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General Articles: Dev Chat Log

By Laura Genender on January 18, 2008

Dev Chat Log
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MMORPG_Taera: Greetings and welcome to MMORPG.com's Live Chat on irc.coldfront.net! I'm your host, MMORPG.com's community manager Laura Taera Genender. Joining us today is the Pirates of the Burning Sea team!

MMORPG_Taera: Our guests will do their best to answer as many questions as possible, but due to limited time and a high volume of inquiries, they may not be able to answer every single one. Users are limited to one question at a time, and you will be notified if your question is rejected or discarded.

MMORPG_Taera: You can submit your question NOW via /msg MMORPGBot yourquestionhere

MMORPG_Taera: Now it's time for introductions! Feel free to start sending your questions to MMORPGBot while our guests introduce themselves!

[FLS]Aether: Hello! My name is Troy 'Aether' Hewitt, and I'm the Director of Community Relations for Flying Lab Software and Pirates of the Burning Sea. Thanks for joining us today.

[FLS]GrayNoten: My name is Jeremy Noetzelman, and I'm the Director of Operations for Flying Lab Software. My team is responsible for managing and operating all of the servers and any other technical infrastructure for Flying Lab.

[FLS]isildur: I'm Kevin Maginn, and I'm the Lead Designer of Pirates of the Burning Sea. So it's probably my fault, whatever it is.

[FLS]Aether: That's the party line.

[FLS]Jess: I'm Jess Lebow. I'm the Content Director here at FLS. Some of you may know me as Admiral Elbow. If I've sunk you in the beta, I swear it was an accident. ;)

[FLS]Rusty: Hi, I'm Rusty, and I'm the CEO of Flying Lab Software.

[FLS]Rhaegar: Hi! I'm Tom Rhaegar Atkinson-Edwards, and my job is Community Specialist. I like long walks on the beach and forums. Oh, and IRC!

[FLS]Danicia: Hello gang! I'm Donna Danicia Prior, Forum Specialist and IRC troll!

[FLS]Theresa: Hello! I'm Theresa Pudenz, my title is Public Relations at Flying Lab Software. I DANG IT RHAEGAR, you stole my long walks on the beach comment. I am the Admiral of the Boarding Party and am usually staring at an Excel sheet. :)

MMORPG_Taera: NOTE! If you would like to chat about POTBS during this chat, please join #burningsea

MMORPG_Taera: polkz asks, Hey. What about Sea monsters in your game? Can you please choose an answer a) prolly not b) maybe c) yes, planned at some point

[FLS]Rusty: Sea Monsters - Probably not a main game element, though they could come in as part of missions. Case in point, I originally wanted to put in an easter egg in Port Royal that would introduce a sea monster and hook into the earthquake.

MMORPG_Taera: Caldicot asks, What is your opinion on instancing?

[FLS]Jess: Instancing has its plusses and minuses. It gives us the tools to tell more involved stories, allows us to let players live through the climactic moments without having to wait for respawns of named MOBs, etc… But it cuts into some of the social interactions available to players since those spaces aren't persistent and open to all. The real trick is in trying to balance instancing with persistent space.

MMORPG_Taera: Xylo asks, Can you describe your job Aether ?

[FLS]Aether: My job here at FLS has many facets, I’ll try and sum it up in a way that makes the most sense, with the least text.

[FLS]Aether: First and foremost, my job is to coordinate the flow of information in the form of news articles, Devlogs, staff interviews, special features, and to coordinate special projects with our Marketing and Public Relations people.

[FLS]Aether: I also play a large role in handling the logistics for our public appearances. That includes things like preparing our staff for convention travel, coordinating everything from space rental to staff scheduling at our booths. Oh, and parties. I like parties.

[FLS]Aether: I’m work with an absolutely incredible team of people that handle forum moderation, our User Content programs for both 2D and 3D submissions, website content, forum management, public relations, media and communications, and of course our Boarding Party initiatives.

[FLS]Aether: I also spend a great deal of time working as a liaison between or foreign language partners, SOE and Flying Lab staff.

[FLS]Aether: Believe it or not, I'm forgetting some things- but in a nutshell, if it needs doing, I'll do it.

MMORPG_Taera: Hairysun asks, Good Evening. What are your plans to make Avatar Combat a more enjoyable experience?

