Pantheon AMA Responses

shabushabu

Golden Knight of the Realm
1,149
53
22h 56m
You have played what MMO's up to this point?

There isn't really a single one, old or new, that doesn't "start" at the end.

Now let's work through the scenarios and see if you agree or disagree.

Levels are an indicator of game power and a mechanism to hand out abilities in a game. They are benchmarks for you to know a few things about where you are in the game. There can be limits where you aren't allowed into a zone unless you are a minimum level. There can be statistics that don't cap out unless you are a certain level. I am going to use Everquest to draw parallels from since that is probably what you have played that would be old school. The planes required level 46 and your stat caps and skill caps were dependent on level. Later on equipment was level dependent as well.

Now there is always two aspects to an MMO and that is the journey to the end and then the end. What you do on the path to max level is going to be pretty different from what you do at the end game. It's not a completely different game but there are different goals in mind. Leveling your goal is, well, levels. The end game there can be some variance but the game itself usually shows you what you might want to do. That might be raids, grinding faction, quest chains, or maybe grinding currency to buy better equipment. Some people then switch to a PvP aspect once they hit max level.

That level journey could be one year long or take one hour but the reason for it is usually one of these few options. To create a sense of accomplishment and so give you a stronger desire to keep that character because it took some effort. The other reason is to slow the influx of characters to the end game. There are other reasons of course but those are the two major ones. There is a balance to be had here deciding on how long you want the journey to be. You make it too long and people only make one character and then don't understand how other classes work because they never played them. You make it too long and people give it up because the stick is bigger than the carrot.

Now I see that they want a lot of horizontal movement along with the vertical. That is a lofty goal and I hope they acheive it but what is the difference if you reach level 100 in 4 weeks and then go get your horizontal skills and items for 6 weeks or if it takes 10 weeks to get to the end both horizontally and vertically? Well it really depends a lot on your end game and the culture of the market you are trying to reach. One game that did this well was Anarchy Online with the Shadowlands and also with their Clan/Neutral/Omni faction quests. You weren't just racing to max level even if you were focused on that but you were doing access quests at the same time for zones you needed and you were also getting some equipment upgrades through the process.

Why do I not want to do a 10 week grind? I have played every major MMO out there. I could list probably somewhere between 50 and 75 that I have played to max level at launch and also did every raid or piece of content (that isn't pvp) that they shipped with. I have seen gimmicks that hold people back and ones to take advantage of for speeding up to max. I have played games that had no real levels, unlimited levels, and ones where you could click create and max a character instantly. Games with zero end game and ones where the leveling was 5 minutes compared to the years of end game. I don't like leveling for leveling sake and making it take a long time just so that you can say it took a long time. This decision feels like that is the reason. It is artificial to me. There is a middle ground between buying a max character from a cash shop and taking 10 weeks of 4+ hours a night. I am too old and played too many games to go through that. I will play a game for 8 hours a day if it's the end game or even leveling other classes for alts. I won't play a game for more than 2-4 hours a day if it's just to grind out so that I can play the "real" game at the end. I just refuse to.
The journey should be the destination in longer leveling curve game.. Vanguard was an example of this but achieved it by having multiple areas to level. Not sure Pantheon would have enough content to support that or not..

Most people dont raid and I am one who has no desire to join the end game gear treadmil repeating same content ad nauseam. I want to experience a world that is fun to explore with others.. Vanguard nailed that . Hope Pantheon does too.
 
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gLobal

Lord Nagafen Raider
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I’m happy to see this AMA, and I thought it was rather well done overall. Thank you VR.

The 10 week to max level comment is interesting indeed. I wonder what level of competitive/hardcore Joppa refers to? Like account sharing, 24/7 groups of people with a well-coordinated plan cheesing their way to the top as fast as possible? If that’s the case, then there would have to be some serious gating to slow it down to the 10 week range.

I hate the idea that everything is a race to max level, and I’ve had the most fun in games that don’t emphasize level much at all.

A somewhat organic gate might be to set a cap on skills, and make them extremely necessary. Such as “You think you’ve learned all you could possibly learn about punching in a single day!” and cap it to ~5 points per skill across the board (or make a global cap). That way if you leveled too fast, eventually you’d end up fuck-all worthless. You have to face NPC’s within a certain level to get any experience, but your offense is incapable of landing 50% of hits and you soak in 4 times more damage than someone properly skilled would. I actually like this approach.

I really appreciated the wonder in early EQ that was leveling 1 or 2 levels and packing up and moving to a new area. It felt good to finally ‘move on’, and try to find a new place to settle in. I used to spend an hour or two in different spots to try it out. When areas had wide variety, you could end up leveling a certain spread that was completely out of the norm, but actually pretty good. I loved spending weeks in a zone, moving to different camps, learning the ins-and-outs.

One final piece of the puzzle that makes so much sense in retrospect, was hell-levels. Yes, they majorly sucked – but they were completely necessary to clump up players around certain level ranges. If every 10th level was a hell level, you’d have sustainable groups that form in those ranges naturally. You could show up a few levels early, contribute as much as you can, eventually grind out the hell-level, and maybe ride out an easy level or two afterwards before moving on. The X3-X7 levels could be more exploratory, questing focused levels. Something along this system, along with horizontal carrots (AA’s, clickies, unique quests) might slow down the majority of the playerbase enough to make it a journey as opposed to a race.
 
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Kriptini

Molten Core Raider
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There were a lot of generic PR answers in here but some good gems as well.

Regarding the bit about taking ten weeks to hit max level, I'm conflicted. I like how MMORPGs are able to bring massive amounts of people to play a game together, but leveling systems are completely contradictory to that because they prevent people from playing the game together. If you have a max level character and you're trying to get a friend in the game, telling them that it will take them ten weeks before the two of you can play together is not a good selling point.

