Community Spotlight: Finn, the Dissenting Voice

Finn, the Dissenting Voice

Communities, for games like Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, consist of many different types of fans. Some are happy to wait for news as it comes, some follow closely and rally encouragement at every setback, and there those who some view as strict critics. These vocal citizens of gaming occasionally come off as naysayers but in my experience, the accountability these fans expect comes from a place of true fandom. One such Pantheon member serves as a reminder that fans can sometimes be our harshest critics as well as our biggest cheerleaders.

Finn, welcome to the spotlight! We are happy to have you.

Thanks! I must admit, I was a bit surprised by the invitation – I know I’m not always VR’s biggest cheerleader. Still, absolutely happy to be here.

Differing opinions make for a stronger community and a better game. We may not always like what we hear, but we will listen and consider it.

First, can you share with us how you came to learn of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and what drove you to put money towards its development?

Ever since crowdfunded MMOs became a thing, I have tried to keep an eye on the various projects starting up. The standard MMO formula has been played out, in my opinion, and I was looking for something that really captured that “virtual world” aspect I think has been lost in the AAA approach to the genre.

I believe I first heard mention of Pantheon while following another crowdfunded project, Chronicles of Elyria (yeah, I know…big oof). VR’s project seemed interesting – I have felt that MMOs had gone down the wrong “evolutionary branch” for a while now – and I hadn’t yet become as jaded with crowdfunded projects as I am now. I figured, why not throw a little money at it?

If I recall, this was all right at the tail end of Project Faerthale (yeah, I know…oof again), so they were hyping up the game and it seemed like it had a lot of potential. I stepped up my pledge hoping to get into the action a bit more, and, well…we all know how that ended up, unfortunately.

Even with that somewhat sour turn, I remain excited for what Pantheon is trying to do. It’s ambitious, and Joppa’s (and the team’s) vision for what makes a great MMO seems to be in lock-step with what I am looking for.

This is very similar to my feelings. I’ve funded a handful of games because I believe the future of MMORPGs is in the independent studios where creativity thrives.

We would love to learn about your gaming resume. Are you a hardcore MMORPG fan? What games have caught your attention in the past? Any first loves?

I am a huge MMORPG fan. I grew up in a Sci-Fi family – Star Trek, Star Wars, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Might & Magic, Ultima, Tolkien, Dragonlance…all the classics. When Ultima Online first launched, we were all just floored by the concept and design. Being able to share a persistent virtual world with hundreds/thousands of other people was mind-blowing. Then came Everquest. The amazement grew, and I was hooked.

World of Warcraft, Star Wars Galaxies, Dark Age of Camelot, Runescape, Final Fantasy 11, on and on through just about every AAA MMO in the last 25 years.

I probably consider Vanilla World of Warcraft to be the MMO that set the standard for me. It was an established IP I liked, it polished almost all of the “problems” I felt EQ had, and it did it in a way that, for many years, continued to flourish and expand…up until they began losing themselves in all the things we now criticize modern MMOs for. It forgot its roots. It took the wrong evolutionary branch.

Since then, the hunt for a “great MMO” has been ongoing. I still love the genre, but the available options have either become too dated, too played out, or simply just too…bad. Pantheon, and a few other in-development indie projects, keep my hopes that the genre can be reinvigorated alive.

Some followers of a game are happy to sit on the sidelines and watch things unfold, but you are very active in the community and follow development closely. Is this your usual approach when waiting for a game, or is this passion specific to Pantheon?

I would say this is my usual approach for crowdfunded projects I choose to actively follow (to the chagrin of more than one indie developer). If I am actively following, it is because I am passionate about what the project is trying to accomplish. While Pantheon isn’t the only project that I have been passionate about, it is one of the few remaining that is actually still being developed.

Additionally, the community is still small enough that you aren’t drowned out by the masses. You have the opportunity to get to know people, interact with the developers, and feel more engaged with the project as a whole.

That being said, Pantheon does hold a special place because I believe it is trying to go back and take the other evolutionary branch that was ignored as MMOs advanced. It’s focusing on concepts and philosophies that have gotten lost over the years of “McMMOs”, and I am excited to see what VR can deliver. It’s not always a smooth ride, and I tend to be critical by nature (and by profession). That can result in some conflict when evaluating things, particularly with a project that has been as tumultuous as this one. However, it ultimately comes from a desire to see them succeed – if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother.

I firmly believe this to be true and it is why I am such an advocate for the community.

You are one of the handful of members who regularly hold the team responsible for decisions and communication. May I ask what the end goal is here? Is there anything you would like to share with the greater Pantheon community regarding the role you have taken within the group of members who interact with the developers? NDA covered info excluded, of course.

That is the million dollar question, right? Why is Finn the way he is? I feel like that to answer that question fully, I need to provide some context.

