Visionary Realms, the developer behind Brad McQuaid's "Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen", has a predilection for releasing very, very long live streams, during which various developers talk at great length and in considerable detail about the systems and concepts behind the game. This is a form of publicity that has its merits but for anyone with a less-than obsessive interest in the project it can be counterproductive.
It's true that watching other people play video games has become a thing in the second decade of the twenty-first century so there's probably some demographic that actively looks forward to a full evening of watching a bearded guy in a beanie hat talk over muddy footage of a pre-alpha but its a demographic that doesn't include me. That doesn't mean to say I'm not interested. I'm very interested. It's more that I just want the bullet point version.
Amazingly, someone has thought of that. And not just thought about it but done something to make it happen. Thanks to the invaluable MassivelyOP my attention was drawn to this google docs summary.
It's a fantastic list of topics hyperlinked to the exact point in the stream where those subjects are discussed. I spent half an hour flipping through it and learned a lot. And what I learned I liked.
CohhCarnage, hosting the stream, asks the VR devs a number of questions put to him by the viewers of his channel. Sometimes he answers from his own perspective as someone who's played the game as it stands right now. There's a wealth of detail but the key takeaway comes in his reply to the simple question "How close to EverQuest is this?" to which he replies "...in my mind it's what EQ2 should have been...EverQuest One with a little bit of Vanguard and some modern mechanics".
And isn't it just? You can see that in every second of footage. It looks like Vanguard, it plays like EQ and the footage of the Perception System demonstrates that everything doesn't have to be exactly the way it would have been a decade ago, let alone all the way back in 1999. What's more, if you scroll down that Google Docs page to the summaries and screenshots after the links you can see the similarities go way, way further than skin-deep.
When Pantheon was announced I think it's fair to say we were all skeptical. No, let's be fair - the most optimistic among us were skeptical - the rest varied from derisive to outraged. When the Kickstarter crashed and burned you couldn't have taken bets on Pantheon ever appearing in any form, not at a thousand to one odds. And yet here it is.
Perhaps the reason Visionary Realms are so keen to use lengthy livestreams of actual gameplay as a promotional tool is that this way no-one can be in any doubt that the game really does exist. Look, there it is. Those are people actually playing it. And having a good time.
Compare that to the EQNext "gameplay" footage that some people at the time seemed to think was almost too good to be true. Irony, much?
So it seems Brad is back for real this time. After all the debates and discussions over just how much input and influence he ever had in making EQ into the classic it became, there can't be any doubt any more, can there? EverQuest, Vanguard and Pantheon - separated at birth. The common factor would be Brad McQuaid. Whatever it is he does he's doing it again.
Kind estimates would suggest we won't see Pantheon hit anything you'd call a "launch", whatever that means these days, until 2018 at the earliest. I will be sixty in 2018. God help me. I was forty when I picked up EQ at whatever that long-forgotten, long-since closed down video game store was called.
Twenty years on, will I want to start over again, playing an MMO that looks to all intents and purposes to be the same damn game I started with? You'd think not but every one of those streams I dip into the more I want to say yes, I probably do.
Even the lore, which on the initial announcement underwhelmed me to the point that I couldn't find my whelm at all, is beginning to grow on me. This explanation of why the Gnome character in the party looks like an android kabuki player had me thinking "I want to play a Gnome". And yes, I know I always want to play a gnome, but now I want to play that gnome.
There were other things in the stream that made me feel more positive about the direction development is taking. The reply to the question "Is this game able to be played by a soloer?" was immensely reassuring, for example. "On the whole we're a group-centric game but we will never discourage soloing" seems to me to hit exactly the right tone.
There's also a great moment where Brad talks about the game going into wider access next year and a PR person comes in behind him to say "When Brad says we hope to do something for Q1/Q2 it's really, really important to note that's a goal - it's not set in stone". You tell him, PR Guy!
If that alpha does arrive in the first six months of next year it will be for "pre-alpha pledgers only" (PR Guy again). I'm glad he clarified that because I was idly considering pledging if it would get me into the game early. It looks entirely playable already and after all, who knows if any of us will be around when Pantheon actually releases? We're none of us getting any younger.
Too late for that though. Take a look at the available pledges. The cheap seats are all gone. No one else is getting into alpha and as for Beta, well, I might be interested but not without a date. $100 isn't out of the question, seeing it includes two digital copies of the game itself, but a hundred dollars for something that may never happen? Although that makes it half the price Smed was asking for Landmark at the same stage of development...
No, I can wait. But I'll wait with interest. And if there's a beta announcement sometime next year then I'm not ruling anything out.