Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen: Making Parties Relevant Again

By: Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley | : 1925

A few years ago, a fellow Gaiscioch member pointed out Brad McQuaid’s (Everquest) new title called Pantheon. At first glance, it looked like just another MMORPG. Later, I started to dig deeper and look beyond the pre-alpha graphics and inspect the actual mechanics and design of the game.

What Brad and the team at Visionary Realms are trying to achieve is very admirable and often overlooked. In today’s instant gratification, self reliant world, Visionary Realms is trying to reintroduce the concept of group content and social gaming into the MMO scene. For too long MMO’s have drifted away from the concept that made them great. People don’t play MMO’s to play alone. They seek companionship, they seek to be a part of a team, and hold their own among the warriors in the realm. They realize the single most sought after thing that all humans look for from the time they’re born to the time they die… Acceptance.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is, from the ground up, a group experience. Your group, your guild, and your server will all come into play to overcome challenges that no one player can do alone. The Trinity is back in full force in this game and regardless of your class you will be reliant on others to complete the task at hand.

As luck would have it, I had a chance to sit down with the Visionary Realms team and discuss some of the finer points of Pantheon Rise of the Fallen.

Thank you for meeting with me today. I would like to start off by asking you to tell us a little about yourself and your role at Visionary Realms.

My name is Chris Perkins and I am the Creative Director at Visionary Realms, Inc. As Creative Director, I am responsible for leading the ongoing, high quality production of every aspect of game design, audio, art, and content development for VR’s upcoming MMORPG - Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.

Pantheon is quite an ambitious project. How long has the game been in development and how large is the team working on it?

Visionary Realms is a new studio, founded in 2013. We currently have 16 people - a prime combination of veteran game developers and young, energetic, creative talent. We also have a disciplined business management team. Overall, it is a great, holistic company culture.

What tools and software packages have been essential to the development of Pantheon? Has there been anything new you’ve worked with that really improved your ability to perform your job? Any new technology you’ve seen for the first time?

Firstly, we have loved working with the Unity game engine to build Pantheon. The Unity team have been supportive and responsive, and the engine has allowed us to make great strides very quickly in development. We lean heavily on Maya, Substance Designer/Painter and World Machine. We have also just recently started working with the Gaia system for Unity to help in certain aspects of our terrain and scene production. Overall though, the greatest asset we have is the skill and ingenuity of our designers, programmers and artists.

Ok let’s dig in here, What’s the general setting behind Pantheon? Where does our story begin?

The world of Terminus has been formed from the ‘shipwrecked’ fragments of many different realms and worlds, bringing their unique civilizations and Celestial deities with them. It is into the current age, the Frail Age, of this wonderful and mysterious world that players will step foot for the first time.

“The Age of Chaos has ended, the horrors of the Deicide Wars are now fading memories in the minds of those who live on. The megalithic Sanctums still stand, dormant reminders of the great war. A tenuous peace now exists in this Frail Age as the races of Terminus seek to rebuild what was lost. The vast scale of the conflict left much of the world forever changed; once well-known lands now marred and unrecognizable or lost altogether.”

There is great depth to Pantheon’s story and setting, and I dare not spoil it here. I would encourage anyone interested to visit the official site (www.pantheonmmo.com) and begin reading through Pantheon’s Lore.

It’s clear from the website, news stories and videos that you’re doing everything you can to encourage group play. Will there still be areas of the game you can do alone, say in the event you’re taking care of a child while playing and have to go AFK for long periods of time? Or will you be limited to only being able to play with a group?

Absolutely - while we are certainly encouraging and focused on group play, we’re not trying to discourage soloing or the ability to enjoy yourself if you need to spend a game session flying solo (or step away from the computer). We love emergent gameplay, when you get to see players figuring out ways of playing the game that you never intended or could foresee, and often that comes in the form of classes figuring out ways to do some amazing things by themselves.

But at its heart, Pantheon is a group-centric game - that is and will always be our main focus.

What is the standard group size? Is there a larger group variant like a raid group or army?