[FLS]isildur: For future development in avatar combat, we have two main areas we're focusing on. First, we want to have more varied and unique content. Avatar combat came in rather late in the development process, so it hasn't had as much time for polish and elaboration; future content patches will introduce new avatar combat experiences with new environments and new types of enemies.

[FLS]isildur: Second, we're moving towards a more tactical experience. Some of the features under discussion include officers you can hire, train, and develop over time, crew that you can customize and equip, and a more robust system for commanding these AI allies.

MMORPG_Taera: Bindeebajee asks, There has been talk on the official forums that you've gone with too many servers at initial launch. Why did you decide this and what is in place if your population level is too large or small for the current servers?

[FLS]Rusty: Number of servers = MMO companies have a variety of metrics that they use to determine demand. We look at a bunch of different metrics to decide what our population is going to be, and deploy based on that.

[FLS]Rusty: Right now, the servers are light because the launch box hasn't come out, which generates a huge bump of users, more so than the pre-orders. So based on everything we're seeing, we're in pretty good shape.

MMORPG_Taera: Sprak asks, are current subscription levels at the level that SOE predicted they would be, based on previous MMOs?

[FLS]Rusty: Unless you're doing a traditional fantasy MMO, it's hard to really project subscription numbers.

[FLS]Rusty: Because the way you normally do projections is to look at a comparable project, get its numbers, bump it depending on your features, and there you go.

[FLS]Rusty: But we have a very different gameplay style in a very different genre.

[FLS]Rusty: So, in terms of meaningful market research for that, we just looked at the numbers for Games that Aren't WoW that launched in the last two years, and based our numbers on that.

[FLS]Rusty: Which isn't exactly science, but you have to have a stick in a ground. Currently, we're on track to meet those projections, but that assumes that the usual multiples for box sales vs. pre-orders holds true. Or in other words, I'll know a lot more next week. :-)

MMORPG_Taera: TheFu asks, Does Is there plans on implementing SOE's uchat global ingame email and chat solution into PotBS?

[FLS]Rusty: Yes. We just didn't have time to do it by launch, and it's a nice to have. Probably in the 2nd or 3rd patch.

MMORPG_Taera: Mogris asks, In other MMORPG's it's easy to shoot yourself in the foot economically. What safeguards are in place?

[FLS]isildur: (I'll assume you're talking about players shooting themselves in the foot.) You can never really be driven out of the game economically. If all else fails, there are always the fallback ships -- the ships of last resort. However, that said, the dynamic nature of the economy means that it's entirely possible to lose a fortune on a bad investment. I tend to encourage new players to...

[FLS]isildur: ...experiment in the economy, but wait until they've gotten a good handle on it before fully committing to a plan. What seems like a great market opportunity today may turn out to be less appealing tomorrow, and nobody wants to be stuck with a warehouse full of nails that won't sell.

[FLS]isildur: Just as in the real world: caveat emptor.

MMORPG_Taera: Wildman asks, The economy of POTBS is in a recession due to lack of money. Most chars feel broke so they are not buying anything. The only way money enters in the economy is in small amounts from missions and drops which dont scale very well. What is your plan to improve the potbs economy. Thanks

[FLS]isildur: We've got a lot of tools to tell us how many doubloons are out there in the economy, so we can tell if the economy is growing, shrinking, or holding steady. Right now it's growing, albeit slowly. We want to err on the side of smaller growth at first, to ensure we don't have immediate runaway inflation in the first month of the game. It's very easy for us to adjust the currency influx...

[FLS]isildur: ...rate, so as we move forward we'll keep tweaking those values to match the data we're seeing. The early period of the economy always feels recessive -- this was TRUE throughout beta, after every server wipe we did. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be watching the economic data, and making further adjustments as the economy matures and we have a better sense of the total money supply.

MMORPG_Taera: edouble asks, is there going to be any port contention in the pre-boarding at all

[FLS]isildur: Nope. We don't want people who buy the retail game to log on their first day and discover that their nation has already lost before they even got a chance to play. :) Use the preboarding time to build up the infrastructure you'll need once the meatgrinder of PvP ship loss really gets going.

MMORPG_Taera: To submit a question, /msg MMORPGBot yourquestionhere!

