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By Throne

ATLAS: Present and Future

We have been at it since day one, that ugly and...well, let's just stick with ugly...launch. Even through the lag muck and server instability, you could read the stars and see the potential.  Right off the bat it was only for the tough, and we barreled through the glitchy log-ins, the shaky starter zones and the wretched "lawless" starting areas and found our way to the rafts.  Some were able to get to our island after 3-4 hours of learning how to tack, zig zag and fight through server borders and with a full stack of human hides, and then some were finally rescued after what seemed like days of being eaten alive by scorpions and crocodiles, only to quickly get used to dying to the cold, the wolves, the alpha horses, the water, the sharks and each other's general noob mistakes.
Yes, with the known developer, we did try to ARK it, or Dark and Light it...hell, we've even tried to Life is Feudal this one....and Atlas is just NOT those games.  Some visuals and sounds are there, but the depth and options and functionality is just SO much more.  What really took the game from just another ARK expansion to, the potential mmo of the decade, was getting out on our first schooner, the SS Skjoldr (video below).  The experience was entirely PvE, but when you have 13 people packed on to a single vessel and the guys repairing the ship are as vital as the helmsman steering and the deckhands manning the sails, it became something I haven't seen in a game since our friday night flights on the Decimator back in SWG.
We have had just a blast learning the game and surviving our island and our neighbors over the past couple weeks.  Though it may appear as if we are well off enough, growing from 30 actives day one, to more than double that now, we absolutely could use more folks interested in living the Atlas life.  Whether you are interested in navigating the high seas, captaining a brigand, farming the tundra, mucking through politics, taming elephants or exploring the massive (30-40 hours of sailing from one end to the other) world, it is all here and we have many members willing to help you get started.
Here is a few screencaps and videos to give you an idea of what we have been up to:
 
 




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By Throne

ATLAS

From the sister studio of Wildcard, makers of ARK: Survival Evolved...
ATLAS: The ultimate survival MMO of unprecedented scale with 40,000+ simultaneous players in the same world. Join an endless adventure of piracy & sailing, exploration & combat, roleplaying & progression, settlement & civilization-building, in one of the largest game worlds ever! Explore, Build, Conquer!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/834910/ATLAS/
Early access, Thursday, December 13th  (Update:  delayed release to December 19th) [Update 2: delayed release delayed to December 21st]
Chapter group: 
Discord:  https://discord.gg/v74dSHQ
 
 

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By Throne

Xalt defeats Elric for 2018 Fantasy Football Crown

Xalt's Zappers smirk at expectations, knock off Elric's Arksters in 171.07-127.47 rout

Both teams exceeded their projected point totals, but it was Xalt's Zappers who got the victory, cruising to a 171.07-127.47 win over Elric's Arksters. Elric's Arksters earned a 3.86-point lead on Saturday behind Joey Bosa (2.18 points) and Mike Williams (1.68), but Xalt's Zappers held the lead the rest of the way. They were led by Matt Ryan (25.46 points) and Damien Williams (22.53). Ben Roethlisberger (42.22 points) and T.Y. Hilton (19.4) led the charge for Elric's Arksters in the loss. This marks the second time this season Xalt's Zappers have beaten Elric's Arksters, after winning 118.28-117.7 in their last matchup. Xalt's Zappers end the season at 12-4, while Elric's Arksters finish the campaign at 9-7.
 
Matchup Highlights

Sunday Early    There were players with standout moments on both teams early Sunday, after which Xalt's Zappers owned a 125.41-53.13 lead. Matt Ryan had a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 44-yard touchdown pass for Xalt's Zappers, while David Njoku had a 66-yard catch. T.Y. Hilton made the highlight reel for Elric's Arksters with a 55-yard catch.

Sunday Late    Both teams had players with big-time moments on Sunday afternoon, but it was Xalt's Zappers who took the lead, 148.54-96.80. For Xalt's Zappers, Robert Woods had a 39-yard touchdown catch. Ben Roethlisberger made the highlight reel for Elric's Arksters with a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 49-yard pass.

