November 2021 Producers’ Letter

November 2021 Producers’ Letter

Chris “Joppa” Perkins, Adam “Tehom” Mostel

Esteemed Pantheon Community,

Welcome to our November newsletter! There’s quite a bit to unpack this month so let’s dive in!

Heads Down in November

With the recent conversion to HDRP we are enjoying the immense improvement in graphical fidelity and the performance gains from our sleek new asset streaming technology. This transition has also defined our immediate development priorities. At the top of the list is the process of asset conversion. This is the work of converting all of our game assets (NPC models, environment props, visual effects, etc.) to the new HDRP shaders so they will be usable and look correct in the new HDRP format. This process is not difficult, but it is tedious. We are excitedly chewing through the process and will be wrapping up these conversions as quickly as we can. Once our game assets have been converted and our flora tech (grass, ground cover and trees) is in place, we will be ready to show off the true beauty of Pantheon in HDRP.

In addition, we are gearing up for the big push to replace our network stack. As we’ve stated previously, our goal has been to lay out as much runway for the game’s overall development before networking begins to ensure the game is progressing rapidly towards Alpha and to protect the focus of our Programming team so they can stay all-in on networking. We will go into a bit more detail of what this pre-networking work is, but probably the most significant piece is the update to our combat system. If you’ve seen us mention this the past few months and have wondered what we mean, allow us to elaborate a bit more.

Combat System Improvements

In October’s newsletter, we revealed that work had begun on introducing a number of improvements to our underlying combat systems. The design team is currently hard at work on implementation, but we wanted to begin sharing some of the underlying vision and goals behind these updates.

Ability Adjustments

We’ve previously communicated that our vision for combat Pantheon is one that steers away from the rotation-based approach that is so pervasive in tab-targeting MMORPGs, and instead encourages tactical decision-making, teamwork, and conscientious resource management. We believe that it’s important for abilities in Pantheon to feel impactful, and part of how we intend to achieve that is by emphasizing the costs, benefits, and risks associated with when and why an ability is used.

Whether it’s spending mana for a heal, risking time to launch a powerful offensive spell, or holding back for a team maneuver, our goal is to create inflection points throughout the course of an encounter – and in the moments in-between – where the emphasis is on players using powerful skills at opportune moments rather than trying to maintain uptime for the sake of uptime.

Nearly all of our class resources, ability costs, cooldowns, and potencies are being adjusted to better meet this vision, and we are introducing new functionality and features intended to reward mindful ability use and team coordination.

Attribute & Stat Adjustments

The importance of individual stats in Pantheon – be they core attributes, skills, or other modifiers – is paramount to creating the iconic and desirable itemization model we have in mind. Individual point gains should feel like a noticeable improvement, and the tighter we constrain those numbers while enhancing their effects, the more we can ensure that loot maintains value and longevity.

We have overhauled these aspects of the game to create better clarity in what individual attributes contribute to, and to promote desirability in attributes that may not otherwise be considered ‘core’ to a given class. By taking a ground-up approach to these improvements, we have also made substantial enhancements to the underlying formulas and sub-stats that enable us to create items with even more nuanced benefits, as well as significant gains to the effects of buffs and debuffs that influence these stats.

Class Identity

Having distinct classes with their own strengths and weaknesses is a core tenet of Pantheon’s development, and our combat improvements will allow us to explore the depth of those differences more than ever. Feeding off the changes to our attributes and skills, we are able to better specify where our classes excel over others. For example, Wizards – though undisputed masters of direct damage – may find that not only are their debuffing spells fewer, but that they don’t land quite as reliably as an Enchanter’s.

These differences have been extrapolated across the entire spectrum of core combat skills – both offensive and defensive – and are intended to synergize with our goals for deliberate ability choices and expanded itemization options to encourage players to weigh between enhancing their strengths or shoring up their weaknesses based on their personal goals and their role in a team, and to embark on further adventures to build up their arsenal.

Difficulty Adjustments

Part of our combat improvements includes updating how level influences an individual player’s power, and their ability to take on an opponent of relative level. We’ve recognized that our prior approach to this was incompatible with our goals for rarer, more iconic itemization, and frequently left players feeling inadequate if they hadn’t been lucky enough to acquire upgrades.

Players and enemies alike will now receive base power increases with levels gained. Coupled with our enhancements to attributes, players should feel that they are better able to meet the growing challenges of the game as they level, while also feeling the substantial benefits from rare loot whether acquired at level 1 or level 50.

As a result of these adjustments, we’ve also re-defined our target difficulty levels for different group sizes. Our intent is that players should feel the world and their options expand as they grow, yet always feel incentivized to form teams to take on challenges greater than themselves and be rewarded for doing so. These changes allow us to better achieve both aspects of that vision.

There are many more exciting details to reveal about our combat system improvements, and we look forward to demonstrating them to our community in the near future.

ROADMAP TO ALPHA PROGRESS

Design Complete – Denotes items that have a complete and ratified design document and are awaiting an implementation plan.
To Do – Denotes items that have a finished implementation plan and are scheduled, but work has not yet begun. This can also apply to items that are partially implemented that are awaiting additional work to be fully completed.
In Progress – Denotes items that are currently being worked on but are not yet ready for Alpha release.
Complete – Items that are in-game and ready for Alpha release.

Items marked UPDATED have a new status or information from last month’s Producer’s Letter.

