Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen - My Synopsis of the Game's History Through My Eyes

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is an upcoming MMORPG. For those who don't know what MMORPG stands for, it is a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Essentially, hundreds or thousands of players are actively adventuring individually or with other players all at the same time within the same game world. For many nerds, this is how we get most of our social interaction.

For me, Pantheon first hit my radar in 2019 but was in development even before then. The game was the brainchild of legendary game designer Brad McQuaid. He was the one of the main people behind the popular EverQuest MMORPG in the late 90s that really put the genre, and online gaming in general, on the map. After EQ's success, Sony, who had bought EverQuest, wanted to capitalize on the game's popularity and released an EverQuest 2. There's no sign that Brad was actively involved with this game's development though he did work for Sony at the time. Regardless, EQ2 failed to capture the essence of EQ and also the hearts of the player community. EQ2 never saw the same level of sales, subscription levels, and active players as the original EQ. To many of us fans of EQ, EQ2 was only EQ in name but not in spirit.

Brad eventually left Sony and started a new company. The new company was developing a new MMORPG that would be called Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. For fans of EQ like me and others, Vanguard was our EQ2. It had all of the hallmark concepts that we enjoyed in EQ with Brad's development touches on them and some new features that elevated that gameplay. My friends and I were very hyped about participating in the game's pre-release beta sessions and had all pre-ordered the game. Then Sony came along and bought that studio just as the game was getting ready to launch. Sony's changes warped the game for us and we left the game after only a few short months. It no longer felt like EQ but felt more like Sony trying to squeeze every dime out of the game to recoup their investment. Game mechanics were removed, presumably to make development and maintenance easier & cheaper. If I remember correctly, monthly subscription costs rose within months of the game's release. Critical bugs weren't being addressed in a timely manner, in our opinion. The game just took a downward tumble for us. Brad would later go on to say that the game was released early due to "financial resources", but if you ask me that's just corporate talk for "Sony wanted its money."

But during a gaming session on Project1999 (P99 for short), which is a free classic EQ emulator, I was chatting with another player who started telling me about Brad's new project called Pantheon. This immediately got my attention so after I logged off of P99, I immediately started looking for details on this game. The information on their website sounded extremely encouraging. The screenshots for the game looked very nice. Development seemed to be well underway despite there being no official launch date. Like most things these days, a portion of the game's funding was coming from crowd funding where people like me can pay a small sum of money in return for something related to the content. The more we pay, the more we get back.

I jumped on the chance to spend a minimal amount in exchange for 2 copies of the game upon release. That way I could give a copy to my BFF and we could play together since we both loved EQ so much. That was February 2019.

Fast forward about 9 months. Its now November 2019. The game is still in development. There's been talk about beta starting "soon" but still nothing official or firm. The dev team is putting out sporadic development updates on social media, video clips, showcasing art and character models for the game, but the community is starting to feel like the game isn't progressing quick enough. Its a fickle community that agrees to crowd fund games but most of them only play games and don't understand the complexities of development. Either way, I sensed a disturbance in the force around the game.

And then terrible news breaks. November 18, 2019, Brad McQuaid passes away. I assume a heart attack or stroke but no official cause of death was released to my limited knowledge. Sure, Brad is a celebrity among gamers like myself but he's no Hollywood star that news media outlets are clamoring to get the scoop about. His death hits the studio hard. It hit the gaming community hard. But outside of that world, little else was said about his passing.

But his passing also threw the future of the game into a bit of a tailspin. Nobody knew if the game's development would be able to continue without Brad. Nobody knew if the studio would retain/obtain critical funding to continue the game without Brad's influence. Condolences poured out from the gaming community to Brad's friends, family, and co-workers but were often followed up with questions about the game's future. So much were the questions that the studio had to put out an official announcement shortly after Brad's death stating that their first priority at the time was mourning the passing of their friend and leader and that the game's future would be a topic for future discussion.

I get it. I understood where they were coming from. You can't answer all of those questions when the man who usually had all of the answers just died. It'll take time to process that loss, to determine what your options are, and pick a path forward. That's not something that can be done in an instant or should be decided while dealing with such an emotional occurrence. The community seemed less concerned for Brad's family and more concerned with their own gaming desires. It was kind of disturbing actually.

Eventually, the studio would come back and say that the game was going to move forward in Brad's honor. They had received the blessing of Brad's wife and family to continue developing his game. Funding was secured and the game was still a go.

That was 4 1/2 years ago. The game is still unreleased. There is still no official launch date. The studio is still seeking crowdsource funding. The dev team has made some changes to the game's art style. Other changes have been announced since Brad's passing. There has been a growing sense of distrust among the game community around this game. Social media posts from the studio are often rife with haters claiming the game to be "vaporware", empty promises meant to solicit money from unsuspecting players. Some have tried to demand refunds for their investment. Its turned ugly in the comments, folks. The game still does have its supporters but the haters are loud and constant.

Sometimes I read the comments just to see why the haters are so angry. Really I think it just all boils down to they are upset that they aren't playing the game already. The studio has made some odd choices and decisions that I questioned about what they were doing and when but then I'm not in the studio. I don't know the day-to-day operations and discussions that take place. Some decisions are likely funding based, meaning that they don't have the money or the staff to do other things so they redirect to do what they can with the people and money they have. Either way, I remained vigilant about the game and have continued to hope that it will eventually hit the market for me and my friends to enjoy. And with recent announcements from the studio about player test sessions starting soon, those hopes are higher than ever!.

Leave a comment