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Pirates of the Burning Sea Dev Journals: Producer’s Blog: Mission Tuning & Fixing

By Guest Writer on May 08, 2007

Producer's Blog: Mission Tuning & Fixing

Pirates of the Burning Sea Producer, John Scott Tynes, delivers yet another new Developer Journal to MMORPG.com. This time, John gives us a look at a Producer's Blog entry that was previously only available to players in the game's beta.

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Making Sausage

Pirates of the Burning Sea has been in beta since December of 2005. Our testers have seen a lot of changes and a lot of new features and content in that time. To keep them up to date on what's going on, we sometimes write dev logs that only our beta testers see. These appear in the beta forums and they enable us to discuss our work in detail for an audience that sees everything we produce.

I thought it would be fun to take one of those beta dev logs and put it up here on MMORPG.com. Some of it may be a little confusing, since it refers to some nitty-gritty gameplay stuff only beta testers know a lot about, but I bet you'll get a kick out of seeing how we communicate with our beta testers behind closed doors.

I also thought I'd give you something not even our beta testers have seen: some actual screenshots of our new boarding combat feature. This isn't in the beta yet because we're iterating the feature on a daily basis until it's ready for the beta, so enjoy these glimpses of a furious sword fight at sea!

Producer's Blog: Mission Tuning & Fixing

ConCo, our content team, has begun a major project that will impact every ship combat mission in the game. They are tuning all of those missions to achieve several goals:

  1. Implementing surrender, so that NPC ships will give up the fight when you're clearly winning; we do this in ad hoc battles already but this will make it happen within missions. This will make the fights shorter. Our ship combat tuning is based on the assumption that NPCs surrender, and since they aren't, mission fights currently take too long.
  2. Adjusting the enemies you fight based on our revamped ship tuning and ship progression, which will fix some unbeatable/unwinnable missions and make the fights much, much better suited to the advertised difficulty of the mission.
  3. Automatically scaling mission difficulty by group size. Yep, that's right! If you have 8 players in your group, the mission will give you a tougher fight. The difficulty escalation is slow, so in groups of 1-5 players you will see no changes in most missions and slight changes in others. Groups of 6-8 will see more and harder enemies.
  4. Adding a mission difficulty slider. Another new feature! You will be able to set your current mission difficulty level. The default level is suitable for a solo player to win, but if you want a harder fight, we'll give it to you. These two features work in tandem: a group of 8 gets the same fight as a solo player at max difficulty, but a group of 8 who is also using max difficulty gets a much, much harder fight. This means you can better control the challenge level of missions and if you want to fight tougher ships for more XP, you can do so through grouping, adjusting the difficulty, or both.

This project is going to keep ConCo busy for a while, and we're then going to do a lot of internal testing before we release the overhauled ship combat missions to the beta. All your concerns about missions that are too easy, too hard, or just plain unwinnable for combat reasons should be resolved by this project.

But we aren't stopping there.

As soon as ConCo finishes their tuning pass, they will then start moving through all of our content on a massive bug purge. It's time to polish this stuff up and they're going to do it one region at a time. They'll start with the missions in the new-player areas, levels 1-15. We are ripping out all of the missions in those areas and replacing them with brand-new missions you've never seen before.

Then they'll move on to the 16-30 missions. They'll fix bugs, shuffle some of the former 1-15 missions into the 16-30 towns after polishing them up and breaking up some of the too-long mission chains. Even when all the existing 16-30 stuff works, we don't think we have enough missions in that range, so this will improve what's available.

After that, it's on to the 31-50 missions.

This is our big pre-release polish pass and when we're done, all the mission content will be in great shape. There are several hundred missions that no one in the beta has ever seen because we haven't had time to get them cleaned up and ready for release. Once we do, you'll have a lot more new cool stuff to experience.

This process is going to take weeks. It means you'll be stuck with the current buggy missions for a while yet. If you find you're getting frustrated at the state of the beta, please consider taking a break for a while. We'd rather you came back fresh and ready for a new build than get burned out and frustrated.

Being in a beta is like what they say about sausage factories: seeing how it's made can be kind of a turnoff. We know it's frustrating to hit these problems and wonder when they'll be fixed. The answer is that it's going to be a few weeks, and we'll keep you posted on our progress, but when we're done it'll be a big leap forward in quality and polish for all of our mission content.

- John Scott Tynes
Producer, Pirates of the Burning Sea

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