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E3 2006 Preview

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Disney takes aim at a slightly older market with their E10+ target licensed game

Ever dreamed of sailing the seas of the Caribbean and meeting Jack Sparrow or Elizabeth Swann? Disney’s new soon to be launched MMO gives you just that chance. Dana “Lepidus” Massey and I were treated to the first peek at a game trailer and some actual in-game action today at E3.

Based on the same world as the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean Online (PotCO) the MMO is targeted towards a mass audience and promises a fun game with little down time. The player’s goal, like any good pirate, is notoriety – and there are many different manners in which it can be earned. Gamers may aspire to be the best card-player, the best captain, the best swashbuckler with cutlass, with short-sword or even best voodoo practitioner.

As Mike Goslin, vice president of the Virtual Reality (VR) studio at Disney Online informs us,

“We’d really like to get everyone playing the game.”

To achieve that, Disney has made some decisions such as sacrificing pretty but intense graphics, in order to accommodate gamers that may run an older computer with lower end graphic cards, and allowing instantaneous movement to areas of the game where your friends are. But even with the less “pretty” graphics, Disney still does not stint on animation. You can see cannon balls fly through the air and splinters fly as they strike a ship. Masts break and fall. Holes appear in sails, ships blow up and when you board an enemy ship, you swing over in superb Eroll Flynn... oh sorry… Jack Sparrow style and engage the enemy in hand to hand combat.

“There’s no tacking, there’s no wind. We are more concerned with fun than with accurate simulation. You’re a movie pirate after all.”

The Fun Stuff
In line with the fun angle and also the PotC franchise, voodoo permeates the game. There is magic in this world. Animated skeletons and zombies to send back to their graves, voodoo dolls to hex enemies with… and that also explains how a player is able to instantly teleport to a friend’s location. Basic ammo is unlimited although if you want flaming cannonballs, you may have to buy or maybe earn the skill. Which provides me a nice segue into player advancement.

Players advance by gaining skills. The more you use a particular skill, the better you get at it. Characters gain levels in daggers, cutlass, cannon, etc. That is also tied in with notoriety as players compete to be the best of the best. PvP is consensual and Disney plans to support the competitiveness outside of the game by providing leader boards and PvP ladders for bragging rights.

Both Avatar and Naval combat are available to players and combat has a console game feel where players actually have to swing a sword and combine different skills to defeat monsters and other players. Voodoo requires an item from the intended victim (such as a strand of hair) and players will have to get up close and personal, risking melee damage in order to obtain said item.

In order to target the broader audience, some aspects of an MMO game such as tradeskills and crafting are not present in PotCO. The game economy is all but absent, although gold is required to buy some items and train some skills. Players will be able to do some trading and buying, but the game is based on skill, not items.

Mike Goslin said, “Pirates of the Caribbean Online is not an inventory game. There will be a small number of swords but a large number of skills with which to use that sword.”

So What Else is there to do?
PotCO also boasts many quests which can be done solo or may require groups. They will also be based on piratical themes such as digging for treasure. There are also games within the game, such as playing cards, dice or darts.

Dana asked at this point, “So, there’s gambling in game?”

“Well, not exactly gambling. You can cheat… and those are also explicit skills you can gain levels in. So… it’s gambling and it’s not gambling.”

Skill at cheating in dice or cards? Ha! Sounds like some fun to be had here.

Players start with a small rowboat and can trade / buy up to larger vessels. They will be able to customize their ships and eventually fly their guild flags. Part of the social structure in this game are the guilds, and the captaincy skill, which can only be improved if you captain a ship with other players in an adventure. Some enemy ships may also require a crew to defeat, as may some sea monsters. Shared guild property is planned, such as a guild ship and a guild hideout, but details are not firm at this time, nor are plans for prestige tattoos.

Target Audience
Targeted at an audience of ten years on up, Disney Online is setting themselves a high standard following on the heels of their successful ToonTown Online which is targeted at an even younger audience. With ToonTown experience behind them, Disney has a plan for levels of Parental Control that can be set for each player.

As the game features PvE as well as PvP game play, griefing is a major concern and preventing it a strong developer focus. Another focus is the ability for players in game to send messages to each other via an IM system or even to a cell phone.

Disney expects to make a Beta announcement sometime in the summer, and launch is planned for 2007 at this time. All in all, it looks to be a fun game that the entire family can enjoy, much like a… Disney movie!

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Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.