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Not Just Another Spawn Camp

Guest Writer Posted:
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The Producer of Pirates of the Burning Sea talks about his game

To some extent, if you've played one MMORPG you've played them all. You wander the countryside, or the office building, or the space sector, and you find small groups of enemies who are standing around waiting for you to attack them. Maybe they charge you as you run by or maybe they react to you depending on your faction standing. They have different classes or attacks or powers that make the combats somewhat different. But there's not a whole lot going on.

This is one of the things about MMORPGs that I find deadening. Your combat gameplay is entirely a function of your class and level vs. the class and level of your opponent. The only tactics is in how you use your skills, alone or in concert with your groupmates.

Single-player and limited multiplayer games don't have this problem. They routinely offer tactical movement, environmental challenges and advantages, and much more varied experiences. Even in the highly repetitive field of first-person shooters, the combat gameplay of Halo feels very different from that of Half-Life 2, or Prey, or Serious Sam.

One of our goals with PotBS is to make MMORPG combat better. A lot better. To that end, I'm going to pull back the curtain a bit and talk about our combat scenarios.

Pick any MMORPG and the only combat scenario is "Kill, loot, repeat." Because our game highlights realtime tactical ship combat, we've developed a lot of different combat scenarios. There are many dozens of them, and when you multiply them across all the different coastal terrains we set them in -- each of which brings their own tactical flavor to the fight -- we have hundreds of them. Today I'm just going to talk about five.

One of our scenario categories is Battle. Battle is meant to be a straight-up fight, about as close to a spawn camp as you can get. But even within that category, there's a lot we're doing. Here are five Battle scenarios you'll come across in Pirates of the Burning Sea:

Battle: Skirmish
A straight-up fight in which the enemy fights in smaller, faster ships.

Battle: Battle
Like Skirmish, but triple the size. Your NPC allies and the attacking enemy both include larger warships that will focus on each other. Your role is to defend the larger ships by picking off the smaller ones, while staying out of the big ships' line of fire.

Battle: Guerilla Warfare
Your and your allies come under immediate attack by enemy ships. As the battle progresses, additional groups of enemy ships arrive from different directions. You have to defeat them all, and avoid having your group pulled apart by pursuing multiple sources of danger simultaneously.

Battle: Surprise Attack
A foggy, nighttime scenario in which the battle begins with the enemy already very, very close. They have snuck in and now open fire just as the scenario starts. The enemy attempts to board your NPC allies -- they're something of a cutting-out squadron. If you can defend your allies from boarding actions, your side has the firepower to stop the enemy. But if the enemy does board and capture your allies, the fight is going to turn against you.

Battle: Anarchy
A small fleet battle has turned into veritable anarchy and all semblance of order has been lost. There are two clusters of enemy ships somewhere out there who have gotten separated from their commanders. Each of the two enemy commanders is trying to find his squadron. If a commander and a squadron reunite, the squadron becomes much more deadly. Your goal is to neutralize the two squadrons by either destroying half of a squadron's ships or by finding and defeating its commander. It might sound easier to just defeat the two commanders -- kill the head and the body will die, after all -- but the command ships are extremely powerful and dangerous. Meanwhile, the chaos of a large battle makes it difficult just to locate your targets.

So -- does that sound like any other MMORPG you've played? And these five are just barely scratching the surface. Other categories such as Escort, Raid, Sabotage, Coastal Defense, Breakout, Blockade, and Rally contain many, many more scenarios. Each can also be scaled and modified to present challenges appropriate to solo players, groups of players, and so on.

We really believe that our combat is unlike anything out there and we're really excited to bring this vision of what MMORPGs can be like to all of you -- and we'll do it in June of 2007.

John Scott Tynes
Producer, Pirates of the Burning Sea
Flying Lab Software


Guest Writer