MMORPG_Taera: duque asks, I am spanish freetrader and want know if NPC pirates and naval with 40+ level would be increase their Artificial Intelligence because i think they are quite easy to kill them or feel scare from them

[FLS]isildur: We've just recently had a lot of discussions on the AI. The problem, of course, is that we're asking our AI to do something much, much more challenging than your typical game AI. Ship combat requires them to have spatial awareness and predictive abilities. However, there are a couple of egregious problems we'll be addressing in early patches, and we'll be continuing to work on making them...

[FLS]isildur: ...smarter as we move forward. So you may end up regretting asking for smarter AIs, eventually. :)

MMORPG_Taera: [TRG]Sardus asks, Question: will larger PVP groups be considered for open sea combat?

[FLS]Rusty: We don't currently have any plans to raise the number of players who can be in a group for PvP, but we do have something called the Player Skirmish system that will let players have much larger set piece battles, so you can exceed the group limitation.

MMORPG_Taera: Fabled asks, Will weather play a bigger role in ship to ship combat (not just for ship maneuverability) ? Such as facing strong down winds will make bombards less effective (aka environmental factors).

[FLS]Jess: We've toyed with changing the speed of the wind. We have the technology to do it right now.

[FLS]Jess: But we've found that the combinations we use now in the game are the most effective for creating fun gameplay.

[FLS]Jess: That having been said, we're continuing to explore the idea of other weather effects—rain, storms, etc

[FLS]Jess: Additionally, as we move forward you're going to see wind and weather have differing impacts based on the type and size of the ship you're sailing.

[FLS]Jess: For example, small ships will be harder to use in heavy winds/storms than larger, more stable ones.

[FLS]Jess: When we're confident that we've made it fun, then we'll put it in the game.

MMORPG_Taera: Riot187 asks, What is your stance on hackers/exploiters and gold farmers and sellers? Are you going to be proactive in trying to stop these players?

[FLS]Aether: Pirates of the Burning Sea does not support gold farming, or the distribution of gold from gold farming organizations in our game.

[FLS]Aether: We’ve already removed people from our game who’ve clogged up our in-game chat with spam for fold farming services, and we will continue to remove them as they are discovered.

[FLS]Aether: Gold farming sites are being monitored and we will investigate all alleged transactions and will follow up with the appropriate disciplinary actions, which could include confiscation of grey-market gold, and ultimately the banning of accounts selling or buying gold.

[FLS]Aether: The same holds TRUE for exploits and cheats- we’ve designed tools that allow us to gather and evaluate data on every aspect of our game, from actions taken that impact port contention, to changes in the economy.

[FLS]Aether: We continually evaluate that data to discern any anomalous information, and if our investigations uncover an exploit, we move fast to remedy the situation.

MMORPG_Taera: We are no longer accepting new questions - we will continue to answer exisiting questions, though, until 8pm EST (so 25 minutes!)

MMORPG_Taera: Blue_Leader asks, Ahoy! Are there any plans for anything like a cosmetic" effect for avatars-- like facial scars, burns, tattoos, ect.? What other avatar customization features will be added?"

[FLS]Rusty: You won't see facial scars, burns or tattoos, because we use a lot of texture memory on the face, and currently we get a 50% savings by effectively mirroring it. Doing a tattoo would remove our ability to do that and dramatically increase the overhead of the avatars.

[FLS]Rusty: What we do plan on doing is introducing new body shapes. The work item there is that we have to go through and redo a huge amount of the clothing there so that it will fit the shape correctly.

[FLS]Rusty: We don't just stretch the clothing around the character, because we do more natural looking clothing, and that technique (which works well in, say, CoH) looks bad applied to our style of characters.

MMORPG_Taera: Tyyrus asks, What potential is there for player-built AddOns", Macros, or Mods are there for the future of PotBS?"

[FLS]isildur: We won't be officially supporting anything like WoW's system of UI mods. Any addons or mods that violate the limitations Aether talked about just a minute ago are not allowed. That said, we love third-party information sites like Wowhead and Thottbot, and think log-parsers are cool.

MMORPG_Taera: Dievas asks, Can you provide any insight as to the end-game content, both PvE and PvP? What sort of content is being pushed as a priority?

