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re: Brad McQuaid Interview : 11 July 2016


Have a look.  Pasted below also.


It was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the worlds like blue mantles beneath the stars. Hither came heroes, blonde and black-haired, sullen-eyed, swords and staves in hand; thieves, reavers, slayers, bon viveurs and conjurers with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jewelled thrones of the earth beneath their tireless feet.

The worlds were new, and we brought our dreams and camped them there. They were unforgiving as Hyboria and Middle Earth whose wild primacy had spawned them. They were uneven and demanding. Yet in them was revealed a cosmos half real, half imagined for which we had fervently looked all our lives.

Where once we had rolled angled dice and plundered Pen & Paper tombs, we now traversed fully formed landscapes. We’d leapt to where the wild things were, pursuing danger across forbidding terrain, reaping rewards that never felt cheap because of the effort required to win them. We’d navigated treacherous player community and battled skulduggery on every side, but made life-long friendships and lasting memories of adventure that was in every way epic.

Those times are gone now, replaced by a watery mix of over-reward and easy-play. The ocean of imagining that forged the first worlds has been reduced to flamboyant puddles. The community that helped them form has abandoned them to a generation of enfant terribles that descended like a horde, turning once vast cosmoses into soulless, littered theme parks.

So we waited for the next worlds to fulfil the promise the first of them had made. The shining online kingdoms fell into ruin and still we waited, and watched.

Now maybe, just maybe, the long vigil is ending.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is a risk. The High Fantasy MMO from one of the genre’s founders is attempting to turn back the clock on MMO design. Veteran designer Brad McQuaid and his new company Visionary Realms want to craft the true spiritual successor to EverQuest, a deep and difficult game, at a time when gameplay is being increasingly trivialized and truncated.

I chatted with Brad over email recently, chewing the fat on game design and the promise that Pantheon represents to a generation of gamers that has been all but forgotten by game makers:

Is it time for a better MMO?

It seems obvious there is a large, significant demographic of older gamers being underserved by the games industry, and newer gamers disenfranchised with the easy mode style of game design that is dominating right now. They are the type of players that will be interested in Pantheon. Do you believe the time for deeper, more “mature” games has come again?

We absolutely agree with both of your assertions. There’s definitely an older demographic that feels orphaned by the more casual, more single-player style MMOs as of late. You can look just about anywhere and see articles and posts attesting to the frustration this significant demographic is feeling. Likewise, there is a large group of younger gamers who enjoy challenging games like Dark Souls. Many also love cooperative play like taking on the AI with their friends in the Call of Duty games. What’s really significant here is that most of these younger players have never experienced that level of cooperative play in MMOs. When they encounter deeper cooperative play in a persistent environment as opposed to session based games I think they’re really going to love it.

Camping and grinding

One of the most missed mechanics from older MMO’s is that of grinding and camping. Many people loved the pace, goal focused nature, and style of play it offered. It allowed some really deep immersion into the game. I think the removal of it from modern games has made them poorer. EQ more or less created that game style. What are your feelings about it now?

I would definitely agree with you – the pace and style of play you’ve described has been missing and MMOs have become less social and in-game communities have suffered. Our hope is that Pantheon ushers in a renaissance of social, cooperative, challenging, and community oriented MMO gameplay. Of course, when people use words like ‘camping’ and ‘grinding’ that terminology can mean very different things to different people. So while Pantheon will indeed have both, it’s important for me to bring up our design goal that these activities are not excessive. In other words, there shouldn’t be unnecessary downtime or needlessly undue grinding or repetition. ‘Too much’ is subjective, but we are listening to the Pantheon community and our target audience and what they are looking for is enough downtime to provide opportunities to socialize and strategize.



Class distinction

Another design element lost is class distinction – a fundamental aspect of original RPG play that has all but disappeared. What is your view of it now in the current “meta” of game design? How important is it as a design principle for Pantheon?

I think it’s more than class distinction – more specifically it is class interdependence. Pantheon is primarily a grouping game (although there will be solo and raid content as well) and by creating classes that can’t do everything players will need each other. This promotes community and friendships. This allows for shared experiences which are much more memorable. And anything we can do to promote cooperative play is paramount to Pantheon.

Emergent gameplay

On that point, so much great gameplay has come out of “emergent” and unintentional play. It’s one of the unique aspects of games and MMOs in particular, being such huge, interrelated systems. How do you view the issue of player discovered “unintentional gameplay”? At what point does it become bad, and where will Pantheon make the balance?

