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Dana Massey Posted:
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Pirates of the Burning Sea

Chatting with Russell Williams, from the floor of GDC

Russell Williams has his sights set beyond the Burning Sea.

While his Seattle-based team at FlyingLab is hard at work bringing their sea-faring MMORPG together, teams in Asia are busy adapting the game for the local market.

“We as a company are really committed to it,” says Williams. “We want to understand the market through them.”

Williams does not like the way the North American MMORPGs have dealt with the rich Asian market, which is to simply translate the titles and hope for the best. His plan is to treat Asia like a real market and develop a truly localized product for them.

As teams in Asia work on distinct art for what Williams refers to as ‘Pirates of the Asian Seas’ (not an official title), Williams sees a near future where Asian players are able to explore a rich world of Asian boats, characters and areas. Then, if they get bored of exploring the local waters, they can travel to the Caribbean. Just as characters in the Caribbean can do the same in reverse.

This does not mean they’ll change servers. There will still be traditional regional servers, but as they open new ones in different areas, Williams intends to create significant localized content. Characters will be drawn in the local style and the boats drawn from local history.

The focus at FlyingLab is finishing Pirates of the Burning Sea and getting it to market. When will that be? That depends on how much they want to incorporate into the initial release, according to Williams.

Avatar combat is the feature in question. If they decide to incorporate it for launch then it will definitely push launch back. If they chose to go without it, the game could be out much sooner.

The features that they’ve not yet coded into the game were planned for and Williams does not foresee them impacting other systems too heavily. This does not apply to avatar combat.

“We want to do swashbuckling,” explained Williams. They want to do it right, but it is a system that has the potential to have a major impact on all aspects of the game. It is also the only major system that they have not yet fully designed.

As the game comes together, core design is not often being changed. Instead, the team is into a phase of rounding things out and tweaking what is there. One new feature they’ve recently added is peer-reviewed player-created flags. Players can create their own flags as BMPs and upload them. Before they enter the game, other players can vote – which they hope will weed out the bulk of abusive flags – and then finally FlyingLab manually approves or disapproves any flags added to the game.

They also changed the early parts of the game. Rather than chosing your career-path on creation, Williams wants to allow players to try everything a little bit before settling on their life. In the new system, players chose their nationality on creation. Then they are presented with a series of missions that lets them dabble in everything from piracy to helping the British. Then, after trying a few missions, the player makes their decision and moves forward.

At this time, Williams was coy on plans for distribution – he has a plan, but he cannot yet say – and until they make a firm decision on avatar combat, the release date is completely up in the air.

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Dana Massey