Producer’s Letter – March 2021

Producer’s Letter – March 2021

The big word around the office lately is “Alpha One.” Today we are going to dive into what Alpha One means, why it’s important and what we are doing to get there. We will list items still needing work prior to Alpha to give you an idea of what remains to be done. This is not a date for Alpha, but a high level scope of work.

You no doubt noticed the subtle “One” succeeding the word “Alpha.” A more traditional Alpha would serve function over form and some of the unessential bells and whistles would be excluded. But Pantheon Alpha will be different. Thousands of people will experience Pantheon for the first time in Alpha. We are in an era where certain expectations are set when it comes to a first hands-on look at a game. For better or worse, we do need to consider form as well. If resources are going into form and function, then we need to be judicious about which features are included at the start of alpha, which are introduced later in alpha, and which, if any, are left for beta. Let me also be clear that the goal is not for Alpha to be representative of launch-ready, but Alpha needs to be much more polished than a traditional Alpha would otherwise require. Do not consider it early access. Unlike early access titles, only a small portion of the game’s content will be available for Alpha One, and several of its systems will only be available as a first iteration.

That is where the “One” comes in. Alpha will have several phases like Pre-Alpha. The sessions will be longer than the 3-5 hour sessions that have been the established norm for Pre-Alpha. In terms of planning, we have now scoped what we feel is essential for Day One of Alpha. These Day One essentials are all part of Alpha One.

The list of essentials is a big one. We know with our current team size that this would take some time to complete. So a big part of this year is exploring options on how to finish Alpha One production in a reasonable timeframe. Our current options are to add more resources or to descope some of the features for A1. A little of both will be done before the year is over. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the features that are targeted for Alpha One. This is not a complete list.

1. Classes. We want to add the remaining classes. The groundwork is done for most classes and they are ready to start receiving their ability sets, but there are a couple unique functionality class abilities that require extra consideration. I’m looking at you, Ranger and Summoner. It is still possible that A1 will not launch with all classes, but will have at least 9 of the 12.
2. Pets. This goes hand-in-hand with Classes. Pets need to come back into the game in a scalable, sustainable way.
3. NPC Combat Awareness. Short description: better AI.
4. URP and Networking. Big asterisk on this one. Let’s come back to it after the list.
5. Basic Guild functionality.
6. Perception System fleshed out. We’ve seen the basics. Time to add in the skill framework, Tome of Keeping and path(s) of progression.
7. Harvesting and Crafting needs to be fleshed out.
8. Banks to keep all your loots.
9. Further refine Acclimation. More climates and atmospheres to be added as well as more functionality for them.
10. More work needs to be done on climbing. It needs skill-based functionality so you can improve in climbing. Some other considerations are being tweaked along with it.
11. More dispositions need to be added. We’ve seen pyrophobic. Many more are coming.
12. We would like to add the capability to load ability/spell sets so you don’t have to spend a ton of time manually selecting spells & abilities you have already saved to a loadout.
13. The return of swimming.
14. We need an LFG tool for people to find or fill groups.
15. More factions are being worked on and implemented as we speak.
16. There needs to be some sort of onboarding for new players. We don’t want to hold anyone’s hand, but we do need a way to show players how to play, particularly with systems like crafting.
17. More player and NPC models needed.
18. More animations needed.
19. More audio, better audio.
20. We are shooting for complete, non-grayboxed zones for Alpha One to represent a level 1-30 experience. The full zone list will be available closer to A1 launch. Alpha One will not be all of Kingsreach as we had previously set as an early goal. More zones will be added in later Alpha phases, some of which you have already seen in early forms, others will be all-new.

Some items may be missing from this list for a full alpha experience. Please keep in mind that this is only a list for Alpha One. Day one of alpha is very different from the last day of alpha before heading into beta, which will have the remaining features and content we have outlined in the past, such as all of Kingsreach.

Now, let’s go back to that big asterisk of the URP and Networking. Converting the entire project to a Universal Render Pipeline allows for better performance, more advanced shaders and simplicity in creating shaders. The Networking component is in preparation to support the thousands of players we have coming in. The engine is complete and smashingly performant, but it still needs to be integrated. These are BIG tasks. They are going to take our lead programmer’s attention for several months. So right now Kyle and Rob are getting some tooling in place so that the rest of the team can keep working when he goes heads down into the Universal Render Pipeline and Networking stuff.

This means that much of the progress will be in the code, and not stuff we can show on screen. The other work will still be done in the background, but until the URP and Networking are done it will be difficult to show. This primarily affects PA testers and streams. However, there is a ton of content already prepared that we can show and test during that time. Just don’t expect big zone reveals or anything like that until after the URP and Network updates are done.

We will keep you updated from month to month with the status of the above items and more. Once we are certain of a date, we will publish it. We won’t publish it until we are 100% certain of that date. So please don’t expect to see a solid date soon, but do expect to see the progress as we move forward.

Welcome Adam Mostel

We are pleased to announce a new designer has joined the Pantheon team! Adam “Tehom” is a guild leader, hardcore raider, roleplayer, and content locust. He comes to the team with over 6 years of experience overseeing critical operations in Fortune 500 companies, with a specialty for tackling complex process architecture and data management. Melding his professional expertise with his background as a solo developer and creating stories as part of live events teams, Adam is excited to tackle his first Pantheon challenge of systemizing and propagating the complex web that is the Perception system.

And Now for Some Pre-Alpha Test Session Dates

Thought we’d sneak this in here at the end of a somewhat meaty Producer’s Letter.

The next PA5 sessions are scheduled for Saturday April 10 and Sunday April 11, 2021. These sessions will include Thronefast, Halnir Cave, Avendyr’s Pass, and new to PA: Blackrose Keep and Fortress DeViare! The classes available will be the Enchanter, the Dire Lord, Rogue, Wizard and Shaman. There have been massive amounts of tuning, fixes and improvements to these classes, so expect a different testing experience.

The focus of these sessions will be on combat tuning, particularly on itemization, and even more specifically on the stamina stat. We are looking for data on how gear is affecting your combat, and how stamina is affecting your gameplay.

Testers can select one of two 5-hour sessions for both Saturday and Sunday. See the Pre-Alpha forums and check your email inboxes for more details on how to select your test session. If you are not currently a Pre-Alpha tester, you can still participate by selecting a VIP pledge.

Thanks once again, Pantheon readers, testers and fans. We are getting there! 2021 is shaping up to be an incredible year for us all. We appreciate your continued support, suggestions, and company. Without you this project would not exist.

Ben Dean
Project Producer
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen

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