Sunday Night    Harrison Butker had a 54-yard field goal for Elric's Arksters, who trailed 171.07-118.27 after Sunday Night Football.
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By Throne

Kenshi 1.0 Released

It is generally a rarity that finds a single player game a feature of CotP articles, however, over recent months this game has entered my personal top five games of all-time and has passed my hourly steam totals for Mount & Blade, Fallout 4 and Skyrim in the process.  What the....yeah, I know.
So many titles over the years have claimed that it allows its players to "win" the game "their way" in an "open sandbox" environment.  Well, we cannot get the time back that we spent realizing that those developers were still significantly limited in the scope of what any individual's personal definition of in-game "freedom" actually means.  For me, M&B and SWG came close.  Unfortunately, both those games (or their EMU reboot) are either approaching or have surpassed the ten year mark of their seemingly eternal impending latest release. Enter Kenshi.
Freedom is a fun word in Kenshi...yes, you have the freedom to stay solo, group up with a squad, make a vegetable farm, join a faction, enslave a faction, slay the champion, be the richest hermit, recruit an army of robots or build the great city....blah blah, boring.  Now, the freedom to fail in the most unique form possible...that is the true gem in this game.  I will give you just the one example:
My squad is epic, I will tame the badlands and establish a civilized trading outpost...plan = awesome.  Headed for the abandoned fishing outpost.  Acid rain, not fun...put up tent, survived.  Reached fishing village, it is not a fishing village.  Really freaky "skin" people pour out of all the village buildings.  We put up a good fight but were overwhelmed.  One by one, my squad members were....stolen.  Knocked out, picked up and taken to some of the village huts.  What is going on here?  Then the screams.  Agonizing screams from my captured squad members.  No idea.  I am the last one to go down.  KO'd, picked up, taken to a nearby hut....
I died from blood loss.....after I was put into a grinder that peeled my skin off.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/233860/Kenshi/
 
WHAT IS KENSHI?
Kenshi is a single player sandbox PC game set in a vast and atmospheric ‘Sword-Punk’ style open world. With a mix of RPG elements, squad-based control and city-building features, gameplay is completely free-roaming and open: enjoy the freedom and potential to do whatever you want.
Set in an unrelenting world of bloodthirsty cannibals, starving bandits, brutal slavers and wild beasts, survival alone is a grueling struggle… You are not the chosen one. You’re not great and powerful. You don’t have more ‘hitpoints’ than everyone else. You are not the center of the universe, and you are not special. Unless you work for it.
Character Customization 
Edit your characters, build up their strengths and watch them endure and grow. Train Your Skills in Robotics, Thievery, Engineering, Medicine, Weapon Smithing and more!
Squad-Based Control
Play with one character or control a whole team; an army, even. Combat is Real-Time Strategy style with a choice of ranged and melee fighting styles
Build Your Base
Create and run your own city, manage an empire or simply wander the lands as a lone drifter. Research upgrades such as industry tech, weaponry crafting and trade goods
Wounds Affect Gameplay
Complex medical system where injured characters limp, crawl, bleed to death or pass out from starvation. Stem blood loss to avoid predators and replace lost limbs with robotic prosthetics
Open-ended Gameplay
An original sandbox world. Lay siege as a warlord or make your riches as a trader… There are endless game style possibilities and the world will never stop moving
Train hard
There is no level-scaling, the world does not level up along with you. At the start of the game almost everyone will be stronger than you and you’ll have to use your cunning to survive
Survive
Escape capture from deadly slavers & cannibal prisons, rescue your squad mates from grisly death and get them all home alive
Start A Faction
Keep to yourself, form an alliance or oppose other factions and territories of the world… good or bad
 
https://lofigames.com/road-map/
 


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By Throne

Drayvn ARK cluster updated with Extinction

The ARK: Extinction map has been added to Drayvn's Server Cluster.
The Goal:
Link multiple maps on one server so that players can truly enjoy everything the game offers. You can live on the Island and still explore the dungeons on Extinction while using the dragon you got from scorched and the spelunking tools you got from Aberration.
Note: This is a private server cluster created by Drayvn and is open to COTP members who are able to conduct themselves in a mature manner.  
Note II:  These servers are not modded in order to provide some difficulty to those who can handle it.
Maps currently in cluster:
The Island Scorched Earth Aberration Extinction Server Names:
Pheah Islands Pheah Scorched Pheah Aberration Pheah Extinction Forum Group Link: 
 
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Jaqen HGar

september newletter!

