January 2022 Producer’s Letter

January 2022 Producer’s Letter

Greetings once again, dear Pantheon fans. Another year is upon us and 2022 is shaping up to be a big one.

First and foremost, 2022 continues our push towards an Alpha release. As the High Definition Render Pipeline work finishes up we have only a few more systems to integrate on a basic level this year and the rest of the work is focused more on building out the world. This is incredibly exciting all around. Expect staffing to bulk up a bit this year to tackle this work.

The Pantheon team has already expanded in December with the addition of Holly LeMay as an Associate Concept Artist. Over the past month, Holly has helped tremendously to expand our backlog of concept art that will be used to inform NPCs, characters, armor, and animations, and we look forward to sharing her work with the community in the near future.

Also exciting is that we intend to increase awareness of the game this year. Obviously, we have been doing this all along, but it will be a key goal as we get closer to Alpha and the game gets into a more fleshed-out state that can be enjoyed by a wider audience. More specifically, we aim to invite more streamers and influencers, and tell our story to more websites than we have over the past few years. Alpha is a thrilling prospect and it will soon be time to share the game with more people worldwide.

Internally, things are evolving here at Visionary Realms too. With the addition of a dedicated HR staff last year, this year they are preparing for team-wide expansion and setting up the infrastructures, policies and procedures to support more people coming in. They are working hard to ensure that Visionary Realms is not only a fun place to work, but also a fair, humane and thoughtfully-structured experience.

On the technical end, our tech team has big plans for 2022 as well. They are currently working on solutions to improve the Pantheon store and user experience. Expect to see marked improvements this year in navigating, pledging, and interacting. Back-end improvements continue too, setting the foundation for the game to operate cleanly and efficiently and connecting all of our data reliably, securely and competently.

QA is hard at work, currently fleshing out updated test plans for the new HDRP client and beyond. This department, too, is organizing themselves into a solid, scalable structure so when the time comes, they’ll be able to add more to their team and get them up and testing quickly and painlessly. Be sure to check out the Q&A with QA Lead, Kim Morrison in this newsletter to read more on QA’s plans and activities.

Business Development is also running at full steam as we head into 2022. Discussions with potential partners continue and there is a lot of positive momentum for this year. Expect to hear more as these relationships develop.

And what about game development? Well, that’s best summed up in our Roadmap to Alpha update this month. Let’s take a look.

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.

• We are in the process of converting existing VFX to HDRP.
• Flora system finished, awaiting integration.
• Vegetation engine fully integrated, supporting performance-based instancing, all foliage responding to wind volumes, and foliage displacement (bending) when Players/NPCs move through.
• We are beginning the implementation phase of our Day/Night and Water systems.

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

• Dire Lord, Wizard, Monk, Enchanter, and Cleric classes are now in a playtest ready state.
• Paladin, Warrior, Rogue, and Shaman classes are being refined into their playtest ready states.
• We are continuing to tune and refine adjustments to our core combat systems as internal playtesting takes place.
• Reminder: due to outstanding dependencies, deployment of the Ranger, Druid and Summoner classes remain on hold until the integration of our new Networking stack is complete.

Network Overhaul: In Progress
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.

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.

• Established the foundations of our metallic material library of available mineral resources and their associated quality levels. We are preparing to expand this library to include fabric and wood materials.

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 UPDATED
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.

• A Sprinting function has been added, allowing players to run at increased speed for limited durations.
• While not explicitly tied to climbing improvements, the addition of Sprint is the beginning of an expansion of our suite of ‘exploration’ skills utilizing Stamina-driven resources.

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 UPDATED
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.

• Work has begun on the implementation of NPC abilities and traits in-line with updated combat systems.
• 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 its associated dungeon, The Gate
• Our greybox-to-sculpted-terrain conversion is in the following state of progress for zones that have not previously been communicated at 100% completion:
• Kingsreach Continent
• Black Rose Keep – 75%
• Coasts & Seafloor – 50%
• Outlying Islands – 0%
• Zone finishing in progress for Thronefast and Avendyr’s Pass now that all of the necessary art assets have been converted to HDRP.
• Current focus: biome finalization, including terrain textures, trees and general flora.

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

• 3D modeling and material work has been completed for the current suite of Axes, Spears, Glaives, and Shields.

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

• Work will begin in January to create a concept art backlog for needed animations.

Audio

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

Producers’ Letter Monthly Recap Q&A with QA Into the Spotlight