[FLS]isildur: There's a lot of exciting endgame stuff coming. Right now we're working on an extremely complex and difficult encounter -- what we've been calling a 'ship dungeon' internally -- as a prototype for future high-end content. So you'll see very challenging PvE gameplay at the high end as we move forward. I hesitate to say 'raids' because a lot of people have negative associations with that...

[FLS]isildur: ...term, but we think of this as our version of 'raid' content.

[FLS]isildur: Additionally, we've got plans for many more varied and goal-oriented PvP encounters -- Rusty mentioned the Skirmish system earlier, and that's a major and important element of this plan, but we're also discussing variations on the port conquest battles, particularly for pirate raids.

[FLS]isildur: As well, we have major economic endgame content coming down the pipe, including plans for allowing players and guilds to govern ports, and player-owned social spaces such as housing, taverns, estates, and so forth.

MMORPG_Taera: H3LL0 asks, about the fees: fees in USD have been announced, how will europeans be charged? will we have our own fees or will we just use the current exchange rate to find out our fee?

[FLS]Rusty: I believe we're setting prices in Europe that will essentially match the US prices, but don't fluctuate according to exchange rates. It's nice if you're paying a recurring fee to not have it change.

MMORPG_Taera: WilleRaa1 asks, In many battle-situations, both at land and at sea, the situation occur where you do have a clear line of sight to a target over an obstacle, but still can not fire at it (nor, in some cases, click on it). Why is that, and is that something you are working on? (And, while I have the chance, thanks for a wonderfull great game!!!)

[FLS]isildur: It's a funky outcome of how we block the ability to fire through land. We decided that it was better to sometimes be unable to fire over a low obstacle than to regularly get shot by AI ships you couldn't see. It's something we'd like to address, but there are quite a few other issues in the queue ahead of it. :)

MMORPG_Taera: RaidZoft asks, How many events can we expect to see? And will they have any specific impact on the gameworld or will they just be fun events"?"

[FLS]Rusty: Events aren't a core feature, they're cool nice to haves, so we're just feeling our way out on those. I expect that they won't affect the world but will function as cool game moments

[FLS]Rusty: So, to answer your specific question, we don't have a number we're shooting for, we're figuring that out as we learn how to do events.

MMORPG_Taera: [TRG]Mookie asks, Has Soceity Auction Houses been considered?

[FLS]isildur: Nope. Auction houses are intended to create a server-wide market. However, we are talking about ways to implement society-restricted warehouses. This turns out to be a more difficult design challenge than it seems, based on a lot of conflicting economic goals. More on that in the near future.

MMORPG_Taera: Keen asks, Will anything be done to ensure balanced populations? For example Spanish on Rackham outnumber most nations 2 to 1.

[FLS]isildur: Heh. We just had a design review meeting right before this chat about population balance tools we're working on. The short answer is 'yes'; the longer answer is that we've got some fairly complex plans for addressing server balance without being punitive, and we also believe that (as the Spanish experience in Beta demonstrated) a well-organized and dedicated nation can still win, even with...

[FLS]isildur: ...lower population.

MMORPG_Taera: duque asks, we are a spanish 50 players guild and we want know what`s improve are thinking for the guilds, i refer about banks guild, fortress or city? because some guilds are creating players alternative like banks. To keep the guild production

[FLS]isildur: I mentioned that you'd hear more in the near future? THE FUTURE IS NOW. One of the goals I have for societies is to integrate special society features with the other major systems coming down the pipe. That includes things like society halls -- my dream is to one day offer societies their own Versailles as a very expensive society hall :) -- and society control of ports. Things like...

[FLS]isildur: ...warehouses will be integrated into those features.

MMORPG_Taera: Rex_Zac asks, what about support, I played some games where i had to w8 up to 2 hours to live support" to answer, do You have better sistem? ;)"

[FLS]Rusty: Sometimes we're going to be slower on support than we'd like, because it's launch, or we hit some big problem, or what have you. What I can tell you is that slow will not be business as usual. We're actually working through a backlog right now, that doesn't make me happy, so we're looking at adding resources to speed up our response rate.

[FLS]Rusty: Part of it also is that we decided not to outsource our support overseas. When you're in the US, and you ask for support, you're talking to someone in the US.

[FLS]Rusty: But that means that we can't throw more people in the mix as easily. Which I think is a good tradeoff, because, having been on the customer side of the line more times than I'd like...