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The Skar: A Race Reimagined

 

Posted date / 09.12.18

C.S. Lewis once said “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” It’s a mantra that hits close to home for us here at Visionary Realms as we strive to make Pantheon the best game it can be. With that in the forefront of our minds the team went back to the drawing board, determined to improve the most maligned race of Terminus —The Skar. We sat down with developers Justin Gerhart, Forrest Imel and Jared Pullen to discuss what happens when you don’t quite get it right the first time.

 

SKar.png

Q: What were the main factors leading to redesigning the Skar?

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: We were never satisfied with the initial rendering of the Skar, from an artistic or mechanical perspective. Those two areas of consideration are actually what prompted us to go back to the drawing board.

The first attempt was a “shot in the dusk”, not total darkness. I had ideas on how some key elements could look but as I’ve said on our forum we were really limited in terms of time and that directly impacted refinement of the idea. At the time our website was relaunching, there was all of this lore copy that had to be finalized, written and rewritten, and we were using a third party art studio to render 9 races all at once.

On top of that we had very few existing references to imitate when it came to establishing the look of the Skar. Generally we aim for uniqueness; a new take on an old thing or a new thing that’s never quite been done. It’s a core component of our design philosophy and it’s one reason I love working here. But the more unique a concept is the heavier the burden of proving it becomes. It’s weird to say, but a box with no walls can be just as limiting as a box with 6.

So artistically we had a number of details we wanted to explore with a fresh perspective but mechanically we had two major issues on our hands as well. The first was the preponderance of spikes all over the model. Those guys would’ve played havoc with animation and gear, and weren’t really the best way to manifest a key story point (I’ll talk more on that later).

The second and more critical flaw was the backward knee design, which would have been completely unworkable from an efficiency standpoint. That detail alone would have required every single set of gear in the game to be remade specifically for the Skar, not just able to be racially refit. One anatomical detail would have unnecessarily broadened our scope significantly. In the end it was smarter to spend our time creating more unique assets for all the races than remodeling the same assets for one.

(Last thing I’ll say is that the Gnomes were so close to meeting a worse fate than the Skar, but Joppa pushed for one final render right before the deadline and they nailed the look. Someday we’ll release that initial attempt, on a coffee stained napkin or something. Broken coaster maybe.)

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: We wanted to maintain that same theme throughout each playable race and make sure that the Skar would feel wholly original and unlike any other race on Terminus. The original concept for the Skar just didn’t quite hit the mark for us and we took it as a way to find what we liked and didn’t like and move forward in a direction we were happier with. The Skar are such a weird, feral, and slightly ambiguous race that they were tough to really pinpoint an exact direction for them. We wanted them to feel slightly demonic, but skeletal. Feral, but also intelligent, but not too much of any one thing. We didn’t want them to be categorized from the outside as “Oh, that’s a demon,” or “oh, that’s an undead race.” I think in the end we found that nice balance.

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: Right on Forrest. From the get go we knew that the Skar were by far our most chaotic player race, given over to pursuits of violence and carnage the likes of which most other Terminus races wouldn’t even dream of. The catch cry of the Skar is not “Prepare to die!”... it’s more “I like your face, I want to wear it as a helmet...” These guys could take things to that next level but rather than straight up show that and go too far down a grizzly path, we’ve tried to inject that essence of intent into their physiology. We knew there had to remain a constant threat of menace in their very skin and present in their countenance especially, but felt the need to ensure a clear distinction between classic Undead types as witnessed in the past, and our newly shaping Skar. So it’s ‘feral dialed to 11’, with a liberal dose of cunning and malevolence leached into the design for good measure… or is that ‘bad’ measure? I haven’t decided yet, but suffice it to say what Forrest has unleashed will be a dangerous and unstable element to be reckoned with indeed.

