Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid has another new blog post up – he’s on a roll this week – this one on alternate rulesets in MMORPGs and the MMO’s multi-server structure. “I really think the idea of alternate rule-set servers/realms, while dabbled with, have never (yet) reached their true potential,” he says, arguing that there’s a “fine line” between managing to stick to what gives the core game its identity and being willing to experiment with “variations on a theme” that enhance rather than “threaten or violate that core, that magic, that x factor.”
He also downplays the desire for single-shard MMOs, citing the desire to create communities that are “not too small and not too big” with plenty of content for the number of players accessing them on each individual server out of many. In fact, he throws a little bit of shade on devs who are “bragging about world size, or creating a truly seamless world, or using CPU and memory to create virtual mega-cities is all at odds with our objectives.”
One of the most interesting things to cover when it comes to Pantheon’s development has been its reconciliation of two superficially opposing ideas for social systems in MMOs: the old-school, hands-off, organic approach that leaves socializing entirely up to the players vs. modern contrivances that proactively group players together. The goal, however, is one and the same, and that’s to create a truly social community and “forging true relationships.”
Indeed, that’s what Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid attempts to explain in a new dev blog today focused on matchmaking and the LFG. Because… there will be a LFG tool — “or, really, set of tools. A suite a completely optional tools and mechanics that help people find real friends, help them group with those friends, help keep those friends together in a group.” McQuaid explains that the game is embracing a more “proactive” stance than what players might recall from EverQuest, using “positive reinforcement to rewards players” who make community happen.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen fans viewing the team demoing the game at TwitchCon this past week were delighted to hear one surprise announcement: the confirmation of a pre-alpha test coming by the end of this year.
“We’re happy to announce today that pre-alpha will be here in time for the holidays,” the team said. However, don’t get too excited thinking that this will open up the game to a large group of players. The buy-in for Pantheon’s pre-alpha is a $1,000 minimum purchase as of right now.
The team spent most of the stream showing off the gameplay and finding new and horrific ways to wipe. “It’s a new game, lot of new features, lot of new ideas,” said Brad McQuaid. “But we’re trying to bring back the social element, the challenge. Most of the content is built around grouping.”
This week in MMO crowdfunding, Elite has finally begun to sound “dangerous” indeed. After just a few days of owning players, the alien race that “returned” to the game’s universe in its long-awaited 2.4 update has finally begun suffering casualties at the hands of players. In fact, it appears the first player to down one of the Thargoids’ ships was none other than the player who caused the massive drama over last spring’s Salomé event. This is because time is a flat circle and karma is literally dead. It’s not entirely clear that the Thargoids are really the bad guys here, but when has that ever stopped us before?
On Massively OP, we chatted with Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs, who explained just how the game’s social systems will differ from what MMORPG players are used to.
Star Citizen also continued inching along the path toward alpha 3.0, reducing its bug count last week by two.
Meanwhile, Legends of Aria began its final alpha, Shroud of the Avatar patched up to R46, Albion Online released Joseph, Valiance Online posted its latest roadmap, OrbusVR discussed its artificing skill, City of Titans posted the finale to one of its lore series, and Pantheon gave players a look at how its art is coming along via stream (thanks, Reht!), plus Brad McQuaid explored his vision for the Holodeck future of the MMO.
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’re following.
Pantheon and MMOs like it are bringing our dream future one step closer (or at least, Lt. Barclay’s dream future), Brad McQuaid suggests in a new interview this week. MMORPG veterans know McQuaid as a pioneer of the genre, first with EverQuest, then with the stalled and now sunsetted Vanguard, and now with the upcoming MMO Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
“I want to be immersed, I want to escape into a fantasy or sci-fi world. [MMO developers are] making the very, very early foundations of the Holodeck. Letting people recreate the 1930s or build new virtual worlds – that’s what MMOs are, they’re the genesis of that. Because they involve real people and that social aspect, because they’re so immersive – and will be even more so in the future, with VR coming – I lose myself in them. I don’t sit there thinking I’m playing a game; I’m really there. And that’s what interests me.”
McQuaid says the MMO is not dead and that he’s working to change that perception by catering to an “underserved” audience of virtual world gamers and “abandoned MMO fans.”
Did you know that Brad McQuaid’s Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is not meant to be for everyone? Probably, because the game sort of likes to offer a mission statement to that effect on a semi-regular basis. McQuaid’s most recent post about the MMO industry and developing games counts on that spectrum, too, as it serves as a lengthy diatribe on where he feels the industry went wrong and why the game needs a game with a very narrowly defined target audience.
The core assertion is that changes to the MMO genre have largely been a matter of making the game more accessible to audiences who didn’t already like the genre, and it’s past time for games to be devoted to very narrow audience slices more suited to specific playstyles.
