A Month in the Life of Content
Hello Pantheon community, Minus here for this month’s developer feature. With our developers driving in-game content creation in a big way with art and class design, I figured I’d take some time off their plate for this month’s newsletter to talk about my role with Visionary Realms, and how our external content features tie into the Marketing and Public Relations department of our team. As content creation on a personal level has never been bigger, I thought I’d take some time to talk about our process, shedding light on the programs I use, the goals of our content, and give some advice to those looking to start up. Also, I figured I also couldn’t write an article about what I do here at Visionary realms without nerd’ing out a little and talking about the equipment I use. So, let’s get to it!
My Role in a Nutshell
So, what exactly is it that Minus does that makes him worth keeping around at Visionary Realms? Like most of the community, I often ask myself that question too! Jokes aside, it may surprise our community at the depth of my role and some of the responsibilities on my plate, as well as the amount of teamwork it takes to get our content out. It’s important to note that we try not to create a lot of content work for our development team. When coming on board in 2021 this was perhaps the biggest starting focus of my role, and with the partnership of the MPR team, I think we’ve made great strides in shouldering the majority of workload for content creation. If you’re out there saying “let the developers make the game and stop worrying about content,” well good news, we agree with you and that is largely why my role exists.
To start every month, it is my responsibility to plan out the content calendar and how we will deliver content. In collaboration with David “Roenick” Schlow, we review what has been discussed in weekly meetings, and how we can take some of that progress and turn it into a live stream and other content. This isn’t always easy though, as sometimes content is less than a month away from being much more impactful than if we were to show it immediately. This is where an incredible balancing act comes into play with working with the design team, and in particular our Creative Director Chris “Joppa” Perkins, to make it happen. I’ll get into that later in the article as to how each of our content pieces come together.
Once the content is laid out, the heavily lifting begins. A lot of what I do is communication and planning. Luckily, being the social butterfly I am, I enjoy really digging in and building relationships and absorbing all the details of Pantheon’s development. It’s my job to know everything I can about the game, and the progress across all fronts. Not only because I need to speak to the game on live streams, but planning content and deducing what the community will be interested in needs to be thought about much further out than just the monthly content delivery. It’s funny because often I feel like a side title could be “Discusser of all Things” due to the amount that my role ties into just basic communication, and a little digging! I cannot stress how important self-education is when creating any content, whether for a game studio, or as an independent content creator. That’s not just internally around the company either, that’s having a deep root in the community and really staying on top of conversations that occur on our platforms and in outside channels. I feel it’s very important to be heavily connected, and those of you that have messaged me on various platforms have usually seen a quick response.
Once content is planned, it’s all about the work to make it happen. I’ll dig in below to discuss how each of our content offerings comes together, but first I think it’s important to discuss our goals with content and how it’s always top of mind for our team in MPR.
Our Goals with Content
Upon joining Visionary Realms, our monthly cadence was one development stream, a VIP roundtable in video form and roughly a bi-monthly producer’s letter. Being a crowdfunded game, it’s no surprise that our ability to reach our fans, both current fans and future fans, is of utmost importance to keep the project moving along at a strong pace. Like the diversity of the MMORPG fan, the means at which people consume content is also widely diverse. It can range from a 10 second clip on Instagram or TikTok to hour long breakdowns of content via video, written media, or even in podcast form. The goal is to grow our community and help the growth of Pantheon’s development so with that, our content must cater to that wide variety of consumer. It’s much like the audience of an MMORPG, and that diversity of player and consumer makes it really exciting to work on this project, let alone play MMORPGs. Not every player will be heavily into crafting, but it still needs to be there for those that have a passion for it. It’s the same with content. Not everyone may read a newsletter, or watch a video, but the variety on how to keep up with Pantheon is direly important. We don’t make content to please every single person who discovers us, much like we don’t make Pantheon to appease every single gamer out there. Our goal is simply to be proud of what we put out on a personal level and let that float into consumption as it will.
This was my first goal in coming in, and I must give a big shout out to my direct manager Ben Dean. I came in guns blazing, and he has always been very supportive of shaking up our content, adapting as we need to, and trusting me with some rather crazy ideas. Right away, as a former fan and outside supporter of Pantheon, I want to work on bringing back the full newsletter format which was present in earlier years. This medium was important to those who weren’t interested in watching videos for their news, and it could be consumed at their own pace. This also helped us create consistency with our producer’s letter, which would eventually contain our roadmap to Alpha. Also, as you’re reading this newsletter, we’ve already made some decisions to change this up as we will discuss later in the article. It was also important to me that we started highlighting our community again. I remember talking with members of the community before I joined the team, and people were really excited to be featured as a supporter. As a game built on community, I felt this had to come back as it represents Pantheon’s vision greatly.
