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Brad McQuaid on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and Project Focus January 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
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The Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen launched earlier this week and, as an old school Sojourn/TorilMUD and EverQuest player, I have been quite interested in this project.  Long time visitors know I am big on nostalgia for past games, returning to things like Leuthilspar tales or Fippy Darkpaw Progression Server coverage on a regular basis.  So a game promising to reignite some of that style of play is right up my alley.

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As part of the campaign there has naturally been a lot said about various aspects of the game.  There is a list of game design tenets that will guide the project.  There has also been a lot said about very tactical things, like combat and grouping and exploration.  And all of that is both necessary and good.  But I felt something was missing from the mix.  I wanted to hear about how he expects his team to get from funding to a finished product that we will want to play.  My specific question was this:

How is this project, being taken on by a small team, going to pare down the possibilities to the key essentials so that they can deliver both to the vision and at an acceptable level of functionality and polish?

For me, that question needs a good answer.  After more than 20 years in software, I am well aware that good ideas are never in short supply, but time and the skill to implement them are.  During my career I’ve gone from idealism to being the guy in the room that wants to eliminate any open-ended, ill-defined feature.

Fortunately, I was in luck with my question.  Brad McQuaid, taking on the endless work that is driving a Kickstarter campaign, showed up in the comment thread on my post about the realities of Kickstarter, so I was able to pose that question to him directly.  This was his response:

The main response I have to this is that EQ 1 was made by 23 people in 3 years for $8M. Now I realize that was in the late ’90s and it’s a different world. But we have some advantages now that did not exist with EQ 1 (and even Vanguard).

1. We are using the Unity engine which makes it orders of magnitude faster to develop. The game is already being developed, and we have a rough prototype up right now, with our new combat system already working. 10 years ago it would have been impossible for 3-4 guys to do that.

2. This is a game with a targeted audience. We are not trying to make a game that is all things for all people (WoW, SWTOR, etc.). We don’t need 10s of millions of dollars to do this.

3. Take a look at our stretch goals (which need some work — we’re going to have a revised and better set of stretch goals up by next week). You can see that big systems, like crafting, PvP, etc. are all stretch goals. We’d love for these systems to be in the game, but we can also make a great game without those systems.

4. Our team is very experienced (we have 10 or so on the team now, but another 10-15 ready to jump ship once we have funding). This isn’t their first BBQ. We’ve learned a lot about building MMOs and this allows us to work smarter, making fewer errors, and to be more efficient.

So, if we make the $800k, we will likely have to get additional funding elsewhere (this is addressed in the FAQ on the KS site). We may reach out to a publisher, or investors, or both. But having $800k will make this much easier, because we’ve shown that there is definitely a demand for a more ‘niche’ game. I’d prefer to fund the entire game via Kickstarter, but I’m also being realistic about it.

That does answer my question.  The stretch goal thing still makes me a little squeamish.  I am not sure I would have PvP listed as a possibility in any form, as it feels like a distraction from the core vision of the game, something that contradicts the attempt to not be all things to all people.

Then again, I do not have fond memories of PvP in EverQuest. As amusing as tales of Fansy the Famous Bard were, PvP held no interest for me in EQ.  And EverQuest II is still struggling with the idea of PvP to this day.  The last time I checked, they had gone to a system where every skill has a PvE and a PvP effect, successfully making each skill tool tip just that much more complex.

Crafting is also one of those things that I imagine can swallow a lot of development time for little real benefit.  I am guilty of always indulging in whatever crafting model an MMO offers, but I am not sure I have come out the better for it.  Except for fishing.  I still love fishing.  But I’d be willing to give that up and live the TorilMUD model, where all gear comes from drops and the rare epic quest.

But the other aspects, the use of the Unity Engine, which will limit the amount of heavy lifting to be done, and having an experienced team (I hope we’ll see bios soon) do move towards what I was driving at.  And we may never hit the stretch goals, so unless additional funding is needed and can only be secured by adding something like PvP, they may not enter into the equation.

As for now, the Kickstarter campaign has reached about 15% of the $800,000 needed to make the basic funding goal, with nearly 1,000 backers so far.  The campaign has another 37 days to run.

Comments»

1. Jenks - January 16, 2014

All the right answers, let’s hope the funding momentum keeps up.

I asked a much more specific question, but if anyone is wondering about the second copy of the game included at $100+ tiers:

“Hi Mike, the second copy at the Knight’s Pledge is just the standard edition of the game, so it will have 30 days play time, but won’t have the other perks. That applies to the tiers above it too.”

Too bad, I was hoping to get lifetime subs for me and the old lady for $250!

2. bhagpuss - January 16, 2014

When I first began playing EQ crafting mystified me. Who the heck ever played a crafter in a tabletop rpg? If there was any crafting done at all, which was rarely in any rpg I ever played, you’d just go get some NPC to do it.

For several years I was, if anything, actively anti-crafting (just as I am, even today, actively anti-economy in MMOs). I’d have cheered at the concept of an MMO with gear coming only from drops and quests. Over time, however, I have come first to tolerate and later positively enjoy crafting, to the point where I now find it about as difficult to imagine playing an MMO without as I found it strange in the first place that it was there at all.

3. couillon - January 16, 2014

I watched their kickstart ‘plug’ video, and over and over I heard that this game would require grouping. I’ll be watching when they describe what that means for the avg player. I’m not averse to group requirements but I do like group “friendly” tools that I’ve grown accustomed to. Anyway, I did throw them some modest kickstart support and wish them well.

4. C. T. Murphy - January 16, 2014

I am with you. We’re getting somewhere, but I wish a lot of this stuff were in the original pitch.

I also agree that PvP shouldn’t even be mentioned. At most, I could see allowing dueling or an open arena type area for fight, but without any intention to have either as anything more than flavor.

On crafting I am mixed. I think some form needs to be in the game regardless, but I do not think we need anything super advanced or billed on equal footing. The game should focus on heroics, not commoners.

That said, I could imagine a crafting-light system that uses city NPCs more. For instance, the blacksmith would offer a few recipes and you could bring him the mats, and the final product you get from him would be resellable.

Basically, a mat gathering plus simple questing system, intended to further flesh out the world and give some alternative to every item coming off a corpse or from a quest.

My two cents at least.

5. SynCaine - January 16, 2014

The “we are aiming for a niche” and “PvP stretch goal” thing is a great point and I’d love to see an answer for it. Completely feels like it was thrown out there to grab some bucks/attention out of THAT niche as well.

I agree when he says you don’t need crafting; it’s almost always tacked on in themeparks and causes more issues (best gear; raid or craft?) than it’s worth.

Also for what it’s worth, IMO they would have been much better off without any in-game screen shots. What they have up is atrocious and doesn’t accomplish anything but shout “low budget!”

6. Hemvar - January 17, 2014

I’m excited for this game. For crafting, the skilling system in Runescape works really well, but no other game is really like Runescape, so I doubt it’d work.


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