As a follower of many indie MMO projects over the years, I have generally observed that communities around projects tend to turn into echo chambers extremely quickly. Whether that is due to just trying to be supportive, trying to curry favor, wanting to avoid conflict, or because some people truly do agree with what the developers are doing, things get super culty. The more turbulent things get, the more that echo chamber tends to close ranks and double down.

I am the dissenting voice. (Sav side note: This works well with Finn’s batman-esque voice)

Ok, that’s a bit melodramatic…not to mention egotistical.

Seriously, though – I believe that, as fans and supporters, it is vital we always provide honest and direct feedback about ALL aspects of development, the good and the bad. Confirmation bias is an ugly thing, and silence can be construed as support. If you have an issue or believe something is being done in a way that isn’t driving results, it is important to speak up. You may not always be right, you may sometimes not have all the pieces, but you give feedback on what you have in front of you. Perception is key to outside observers, and sometimes that perspective needs to be felt by the dev team to get a glimpse at how their potential lack of transparency is having an impact.

This is doubly true for people who are unhappy, yet still passionate and hopeful for the project. Given how easy it is to shrug and go, “Eh, another indie project struggling…I’ll just bail and wait to hear something new on Reddit,” or “Every time I try to bring something up, people just shout me down and tell me to stop being negative,” it’s those unhappy yet passionate followers who need to maintain their voice. The developers need to hear what is making people unhappy and why, from people who still actually care about the project. If you don’t speak up, then that confirmation bias from the echo chamber becomes a tempting opiate for the developers to justify “things are going great.”

If a developer sets expectations for things like transparency, open development, forthright communication, delivery of results, etc…it’s up to the community to hold them accountable for those things – to the extent they are able with both their voice and their wallet.

Well said and I think many would agree.

What are you looking forward to the most in Pantheon? What is the least important feature for you?

Perception. If I had to pick the one thing that caught my eye more than anything else when reviewing the goals for Pantheon, it was absolutely the potential of the perception system. Pushing interaction with the world in a more organic way is one of the primary things I feel modern MMOs have been missing – it’s all sparkly paths and quest markers and neon signs telling your where to go and what to click. The perception system is supposed to turn that on its head, and I can’t wait to see what happens with it.

Oh, and Pantheon has bards. Huge fan of the bard class, and it’s been a while since an MMO has done them justice. As long as they don’t put them in plate…

I don’t know that there is a “least important feature” – at least in the context of what Pantheon seems to be trying to do. It’s all connected, it all works together to form a cohesive whole for the vision that is Pantheon.

I can say that a mindset I think is least important and needs to die out is that of “Pantheon needs to do X because that is what EQ did!”, or the inverse of “Pantheon shouldn’t do Y because that is what WoW does!” I strongly believe that Pantheon has its tenets, those tenets are fantastic, and it should feel comfortable finding inspiration from whatever source helps it meet those tenets. It shouldn’t feel bound just because some other MMO did/did not do something.

Pantheon is Pantheon, not those other MMOs. As such, it needs to find and embrace what is best for Pantheon, not what is best to remake EQ or avoid any hint of WoW.

Some of us have a life outside of gaming, what do you like to do in your free time? Any particular interests?

You mean besides arguing in Discord about transmog and debating the virtues of indirect socialization in an MMO? I am a voracious reader; I probably read 2 or 3 books a week. I started reading at a very young age and immediately fell in love with exploring all the vast, magical worlds locked away behind a 6 x 9 inch cover (it didn’t hurt that my dad had bookshelves full of great sci-fi books). I have been on this litRPG kick for a while, and while there is a not-so-quiet part of my mind that says, “This is not quality writing…”, I still love it – it’s so much fun.

I’ve also really been enjoying learning to cook more. When COVID hit, I began mostly out of both necessity and boredom, but now I am really starting to get into it – to the chagrin of my waistline. Still can’t seem to get a handle on a good cheese sauce, but Vandraad had been helping me out.

Other than that, my life is pretty low-key. Work, game, read, cook, hang out with the wife, be happy – with permission from the cats, of course.

Thank your cats for me, they are merciful and benevolent overlords.

What is something that we might be surprised to know about you, Finn?

I think some people who have interacted with me in Discord would be surprised to know that I am actually a really nice guy when not in “debate mode”. I enjoy passionate debate, but at the end of the day I’m here because I support the project, the people, and the genre. As Joppa would say, onwards and upwards.

Oh, and I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue, so there’s that as well.

Oh my.

I have never doubted that you were a nice guy, I think that comes through. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your support and feedback, Finn, and I hope the community enjoyed getting to know you.

If you are interested in supporting Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and would like to get your feedback heard, please check out our pledge page to find out how to get started.

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