Q: The Skar are unique to Pantheon. What was the inspiration for the race?

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: Well a lot of the art, as always, is very much lead by Justin’s wonderful lore. I know on my end though, it was very important to not make this race feel like something from any other game. I looked at demons and undead races from other popular games and kept track of the things that would lean too far on the undead side, or demonic side, or feral side, and so on. A lot of the aesthetic in the final concept art was taken straight from the lore and daily life of an everyday Skar. The acid dyed armor, the warpaint, the use of body parts as weapons or armor. All of those are things that come straight from Skar culture.

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: The need for a moral nadir.

The community may recall that the Skar were not in the original list of races when the title was announced. In their spot were the Trolls, but when I came on we didn’t feel a deep connection between Trolls and Terminus, at least not as a pioneer race for the game. Also before Chris or I came on, the Revenant had been removed as well (a spot later filled by the Archai), and we ultimately moved them to the role of prominent antagonist in the recent history of the world.

These two moves unintentionally created a void on the playable character spectrum. To help fill the cavity it felt right to transform the Myr into the Dark Myr, and that story sort of wrote itself over the course of a few days. But even the Dark Myr fell short of the black hole that the Revenant left, and we saw a need for something new and wild. Out of this abyss came the Skar.

I had an idea for a race that was antagonistic toward its pantheon, and also a pantheon that was “many but one”. The Nine God, which the Skar call D’shath, played a big part in understanding this new race and the nature of their existence. Why did the Archai go through a similar experience and emerge full of life, yet the Skar came away even further enslaved by their own desires? The natural point of inquiry was in their relationship to the Nine God, and from that place it was easier to chart the path of the Skar.

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: Loosing such beings of primal havok visually was a task lent significant strength by the writings already in place. The Skar’s exploits as a mercenary nation delighting in savagery wove for us a pretty clear tapestry. Once again cultural considerations from Justin’s lore drove this so well - thanks be to his graphic descriptions of Skar daily existence! Knowing how these people lived with a malice so central to their state of being and the values they clung to (if one can call decorating ones’ dwelling with the bones of your enemies a ‘cultural value’) a wonderfully clear, grotesque and fantastical image began to emerge. It is an image of a race that is the quintessence of malice, a savage cruelty made manifest in ruinous and corrupted form. Their bodies themselves are seemingly the very epitome of corruption, and there’s something of a putridity about them that speaks to a pollution in their very skin. They seem as one with an acrid sickness that would ordinarily destroy any other race. Such things were the inspirators that came forth when we considered the reimagining of the Skar. Forrest has done an exquisite job in realising all of this, and in so doing managed to set them apart from all things typically Undead.

skar_designs1.png

Q: Tell us how, respectively, the art and lore affected each other during the creation of the Skar?

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: Obviously because this was truly a redesign we did more exploration on the Skar than any other race. The guys had a lot of questions about who the Skar were, how their culture operated, how they gestate, do they like beans, why haven’t they taken over the world, do they even wear armor, etc. Normal stuff really.

Out of that comes a race that has artistic ideas sewn into their identity in some unique ways. Forrest took some of the design concepts to places I hadn’t even considered, and pushed me to dig deeper into their story. I came away having a much better appreciation for who the Skar were and what guided each individual member of the race.

We’ll get into this in specificity in the next question, but that leg work was critical in realizing the most important component of the redesign (to me at least).

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: I want to say the lore defined this race more than any other really. They are such a unique and specific race to represent visually that I think Jared and I both had to cling on to every bit of lore possible to best represent these guys. Talking about the daily life of the Skar was something we really discussed a lot to try and get into the mindset of this race. “Ok, how do they react to things? How armored up would they be? Would they have warpaint? Are they scavengers?” I even used their lifestyle as inspiration for the differences between the female and the male. There may or may not be a reason for the female having this fleshy area and additional strip of bone going down her stomach, just saying.

