.

And I’m alright with mana managment on a conceptual level, and his references to using lower rank abilities to achieve this goal is in-line with shit I like usually.

He keeps saying things that sound good to me, I just want to see it actually make it into the launch product.

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