Pantheon Kickstarter: Chasing the Memories

On the same day as the first thing I ever Kickstarted got released, I dumped money back into the system. If you have not heard, there’s a new MMO looking for your help via crowd funding. It’s called Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, which admittedly is a awfully generic name. It’s being developed by a (currently) small team led by Brad McQuaid, who is one of the three men that dreamed a dream called EverQuest and made it a reality.

“Oh, great…another EverQuest blog from Marino,” you’re saying. Well, sort of. It’s complicated.

Over the last decade, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no MMO will ever equal the sense of wonder, camaraderie, and discovery that EverQuest gave me. Between 2000 and 2004, I spent over 350 days of play time in the world of Norrath. It was the most fun I have ever had or probably ever will have in a game. While that’s somewhat depressing to say, after many years of attempting and failing to recapture the magic, I’ve gotten to a point where I’m okay with it. The fact that it’s not replicable makes my experiences in EQ that much more special. Part of the reason is that MMOs, even EQ itself, have moved on from EverQuest once was.

Now, here comes Brad McQuaid, his “Vision,” and Pantheon trying quite specifically to recapture that magic and fuck up my whole sense of closure. God dammit!

You see, “The Vision” was a hotly debated topic in the early days of EverQuest. When people would complain that something was too hard or didn’t make sense, the answer, whether it was a joke or not at the time, was always “it’s part of The Vision.” We probably didn’t realize it in the moment, but "The Vision" was a big part of what made the game so great and memorable. The tenets of Pantheon listed on their Kickstarter page will appear quite familiar to any EverQuest old-timers like myself. Visionary Realms makes it no secret that they’re trying to target a specific audience of MMO players that yearn for the days of true challenge. They know this game is not for everyone and it's not supposed to be.

I’ve said for years that MMOs have become too hand-holdy, for lack of a better word. I understand why; it only makes sense. Make things easier and bring in a bigger audience. But, at some point, it alienates much of that core audience that was there at the beginning of this whole thing. I want to be afraid to die at all times. I want to be punished for bad decisions, ill preparation, and sheer stupidity. I want to have to walk to most places. I don’t want a glowy line telling me exactly where to go the moment I start a quest. I don’t want to be max level two weeks after the game comes out. You get the idea. I went into way more detail about this stuff on a previous blog a couple years ago.

I really wanted to love this game.

So, I should be super excited by this prospect, right? Well, I don’t know. I like where their heart is, but I’d be lying if I said I was 100% sure they can pull it off. First of all, their target for release is 2017. Is that even a real year? Right now, they are just ten dudes working on this thing part-time with apparently more waiting in the wings for funding. Their Kickstarter video is admittedly a bit hokey, and those stretch goals are quite absurd. But, you know what? Kickstarter is still a weird place anyway.

I’ll forever be grateful what that team at Verant accomplished with making EverQuest. Their work provided me literally thousands of hours of entertainment and friends (and enemies) that I still talk to thirteen years later. But, on the other hand, let’s not forget what happened the last time McQuaid went off and founded his own studio; Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I don’t pretend to know all of what went wrong with that game during development or why exactly Microsoft bailed on them, but that game could’ve been special. I was in the beta from very early on. Instead of being special, it was mostly a hot mess from the get go. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve been down this road before and been let down.

The destructible world of voxels in EQN.

I think, if I can just be honest with myself, it might simply be too late for this type of game. EverQuest Next, the forthcoming revamp of the EQ franchise, explored the idea of “going old school” and that whole iteration of the game was scrapped in development a couple years ago in favor of what we’re getting now, which I’m cautiously optimistic about. SOE is trying some groundbreaking things with EQ Next, some of which are kind of scary for MMO veterans like myself. I even told this to Dave Georgeson and Omeed Dariani personally at PAX Prime 2013. But, I also told them that their enthusiasm and conviction in presenting these fundamental changes left me with a sense of hope and optimism. We may all be better off looking forward rather than backward at this point with MMOs. It also might be too late for successfully funding crazy game ideas that require upwards of $1 million. We’ll see. At the time of this writing, they're close to $100,000 of the $800,000 goal in just three days.

Despite my reservations (and better judgment?), as I said at the beginning, I did pledge some money towards the cause. Call it morbid curiosity or having more nostalgia than sense maybe. As much as I want to say I have let the dream die, I simply can’t ignore the fact that they’re targeting Pantheon right at people like me. I’m precisely the guy they’re talking about in their pitch. So, good luck, Visionary Realms. I’m willing to give you another shot.

My mind is telling me no... but my body...

If you want to learn more about Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen in detail and potentially give them your money, go check out their Kickstarter page.

6 Comments Refresh
Posted by Rorie

I'm a little skeptical of their financial goals here. Even a modest MMO still would seem to require more than a few million bucks to put together. But what do I know?

Edited by Marino

@rorie: They're saying they are using the Kickstarter to prove there are people that want this and will be seeking further funding elsewhere.

Posted by Karkarov

@marino:Dude I hate to say this but the reason you look back so fondly on EQ wasn't because it was that great.... it was because it was your first mmo. Everyone who ever seriously played mmo's has stories like your early days of EQ but the only thing they have in common is that they were always "the first mmo I played". Also I think you said it best already, we are better off looking to the future of mmo's than the past. Games like Wildstar and Everquest Next are trying to evolve combat, basic gameplay, and how you interact with the world. MMO's are in desperate need of innovation not a return to EQ 1.

That and @rorie is right. There is no way they are going to swing the funding they need, 1 mil isn't even a drop in the bucket for a mmo and they only want 800k? No one is going to be tricked into bank rolling them the 10-20+ mil they will need even if the kickstarter succeeds.

Posted by Marino

@karkarov said:

@marino:Dude I hate to say this but the reason you look back so fondly on EQ wasn't because it was that great.... it was because it was your first mmo.

That's undoubtedly part of it, but it certainly isn't the only reason. And I do think it was great, regardless.

Edited by Narvakhan

@karkarov: I share Marino's pov on this. However Everquest was not my first MMO. Shadows of Yserbia was, followed by UO, then Everquest. I don't like it when people dismiss something just because there is a catch all answer in which people will just nod their head to.

Everquest had many key elements which are lost today (even in Everquest). I would love to see them come back. Corpse runs, probably not. Camp sites? Exploration? Competitive mobs? absolutely. And while you are at it, pull in the awesome social hub of dancers, musicians and doctors from SW:G and all of us older gamers (those of us 40+, man that hurt to say) that don't live in parents basements will find something we will put our money behind.

Edited by Marino

@narvakhan: They do have people on the team that worked on Galaxies, so who knows.