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Pirates of the Burning Sea Previews: Hands-On Preview, Part I

By Carolyn Koh on February 20, 2006

Preview: Carolyn Koh played PotBS in Seattle, here is what she found

February 10th was one of these unexpectedly beautiful brisk but sunny days in the Northwest and a great day to be a pirate. Arrrrr!

I started by sneaking up behind the pizza delivery guy to the offices of Flying Lab Software on Queen Anne hill in Seattle, Washington but Troy “Aether” Hewitt, Community Envoy for Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) was alert and on the lookout for me. Tacking against the wind, he met me head-on and thus, we began the visit.

Schooner
FlyingLab Artists
The Nautilus

The Game in a Nut-shell
Pirates of the Burning Sea is an MMO set in the Caribbean of 1720. The heyday of the age of sail, and it is war between the nations of Britain, Spain, France and… the grrrr-eat Pirate Nation. The game features naval combat with a wide choice of ships, PvP conquerable ports and trade. Gamers can play naval captains, merchants, adventurers or pirates and play out centuries of European grudges and intrigue, battling it out for riches and reputation.

Game Immersion
Immersion in a game is dependent on many things, and one of them is identifying with your in-game avatar, sound and in-game graphics.

The original plan and focus was on customization of ships, however, avatar customization proved to be a highly desired aspect of a game and Flying Lab has responded accordingly. Player male/female avatars have 14/13 categories (males have facial hair) that players can customize in shape and color. Hair, hat, eyes, head, (facial hair), neck, body (coat), waist, legs (pants/skirt), gloves, feet, weapon, bag and jewelry.

Although different clothing may be purchased and equipped, sorry all, Eye Patches, Peg Legs and Parrots are still only a twinkle in Art Director, Bruce “B-Sharp” Sharp’s eye right now, and will be EARNED items. How that will pan out is still something in discussion and development.

Flying Labs does not have an in-house sound designer, but partner with Richard King, veteran Hollywood Sound Designer. Richard has under his belt, films such as War of the Worlds, The Exorcist, Magnolia and that great Napoleonic naval adventure, Master and Commander, for which he was awarded an Oscar for Sound Editing, a BAFTA as well as Golden Reel and Golden Satellite for best sound.

Preliminary ship sounds are already in the game, but with a designer like Richard King at the helm, we can expect realistic and expressive sound effects scripted for 5.1 surround. Taylor Daynes, Lead Designer, waxed poetic over the sound that they are looking forward to.

Screenshot (Fishing Village)
Screenshot (Fishing Village)
Screenshot (Fishing Village)

“… the sounds of a ship under sail… the snap of canvas, the creak of ropes, the slap of waves as a ship cuts through the water, the cry of a sea-gull, the chant of the crew… it will all be in, as will the boom of cannons, the whistle of the ball as it travels through the air, the crash as it hits your ship.”

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PotBS has bragged that they want to have the best looking water in MMOs. Well, at this time, I believe that they do. The game started out with some beautiful graphics in the vistas shown at E3 in May 2005, and won a Best Graphics award from MMORPG.com. The graphics and animation had improved at PAX August of 2005, and the progression was even more obvious today. Bruce treated me to a quick tour of a few towns. The Pirate docks that we’ve seen screenshots of, a Spanish town with the pale sandstone colors of Spanish Colonial Architecture, a British town with steep Tudor gables and a galleon sailing on the Spanish Main with sails billowing and sunlight sparkling on rippling waves.

Colors are Caribbean bright contrasting with dark interiors and avatar animations have smoothed out greatly. Prints on walls show the progression of the in-game art of the ships and the screenshots in the past year also show this progression. When asked about system specs needed to push this game, I was assured by Bruce that their design scales down to less powerful computers. The philosophy of PotBS is not to cater only to the power gamers with high-end machines but also to those with less powerful machines.

Bruce said, “Not everyone can afford to upgrade their computers every year, and although we are programming for the future when our game will be released, we will have a “pretty” slider. Gamers will be able to scale back their graphics for a slower machine with less computing power and RAM”

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