Aside from bringing back the newsletter, I also wanted to hit the podcast market. As all of our content was mostly video, we did not provide our fans the ability to listen on the go in a proper format. This worked wonderfully with what was once the VIP roundtable hosted by Ben “Kilsin” Walters, as while in video form, there wasn’t video to really consume in this offering. Thus, we converted this to a podcast offering that would become a development podcast featuring different development pieces, and eventually Parting the Veil, which would become its own live stream.
That takes us to where we are today, with weekly content for our supporters as a small, crowdfunded studio, which I believe connects us with our community more than most game studios out there. Through a variety of styles of communication, we now offer written articles, a live development stream, a live design discussion stream also released in podcast form, and a VIP supporter meet-the-developers style live discussion, which can be listened to on-demand.
The final piece that was important to me was giving our community a dedicated schedule, with a reliable cadence. This is where our schedule calendar came to materialize. I’ve always said that in content creation it’s important your audience knows when to tune in, and that as the content deliverer you provide consistency and deliver on promised times. This gave us deadlines and goals to ensure we hit because we put it out there and gave our community the ability to plan around the content they enjoyed consuming. Now let’s break down the pieces of content we put out and what goes into them.
The Process of Content Creation
I thought it would be interesting to discuss how our various content pieces come together in quick format to provide quick insight to our community.
Bring Out Your Devs
This VIP exclusive offering is mostly planned and delivered by David “Roenick” Schlow, and most recently our Community Manager Jamie “Savanja” Henry has joined in as a co-host. David sources developers who are working on current projects they can discuss in a means that won’t be publicly released, when not a special release. It is also an opportunity for devs to introduce themselves and talk about their journey in gaming and development. David then sources questions from the community to ask and adds them into his own set of questions. He records the live conversation and then forwards it to me so I can clean up the audio. For this I use Adobe Audition, ensuring to denoise, clean up levels, and perform various tweaks to make the audio more pleasant to consume. David does a great job in planning and executing this content piece, and my role outside equipment setup with OBS for David and testing, is only to clean up the product after recording and export for users to download.
Developers Live Stream
This is by far the heaviest workload for me personally. David is my partner on planning for the developers live stream as we will typically talk weekly about what’s next, even months ahead. David will take on creating advertising images for use on social media, and I will lend a hand when needed. Big shoutout to our new Social Media Manager Ruben Pereira who takes on the advertising piece on our socials. I am then responsible to network heavily across the team and get approval on the content we’ll show. This includes getting videos from the live development server, working with developers to grab snaps or videos of what they are working on in external programs, or working to get concept art ready to show. As stated earlier, it’s important that I take whatever workload I can off the developers themselves, so when I need something from them, I usually set it up well in advance and ensure it’s not a time-consuming process for them. Once I gather all the raw materials needed, I usually start by creating a stream flow document that highlights how conversation will go at a base level and when video content will play and flow to the next conversation. Once I have this in place, I start to refine the footage, clips, and pictures I receive or create myself.
Our goal with the Developers Live Stream is always to be a “show me” stream. We want to show progress; we want to have actual in-game footage; and we want to have a visual component for our community to look forward to. That said, one of the hardest things about developing content while being crowd funded is that often there isn’t as much to show or reveal, so we must pivot and create something entertaining that’s different from our other content. We’ve seen this with gameplay sessions, or big roundtable streams where we have a lot of devs on at once to update us on progress across various departments. Our goal is always show first, but sometimes there are limitations.
To work on the content featured in live streams I use a combination of Adobe Premiere, Adobe Audition, and Adobe Photoshop. To capture, I use OBS with some high format settings, typically recording any footage or clips in at least 1440p, with a huge bitrate of 30,000 to 50,000 Kbps. While I have full capacity to shoot in higher formats, for streaming it’s not needed due to limitations on streaming platforms. Occasionally I’ll record some footage for extra release in higher resolution formats. Typically this content is then exported out at a high quality 1080p format for use on streams. Depending what the content is, it may also require voice overs, as we saw in our March stream for crafting and gathering. Sometimes I’ll record footage while speaking – which leads to a lot of reshoots, or at times I’ll record a lot of footage and record the dialog separately. This allows me to use a lot of footage as it’s relevant in the discussion. For those of you that watched our Monk demonstration video where we talked over the class, this is how it was put together. When possible, I love to record all the audio I can in Audition and then export it and lay it over the video. When I can’t do that, I will often export the audio from the video into Audition and at least clean it up before exporting it back to the original video.
