We recently had the opportunity to further discuss what has been happening with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and Visionary Realms (VR). Benjamin de la Durantaye, Director of Public Relations and Tom Sampson, Chief Information & Operations Officer (CIO/COO), took time to have a conversation with us regarding Pantheon, crowd funding, and some of the new website features they have planned. Don’t forget that the Official Pantheon Wiki is at Gamepedia! Our previous developer interview, which Ben was a part of, can be found here.
For those who don’t know Tom Sampson, he is just as passionate and excited as the rest of Pantheon’s developers. He’s been in top guilds in both EverQuest and Vanguard. Not only is he VR’s CIO/COO, but he is a fan of VR’s development team’s prior works as well, stating that the best parts of EverQuest and Vanguard were created under Brad’s watch. Tom wants to help Pantheon succeed, not just as a VR employee, but also as a gamer.
Two of the main Pantheon tenets that Tom, Ben, and the rest of the VR Team look forward to bringing back are a sense of adventure and community bonding. Once considered essential ingredients in early MUDs and MMOs, the folks at VR believe some of these important early online gaming tenets were lost during the last decade of MMO evolution. Danger, intrigue, curiosity, and a sprawling unknown landscape to explore will bring back some old magic to the gaming veterans of the late 90s, and give the newer generations of gamers an adventure unlike any they have experienced in recent MMOs.
“Within a few years after EverQuest was released, the total number of MMO players numbered under one million. Now we’ve got this nearly 400 million strong world-wide player count, half of which are paying something to play, and most of whom have never experienced a game that require grouping and making friends in order to get ahead and overcome obstacles. In every modern MMO that comes to mind, players can either solo play their way to the top, or get automatically put in groups and instantly teleported across the game world in order to experience nothing special, and all without ever even introducing themselves or taking the time to make friends. For most modern MMOs, it’s all about the destination, and the player’s journey has been simply reduced to fly-over content. Pantheon is now, and will continue to be about the journey, a challenging adventure you will need to make with friends new and old in order to survive. We want to not only satisfy our core community of fans who have been waiting a long time to take this journey with us, but to also bring back some of the old challenges that we think were lost along the way, and to also offer an entire generation of newer gamers a challenge the likes of which they have never seen.” Tom told us these words about recreating challenge and mystery, while discussing how sensible physics, a great user interface, spectacular visuals, and intuitive player controls are also extremely important components of Pantheon.
The Unity3D engine will allow for some really incredible things that players have not seen before. For example, the different shards of Terminus will not only look very different from each other, but may also have completely different environmental rules, lighting, shading, and even different gravity! Tom hinted to keep an eye out for an awesome upcoming reveal from Brad McQuaid on this topic!
We asked how funding has been going offsite. It’s been discussed that Brad and the team would be talking to investors after Kickstarter. Tom’s response was that Brad and the rest of the VR team not only have a following within the gaming realm, but in the investment realm, too. Some of these investers are also gamers, and know the value of Brad’s previous creations, the Pantheon project, and the many and diverse abilities of the very talented and experienced VR team. VR has been in talks with investors, but they are taking their time while looking for the “right fit,” and continuing to generate crowd funding of their own with the help of their community of dedicated Apprentice Developers on the Pantheon Community Portal. Don’t expect VR to sign with the first publisher, venture capitalist, or larger company who comes along offering money. In order for investors to be that right fit, they will need to understand that VR has a vision for Pantheon that is shared by a large community of fans who have been waiting patiently for this game for some time now. Expect VR to only cooperate with investors who understand this need and who are willing to afford the creative freedom needed to build Pantheon in a manner in which both the community wants and VR envisions. Brad and the VR team are unwilling to compromise when it comes to the integrity of Pantheon.
We wanted to discuss Pantheon and crowd funding with them. While Pantheon was not successfully backed on Kickstarter, the community response, development transparency that came from the campaign, and the funds directly raised on their site since Kickstarter is nothing but a success! Would VR bring Pantheon back to Kickstarter? Some games have had multiple successful campaigns. Others took their first Kickstarter as a learning experience, which then developed into a successful campaign.
Tom says that this is something that has been discussed, but nothing has gone beyond that yet. If they do another crowd funding project beyond the Pantheon website, it will only be if it makes sense to do so. They would want to give people a reason to pledge. “We must be careful not to make our story old before it’s told,” Tom said.
One thing that is happening with Pantheon that is rather unique is their Apprentice Developer program. They were really happy with what they have seen from the community so far, and the example used was what the Apprentice Developers have done so far with the game’s lore. The community has pieced together lore, filled in blanks, put it in order, and broken it down to a granular level. VR is excited to see hundreds of members contribute and work together on these projects and cannot wait to see what they come up later with an army of world builders using the Unity3D engine and Pantheon world building tools. Unity3D will allow for similar contributions and collaborations to be made with the game as it develops.
Another area of the community portal that is really interesting is the Pantheon Think Tank. Apprentice Developers and Staff can post ideas and responses to those ideas, which can then be voted up/down, allowing new ideas to emerge and points of contention to find resolution. This is one of the most active features on the site with frequent participation from both Staff and Apprentice Developers.We also got insights on some really cool features that are on the horizon for Pantheon. A good deal of what is coming right now will be happening on the official site. To start, the site’s chat system is getting an update. Devs will be able to share their webcams and screens directly with the community and multiple simultaneous video and audio streams will be possible. The plan is to have something similar to Twitch, but localized. VR sees this as one more way they can create more intimate, personal environments to better connect with the community.
New plans are coming for the store, as well! The community asked for more payment methods, which has happened with the addition of 2Checkout and PayPal. Now, VR plans on adding scaling subscriptions. For example, if you really want everything that comes with the Cartographer’s Pledge, but because you want to make sure you’re backing Pantheon as soon as possible, you purchase an Explorer’s Pledge for now. Maybe Grams sent you a sweet birthday check, and now you have some extra cash. Why not upgrade your subscription and buy yourself the birthday present you really want? This is one of the many things you’ll be able to do in the near future!
Other store and subscription upgrades include options like a Recruit-A-Friend referral program for perks and rewards. Community member’s user pages have meters that show what they’ve contributed. If you are a monthly subscriber as an Apprentice Developer, your monthly donations will add up and you will be able to work your way up to the next entitlement tier. There will also be the ability for gifting in the store – send your friend a Bag-o-Swag!
Pretty soon, both men’s and women’s T-shirts will become available in the store, as well. We look forward to seeing the designs, which Daniel MacGibbon will soon reveal! One more thing that VR is working on is a polished piece to show off to the community and investors. Be sure you are watching the site and the official wiki so you are one of the first to see what it is!
The website is seen as a companion for the game and the goal is to make it as useful as possible and keep the community connected even while outside of the game. So far, VR is pleasantly surprised by how many members log into the site without moving away. Pantheon is a social game and the portal is already developing the type of social community VR has envisioned as the foundation of Pantheon.
Sign up as a member at the Pantheon Community Portal to read the latest news from developers, apprentice developers and influential community members. Have a look at their store and see what contribution level is right for you! There is also always room for more contributors at the Official Pantheon Wiki — see the Help Wiki to get started!