The other problem with leveling systems is that once you hit higher levels, all of the content from the previous levels is now invalidated. I liked the responses about horizontal progression and the JBoots example, but at its core the problem still exists - once a player hits level 30, those level 20 zones no longer hold significant value for them. This isn't specific to Pantheon, but should MMORPG developers really be spending so much time on developing content that will be invalid as soon as it comes out? I really hope they find a solution to this.
 

Fight

Trakanon Raider
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The other problem with leveling systems is that once you hit higher levels, all of the content from the previous levels is now invalidated.
I have never considered this a problem, because without it the game world feels artificial. There is less sense of power or progression in a horizontal leveling system or world. It is a treadmill, where you can never look backwards to see how far you have traveled.

I like that you gave an example like J-boots, which is a great reason to return to a lower level zone in a vertical progression system. Zone designers should always have a few lines in their design documents about content for the higher level ranges than the zone's core audience. Quest mobs, Epic weapon targets, Sand/Hill/Ice Giant type mobs, vendors which require faction work... to the creative and purposeful designer, there can always be reasons to return to zones.
 

Araxen

Vyemm Raider
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Personally, I'm all for never raising the level cap. DAOC did this and it worked well. EQ did it from Kunrak to SOV and it worked well. You have all that end game content that will always be available and never invalidated unless the devs start going apeshit on equipment stats.
 
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gLobal

Lord Nagafen Raider
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Personally, I'm all for never raising the level cap. DAOC did this and it worked well. EQ did it from Kunrak to SOV and it worked well. You have all that end game content that will always be available and never invalidated unless the devs start going apeshit on equipment stats.
This is a good point. I'm conflicted about never, but I do think it could certainly go for several years. You end up with a ton of content at max level.

One of the things I enjoyed about level cap patches in WoW was the sweeping mechanics changes that rolled out too. It kept the game and classes fresh in a way. Lots of quality of life improvements, simplificaton, removal, revamps, class-balancing, UI changes, new systems, etc. It's a great housekeeping opportunity when done right.

A lot of MMO's keep adding systems on top of systems, and it ends up being clunky and confusing for new players.

If you designed around cap increases, what would the sweet spot be? Maybe ~3 years at each cap?
 

Ambiturner

Bronze Baronet of the Realm
8,636
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37d 55m
This is a good point. I'm conflicted about never, but I do think it could certainly go for several years. You end up with a ton of content at max level.

One of the things I enjoyed about level cap patches in WoW was the sweeping mechanics changes that rolled out too. It kept the game and classes fresh in a way. Lots of quality of life improvements, simplificaton, removal, revamps, class-balancing, UI changes, new systems, etc. It's a great housekeeping opportunity when done right.

A lot of MMO's keep adding systems on top of systems, and it ends up being clunky and confusing for new players.

If you designed around cap increases, what would the sweet spot be? Maybe ~3 years at each cap?
Agree with that. Trying to get into a mmo later on if you didn't play it at release is a nightmare.
 

Fogel

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
2,623
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There were a lot of generic PR answers in here but some good gems as well.

Regarding the bit about taking ten weeks to hit max level, I'm conflicted. I like how MMORPGs are able to bring massive amounts of people to play a game together, but leveling systems are completely contradictory to that because they prevent people from playing the game together. If you have a max level character and you're trying to get a friend in the game, telling them that it will take them ten weeks before the two of you can play together is not a good selling point.

The other problem with leveling systems is that once you hit higher levels, all of the content from the previous levels is now invalidated. I liked the responses about horizontal progression and the JBoots example, but at its core the problem still exists - once a player hits level 30, those level 20 zones no longer hold significant value for them. This isn't specific to Pantheon, but should MMORPG developers really be spending so much time on developing content that will be invalid as soon as it comes out? I really hope they find a solution to this.
I loved the fact that EQ forced interaction with different level groups by having several level gaps ala Lguk, Sol a/b, etc. I'd always break trains or toss out a few rezzes to some people while on my way to Lguk for example, and you knew people appreciate it because you remember when you were the poor bastard who had to do a corpse run. Obviously it doesn't have to be as severe in newer games, but games like WoW went the opposite direction and completely removed it with the ghost mechanic.

And as far as end game, levels, etc, another EQ did well was not making all gear "raid" dependent. There were some nice items in PoH/PoF but fbss, yaks, etc were still solid choices for the level. But in other games, once the new zone/expansion came out, almost all of your gear became obsolete.
 
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Lambourne

Blackwing Lair Raider
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Don't know if this has been discussed yet, but has there been any thought given to downtime while levelling?
Old EQ was punishing with easily 3-4 minutes between mobs, I recently tried this on the Coirnav TLP and I couldn't handle it anymore, I just became bored with the game.
The other extreme is modern WoW which has basically zero downtime, I'm more limited by my fingers cramping up from doing the rotations...

Personally I I think vanilla WoW came close to doing it right with food and drink giving you your health and mana back over 30 seconds, it also made cooking and fishing actually useful skills to have.
 

arallu

Bronze Knight of the Realm
532
36
3d 4h 19m
Theyv'e shown in the recent streams that there is some downtime. It's there but it's not horrible, and I'd imagine they'll tweak it when/if they get feedback.
 

kudos

<Banned>
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1d 17h 43m
a longer grind is just more time to explore the world and enjoy the lower to mid level ranges.
This only works if you have enough content to keep it interesting. That is a lot of content. As of now we are being fed the same two stupid dungeons over and over on streams.