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: Yeah, what’s up with that Forrest? (Shudders in fear at the physiological possibilities) Too true though, for if the Skar were an ocean (a toxic, tempestuous acid ocean) then the lore was our life raft… and we rode that happy little life raft all the way to shore on this one. One can throw visual descriptors around like ‘malicious’ and ‘primal’ and try to land them visually but it’s often function that proves useful in dictating form. The Skar were no different in this regard. Hearing of their exploits, their savage past and of the rampant carnage they’d partake in was the chief driver for the look and feel. Justin drove well. He taught the lore, and the lore won…. (sorry, had to.)

Knowing that the Skar were also of a tribal nature helped us row things away from that classic Undead vibe. Another factor that helped paddle us in the right direction for this race was a nod to crafting materials--specifically materials that only this race would use (or dare use!) We’ve tried to come at every race in this way by identifying a certain natural material that is native to them or perhaps even a process with said materials that is uniquely handled by a certain race. For example with the Dwarves, Coldark Steel is one such material that undergoes a highly unique bonding process to become what it is: a process that has influenced a great deal of Dwarven culture and therefore the look development too. Likewise with the Elves, whose Ashcrafted weaponry forms a cultural signifier that has become synonymous with being Elven in Pantheon. They are points of difference that inform costuming and outfitting, and in some cases speak to their very identity and origins. So it was also with the Skar…

Their hazardous practise of bathing armour plating in corrosive chemical treatments to produce fearsome metal discolourations identifies them as a race which places emphasis on having a terrifying visage, with no regard for living tissue (or safety standards). This unique process of acid washing their armour in the toxic pools of Skargol made for a fine point of difference, and was certainly a fun concept to play with when considering palette!

Q: What was your favorite part of the process in bringing this race to life?

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: I got to paint skeleton demon people. What more could I ask for?

Jared Pullin - Senior Concept Artist: Mmmm, skeleton demon people… yes… I’m not sleeping tonight Forrest… Again though for me it’s just the process as a whole, jamming with my Brothers in Visual Design to help produce something really unique against a host of visual challenges. Cursed and afflicted as they were by potent unnatural means, the Skar were not to appear as straight up zombies, nor ghouls, or be overtly skeletal as the classically Undead are typically portrayed. Forrest nailed the balance so well. They are their own distinct being and it’s those cultural overtones that have pulled it off I believe. Personally I’m a cultural touches guy, looking to tell a story any way we can in the visual sense. It’s about hearing that narrative in Justin’s lore and helping to extract the best possible visual version of the story through those cultural touchstones and identifiers. Jamming with Chris, Justin, Forrest and Dan from all manner of perspectives is for me the best part. When it was all said and done and Forrest unveiled that final diabolical package that was to be the Skar, there was this ‘Oh man, we’re there already!?’ moment for me, followed in quick succession by the final ‘that’s just fantastic’ moment. I love working with these guys and I think the mark was well struck. A great Team effort.

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: The face.

The face is critical to the Skar story. Part of the punishment handed down by the Nine God was that the bones of their skull would be pushed through the surface of their skin, letting anyone who encountered a Skar know immediately who they were dealing with. This also served as a real life KoS to outsiders, and meant even their own reflection testified of their crimes.

The first render was a classic example of having some of the right ingredients for a magnificent meal, but preparing it the wrong way -- through no fault of the studio we were using at the time. Again we had a lot invested in manifesting a concept that did not exist anywhere else, or at least not in the way we wanted it to. Like Forrest said there were examples that could influence details of the design, but certainly not ones we wanted to dominate the result.

In the first attempt you see some of what I was talking about with using the right ingredients the wrong way. There are “bones” pushed through the skin in that hideous face, they just so happen to be spikes and not skull. There is a scavenging, predatorial type build, it just happens to require a glut of extra resources to support it.

But the most serious casualty of that misstep was the absence of a memorable face for players to respond to. There wasn’t anything to instinctively love or hate, it was a Freddie Krueger porcupine mashup, with a confusing, weird twitter expression. The community was gracious to let us explore the design without tearing it to shreds. (And I know a number of you fell in love with them as is. Trust me you are seen, and I hope you enjoy the new look all the more.)

