Last night, the crew from Flying Lab Software’s Pirates of the Burning Sea stopped by to answer questions from MMORPG.com members. Joining in the fun were: Community Manager Troy Hewitt, Content Director Jess Lebow, Game Designer Drew C., Tools Developer Rick Saada, Game Designer David Hunt, Community Team Member Tom, Lead Programmer Joe Ludwig and Producer John Tynes.
With such a large list of names attending the chat, it was clear that there would be questions from all angles as the FLS team really seemed to have their bases covered.
Beta and Pre-Order
The team fielded a few questions on the immediate future of the game. Specifically, fans seemed to want to know about an Open Beta for the game. Currently, Pirates of the Burning Sea is in its Closed Beta. It seems though that we’re not going to have to wait too long for the next stage though, as the guys did more than hint that there would be news on that later this week. They suggested that if you are interested in Beta, you should sign up here.
Open Beta news isn’t the only thing coming later in the week as Tynes cleared up a few more questions: “So in just a few days, we'll cover the open beta, the European preorder date, and the fact that we're close to dropping our NDA as well.”
Seems like an exciting time for the Flying Lab Folks, but it isn’t all smiles and sunshine on the open sea, as the company has had an “up hill climb” in terms of getting their pre-order boxes on store shelves. That isn’t a particularly surprising fact, with the Christmas season fast approaching and everyone and their dog releasing new games for the occasion, retailers just aren’t stocking as many MMOs as you might think. “If you've been to a dedicated games retailer in the last year or so,” said Tynes, “you've probably realized that PC titles are not a big priority for them in any event. That plus the heavy Christmas release schedule of major titles has made it an uphill climb.”
With only about two months until the game’s launch (Jan 20th), one of the fans at the chat asked a very interesting question: “Where has the marketing campaign been?” The answer was, in a nutshell, that there are a few campaigns just sitting and waiting for Open Beta. Print ads will be happening “shortly” (one can assume that they might mean December) and “when open beta starts, we will have online ads going up on a whole bunch of sites.”
One of the most interesting aspects of following Pirates of the Burning Sea this far has been their Community programs. While many MMOs hold contests and encourage their growing fan bases to get involved with the game, PotBS seemed to take that to the next level, even going so far as to open themselves up to having potential players create the models for some of the ships in the game. One of questions simply asked where the User Content Program would be headed after launch. Not only are they continuing the program, but they are also adding more and better tools to support the program and are thinking of extending it to include things like furniture and weapons. It’s nice to see that close to launch, the company has plans to keep some of their development initiatives in the community alive.
Out-of-game, they told users that the team plans to continue holding “FLS community meet-ups” after the game’s launch. Drew C. even went so far as to say they he finds these events to be “tremendously valuable to me as a designer. Talking face to face with players about our game, or games in general, is not only enjoyable, but the best way, in my opinion, to find out what people really think about your game.”
In-game, the developers are planning some post-launch features that center around player port governance. This will allow players to gain influence in a given port, and influence will be used to allow players to more or less elect a governor who will have as-yet-undefined power to make decisions regarding the port. They are also looking at adding to the PvP system that will allow players (specifically societies) to coordinate large scale PvP battles.
When someone asked about the fact that players might want to play Pirates and ignore the other nations in the game, David Hunt talked about the way that the different nations work.
While there is no specific difference between the nations in terms of available ships, he went on to explain that the main differences come from the various ports that the nation controls and what resources those ports contain:
“The main gameplay difference comes from where your ports are and what resources are in those ports. Right now, you can log in and see the population distribution on a server at that time. Each nation will say something along the lines of "Low" or "High." With each server victory (they can occur every two weeks maximum), the map is reset and ports are returned to their original owners. The players who place low get bonus victory points, which puts them closer to achieving the next victory. Those points don't matter if you're not competitive, though. So, we're working on dynamic adjustments to benefit the underdog nations. We're setting up requirements that will determine who's behind in areas other than just server victory, then we can give bonuses to those nations. The primary benefit to being the underdog is that it'll be harder to generate unrest to take over ports controlled by an underdog nation. Conversely, we might make it easier to generate unrest in ports controlled by the dominate nation. There are lots of other things we might do with underdogs, for example: faster experience, more money drops, allowing them to take an extra ship or two into port battles, etc.”
Throughout the chat, there were a number of specific game play questions. One that seems to be at the top of many lists in almost any MMO is the question of instancing and how much it will be used in any given game.
“For PotBS,” said Jess Lebow, “instancing is one of the primary storytelling tools. It allows us to give every player the opportunity to get involved in the action instead of requiring you to wait for rare mobs to respawn. It also gives us the ability to change the world and the story based on the decisions you make during game play.”
A question about crafting and how the system will work generated an interesting answer. It seems as though crafting in Pirates is a little bit different from crafting in your average MMO. In most MMOs, your character creates a single item from resources gathered. In PotBS, we were told to think of it more like your character owning a factory where many items can be made at one time. You still gather resources that are used in building various things, but the process runs a little bit differently. Rick Saada explains:
“The inputs may be gold, raw materials, or the outputs of other structures. The outputs are either usable goods or inputs to other recipes. Everything produced in the economy is useful somewhere, we don't have the issue that WoW has with endless goods produced only for the skill-ups, because we don't have skill-ups.”
“There are many types of structures in PotBS that operate at different levels of the economy. For example, a logging camp harvests raw materials. Its only real input is gold, and it produces logs. A sawmill takes logs and gold and produces planks and blocks needed for other things.”
“Shipyards sit at the top of the production pyramid and take a myriad of inputs (wood, canons, rigging, provisions, etc) and produce ships. People can chose how involved they want to be in the economy, buying what they need on the Auction House and selling what they produce to other players. It's all about finding a niche where you can compete and undercutting the competition.”
Obviously, sailing plays a vital role in Pirates of the Burning Sea. In fact, we know from some of the developer profiles that have been running here at MMORPG.com that the original concept for the game didn’t include avatars at all (rest assured though, they’re a vital element of the game now). When someone asked how in-depth the sailing in the game was, Saada responded by telling us that there are two scales for sailing. There’s world movement, which is essentially going from one place to another. World movement happens at a sped-up rate, it has to. Sailing in real-time on the world map would be… tiresome. Things become much more realistic though when a combat instance is entered and many more factors become important. Wind direction, for one, plays a large role in ship on ship combat.
During the chat, one of the users asked if the game would run on lower-end machines. Rather than speculate as to what a lower-end machine meant, Tynes gave us the actual minimum and required specs:
Windows® XP/Vista, Pentium® IV 1.5 Ghz or greater, 512MB RAM, DirectX® 9.0 compatible video card. NVidia® GeForce FX 5700, ATI® Radeon® 9600, or equivalent with 128MB of texture memory, DirectSound compatible audio hardware, broadband Internet connection, 16x DVD-ROM, 6GB hard drive space.
Windows® XP/Vista, Core Duo 2.0 Ghz or greater, 1024MB RAM, DirectX® 9.0 compatible video card. NVIDIA® GeForce 6800, ATI® X850, or equivalent with 256MB of texture memory, DirectSound compatible audio hardware, broadband Internet connection, 16x DVD-ROM, 6GB hard drive space.
While this article sums up a number of the key points made in the Dev Chat, there are still a number of questions and answers that don’t appear here. If you are interested in learning more about the game than is mentioned here, I would suggest taking a look at the full chat log, here.