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Dev Journal #2

Guest Writer Posted:
Developer Journals 0

Editor's Note: On the first Wednesday of every month, Russell Williams will join us to examine an issue relating to Pirates of the Burning Sea. Last month's journal examined growth and can be found here.

The Game's Executive Producer Discusses Milestones

Since I last wrote, we finished our previous milestone and have started a new one. Our milestones are usually 6-8 weeks, but this one is a bit shorter. The reason for this is PAX (pennyarcadeexpo.com), the game show in Seattle being run by the Penny Arcade guys. We’re looking forward to meeting our fans who’ve been coming by the forums, and we’ll be out in force staffing our demo stations. This is the first time that we’ve shown the game to the general public, and this milestone is all about finishing off the basics and putting a nice sheen of polish on top of it.

As part of that effort, we’re revamping the UI. We initially started with some dev art for the prototype, and have been experimenting with different visual looks while we’ve been refining the functionality. Now that we know what we want, we can spend the time on putting in the visual look without fear that we might later change and have to throw away work. For those of you who saw the game at E3, the new UI is more period-appropriate, and is a lot “gamier” than our old UI, while still being cleaner.

With our mission design team finally in place (we just hired the last person this week), we’re now putting in missions that are going to ship with the game. While fighting’s fun, it’s much more satisfying to have context for your actions, and we’ve been having a blast with the mission design.

And speaking of combat, the first pass of the skill system is now in. These skills are intended to model the kinds of things you might reasonably be able to do as the captain of a ship. The goal is not to have ‘superpowers’ for ships, and every skill has to pass a gauntlet of criticism: is this possible? Is this plausible? Does it make gameplay more interesting? In every case, we’re looking to expand tactical options, provide tradeoffs, and give players a more complex combat experience. In the end, the final set of skills will act to support smart ship tactics, not replace them.

We also have a lot of new art, including new interior environments, a Pirate Town, more female avatars, news clothes, and so on.

And perhaps most exciting are the new player-created ships. That’s right; we’re letting players model ships for the game. We have a steering committee of players to help filter the ships that get to us, at which point we make the final determination on whether it goes in, and give it the stats. As with all our user content, we have the final say to make sure it holds up to our high standards. We already have our first ship, a small pleasure yacht (http://www.burningsea.com/catalog/ship.php?type=yacht), and we have our first combat vessel coming this month.

In short, this is the first complete version of the game. There are still more features that are going into the next milestone (the strategic RvR/PvP game), but this is the first time the game feels complete.

As such, we’re going to start our alpha testing program at the end of this milestone, which means the beginning of September. The alpha program will start small, and focus on mission/combat testing. As we get comfortable with that, we’ll start adding more people, and Alpha will gently segue into Beta. While we plan on keeping the testing program closed, we will occasionally have open beta weekends where everyone is welcome to play.

The other big news around here is that we’ve finally started talking about our new strategic RvR system. There’s a lot of innovative new stuff here, but what really excites me is that everyone gets to play. Moving cargo is as important as sinking enemy ships, and whether you’re a go-it-alone kind of guy, or a member of a huge guild, there’s a place for you to help advance your nation’s interests. Check it out in our latest dev log on the site.

That’s it for now. See you at PAX!

- Russell Williams, Executive Producer - Pirates of the Burning Sea

Many thanks to Russell and Flying Labs for doing this! Please, let them know your thoughts on their hype meter.


Guest Writer