We love emergent behavior and will encourage it. Occasionally it does uncover unintended exploits at which point some tweaks may need to be made but overall we think it’s great when players find different approaches and strategies we didn’t think of ourselves.

(See Also: The Lesson Behind the Fall of EverQuest Next).

Making MMOs

You seem unable to stay away from making MMOs. Why is that? What is it that draws you to them, and to making them?

Ever since I played my first MUD in the early 1990s I just knew these were the types of games I wanted to be involved with. As a huge fantasy genre fan I find MMORPGs to be the closest thing to actually being in one of these amazing worlds. I also love making friends online and working together as a team to overcome challenges and obstacles. I mentioned shared experiences earlier – for some reason the way we humans are wired, when we experience something significant, good or bad, and we’re with other people, it really makes a lasting impact and I still hear people talking about online events they took part in over 15 years ago.

Also for me personally, after Vanguard, I took a break and then dabbled with other genres. While I learned a lot about other aspects of game development, more importantly I learned a lot about myself. I found that while I certainly enjoy playing other genres (FPS, RTS, etc.) I only find true satisfaction by sub-creating virtual worlds. I think Tolkien sums up why I do what I do quite nicely with this, one of my favourite quotes.

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”




The old days

The industry has changed so much since you guys began making EQ, sleeping under desks to get it done. Do you miss anything about those days? What do you miss most? What are some of the best things about the new industry landscape in your opinion?

MMOs are still arguably the most difficult and time consuming genre of games to create. But a lot has indeed changed, mostly in the areas of technology and tools. In the old days you’d license a graphics engine, which was almost always designed with an FPS game in mind, and then spend a lot of time modifying it (especially the network code) to turn it into an MMO engine. Nowadays with game engines like Unity that is no longer necessary and you can start actually working on the game itself much earlier. Also in the old days you had to have your own server rooms and operations personnel, etc. With Pantheon we do everything in the Cloud and we can deploy a new shard in a matter of hours. So the challenge is still there, which I do love, but much of the hassle and expense is gone.

EQ Bards

The Bard class from EQ is still the best class I’ve ever played in any RPG. Legend has it that the twisting mechanic which allowed more than one song effect to be up at a time was actually based on a coding error. Is that true?

It’s been so long I can’t confirm that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true. Kiting was also emergent behavior that then became a core strategy for many players.

What games?

What are you playing right now?

I dabble with MMOs but can’t allow myself to be sucked into one too far lest it distract me from working on Pantheon. I do enjoy a good iOS game on my iPad, especially a good Tower Defense game – they help me get my mind off of MMO development, albeit briefly, which is good for combatting insomnia.

Favourite game

What is the best game you have ever played? Why?

The best game I have ever played is Magic: The Gathering. Why? I started playing in the early 1990s and I still play with a group of friends just about every Friday night. No other game has held my attention this long. As for computer games, I still have the fondest memories of playing Sojourn/Toril MUD. Not only was it a blast to play but I learned so much about multiplayer game design from the better MUDs (and, IMHO, Sojourn/Toril was the best).


How is funding going for Pantheon?

It’s going quite well actually. We saw a huge surge in crowdfunding after our first Twitch stream and are also making great progress on finding the right publisher and/or investors to bring in the money we need to build Pantheon’s epic world. There’s still work to be done and we’re not fully funded but we are getting a lot of interest and weighing our options (which is, of course, a good thing).

Dragon Shadow

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re: Brad McQuaid Interview : 11 July 2016


Nice read up and sort of get where they want to go with the game..will be interesting if they think out of the box and not base the game to poach wow or any other mmo players. I find that mmo's that try and cater for wow players (as it's still the biggest mmo going) fail in challenge of any sort as the players they poach want the game to behave like wow or any other mmo you wish to name.

It's time company's grow some balls and do something different Blizzard did with WoW and look where it is now,yes it harder today to get a good mmo of the ground but if they stick with the game plane in the long term it will get there,instead of changing the whole game like SWTOR for example,do you prefer the easy mode now or when it was launched,I assume its the later since this game is getting some interest from members.

I will be following this with interest and will see where it goes,I wont buy any of the packs at present,may wait till beta/open beta happens.

To the ones who are playing it please keep us updated and if there is no NDA sling up some videos and screenshots,more the merrier.If this going to be The One we need as much current information from the game as possible.




Delearnor (Saphron) 20 July 1961 to 29 August 2016 

No ammount of words can describe the pain in my heart
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