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Portalus Games | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Historical | Status:Final  (rel 01/22/08)  | Pub:Portalus Games
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Pirates of the Burning Sea: Interview with David 'Taelorn' Hunt

Recently, News Editor Garrett Fuller had a chance to sit down with Flying Lab Software Designer, David 'Taelorn' Hunt, to talk about the ship combat in their upcoming sea-based MMORPG, Pirates of the Burning Sea.

MMORPG.com:

PoTBS has some very unique features. Can you tell us about the types of ships a player can purchase in the game?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

Our selection of ships ranges from schooners, sloops, Indiamen, galleons, frigates, corvettes, and brigs to ships of the line. Thanks to the diligence of our User Content community, we have nearly 50 ship models in the game already and we expect to have more by the time we launch. They are divided between merchant ships, fast attack ships and heavy warships.

Ships are the cornerstone of our economy. Right now, players can make every ship that can be sailed, although there are other ways of obtaining ships.

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MMORPG.com:

Tell us about how a pirate can sail his ship around the Burning Sea? What type of interface did you use for players to sail around the game?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

We use a standard WASD setup, although I keep telling everyone that ESDF is superior! One major difference here is that you do not need to hold forward to keep moving - you just hit it long enough to raise your sails to the desired position. Players who prefer to use the mouse can click to adjust their sails and rudder or set a heading on the compass. I prefer to use the keyboard to control my movement and the mouse to control the camera, but I occasionally maneuver with the mouse.

MMORPG.com:

When it comes to ship combat, what can players expect from a ship to ship fight?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

Our combat is longer and more tactical than the fights in most MMORPGs. There is a lot of depth in the combat before any abilities even come into play. Depending on the weight of your guns, they take anywhere from 10 to 90 seconds to reload. Big ships have multiple gun decks, which means you aren't waiting 90 seconds between volleys. Planning and timing your volleys makes a significant difference. Your speed, your turn rate, your target's relative motion, range, your cannons and the size of the target all affect chance to hit. Right now, it takes a few minutes to sink an evenly matched NPC ship. Player versus player battles run from 8 minutes and up for a single opponent. Tactics and maneuvering are crucial in ship battles, because ships have limited firing arcs and they are vulnerable at their bow (front) and stern (rear). Small ships are a threat to large ships because they can outmaneuver them, but a close range broadside from a large ship can tear a small ship to shreds. It's entirely possible for players to form small wolf packs that take down large prey.

Ships have external armor values for each side and an internal structure value. You sink when you run out of structure, no matter how much armor you have left. The less armor remaining on a side, the more structure damage you take from every hit. One of the constant decisions players face is which side to expose to the enemy. Since you are controlling a sailing ship, it is essential to plan ahead and master the tools at your disposal. There is much less armor on the stern of a ship, which means raking (firing on a ship's bow or stern) quickly tears into a ship's structure.

We give you a choice on how to approach fights. Using different types of ammo, you can target the hull, sails or crew of an enemy ship. Even if you intend to sink your opponent, there is still value in damaging their sails or crew first.

Since we are making a sailing game, we have a natural force that impacts every fight: the wind. The direction you sail in relation to the wind affects the performance of your ship, which adds an extra dimension to combat. If you can control the wind, it gives you an distinct advantage over your opponent. Beyond that, different types of ships do not have the same performance at a particular wind angle. One of our ships, the Xebec, is noteworthy for its exceptional ability to sail against the wind.


MMORPG.com:

Tell us about boarding your enemy's ship? How does this play out in a fight?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

In order to board, you must first grapple the enemy ship. It's difficult to grapple a ship that is moving fast, and you need to be very close. It's dangerous because you risk taking a few point-blank broadsides if you fail to grapple.

When you succeed a grapple, you and your crew take up arms and bring the fight to the enemy's decks. You can fight outnumbered, but if you try to take on too many enemies you will quickly get overwhelmed. Boarding the enemy does not protect you from the surrounding battle. Other enemies can still fire on your ship, which means you must be careful when deciding to board.

MMORPG.com:

What type of hand to hand combat can occur when you board a ship? How do you eventually take it over?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

Fights are molded in the spirit of cinematic swashbuckling. Players choose between three fighting schools: Dirty Fighting, Fencing and Florentine (two-weapons). You are victorious when the enemy does not have enough crew left to fight back. If you board a ship controlled by another player, then you will have a chance to cross swords in the encounter. Large groups of your crew are involved, so boarding combat is not a simple duel between captains.

There is a lot of room on multi-decked naval ships. That means several smaller ships can all board a large ship at once. We plan to allow up to 8 ships to grapple a single ship of the line.


MMORPG.com:

You had said that players can ride solo on their ships with a crew of NPCs or have players make up the crew. What will happen if a crew of fifteen players decides to attack a solo ship with one player and all NPCs? Would this be considered griefing?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

You cannot have players crew your ship. If we allow players to crew ships, there are two main scenarios. One is that player crews have no impact, which means it will be boring and a waste of development time. The second is that player crews do have an impact. In that case, it becomes important to have a player crew and solo players find themselves at a disadvantage and potentially unable to successfully captain large ships. Regardless, any system that is both fun and balanced would require a great deal of work. We do not feel we need this feature at launch, but there is a chance it will come up down the road.

MMORPG.com:

As a ship captain, will you be able to out run your opponents? As opposed to always getting stuck in a fight?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

Yes, it is possible to outrun your opponents. This is especially true if you are outmatched. Weaker ships are usually fast enough to flee from ships that will destroy them. This means that small, fast ships are always valuable PvP assets. Players have access to skills and ammo that will help them ensnare players who try to run.


MMORPG.com:

For a player losing a ship seems like a huge loss. Can you tell us how ships can be replaced in game? Or at least what type of loot system will be used in this regard?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

We have a concept called durability that helps take some of sting out of losing a battle. A ship's durability shows how many times it can sink before you lose the ship permanently. As you build bigger and more expensive ships, they have less durability. PvP risk is low for new players.

We also have fallback ships. If you lose the last durability on your last ship, the game will give you a free ship appropriate for your level. It's not as strong as what you can get otherwise, but it allows you to continue playing.

MMORPG.com:

How will the use of cannons come into play? Will players be able to broadside each other and sink ships quickly?

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

Ships do not sink quickly. At medium to long range, the biggest ship in the game - the 104 gun - cannot one-hit kill the 6 gun starting schooner. That said, close range broadsides are devastating and large ships pack a lot of firepower. Getting too close can be fatal, which is one reason maneuverability is so valuable.

MMORPG.com:

Finally, in regards to ship combat, is there anything we missed? It seems like a very interesting feature to the game, so here is you chance to cover any loop holes.

David 'Taelorn' Hunt:

We are working to ensure that all ships can contribute to a big battle while still allowing you to progress into bigger and stronger ships. This is not a game where you have to be max level to compete, because we do not use level anywhere in our combat math. Low level players can easily tip the scales in a battle between high level players.

Ship combat is as involved as the player decides to make it. If you want to sail idly and hit your fire button whenever it comes up, that works but it is not as effective. The players who get the most out of the system will be the ones who consider the timing of their shots, proper ammo usage, when to change tactics, when to sacrifice a broadside to maneuver for a better position and where to focus their repairs. They will anticipate enemy actions for preemptive counters.

We're quite pleased with our ship combat, but that doesn't keep up from working to improve the system. Our beta players give us some excellent battle reports, describing the fights they have and the tactics that are involved. When I read those reports, the details really show how our ship combat shines.

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