The standard group size is slated to be 6 players. We will certainly have Raid content that will involve larger numbers of people combined into a sizeable raiding group or party, but we aren’t ready to release that number yet.

What kind of group finder tools are planned?

Though we’re not ready to say much about this yet, we are designing a specific system that will allow us to help players connect with other players, facilitate grouping and social gameplay, without compromising meaningful travel, exploration and the classic sense of “social contracts” we are wanting to see in MMORPGs again.

I’ve read that you will have a more dynamic approach toward questing. Can you walk us through an example of how the world reacts to actions of players to create exciting events throughout the world?

Our Perception System is an attempt to deliver meaningful quest and story content to the player that is fundamentally nonlinear and accords with an open world design.

Another way to put it would be: We want the environment to tell the story in Pantheon. Players should be paying attention to their surroundings... movement, sounds and flavor text.

As an off the cuff example, let’s say I stumble upon a peculiar house standing alone in the middle of some woods. I spend some time snooping around outside but don’t find anything interesting. When I circle back around to the front door, I get some flavor text - “An odd sound from inside…” I walk through the door and see a disheveled looking man standing in the room. He whispers to me as I walk in the room, encouraging me to have a look around the place. It seems there is something in here he wants me to find...

This is a quick and basic example, but it is hopefully enough to impart the sense of what we’re trying to accomplish. No symbols above NPC heads, no flashing lights or blinking arrows. Instead, the people, places and things that make up the environment will be designed to visually, sonically and textually suggest and guide players along.

I’d like to talk about my favorite topic, Guilds! What role will guilds play in the world?

As a challenging, group-centric and socially driven game, Guilds will play a massively iconic role in our player culture and gameplay experience. And though it pains me, especially because of how excited you are about guild info, we’re not ready to release any specifics just yet.

Can guilds take ownership of territory or property?

This is a longer-term goal for Pantheon. Not something you will likely see at launch, but an integral part of the overall plan.

Will there be offline invites / requests? Such that a user that plays at night can invite a player that plays in the day without having to be online at the same time?

We will work hard to ensure Guild development and recruitment functionality is as accessible and convenient as possible, including addressing issues like you describe here.

Will there be any large scale objectives for players to rally their server/alliance to take down?

Yes, absolutely. We have just recently been discussing “grand-scale content” and some very exciting ideas are starting to crystallize. I can’t go into specifics yet, but the world of Terminus and its Lore are ripe for events on a grand scale which could affect multiple zones of players at once, or even the entire planet itself - you can expect to see several types of grand-scale content in Pantheon.

At the end of the day, what do you hope players take away from Pantheon?

This is a huge question and I could answer it exhaustively here, but I will focus on three things:

1) Rewarding Challenge - we’re committed to making Pantheon an enjoyably challenging game. We want players to walk away from each gameplay session, or look back after 5 years of play and be full of memories, rushes of excitement, gasps of disbelief and heartfelt celebrations--all produced by content that makes you earn what you get, and like what you get.

2) Genuine Immersion - we take story very seriously in our game, and we are working hard on our Perception System to ensure that our Lore reveals itself to players through highly immersive means. We would be delighted to hear players saying something like, “Why don’t more MMORPGs do quests and story like that?”

3) Social Bonds - perhaps most of all, we want Pantheon to be a highly social experience, where true friends can be made, player reputations are known and regarded, and class inter-dependence is embraced. We want to encourage the de-isolation of MMO players, where they might move from tolerating, to enjoying a huge open world alongside thousands of other players.

Where can players learn more about Pantheon?

A great place to start is the official website:

http://www.pantheonmmo.com

Also, feel free to visit our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers who are highly anticipating the release of this game?

The support and excitement from fans that are eagerly awaiting Pantheon’s release is felt and deeply appreciated by everyone on the team. We constantly look up from our work and remember how important it is to so many to have an MMORPG like this again. We are more determined than ever to deliver that experience in Pantheon. On behalf of the entire Pantheon team - we look forward to seeing you in Terminus!

Published: June 27th, 2016

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About the Author

Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Managing Editor & Designer

Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.

His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.

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