It took time and a lot of patience from Forrest, but what we have now is who the Skar were meant to be, with a face to match.

skarmaleheads.png

Q: How do the Skar view the rest of the races that inhabit Terminus? Are those views reflected in their outward appearance?

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: This sounds a little heavier on the lore side of things, so I’ll sit back with my virtual cup of tea here and let Justin take this one.

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: Pour me a virtual cup too Forrest? Make mine a camomile please Bro. Hmmm, I wonder what the Skar drink? Any ideas? (I don’t think it’s camomile.)

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: Well they’re not trying to get an invite to the Court of Lords in Thronefast, if that’s what your asking.

Yeah, I mean Skar wear blood like body paint and filth like foundation. There is no consideration given to any outsider’s opinion on their appearance, in fact the worse another race thinks of a Skar the better. Terror is a weapon of their warfare.

This is a race whose greatest hour as a species was to rage like a plague of sentient, man-sized locusts, ravaging and pillaging everything they laid their eye and foot upon. They see you and I as nothing more than prey and opportunity, and the more fear they can inspire -- which starts with reputation and appearance -- the more likely they are to emerge victorious.

Skar wear body parts as trophies instead of medals.

Q: What are you most excited about, design wise, going forward with the Skar?

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: There are a few twists in the culture of the Skar that I’m looking forward to players discovering in game. If we’ve done our job this race shouldn’t feel more generic simply because their approach to wealth acquisition seems so barbarically self-evident. They’re really violent, right, but they still have culture. Violence is an element within that culture, but it isn’t the only thing that animates Skar.

I’m also interested in how players will relate to this race over time. I think your initial impression is pretty instinctual, there’s not a lot of deep thought put into whether or not you want to play as one of these guys. But as you encounter more Skar in the world and hopefully play as them, I’m interested to see how perceptions change.

The Skar are a wild card on Terminus. It would be a mistake to presume their role in the world, and that’s as much a reminder to me as anyone else.

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: The culture of this race is so neat to me and I can’t wait to see what Jared is doing with their towns and structures. And designing the various Skar throughout the world sounds very fun to me. They’re a race that can vary a little more widely than a human or elf. Their bone and face structure can change so much and can make for some very unique looking NPCs. I can’t wait!

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: Again it’s those cultural expositions that I cannot wait to dive into in full. When you know how a race lives, the tell-tale customs and practises, you can get a very real sense of what you’re going to need visually to support those things. Even just the process of how the Skar treat their weapons and armour - having those things creep into gameplay as well as visual design for instance will be most satisfying. Whether that manifests as huge smouldering vats filled with corrosive acid wash (please Justin can we have huge smouldering vats filled with corrosive acid wash??) that players have to navigate and traverse, or maybe deadly gas atmospheres that pose an environmental danger to players, we’ll have to see…. as long as I get my corrosive acid vats man... yeah, vats are where it’s at. (Brews another camomile tea…)

skarhair.png

Q: Can you drop any hints on Skargol? Where is the team as far as concepting the look of the region? What can players expect?

Forrest Imel - Concept Artist: Luckily, with how we’ve planned everything out with each race. Every single race has a great foundation for where they will all visually be going. It’s made it very easy to move from one race to the next. We have laid a few things out already, but since this is more in Jared’s area of expertise I’ll let him give all the juicy details.

Jared Pullen - Senior Concept Artist: (Swallows camomile tea quickly to answer...) Cheers Forrest! Skargol invokes a startling image when one simply mentions the Dead Sheer; a towering spear head of splintered rock on the scale of a mountain peak, erupting upwards like the withering digit of a fell and angry devil. A grizzly monument to torment and despair it stands, adorned with the shrivelled remnants of past victims whose blackened bones cry out from the very rocks. All this amidst an acrid wasteland pocked by fetid acid pools and barren rock stained by chemically unstable mineral compounds that leach upwards from the very bowls of Terminus. It is a vile place, a hazardous place. One does not simply walk into Skargol…

Justin Gerhart - Lead Writer: There’s not going to be any other starting area like it. A lot of the details Jared and Forrest have discussed are going to be presented on a broad scale, with what I hope are interesting applications for their corner of the world.