Once all the content looks good, sounds good, and has a flow, it’s then working on the stream itself and preparing OBS, a broadcasting software for delivering streams to various streaming services. This includes creating an updated intro video to feature the topic, as well as preparing the overlays for whomever will be attending the live stream. All the overlay updates and intro/outro videos I’ve created using Premiere and Photoshop, and often require only small changes once the initial workload is put in on creating them.
Finally, once the stream is setup in OBS, I work on a finalized script for the stream to lay out how the flow of conversation will go, and cues for our discussion. While the script is usually written out, it is mostly used as a guide to keep the live stream as organic as possible while hitting the order at which we’re showing things and staying on time. Once I finalize the script, David will go through it to add his own notes or changes if necessary. Then, it’s go-time!
After the stream, I export the content from Twitch and begin editing and post-processing, if any is required. If we have a hiccup on the stream with any content pieces, I’ll replace that piece with the original content, or fix any audio issues that are noted during the stream itself. After that, it’s exported and then uploaded to YouTube, and fully setup, with chaptering if the content lends to that. Let’s just say stream day is a LONG day! This doesn’t include the obsessive nature I have around analytics that I follow very closely on how our content performs. That said, seeing hard work come to fruition is very rewarding, especially when we’re able to really show off the hard work of various developers in a way that makes them proud.
Once it’s all done, we’re already working on the next stream. The developers live stream is a constant piece of focus for the MPR team, from planning to advertising to executing. It’s a huge part of the hours I put in. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to make notes! That said, it’s a constant focus for me to deliver on these streams through daily communication, notes, and outlines. Just to reiterate as well, David is a constant partner in bouncing ideas and planning.
Parting the Veil
Much like Bring out your Devs, Parting the Veil isn’t as production-demanding as our developers live stream. This content piece came to life because of conversations I’d often have with Chris Perkins when it came to content, what to show, or gaining understanding on how to discuss various elements of Pantheon’s design and development. After creating all the streaming assets, basically the workload of Parting the Veil comes from a bi-weekly meeting with Chris and notes we pass to one another in chat or via shared documents. We have a list of topics we want to cover and decide the best time to cover them. Once we pick a topic, we’ll hash out the direction and then I lay out a document of questions for him that I would like to cover on the stream. Once the flow is in the right direction and gets his signoff, we work with Ruben and Jamie to post means in which the community can submit further questions on the topic.
From there we give the community some time to submit questions, and then I pick and choose questions that weren’t already in the script, or that fit well with the topic. I then layer those questions into the outline document and, once approved, I begin making stream assets in Photoshop for them to appear as we discuss on the stream. In creating this content piece, it was very important to both Chris and I that we recognized the community members that asked questions, hence the visual representation that highlights those community members we take questions from.
Our goal is to create some clarity around those topics and explain where we stand. Once the outline script is finalized and approved, we’re ready to go. A lot of what takes place on Parting the Veil is natural communication, as we don’t read from a script but simply stay on target. This was also important to me because the reason this piece exists is due to the excitement our community gets from hearing Chris dig deep into these topics. He’s an amazing voice for Pantheon and being able to share that voice more consistently with the community was something we both felt needed to happen more.
After the stream is over, like the live stream, I prepare it for YouTube but also export the audio separately after cleanup for use on our podcast offering which comes up for users as soon as the stream is over, pending processing and cleanup time.
The newsletter is broken into 4 sections typically:
- Producers Letter – This is written in partnership with Chris Perkins and Ben Dean, along with having the calendar created by David after I set all the dates for the upcoming month’s content.
- Month in Review – This is a quick write-up for people who may have missed our content for the month as well to highlight any external articles or promotions our team may have taken part in that wasn’t via our normal cadence.
- Developer Article – I work with the various departments to prepare articles that cover topics I see the community talking about regularly. I try to be very aware of time constraints when developers are working on various important tasks, so these are often planned well in advance so there’s not a tight deadline. Typically, I will reach out to various developers, discuss topics, and once locked in, I will create a shared document with an outline to complete the document. I then work with the developer on topic flow, assets they may want to include, and any editing as needed. We’ll also look at a review process to see if we want to change anything, or clarify anything in the article, pushing towards submitting the article for signoff.
