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Pirates of the Burning Sea: Cross-Subject Q&A

Pirates of the Burning Sea Producer, John Scott Tynes, answers out questions about Sony Online Entertainment, beta, distribution and more!

MMORPG.com:

What led to the decision to pair with SOE for publication of Pirates of the Burning Sea?

John Scott Tynes:

We needed a partner who could do retail distribution, marketing, and billing. SOE has years of experience in these areas and they're a great fit. Several of us have friends there and we know SOE from the inside, not just the public side that gamers see. We have a lot of confidence that they're going to do an absolutely kickass job of getting Pirates into the hands of gamers everywhere.

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MMORPG.com:

Are you concerned that the negative feelings that some players have toward SOE will affect the popularity of PotBS?

John Scott Tynes:

The proof is in the pudding. Either our game is great or it sucks, and whatever the reaction, it's our game and we're the ones who made it.

We know there are haters out there. When we made our plan to announce the deal, we told SOE we wanted to do our own announcement directly to our community the night before the press release, so we could explain what we're doing and why we're doing. If anyone reads all of Rusty's devlog on the subject (http://www.burningsea.com/pages/page.php?pageKey=news/article&article_id=10349) and still has nothing to say but "SOE SUXORS U LOSE" then like Mister T, I can only pity the fool.


MMORPG.com:

Your letter to your community announcing the deal with SOE mentioned that it was to be "platform published", making it different from SOE's internally developed games. The last title that SOE published in this way resulted in SOE's acquisition of that company (Sigil) as well as the game (Vanguard). What can you say to fans who fear the same fate for Flying Lab?

John Scott Tynes:

Sigil's troubles with Vanguard have been very publicly documented by Brad McQuaid himself and they had nothing to do with SOE. People who blame SOE for what happened to Sigil are either grossly misinformed or willfully blind for the sake of hating.

This is a hard industry for an independent developer. Sigil is in no way an exception - indie studios close all the time. If you look at console games, you'll see a long record of studios shipping a title and then firing everyone because they don't have their next project financed. That's the business. It sucks but it happens all the time.

Flying Lab is self-financed. We're not running out of money. We are definitely eager to stop spending our money and start making some, but we're launching the game because it's ready, not because we can't make payroll. That's the biggest difference between where we're at where Sigil was at when they were finishing Vanguard.

Some of us had friends at Sigil and what happened there is really sad. They definitely had a vision for what they wanted to achieve but making (and financing) an MMO is a gigantic challenge. SOE is going to keep Vanguard alive and will gradually address its major problems. It'll have a home there for as long as fans want to keep playing it.

MMORPG.com:

You recently announced that you have finished 1,000 missions for each nation. How many missions does this make in total, and how long did it take to complete?

John Scott Tynes:

Our goal was to hit 1,000 missions per nation and there are four nations, so that's 4,000. Some of those missions are duplicated from nation to nation with the patrons, enemies, locations, and flavor text changed as appropriate. Many others are unique.

There are actually a lot more than 4,000 missions in the game. There are all kinds of missions that we don't really count in that number because they're simple deliveries or they're turn-ins where you can exchange a list of reward items for something cool, like a new ship. These are more like game services that we do with the mission system because it's so versatile. If you count all of those, the number is more than 9,000. But really, there are 4,000 missions with a story, characters, combat, loot, rewards, etc., so those are the ones we talk about.

I founded the content team and hired most of our mission designers, starting in about the spring of 2005. We were still getting the mission system up and running then but there are a couple of missions we made that summer that are still in the game. So really, it took about two years. Of course, we got faster as we got more experienced at working with the tools and systems. About half the missions were created in the last eight months.


MMORPG.com:

Can you give us a feeling for the kinds of missions that will appear in PotBS?

John Scott Tynes:

We really wanted to make missions be much more diverse and more challenging. MMOs typically have just a few types: collection quests, delivery quests, and bounty quests. We have dozens of types of missions including a lot of very customized instances.

In your first hour of play as a pirate you'll fight your way through a smuggler's cave to retrieve stolen treasure, engage rival pirates in a naval battle, fight a one-on-one duel against a mutinous swordsman, force a Spanish merchant to surrender so you can hand her ship over to a fellow pirate, and learn who really runs things in the town of Marsh Harbour. Not long after that you'll explore the mystery of why there's a pile of bones in an obscure alley, discover the secret of an old statue in a town plaza, and eventually challenge the local crime lord and take his underworld signet ring for yourself, an object that will prove useful throughout your career. Oh, and there's the mysterious treasure map covered in Arabic writing, a burning town assaulted by pirates looking for your map, and a lovely princess from a distant land whose brother you must distract long enough to flirt with her.

Really, it just goes on forever!

MMORPG.com:

How has the Beta been progressing? What kind of feedback have you been receiving from testers?

John Scott Tynes:

We started the beta in December of 2005. By the time we launch, we'll have been in beta for almost two years! It's been fantastic and a lot of very important changes and decisions have been driven by the experiences and feedback of our beta testers.

In general, the thing almost all of our beta testers say is how stable the game is. We just don't crash very much, we don't lose or corrupt character data, and really the game feels solid. We have plenty of bugs but they aren't destabilizing and they don't prevent you from playing.

We think having a stable and reliable game is incredibly important. Crashes and lost data are just unacceptable. When we find a crash, we fix it.


MMORPG.com:

All games go through an evolution in the Beta process. How has Pirates evolved?

John Scott Tynes:

The two biggest changes in the game since we started the beta have been the addition of the player-run economy and swordfighting. We're actually close to rolling out a new auction system because beta feedback on the old one was that it wasn't good enough. Those systems will have gone through multiple generations before most players ever see them.

MMORPG.com:

Will PotBS be available in stores, by download, or both?

John Scott Tynes:

Both.

MMORPG.com:

A number of MMOs have distributed a Collector's Edition, are there any plans for something like this in the future for PotBS?

John Scott Tynes:

Hard to say. The feedback we're getting from the retail chains is that collector's editions aren't selling very well. There are too many of them and they aren't that special, so retailers end up stuck with tons of collector's edition inventory. We're looking into that more and will figure out what to do.

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