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This month's newsletter for Visionary Realms' upcoming MMORPG Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen directs us to a new round of class reveals that focuses on the game's tanks (in addition to last month's damage dealers). These classes are the Dire Lord, Paladin, and Warrior. The newsletter also introduces us to Jimmy Lane, the newest member of the VR team, and shares a general “behind the scenes” update on the game's current state. Here's the latter:
Hey everyone! I’m excited about this new section of the newsletter - I hope it gives you a genuine sense of ‘behind the scenes’ insight, making you feel closer to Pantheon’s development process overall. For this first addition of Under Wraps, I’m going to touch on four things: my class design philosophy, the new zone we’re working on, some Pre-Alpha 3 tidbits and a look at how the Ratkin are coming along on their journey from concept to in-game. Let’s dive in!
As the Creative Director, I wear many hats and oversee many different aspects of Pantheon’s development. But in addition to directing, I’m also down in the trenches doing quite a bit of hands-on development work: from world building, to system design, even doing write-ups like this! But one of the things I enjoy most is designing our classes. I take this role very seriously - I enjoy it immensely, but I also recognizing the importance of doing it well.
I’ve mentioned in streams and interviews that I would consider myself to be rather jaded when it comes to MMORPGs. By mid/late 2013 I had stopped playing MMOs because nothing interested me anymore. I couldn’t reconcile investing time into a new MMORPG when the options seemed to be so similar to everything I had experienced before. It was about a year after walking away from the genre that I joined the VR team as the music composer. But no one could have anticipated (not even me) the deep fire that was in my belly to create a game that would cure my jadedness and genuinely excite me to play an MMORPG again. It was this mingling of cynicism, passion and hope that turned a Composer into a Creative Director and Lead Game Designer. And making Pantheon into that kind of game is what governs everything I do, including Class Design.
With that in mind, what I am trying to capture in each Class is this: how do we embrace the familiar identity of these classes while also innovating? How can we appropriately evolve them within the framework of an open world, non-instanced, community-driven environment - where the potential for social cooperation and conflict is high and implications are vast?
This is a big question and I don’t have the space to get too deep into answering it here. But one of the things I’d like to speak to is the importance of the horizontal identity of each class. This is the parts of a Class that make them feel like they genuinely belong in the world. This is the immersion factor. Rangers shooting flaming arrow flares into shadowy corners to help the group see, because darkness in our game is deadly. Warriors breaking down barriers in the environment with their brute strength. Rogues letting down rope for other adventurers to climb. These are the elements that give our classes a tangible place in a shared world. When combat is engaging, abilities are interesting, diverse, satisfying - when you layer in the horizontal identity to that recipe, you start to get Classes that I hope players are genuinely excited about not just playing, but becoming.
Now, before I wrap this portion I want to clarify an important point. These class reveals do not account for everything that these classes can do! I’ve been talking more recently about the active role you will play in discovering the full potential of your class, either by picking up an ancient scroll off the corpse of a powerful enemy, or by finding a master of your class and convincing them you are worthy to learn the abilities and skills they have to teach.
In addition to this, there will be a method of evolving certain abilities into more powerful versions of themselves. I snuck one example into the Rogue reveal last month with Shadow Walk and Shadow Dwell. Did you catch it? Let me find it and quote it: “Rogues can evolve their Shadow Walk ability into Shadow Dwell…” When you read something like that in these class reveals, you should be asking, “How does Shadow Walk evolve into Shadow Dwell?” How does that work? The answer is not simply reaching the required level and training the upgrade from a city trainer in exchange for coin. The answer is: you will need to figure out a way to evolve these abilities so that they transform into their more powerful versions.
You will see more examples of this sprinkled into this month’s class reveals. But I’ve been careful not to hint at too much!
Enough about classes… who wants to hear more about classes anyway?!
In other news, we are working on a new zone: Faerthale, the starting cityzone of the Lucent, Ember and Ashen Elves. Faerthale rests on the western border of Kingsreach, opposite Thronefast in the East.
What many of you will be interested to know is that we have decided to make Faerthale our Reference Zone. Technically, that means a lot of things. But to put it simply, it means Faerthale will be the first zone to have all of our gameplay systems completely integrated. Or you could say, the first zone where the “Pantheon experience” will be able to be fully experienced.
This includes the foundational gameplay systems you are used to seeing in streams, but everything else as well: dynamic day and night cycles, time of day governing events and spawn cycles, Atmospheres that will require artifacts to overcome, Extreme Climates that will require players to Acclimate themselves, the Perception system woven throughout and the ability to become a Keeper, NPC Dispositions widely applied and appropriately unpredictable, Crafting and Harvesting elements, climbable surfaces, interactable objects in the environment - I think you get the picture!
As our Reference Zone, Faerthale needs to have all of the gameplay systems intact and functioning properly, with all of their various parts, so that we have an accurate picture to reference when we begin implementing all of these systems into the rest of our zones. It’s quite exciting, and I can’t wait for our testers to get their hands on it! Speaking of testing...
Pre-Alpha 3 is on the horizon! We’ve been hard at work for several months getting things ready for this next round of testing. I think we’re just as excited as the testers are!
This will be our largest testing phase so far in terms of content. Four zones will be available to our PA3 testers: Thronefast, Avendyr’s Pass, Halnir Cave and Blackrose Keep. Between these four zones, there is content all the way up to level 40.
I’m looking forward to seeing how far some of them can get!
And lastly, let’s circle back and take a look at how the Ratkin are progressing.
April’s newsletter was quite popular and one of the community’s favorite features was the inaugural edition of the Rogue’s Gallery, where we share a closer look at some of the fantastic work Justin has done creating the various creatures that roam Terminus, as well as the work Forrest has done in capturing these creatures in concept art.
The next step is for one of our 3D Artists to bring that concept art to life and Will is doing a fantastic job of that! Once the modeling and texturing is finished, Julien will get to work on animations and soon enough this guy will be in game!
Till Next Time!
Thank you all for reading - this has been a blast to write! There is so much more I could say about what we’re working on and all of the progress being made, but that will have to wait for next month. Until then, onward and upward we go!
See you in Terminus,
Chris ‘Joppa’ Perkins