- Community Spotlight – I work with the MPR team to discuss different community members within our various platforms. I spend a lot of time talking to community members, as well as reading through conversations to get a good understanding. If we see a great story or something someone shares that we think is fun to highlight, we’ll reach out. Once we reach out and the community member would like to participate, I begin outlining the article and I send over questions in a shared document where we can go back and forth with additions or review. Once it’s done, I review the document making any grammatical changes needed and then write an intro and outro before submitting it for approval.
The newsletter process is a fun one, but also very constant like the live stream. It’s not as intense work as preparing content, but it’s a constant flow of communication with developers and community members so that I can avoid quick turn arounds every month. Once the newsletter is submitted for approval – Jason “Medawky” Bolton codes it and Jamie prepares the emailing and posts it to the front page of the site.
The Future of Our Content
One thing we are very excited about as a team is that with monthly Pre-Alpha testing, we’re going to be able to show a lot more gameplay and in-game footage in 2023 than we were able to show in 2022. To add to that, expect to see more streaming sessions from the community, as well as from us as developers streaming more play sessions like the goblin caves. This also allows us to publish out of schedule content that’s shorter form, like the Monk skills video we put out when I joined the team.
As development continues, we’ll be looking to feature more gameplay videos featuring the development of our classes, and expansion of our game world. I cannot tell you how excited I am to cover classes in more depth, and provide short form videos when they are closer to where we want them to be.
However, our content will always evolve. Something we learned is not to get too stuck in repeating the same thing every month. As an example, we have decided to change the newsletter a little bit. Moving forward, expect a change to having the community spotlight and developer articles released as separate offerings on the website, so our written content can be spread out through the month instead of all at once. We’ll still feature the Producers Letter, Alpha Tracker, and month in review at the end of the month, but we will try a variety of new things with our developer articles, like pre-alpha recaps as an example. To add to that, it’s exciting to announce that Jamie will be working with me on how we put out our articles, and she is an accomplished writer. I’m excited to team with her on this process.
Also, as we continue to drive our social media presence, there’s room for shorter form content for platforms like Instagram to get people involved in the community. The future is bright for Pantheon’s content, as we continue to level up the development side of the game. We want to stay focused on showing what we can, rather than just talking about it. We want to offer content in a wide variety of ways, and we want to be consistent with what you can expect when you follow us. We want to continue to ensure the community that supports us, whether by pledges or by spreading the word, can really feel like a part of our development. Being open about development is not an easy task– it leaves us open to criticism more than most studios will ever see–but we accept that challenge and continue to learn from all of you as we drive towards the completion of Pantheon. Having you all along for the ride like never before in any MMORPG before us is something we wear as a badge of honor, no matter how complicated it can be.
Nerd Stuff – My Gear
To all those content creators out there, I can’t go without talking about my setup at least quickly. So, here’s a quick look at the gear and programs I use.
• Logitech Brio 4K Cam (x2)
• Shure SM7B Microphone with a cloud Lifter CL1 Preamp and Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Audio Interface
• 3 27 inch 1440p Monitors (not very fancy ones, this is my next upgrade)
• Elgato Key Light (I also use a few LIFX bulbs in cheap lamps to direct light on me during streams)
• Elgato Green Screen
• Logitech G510s Keyboard
• Razer Tartarus V2
• Corsair Scimitar Pro RGB Mouse
• Basic soundproofing Pads from Amazon
• Adobe Premiere
• Adobe Audition
• Adobe Illustrator
• Adobe Lightroom
• Adobe After Effects (limited use)
• Open Broadcasting Software (OBS)
• Virtual Audio Cables
Thank you to everyone for reading a little bit about what I do at Visionary Realms. There’s a lot to do, and I love it! I have an amazing leader and support team in MPR, and without them I wouldn’t be able to push for so much content going out. This is truly a huge team effort. For those that have often said in comments – stop making content and develop the game – don’t worry, that’s why the MPR team and myself exist. It’s our job to keep you all informed, while keeping the dev’s time in consideration so our talented team can continue to push our art, systems, and development forward. As a crowdfunded game, we not only look to our amazing community to help us continue, but in return we want to make you all a part of the process as well.
|Producer’s Letter||Month in Review||Developer Feature||Community Feature|