“That’s the big hump I think the MMO genre really, really needs to get over. In the ‘post-WoW‘ world the genre really moved towards trying to become even more mass-market than WoW itself. Looking at WoW, Vanilla-WoW (the game that was released) is a lot different than WoW is today. Some of that is natural evolution, polishing, the implementation of new features, races, types of content, etc. In other words, all good stuff. But then some of it is merely a result of Blizzard trying to make WoW appeal to an even larger group of gamers — even though they were already, by leaps and bounds, the most popular and profitable MMO on the face of the earth.”
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.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen’s July newsletter is one of its better ones, featuring a Q&A with Visionary Realms’ Brad McQuaid himself. A few highlights:
- McQuaid is touting vertical interdependence, the idea that lowbies and highbies in a game have something to offer each other and can even play on some level together “in a way that’s not exploitative, but still meaningful.”
- Community is at the core of his game’s value system; it sounds as if he believes large communities erode that small-town feel and make relationships too easy to shirk, and consequently, Pantheon’s servers will be sized to be both “lively” and the kind of place where everybody knows your name (and takes into account your bad reputation).
- He even weighs in on the purported shift from group-centric gameplay to solo gameplay, pinning it on the mass-market appeal of World of Warcraft and the subsequent industry me-toos. “These mega-expensive attempts to create a WoW killer did indeed harm the MMO gamespace and MMO developers,” he writes. “The player who is really focused on community, challenge and long-term investment has been orphaned.”
The newsletter also includes a peek into the game’s AI design as well as a bit on the challenge on just how to “explain to all of the other gamers what kind of game Pantheon will be” — in other words, how to reach out to non-MMORPG players, including the “younger players who are gravitating to [Visionary Realms’] type of game”:
There was a lot of buzz swirling about Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen’s hour-and-a-half developer livestream yesterday, thanks to a truckload of information shared and gameplay that showed off the visual and animation improvements that the team has added.
Of particular note was the reveal of the Monk class and how this melee class handles, the new zone of South Saol Peninsula, and the acclimation system. Due to Pantheon’s hardcore design, even the environment will be a challenge to overcome due to debilitating effects (such as freezing winds, scorching fire, and deep sea pressure). To be able to survive in these areas, players will need to use “infusions” to acclimate their characters’ bodies.
While players will be able to eventually get their hands on all of the content shown in the stream, there is one aspect that will forever remain hands-off. Brad McQuaid apparently made his own class, a War Wizard, that can be played only by him. Because why not exercise your power and position if you’re making a new MMO?
The full developer livestream awaits you after the break.
Looking at Pantheon today, you almost wouldn’t know it flopped its Kickstarter way back in 2014. That’s because the team kept at it and has been raising money from investors and gamers to keep the dream alive for the past three years.
“Visionary Realms today announced that Series A funding for their upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, is now complete,” reads this morning’s press release. “Series A funding allows the company to expand the team in almost every department and bring the game into a semi-private pre-alpha state where external testers and focus groups can begin sampling the game.” This funding round is typically venture-capital-oriented and follows seed funding like the capital the studio raised back in 2015.
In March, Visionary Realms’ Brad McQuaid told gamers the team now counts 15 people. Public testing (pre-alpha) is planned for later this year.
Source: Press release
It’s no secret that Pantheon and Kickstarter haven’t had the best of relationships, what with the game’s crowdfunding campaign failing to fund back in the day. But Brad McQuaid is willing to let bygones be bygones and has extended an olive branch to the Kickstarter community this week with an update on Pantheon’s progress.
McQuaid regaled readers with everything that has been done on the game so far, stating in no uncertain terms that something special is being made here. He said that his team of 15 developers has created a “true virtual world” that has been enjoyed by over 100,000 players so far. Finances were also touched upon, with reassurance that fan donations and seed investment have helped to fund the game’s development.
Visionary Realms, the Brad McQuaid-led outfit building Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, announced this morning that it’s expanded again with the hire of two new team members: AI specialist Tod “Zippyzee” Curtis and security expert Pierre Cadieux.
Following a stymied Kickstarter in 2014, McQuaid forged on with a volunteer team and steadily added to it in the ensuing year following fresh round of investment. Last autumn, McQuaid clarified for us that the team has been compensated for its work since acquiring seed funding in 2015.
We recently included Pantheon, which is still eyeing a possible late 2017/early 2018 launch, in our list of the best upcoming indie MMORPGs to keep your eyes on.
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Elite: Dangerous released an absolute space-ton of new videos out at Gamescom: one on crew, one on ship transfers, one on hyperspace, one on environments, one on capital ship docking, one on port services, one on the planet map… really, it’s nuts, and that’s all in addition to yesterday’s deluge. Little did we know they weren’t even close to done then!
In sadder news, we’re bummed to report that 3001SQ’s Kickstarter ended unsuccessfully. “While we didn’t reach our funding goal, we will continue with developing the procedural generation system and VM integration to get a networked build that allows docking with stations, and finish the initial nandOS specification,” the devs told fans.
Finally, check out this series of time-lapse gifs showing off player construction in Camelot Unchained. The same epic Redditor put one together demoing Crowfall’s player kingdoms too. Let’s make ’em fight!
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on!