Programming & Design

NPC Combat Awareness: Complete
What it is: Support for advanced NPC decision-making and tactics based on their knowledge of the surrounding environment.

• Ongoing Combat Awareness content will be added to the game as more NPCs and encounters are developed on the road to Alpha.

Asset & Terrain Streaming: Complete
What it is: Development of technology to support performant streaming (both client and network) of game assets, visuals, and server data.

HDRP Conversion: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Conversion of our existing project to a new rendering pipeline to allow for higher definition graphics, more powerful rendering tools, and improved client performance.

• Odin has been successfully connected to the HDRP streaming tech.
• Work is ongoing to migrate individual assets (world props, character models, etc.) to be compatible within the new HDRP client. This is currently the primary focus of our world building efforts.
• Our Flora system (grass/ground cover/trees) will be implemented soon.
• Supported terrain layers (number of textures) has been increased from 8 to 16, enhancing biome diversity and transition quality.
• Initiated planning of Day/Night and Water system implementation.

Class Development: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Implementation of remaining core class components such as unique resources, mechanics, and UI.

• Implemented changes to underlying formulas to support combat system improvements.
• Reminder: due to outstanding dependencies, deployment of the Ranger and Summoner classes remain on hold until the integration of our new Networking stack is complete.

Network Overhaul: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Development of a custom network solution to enable performant player concurrency and server-side calculations on the required scale of an MMORPG.

• Last month we reported that work on our network overhaul was being rescheduled for early November due to the re-prioritization of programming work on: (1) planned revisions to our combat systems and (2) customer service functions to provide better support in future testing sessions. These efforts have taken longer than expected, but we are nearing the finish line and plan to begin work on the networking overhaul soon.

Pets: To Do
What it is: Development of the systems and user-interface required to support permanent and temporary player-controlled minions.

• Scheduled for implementation once the new networking is in place.

Ability Loadouts: To Do
What it is: Development of a tool to allow players to save and load pre-defined hotbar configurations.

Gathering and Crafting: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Development of supporting tools, UI, and infrastructure for the implementation of Gathering and Crafting content, gameplay, and progression.

• Work to place additional harvesting nodes within the new HDRP project is scheduled to begin soon.
• Improvements were made to the mechanics of gathering interactions.

Perception System: To Do
What it is: While we are able to support preliminary implementations of Perception content, additional development is needed for supporting tools and UI required to implement Perception and its related features and progression on a larger scale with the quality intended for Alpha and beyond.

Faction: To Do
What it is: While the Faction system is fully integrated and working, additional development is needed to support leveraging Faction for other aspects of gameplay, such as gaining access to specific Tasks, Storylines, Merchants, etc.

Climbing Improvements: To Do
What it is: Refinements to the existing Climbing system to introduce a climbing-specific resource and related UI, associate Climbing with an improvable skill, implement new surface types with different climbability challenges, and improve climbing animations.

Swimming: To Do
What it is: Implementation of a swimming locomotion system including support for Z-axis movement, the creation of a new suite of swimming animations, and implementation of a water system.

Acclimation: To Do
What it is: Implement improvements to the Acclimation user experience by improving the audiovisual components, improving the UI and Glyph acquisition/equipment systems, and implementing additional climates.

Dispositions and Traits: In Progress
What it is: Develop systems required to improve the support for Disposition and Trait spawning rules, as well as dedicated UI components to display Dispositions and Traits to players.

• Development of additional dispositions and traits is ongoing and will continue into Alpha.

LFG Tool: To Do
What it is: Develop a UI and supporting infrastructure to allow players to list themselves as looking for a group, or looking for additional members, using specified criteria in order to find other players to pursue shared gameplay goals.

Basic Guild System: To Do
What it is: Develop a UI and supporting infrastructure to allow players to form guilds with a private chat channel, basic hierarchies, and membership management commands.

Banks: To Do
What it is: Develop a UI and supporting infrastructure to support the storage and retrieval of items.

Improve Starting Experience for New Players: In Progress
What it is: Develop tutorialization to introduce players to gameplay basics. Add and refine content in starting areas to provide a robust and engaging early-game experience.

Art

Zones: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Develop game zones to support planned content and gameplay. Convert greyboxed zones to sculpted terrain and develop with unique props and environment art passes to realize aesthetic goals.

• Work is ongoing to create environmental props and final art for Wild’s End, and has proceeded into its associated dungeon, The Gate.
• Our greybox-to-sculpted-terrain conversion is in the following state of progress:
• Kingsreach Continent
• Thronefast – 100%
• Avendyr’s Pass – 100%
• Black Rose Keep – 75%
• Silent Plains- 100%
• Eastern Plains – 100%
• Wild’s End – 100%
• Veil of Azeris – 100%
• Faerthale – 100%
• The Murk – 100%
• Coasts & Seafloor – 50%
• Outlying Islands – 0%

Player Models: To Do
What it is: Rig remaining player race models (Skar, Dark Myr, Archai) so they can be animated and conform all non-Human races and genders to our entity outfitting system so they can equip/unequip armor dynamically.

NPC Models: In Progress
What it is: Develop new NPC and creature models for use in world population and content development.

Animations: In Progress UPDATED
What it is: Develop player and NPC animations to support locomotion, combat, emotes, and other gameplay.

• Completed review and refinement pass on humanoid hovering animations when wielding weapons.

Audio

Audio: In Progress
What it is: Develop environmental soundscapes, create unique sound effects for players and NPCs, and introduce ambient and signature music.

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