Pirates of the Burning Sea: Community Interview
MMORPG.com's Community Manager Richard Cox had the opportunity recently to speak with Theresa Pudenz (PR), David “Taelorn” Hunt (Senior Designer) and Troy Hewitt (Director of Community Relations) about the unique community experience being fostered by FLying Lab Software for their pirate themed MMO, Piraes of the Burning Sea.
It seems like just yesterday that we last talked to the fine folks at Flying Lab Software about Pirates of the Burning Sea. While it wasn’t THAT recent, it was only a few weeks ago at GenCon, where we sat down and talked to Rusty about update 1.7, changes made since launch and where the game is going in the future. Update 1.7 has since launched and is doing very well. Obviously a few short weeks isn’t enough time for much to have changed in that department, so while at PAX I decided to take a different route in my questions. This time I sat down and talked about the community aspects of the game more than anything.
Probably the biggest community feature about Pirates of the Burning Sea is that it is indeed the one and only Official Video Game for the International Talk like a Pirate holiday. Flying Lab Software has gone all out on incorporating the holiday into the game. Both Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket have been modeled in game from photos taken in real life. They have set up shop in Tortuga and are handing out missions to teach players about Talk like a Pirate Day. They’re also bringing along an in game pet for you to get as part of completing their missions: a parrot wearing an eye patch!
Next up we talked a bit about how the company handles player feedback and suggestions. On the game’s official forums there is a “Suggestions” section, much like with any game that has forums out there. The difference here is that the suggestions section is just the first step in a chain. The community team and developers in general read through all of the suggestions that are posted, and the ones they like, think are good ideas or even think might be a possibility, they move to another section called “In Discussion”. Once there, the team talks back and forth with the community about the suggestion, working out all the details, brainstorming on it, get it down pact, etc. If the suggestion pans out and both the team and community agree on it, then it is moved to the last section called “In Development” where updates on its status can be viewed as it is worked on and added to the game. I love how transparent the whole system is, from start to finish you see the whole process of how something goes from an idea in a random player’s head to an actual feature in the game.
User created content is a concept that has been thrown around the MMO genre for quite a while now. Most studios though seem rather hesitant to incorporate it into their titles, even though given the persistent nature of an MMO world and the impact the players are “meant” to have on that world, it should make a lot of sense to include user created content. FLS on the other hand has shown no hesitancy in this department. I for one have always been fascinated by their user generated content system, so we talked about that for a while. As I said, I’ve been a long time fan of the system, but I never knew really how extensive it was. Only about a dozen or so of the flag/sail designs were created by FLS, the rest (literally thousands) were all created and submitted by players. More and more full ship designs are even starting to be submitted and approved for use in the game.
We also spent quite a while talking about new community based features in the pipeline. According to Troy, their goal is to build the community through a variety of new features and social networking tools. This will be done through things like providing more access to data from the game, hosted web pages that you’ll be able to instantly upload screenshots to from within the game, and more in game events among other unannounced things. One of the biggest things I got him and David to talk to me about though was the planned new alternate advancement system. I know what you’re thinking, this is nothing new, heck the original Everquest has had AA points for many years now. But au contraire, this is indeed a bird of a different feather.
FLS wants to give their pirates ways to advance their characters “outside of the norm”. What does that mean you ask? Well I’m glad you did, because no, it isn’t your typical ways like crafting or PvPing, etc. When they say outside the norm, they mean it. You will be able to receive alternate advancement points for things not even IN the game, such as forum participation, visiting the booth at real-world events like PAX and GenCon or creating content for the game like new flags or sail sets. Of course you can also earn points in-game as well, for exploration; go visit all those ports you never got around to, or hunt down some of the game’s hundreds of hidden locations. Attending testbed events is another great example of how you might be awarded points, or maybe be targeted by the community spotlight, etc. So as you can see, there are tons of ways to get the points, which naturally leads to the next question, whatever can you do with all the points you’ll be getting?
Their goal is frequent, smaller point allocations so they can award you for far more actions than if they were larger but less frequent. The points are infinite, it isn’t required that you participate, but on the flip side, nor is it limited in how much you can participate if you choose to do so. The system starts at level ten so almost everyone across the board will be able to participate. The reward system, aka the list of stuff you can buy with your points, is tiered and broken down into two broad categories. It is tiered so that rewards of varying price ranges can be offered. One category is full of simple personal upgrades and the other is full of more global upgrades. The personal upgrades will be things like special clothing, emotes, extra warehouse space, character customizations, etc. You’ll also be able to change the appearance of existing equipment in the game; maintaining the same stats on the item, but making it look a lot cooler. The global rewards will affect all ofthe characters on your account and will encompass things that will make the game faster/easier for your alt characters such as faster leveling, special item unlocks that all of your characters will have access to, etc. The system is still in the early planning stages, and therefore naturally subject to change, but from everything I’ve heard about it so far it sounds like an absolutely great way to help build the community.
I’ve been a big fan of all the folks over at Flying Lab Software for a long time and every time I get the chance to sit down and talk to them it never amazes me how much passion they have for Pirates of the Burning Sea. Across the board it is obvious they love the game they’re working on, love the community and are doing everything they can to make it the best game possible. And their booths at live events are always top notch, devs in full pirate garb, great swag and always a large crowd around!