I’m all about counterpoints, and I’ve long thought of the Dead Sheer (a monolithic remnant of the Skar homeworld) as an anti-Lucent tree from Faerthale. Rather than a Tree of Life, it functions more as a tree of death. Just the sight of it should tell you that you’re in a place where life is turned upside down. Good is evil here, and evil is a way of life.

The stark silhouette of the Dead Sheer is like the bones of another world breaking through the skin of Terminus, and everything under its shadow struggles for the means of survival.

skargol.png
 

 

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Pre-Alpha 3 finished up a little over 2 weeks ago and the team is full steam ahead on meeting our goals for Pre-Alpha 4. So, what have they been up to?

Faerthale and Class implementation, mostly.

Faerthale is looking really good. It won’t have its final art pass for PA4 but the blocking is already quite captivating. Without spoiling much here I will say that the thought behind the zone is showing early and showing well.

Faerthale_Mood_02.png

We’ve taken a lot of the feedback from what the PA testers have given us in the first 3 phases and approached Faerthale in a more refined way. We don’t want to put in big zones just for the sake of having big zones—they need to have content to keep them engaging. On the same token having too many pockets of content effectively shrink the zone. This is because the pockets stand out as unique experiences which are much smaller in size in comparison to an entire zone. The association then becomes much smaller in scope and effectively shrinks your zone. On the opposite side of things if zones are too big without enough content they feel like vast wastelands. So the trick is in the balancing. Our zones are technically “big” when looking at it from a pure landmass perspective. But that size is almost irrelevant once you start splitting it into the content pockets.

In Faerthale the overall “feel” is good. There are several unique experiences you’ll discover in the zone and each of them are expansive enough that it doesn’t make your adventures feel like micro-adventures. They’re also not so large that they feel empty. On top of it we need to ensure that all of the experiences in the zone fit into the overall zone thematically and practically. It’s a hard thing to do and we feel confident we’re dialing it in well in Faerthale. We’re eager to get the feedback from the PA testers when we open the realms again this fall.

Faerthale_Paintovers_06.JPG

Another huge component of Pre-Alpha 4 is our mission to have all Classes implemented up to level 40. This is a very large task when you consider the amount of design, iteration and implementation that needs to be done.

The process began some time ago with the high-level design docs of each Class. This was eventually translated into the class pages you see on the website. Once these HLDDs are socialized and refined they become full Class design docs. This allows us to ensure everyone who works on each Class understands the spirit and goal of the class. It includes things like inspiration, brief examples of some Class-defining abilities, and the members of the team who were involved in the design discussions. This way anyone can read the document, and if we’ve documented it well, will be able to understand exactly the feel, style and direction of the Class.

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An even larger portion of the design comes down to the spell and ability matrix. This is the heart of every Class as it defines what those Classes can do. A lot of time is spent going through these spells and abilities one by one and bouncing them off of each other. They need to work as a conceptional design but they also need to be realistic in terms of programming and they need to stay true to the overall style of the game. A lot of check and balance discussions happen over the spell and ability matrices. Once the design is settled and communicated effectively implementation can happen. We have a proprietary tool crafted by our talented programmers which allows us to start adding the abilities in game. This is a bit of an iterative process as there are a lot of different spells and abilities over our 12 classes so there are a lot of different functions this tool needs to be able to handle. So programming works with design to get these functions implemented and then refined for practical use.

It doesn’t stop there. We’ll then test the classes with all of their new abilities internally in different scenarios and fix bugs and tweak balancing issues. We catch and fix a lot in this stage but it’s nothing like having hundreds of live testers trying thousands of things we could not account for. For that we are forever grateful to our PA testers. This balancing is a lifelong process as new players and new scenarios arise. So Classes are far from a fire-and-forget approach. Their growth and evolution will continue through Pre-Alpha, Alpha, Beta and well past launch.

We’re very excited for Pre-Alpha 4. It’s representative of a “first draft” at a full Pantheon experience with all Classes and a balanced approach to a new zone design. Can’t wait to show it off!

Ben Dean
Producer, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen

 

 

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