[FLS]Rusty: I'd rather have a slower answer, but one that helps me, then some drone on the other side going through a speech of options that have nothing to do with my actual problem.

[FLS]Rusty: But we're keeping our eye on it, and will be doing whatever it takes to make sure that players who are giving us their hard earned money are getting the support they need.

[FLS]Aether: At the end of the day, we want to remedy your problems as quick as humanly possible, and we will never stop working to streamline that process.

MMORPG_Taera: Killjoy116 asks, how often will we being seeing patches? every like 2 weeks or a longer time but bigger patches?

[FLS]Rusty: Our plan is to roll out meaningful patches (content updates, gameplay improvements) every 3-Feb months, depending on what we're building.

[FLS]Rusty: In the meantime, we'll sometimes roll out very small patches with targeted fixes.

MMORPG_Taera: [BWITRG]Chocolat_Cream asks, Are you considering creating a PVP only server in the future ( automatic pvp flag ) ?

[FLS]isildur: We've talked about it. It's actually more complex than you might think, because of how we've integrated PvP throughout our other systems. So *if* we see that the demand exists to support a server like that, we'll consider moving forward with the work to address those design issues.

MMORPG_Taera: Deepflame asks, I have had some difficulty in determining the ship progression for Privateers. For Naval Officers it's quite clear, more armour, more guns. And they get Ship of the Lines at the end of it. Privateers seem to end with a Xebec, as the other ships tend to be sluggish and it seemed to me Privateers are about speed and maneuverability. Is there anything planned to make ship progression more clear?

[FLS]isildur: Heh. You've kind of answered your own question, with 'it seemed to me Privateers are about speed and maneuverability.' Our goal with the higher-end ships is to allow you to make that decision for yourself. Ultimately, the Navy has the big slow bathtub gun platforms, but outside of that, we want to support a variety of playstyles in each career. I should mention, though, that while the...

[FLS]isildur: ...larger frigates may feel sluggish compared to the amazingly zippy Xebec, they're actually quite maneuverable compared to a Mordaunt or other lineship.

MMORPG_Taera: polkz asks, Can you explain custom flag/sails design a bit? They need approval/votes BUT can anyone use my designs? I really hope not and some of my designs are only for my ship. Or at least only for the nations/or pirates.

[FLS]Aether: The Pirates of the Burning Sea User Content program allows players to submit their original flag and sail designs to a peer review process for inclusion on our game.

[FLS]Aether: There are a lot of things to consider when designing your flag, but you will find a wealth of knowledge and how-to information by visiting the Flags and Sails section of our forums, found here: http://www.burningsea.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=17

[FLS]Aether: To answer your question, when your flag or sail design is approved, you retain complete control of who uses that design. You can retain exclusive rights, or pick an elite group of people to share it with- or sell it to everyone who is interested in purchasing your designs. It is all about choice.

MMORPG_Taera: Zepharim asks, What are your plans for cross platform support for Linux and Mac users?

[FLS]GrayNoten: We have no plans for official mac or linux support at this time. We HAVE seen some players in beta successfully run the game using a mac or a Linux machine, but it's not something we officially support at this time.

[FLS]GrayNoten: Mac users might try using Bootcamp!

MMORPG_Taera: Starfox[Vox] asks, Why is the game about Pirates when Ninja's are clearly superior?

[FLS]isildur: pirates have better hats. ninjas have no hats. nuff said.

[FLS]Theresa: You can't see ninjas. It would be like playing with your monitor off. Turn your monitor off now; there's your ninja game!

[FLS]Rhaegar: Hmm, Ninja PVP. You both sit and hide invisibly for 6 hours.

[FLS]Aether: I’m not sure I understand the question.

[FLS]Rusty: We'll settle that question when we roll out Pirates of the Asian Seas!! No joke.

[FLS]Jess: Haven't you seen our videos from trade shows or live press interviews? We wear all black. We're ninjas making a pirate game. What's better than that?

[FLS]isildur: also no rum. who cares about people without rum? hell with 'em.

[FLS]Jess: There are ninjas in the storyline now. You just can't see them.

MMORPG_Taera: Thank you for joining MMORPG.com, coldfront.net, and the Pirates of the Burning Sea team for another great dev chat! Round of applause for our FLS guests :) Logs will be available within the hour on MMORPG.com!