How the creator of EverQuest plans to bring MMOs into a new era

Brad McQuaid and Salim Grant discuss Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, an upcoming MMO set to bring the challenge of old-school EverQuest to the modern age.
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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