Posted date / 08.08.18

Pantheon Community,

Allow me to begin this column by immediately addressing some questions you’re asking:

You will not find a date for alpha, beta or launch in these paragraphs.

This fall.

A delinquent dragon.

I like to get to those answers right away for anyone who is pressed for time and looking for the abridged version of this article. For the rest of you who are probably scratching your heads wondering just what questions are being asked here, read on to learn more about all of our past phases, how they’re contributing to future phases, in our overall march to Pantheon’s launch, and what is coming up for PA4.

We never get tired of hearing questions like, “when is alpha?” or beta, or launch. When someone asks it’s often because they’re excited to play. They’re a fan. Or an upcoming Jeopardy contestant. Usually a fan. And any time you’re able to be a part of something other people are excited about it’s hard not to feel good.

Let me tell you, announcing that we were going into Pre-Alpha 1 (PA1) late last year felt great. Not only were a lot of people dying to get into the game, but we were finally able to show off some of the work we’ve been doing to people who understood the vision for Pantheon. It was a wonderful time here at Visionary Realms and spirits were high. Even after, the question was still being asked. After PA1, when is PA2? After PA2, when is PA3? And now that we’re in PA3, when are we looking into PA4? And just how many PAs are there, anyway? When is this game going to launch?

Purpose of PA Sessions

First, let me outline the purpose of the previous PA sessions to help explain how we’re building toward launch.

PA1 was an introduction. It was a very basic single-zone experience where PA testers logged in for a couple hours a week at set intervals to help us understand where the game was, from a raw perspective. There was little to do apart from exploring the zone and killing a few bats and skeletons but it gave us an idea of how the infrastructure was going to hold up, and how testers were interacting with the environment and basic mechanics.

In PA2 we opened up Halnir Cave and testers were crawling through the dungeon with more refined class abilities. This gave us some perspective on where there were bottlenecks, which areas were becoming the most popular and finding more bugs that the internal testing team hadn’t yet uncovered.

PA3 officially launched July 11th. This pre-alpha is the first “world build” where we have four zones up and they’re all connected via zonelines (instead of just clicking a portal stone) and every zone has focused content. Thronefast is our newbie zone, Avendyr’s pass is our exterior leveling zone with lots of pockets of content, as we saw in the recent stream with CohhCarnage, Halnir Cave is an entry level to mid-level dungeon and Black Rose Keep is a compact mid-level zone with narrow halls and thicker mob density. We played around in the ramparts of Black Rose Keep on the All-Star Stream. Having all four zones up and observing where the testers are gravitating towards gives us solid data to figure out where we need more content, polish, loot, or a myriad of other considerations.

As mentioned, it’s the first time that testers are experiencing the world in an “as-intended” manner by connecting the zones together. It seems like such a small thing, but it’s surprising how much a simple thing like a zone line can heighten your immersion. The first time I zoned from Thronefast to Avendyr’s Pass by following the road I told Joppa that it was that instant that Pantheon first felt like a world to me. That’s a pretty big moment.

What's Coming Up

So what’s coming up for PA4 and when is it? Work has already begun. The design team is currently finishing off the refining of the design docs while programming and QA are finishing up work on the PA3 build, addressing many of the reported bugs. The artists already have a lot of work done for the new zone Faerthale and are adding more assets like models, animations and visual effects. They are also working on zone building and placements.

Soon, programming will shift focus from PA3 to concentrate solely on PA4. QA will continue gathering data from PA3 for fixes but much of that won’t be implemented until the PA4 build. Meanwhile, the technology group has been finding some very important data points from PA3 that is helping us prepare for PA4 and beyond. They are also working on some top-secret backend stuff that is a major building block for an online service.

PA4 will have all 12 classes implemented up to level 40 and a lot of attention is being given to the combat experience. Abilities, spells and skills are being fleshed out and, in some cases, replaced. Every action and interaction are being audited and polished. PA3 testers are already seeing some of this work being reflected in the latest builds. By PA4 testers should see a combat system that is more involved, more intricate, more acutely balanced, more shiny and plainly just more fun.

Finally, PA4 will include our first pass at harvesting.

PA4 This Fall

PA4 will be available to our pre-alpha testers this fall.

And just how many PA phases are there before alpha? We can’t answer that just yet. The idea, though, is to use PA4 as a reference point, or a reference zone, as Joppa spoke about in June. This means that by PA4 most systems will be in place. The small remainder of systems will be added prior to alpha, but for all intents and purposes the core Pantheon experience will be available for PA4 and beyond. This means that in PA5 and onward more world building can be done. Systems will continue to be refined but will no longer need to be built. That accelerates things greatly so expect the later PA sessions to come a lot quicker and more regularly than the early Pre-Alphas.

Then, it’s time for Alpha, which will be a (mostly) content-complete continent. Earlier this year we aimed to have Alpha available by year’s end but we’ve restructured our approach since then, so don’t expect Alpha this year. It’s coming, and unless you’re one of those upcoming Jeopardy contestants, we know you’re excited. We are too, but it’s more important to us to make sure we take the time to get it right than to rush a date. Kind of like raising a dragon. It takes a while, but you want to be sure you do it well. Because no one likes a delinquent dragon.

Thank you for your continued support, enthusiasm and patience.
Ben “Machail” Dean
Producer, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen