October 2021 Producers’ Letter

October 2021 Producers’ Letter

Chris “Joppa” Perkins, Adam “Tehom” Mostel & Ben “Machail” Dean

Esteemed Pantheon Community,

October’s newsletter is here! We have a lot of Pantheon to unpack for you in this milestone month, so let’s get right to it!

The Open World of Terminus

In our latest Developer Stream, we dropped the major news that with our new streaming technology, players will experience Pantheon as a true, open-world game. This means that you will be able to roam freely throughout the overland of Terminus without loading screens or wait times when traveling into new areas, though the paths you take may require you to possess certain equipment, skills, magical enchantment or perhaps some combination of the three. This is a huge step forward towards achieving our goal of making Pantheon the quintessential adventure and exploration-based MMORPG experience.

However, with this announcement came a measure of concern from certain parts of our community. The notion of open-world gameplay brings with it the expectation that NPCs will be “leashed”, meaning they will eventually stop chasing a player and return to their spawn area, instead of chasing a player indefinitely. The concern is primarily that leashed NPCs are not as dangerous since they will eventually give up pursuit, allowing players to trivialize the danger of moving through parts of the world.

To these concerns we want to say: rest assured, you can expect the same quality of design and creativity when it comes to the way NPCs pursue players as you’ve come to expect from our other game systems. By leveraging our Disposition and Trait systems, we can conceive of all manner of NPCs with special behaviors, resistances, counters and abilities to make getting away from them as easy or challenging as we like. As with all of our NPCs, you can expect a wide variety of skill and flavor when it comes to how a specific NPC type will pursue a player, and in some cases this may even mean a longer chase than zoning would have allowed for!

The other side of the coin is this: we are committed to creating immersive exploration. To that end, giving players the chance to get away from enemies is exactly the kind of thing that encourages risk taking and brings adventure to life – and that is what Pantheon is all about.

New Refer-a-Friend Program

On last week’s stream we announced Pantheon’s new Refer-a-Friend Program. Now you can earn rewards by telling your friends (or strangers!) about Pantheon. If they pledge, you earn perks. You can check out the current perks here. You can also offer your feedback on the program and its rewards by going to this discussion on our forums and weighing in.

We are also considering a guild reward system, where guilds can actively earn rewards for growing their community. More details on this as it unfolds.

COMBAT SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS

Thanks to the data and feedback we’ve gathered from pre-alpha sessions and focus tests over the summer, our design team has identified a number of opportunities for improvements to the core combat experience in Pantheon.

Our design goals for combat in Pantheon have always been to encourage and reward tactical choices, group synergy, and game knowledge. The importance of a player’s equipment, the abilities they choose to bring into combat, and their management of resources over the span of a fight are critical to making combat in Pantheon feel fun and engaging, and we believe that we can do an even better job of realizing that gameplay promise than we have to date.

While we aren’t ready to share all of the details yet, our VIP testers can look forward to more deliberate combat pacing, more meaningful stats, incentives to use abilities at key moments, and more emphasis on the importance of buffing and debuffing actions, among many other exciting features.

The team is hard at work aligning our current content and classes to this new standard, and we’re excited to share more with our community in the coming months.

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.

In addition, beginning this month we have broken out our roadmap items both into the development areas responsible for them, as well as their relative priorities in development – though it should be understood that many of these items can and are worked concurrently by different team members.

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.

• We have successfully migrated the existing project to Unity’s High Definition Rendering Pipeline. Progress on converting previously greyboxed zones to HDRP terrain will be reported under zone development below.
• The HDRP project has been connected to the existing networking solution to allow gameplay in the HDRP client.
• Work is ongoing to migrate individual assets (world props, character models, etc.) to be compatible within the new HDRP client.
• Work has begun to connect Odin (our content creation tool) to the HDRP asset streaming tech.

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

• When we initially revealed the Monk class, many in our community noted that the Monk featured a number of distinct mechanics and gameplay elements previously unseen in Pantheon, and asked if earlier-implemented classes would receive updates taking advantage of these new features. As we develop tools to support our initial designs for class and NPC abilities, we often gain other functionality that can be re-applied elsewhere to improve the overall experience. As alluded to in our mention of Combat System Improvements above, all of our classes have undergone a review and design pass to ensure they are taking advantage of these newly-available tools to best deliver on promised class fantasies.
• 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 slated to begin at the beginning of October. Unfortunately we have needed to push this target back to early November due to the following reasons:
• A significant compatibility issue which arose during HDRP implementation, requiring coordination with Unity to resolve.
• Re-prioritization of programming resources to support gathering implementations, planned combat revisions, and customer service functions.

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.

• Ongoing work to place available gathering nodes
• Expanded the new dynamic world spawning ruleset to include all world items beyond gathering nodes (e.g. ground spawned resources)
• Introduced an additional 17 types of gatherable ore

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.

Wild's End Progress Oct 2021

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.

• Conversion of existing greybox zones to a sculpted terrain, wherein terrain has been sculpted and shaped to match planned zone layouts, has begun and is in the following states for each zone targeted for alpha:
• 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%
• Work is ongoing to create environmental props and final art for Wild’s End.

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.

• Added a new spinning 1-handed weapon attack animation.
• Corrected an issue in our animation control rig causing weapons to float or disappear during animations.
• Initiated a review of the quality of our combat animations, and began to resolve issues and inconsistencies as identified.

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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