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How the creator of EverQuest plans to bring MMOs into a new era Exclusive
How the creator of  EverQuest  plans to bring MMOs into a new era
January 29, 2014 | By Kris Ligman

We brought you news a couple weeks ago that Brad McQuaid, one of the key developers of the original EverQuest, had recently founded a new studio. We now know that studio's name is Visionary Realms -- and its first game, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, wants to bring back both the pleasure and the sweet, sweet pain of those early MMOs.

Gamasutra recently spoke with Brad McQuaid as well as Salim Grant, who are jointly heading up the creative direction and gameplay design for Pantheon. From their perspective, Pantheon is about reintroducing the EverQuest experience through today's technology.

"The first EverQuest was played by a young demographic -- people in their teens and twenties who could sink, you know, eight or ten hours into a play session," says McQuaid. "Those same people still want that kind of game today, with that kind of social experience, but they need something that can fit into their adult lives, with spouses and jobs."

Out goes grinding, in other words, while the game still seeks to be vast and challenging for players. Social features -- not in the stigmatized sense which often means "casual," but along the lines of guilds and building strong support networks -- will instead be a linchpin of the gameplay.

"We want to take the best of those early MMO experiences and contemporize them," says Salim Grant. "It isn't just appealing specifically to older players, but to anyone who wants that kind of really challenging gameplay. People who might enjoy, like, Monster Hunter or Dark Souls. I'm not saying it's trying to be 'Dark Souls Online', but that's the general idea."

Asked if he might describe Pantheon's difficulty as 'masocore,' as Dark Souls's gameplay sometimes is, Grant admitted he was unfamiliar with the term -- but it sounded about right.

"I consider myself a masochist when I play games," he notes. "I want that high level of challenge."

McQuaid, on the other hand, wants to steer Pantheon clear of being thought of as necessarily masochistic -- just hard. "We're looking for the fun of the old MMOs without the repetition," he says.

'It's about masses coming together'

One of the things that excites Grant most about Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is the rich and distinct world lore he believes characterizes the game's setting.

"We want to deemphasize this 'lone hero' idea. Often [in MMOs] you're built up by the story as being the one person who's going to save the world, but the guy right next to you is supposed to be that one person too," says Grant. "Instead, we wanted to reinforce the idea that you the player are part of a group."

The game's lore involves various cultures and their deities (all fictional, but drawn off recognizable high fantasy archetypes) being pulled from their respective worlds and hurled into the same realm. A big melting pot for different alliances to form, in other words.

"It's really about masses coming together and having a common goal," says Grant. "And you, as an individual, still exist and can distinguish yourself but... the group is very important."

"The lore is one of the things to this game that really helps us to stand out," Grant adds.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is currently seeking crowdfunding support through Kickstarter.

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Jonathan Murphy
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I was thinking. Ok where's his Kickstarter link? Aha! There it is. I was one of the beta testers in Vanguard. It wasn't as bad as beta testing FF14, and that's the best compliment I can give.

John Trauger
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Vanguard was such a WoW clone...but in fairness it was all the rage to clone WoW as exactingly as copyright law allowed.

Jason Richardson
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Vanguard wasn't really a WoW clone at all it was more of a next generation EQ that did a lot of things right and had a number of great ideas.

Jason Richardson
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Vanguard was released too soon it's well documented what happened to that game. The actual game itself was very good with good classes that were all useful for the most part and it a did a number of other things very well. The world was interesting to explore and some of the dungeons had good ideas worked into them.

Ricky Bankemper
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I enjoy his passion to recreate the community of original Everquest. However, I believe he is asking for the best of both worlds.

The requirement to building that network involved long play sessions and the reward was the friendships you forged. Just like in real life, you don't hang out with someone for 15 minutes while you kids are down for a nap and forge any type of deep relationship (the kind he is referring to with original Everquest). Designing a game which is convenient for an adult life style and builds a network of in game community seems contradictory to me.

Those, now, adult gamers may wish for their old everquest experience again. However, it would likely be unrealistic when attempting to maintain the adult lifestyle he is referring to in conjunction with an in game community that is meaningful and deep.

Theresa Catalano
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Am I the only one bothered with the association between hard games and the word "masochism" that is popular lately? What exactly is popular about wanting to be challenged by games? It's really the opposite... it's not about wanting the pain of failure; it's about wanting your success to feel like it means something.

Todd Boyd
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Is that a "photo" of Hogwarts?

John Trauger
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New Era?

What new ideas are being brought to the table?

This is little more than a free advertisement with lots of feel-good and little substance.

Jason Landis
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I love the idea of group interaction. That is what the Tabletop RPG was designed around. A small group of friends getting together for an evening or two of enjoyment. This is what the MMORPG environment has been missing.