Brad McQuaid knows a thing or two about games; specifically, those we play online. Steeped in in the ways of the early 90’s MUD scene, Brad got a job at Sony where he made his name with the enourmously successful EverQuest. EverQuest will forever be known as the MMO that got most fans of the genre hooked, and Brad is the one that bestowed it unto them. Since the original EverQuest Brad has worked on a number of successful titles, but our focus today is on one that isn’t out yet, Pantheon : Rise of the Fallen. We had an opportunity to ask Brad about Pantheon, his latest MMO that’s currently on Kickstarter in pursuit of funding, the risks he’s taking, and as always we end things will a little haiku time.
Cliqist : Who are you?
Brad McQuaid : I’m Brad “Aradune” McQuaid. I was the original Producer, Project Manager, and one of the lead designers of EverQuest and its first few expansions. I was also one of the Executive Producers and a core designer of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I’ve been working on massively multiplayer games since 1996 and have a vision in my mind that is realized more and more as time goes by and newer, better, and more sophisticated MMOs are developed and released.
Cliqist : There’s a ton of information on Pantheon that people can cover; frankly it’s a little overwhelming. How would you summarize the games’ core play, and what makes it unique?
Brad McQuaid : Pantheon is a comparatively difficult high fantasy MMORPG with old-school sandbox elements, plenty of lore and exploration, a focus on grouping, and clearly differentiated classes—but peppered with modern improvements, like a more refined but eloquent combat system which will take a look back at older, simpler systems, but add in some modern elements like spell transformation. For example, an enemy could cast a pillar of power, which normally would do damage to you and your team, but you will have the ability to transform that spell so that when it hits it would instead heal you and your team.
Cliqist : I’ve always liked the idea of MMO’s more than the execution. Wandering around killing rats and pigs for questionable reward. Is Pantheon any different?
Brad McQuaid : Pantheon is about epic exploration and adventure, not killing rats and pigs. Our combat system is very involved and players will learn tactics and strategies over time, making them and their friends more effective against more powerful foes. The world itself, called Terminus, is the product of millennia of collisions with shards from different realms. What this means to the player is that exploration will be fun and varied. It gives us developers much greater freedom when we make adventure zones and massive dungeons. The explorer will come across regions that vary significantly from one another (even the physics may be different, going from one region to the next). The adventurer will encounter challenges and boss mobs that require well thought out strategies and planning beforehand lest their party end up dead.
Cliqist : The “It’s not for everyone, so everyone shouldn’t buy it” approach is a risky one to discuss when you’re looking for funding, do you think it’ll have an adverse effect on the Kickstarter campaign?
Brad McQuaid : It might, but we need to keep it real and be honest about our goals and the design behind Pantheon. We think smaller, more focused MMOs are the future. And, yes, we are trailblazing this idea — we’re one of the first to come out and openly announce that our game is not targeting the entire MMO audience at broad. Overall, though, I think people will realize that this is a positive and not a negative. Gamers like choices, and the more choices gamers have when it comes to MMOs, the better. The choice we’re giving gamers is one for people who want a more social and challenging game and we’re confident there are a lot of people out there interested in what we’re interested in.
Cliqist : Speaking of unusual moves, your pricing model isn’t what people have become accustomed to. What’s the line of thinking there?
Brad McQuaid : We think that players within our target audience prefer subscription based revenue models over ‘free’ games where you are compelled to purchase items, abilities, or other advantages via an in-game store. We don’t want to sell power, or experience accelerators, or special pets. We want players to earn what their characters wear and wield and the sense of accomplishment that goes along with. That said, if we’re wrong, we are ready to accommodate different revenue models. It’s certainly possible that when Pantheon comes out in 2017 that something totally new might be the norm. In fact, I don’t think we’re the only ones recognizing this. Several other studios still prove the viability in a subscription model and even others are working on games right now that plan on returning to a simpler subscription-based model.
Cliqist : How will the final graphics compare to those you’ve shown in the pre-alpha footage and screens?
Brad McQuaid : They will get better and better and, at launch, will certainly be comparable to other popular MMOs. That said, WoW taught us that it’s better to make an MMO playable by most everyone’s computer than to over-focus on technology and therefore limit the number of people who can play your game to those few who have the latest crazy hot system. The engine we are using, Unity, is both very powerful and also very easy to use. People with little to no game development experience can use it to make simple games, while quite a few major developers have created and released popular titles using the tech, like Pillars of Eternity, Dreamfall Chapters, and more. Check Unity’s site for some of the games that have come out using the tech, and we think you’ll be surprised.
Cliqist : 10 – 20 isn’t a lot of people for such an ambitious undertaking; nervous?
Brad McQuaid : Sure, nervous and excited at the same time. But once we’re funded we think our team size will grow. EverQuest was made with 23 people. And we’re not making a huge game, targeting everyone or including voice acting. Our team is seasoned, smart, and efficient. A smaller team ought to be able to make a solid, targeted MMO. We’ve done it before and plan to do it again.
Cliqist : Why should someone that’s heavily invested in WOW, Rift, or AION back Pantheon?
Brad McQuaid : That really depends. Are they ready to move on to a different game? Do they want something more challenging? More social? Do they really enjoy assuming a role and working well in a team? If so, they should definitely invest in the Pantheon project.
Cliqist : Not to jinx anything, but what if the Kickstarter funding falls short?
Brad McQuaid : We want our first avenue to be completely crowdfunded so the players stay in control. We still have several avenues open to us, including reaching out to investors and publishers. We’re very passionate about this game and equally confident that a nice chunk of MMO players really want a game like Pantheon. One way or another, we’ll get it built and released, either solely via Kickstarter or by other means.
Cliqist : Can you wrap things up with a Pantheon inspired haiku for us?
Brad McQuaid :
The Vision embraced. . .
Epic adventure awaits
The fallen will rise.
Thanks to Brad McQuaid for taking the time to answer our questions.
The Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon : Rise of the Fallen runs until February 22nd, and has a funding goal of $800,000.