It has been a while since we have heard from the team at Visionary Realms, but as we all know in the gaming industry when the chatter on the net gets quiet it only means that the team must be hard at work. Chris ‘Joppa’ Perkins, Creative Director of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen has finally broken the silence with a status update.

Coming out as the first thing that has slowed down the progression of Pantheon RotF was the transition to the Unity 5 engine, and not without good reason. Like all new systems you have to learn it before you can master it, and having been announced within the last few months for developers, Unity 5 is a fresh and fine upgrade. John Diasparra Lead Environment Artist, has put countless hours into development with the new platform and it shows. Unity 5’s visual power with physically-based rendering and global illumination is almost like a whole new since and are not automatically added to your past work. Someone has to go back through all the existing terrains, foliage and environmental assets to ensure they are compatible. If this is not done or implemented properly you will see many graphic anomalies. I have personally witnessed this in another game that recently switched over to U5 it’s not a game breaker but when you’re trying to build a world you want people to immerse themselves in this can create unwanted distractions. The great news is that the conversion is complete and the progress train is full steam ahead.

Some stupendous news, there is a new addition to the team at Visionary Realms, J.P. Targete will take the role of Art Director. You might know J.P. Targete for his work in Tabula Rasa, or Aion with his talented and deep history of sci-fi and fantasy art I can see how J.P. is a great fit for Visionary Realms. With a fully loaded team the creative sphere that is needed to create a well rounded MMORPG is coming together very nicely. One issue that has so many newer MMO’s falling flat is that they focus to much on one area over the other. We can see with the experience behind this team that this will not be an issue.

J.P. and I will be working closely together to crystallize the high-level visual identity and style of Pantheon’s world and together with John Diasparra (Lead Environment Artist) and Justin Gerhart (Lead Writer), we will all be striving to make sure that visual identity is consistent down to the very details.-Chris Perkins

Here is an example that Chris has given below showing the process in short of what it take to give Pantheon RotF a much more life like feel through the visual power of Unity 5.

The first is the initial mockup of Avendyr’s Pass inside the Unity 5 game engine:

The second image is a concept art ‘paint-over’ J.P. did on top of the first image to imbue the art style for the area:

The third image is what happens when John Diasparra takes J.P.’s paint-over and uses it as a reference to finalize the visuals of the scene inside the game engine (this is an in-game screenshot, taken as night begins to fall on Avendyr’s Pass):

Now on to the real dirt for Alpha 1. I know everyone is really excited to hear about new Alpha levels, but we have to remember that Visionary Realms is taking a little of the old-school method to building this game and they are not just throwing something out that that everyone gets to play for free. Years ago, Alpha testing actually meant just that it was early testing, not for the public. Either it was completely internal or a very select group of players that were meticulously chosen to test the beginning stages of a game. So with that said yes this  Alpha 1 test is an internal test. Chris and Brad have mentioned this a few times that Alpha 1 was their major development goal for 2015 and its good to see they are still on track. Alpha 1 simply put is creating an enjoyable, feature-complete, level 1-10. They will do this with a minimum of 5 unique classes that will cover the major grouping roles, Warrior (tank), Cleric (healer), Rogue (physical DPS), Wizard (magical DPS), and Enchanter (utility & control). Is this a hint that groups will be 5 not 6 that so seems to be the leading trend as of late in many games? I think this could be a wise choice since the 6th man seems to be extra DPS usually. Maybe a lot of games feel the need to add a gross amounts of hit points to mobs to give players the misconception that they have squashed a strong beast since there was no story telling you what you just killed.

Alpha 1 is not a public build of the game – it will be internal only. The goal of Alpha 1 is to create a robust testing ground where all of our foundation of systems and mechanics are present and testable in the context of actual game play. In other words, we can test the pacing of combat in a simulator all day and have beautiful numbers, but until we fight in a full group with players of different classes, level and gear, our results won’t be as insightful.

With this method of testing in my opinion it will make Pantheon RotF a much more fulfilling experience. For starters if they run through the basics of the game before anyone from the public gets their hands on it then those early judgments will be avoided. I have seen so many ups and downs when games go pre-alpha, players that buy into these expecting a nearly complete game only to be disappointed and then trashing the game relentlessly over the internet. We seem to forget that pre-alpha, alpha, and even beta testing is just that it’s a test ground to attempt to make the game better, not a time to get to play the game for free. Years ago if you were chosen to beta test a game it was actually something to brag about to your friends. You had been chosen in the lottery of all these other players that signed up just like you did. Something different from then to now is that your were expected to work with the developers through forums or even a servery that was mailed to you to let them know your experience with their game. They wanted to know what fundamentals of their game was great and not so great to you. An example would be, is the game fun, what was it like exploring, is it challenging, and so on. Now you might say I am stuck in the past and so is Visionary Realms with this aspect but I beg to differ – lets give them that chance to prove that some old-school needs to come back and show us once again what a real MMORPG is.

Once Alpha 1 is complete, when that is is not confirmed but it will be the proving ground for Alpha 2 when it was said that this will “most likely” open the doors to the first round of players to experience the game.

Below is a list from the update that they are working on in Alpha 1:

  • Alpha 1 zones have been finalized and settled into the art/world building pipelines. Lore & Content documents are being finalized for these zones as well.
  • All player-related formulas have received initial scope and balance passes. This means we have carved out the rough idea of the Hitpoints, Armor Class, Mana, Attributes, etc. a level 1 player should have up to what a level 50 player should have. Although this is a very general spread, it will give us the foundation and perspective we need to start balancing our player-related systems.
  • With this framework in place, meaningful itemization has begun for level 1 – 10.
  • Attributes on weapons and wearables are now meaningful and appropriately effect your character’s strength in light of the aforementioned statistical scale.
  • Ability programming and tuning for the five Alpha 1 classes.
  • Initial experience gain rate and leveling curve is being tuned.
  • The basic layer of NPC AI is being programmed, the foundation for some of our more innovative NPC AI behaviors to be built on top of.
  • Our Lead Programmer, Daniel Krenn, has created a combat simulation scene where we can quickly test our general combat formulas, %to hit/miss, critical hit %, weapon speed & delay, etc. and tweak things on the fly to ensure items are balanced and properly progressing in strength.
  • Our inventory system has been overhauled and bags are now working!
  • Combat sound effects are being finalized and iterated into the engine, important for giving combat the right feel and feedback.

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I look forward to more updates and more surprises from the team at Visionary Realms and while they still seek funding I am confident that with the talent and drive they show they won’t be seeking funding for much longer. For more information on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, head over to the official website at www.pantheonrotf.com and keep looking for more updates right here on PowerLeveled.