Dark or Light

Hands-On Preview, Part II

Carolyn Koh Posted:
Previews 0

In part two, Carolyn looks at progression and to the game's future

Editor's Note: This is the second half of a two-part hands-on preview based on a recent studio visit. You can read part one here.

After playing a PvP encounter on the high seas, I enjoyed a visit with several leads of Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) over lunch and we chatted about pizza toppings, of things naval and piratical, and of things to come.

“Boarding needs to have a cut scene to a random movie shot.”

“Cut to Pirates of the Caribbean!”

“There’s cheering and sword fighting sounds already in. It sounds good too!”

“Can I talk about…”

“What was your favorite pirate movie?”

Spanish Town

Spanish Town

Spanish Town

Game Development and Progression

How much did Sid Meier’s Pirates influence Pirates of the Burning Sea? As Taylor put it, Sid Meier’s 1987 game was a classic in its own time. Almost everyone who is old enough to have gamed in the 80s either has played it or has heard of it.

“It provided inspiration, we talk about how we loved playing it, we talk about what we liked about it, disliked about it; it probably is the basis of all other naval combat games that came after it. We learned from it and all the lessons we learned, we applied, and are still applying in Pirates of the Burning Sea.”

PotBS has involved its fan community in many aspects of its development and design. Using the community forums as a communication tool, the company is not afraid to allow its designers to post on the forums.

Changes, development and progression has been transparent from the start and developer logs can be read on their website from 2003 when the website first went up. It is a fascinating read and fan loyalty has also been built up through the years.

Fan created content is encouraged and regularly make it into game. Fans are creating ships, naming game concepts and submitting sail and flag designs and textures. Feedback is asked for and suggestions taken for items as diverse as animated “emotes” and player clothing.


I visited the studio at an interesting time, it seems. Priorities are being looked at and things may yet change. As late as October, the system of ship capture and loss was changed by a directive from Rusty – “I want pirates to be able to capture any ship in the game.” Isildur’s log

The discussion on the board right now is whether all gamers should start as an Adventurer and earn their right to join the Navy. Indeed… an adventurer may never join the navy. He may decide to be a Trader or… a privateer? One can only hope. Pirates may be able to capture and use any ship in the game (as long as the player has the requisite skills), but the Navy may not. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if the gamers could play the middle-ground of the privateer? An adventurer given his or her majesty’s writ to go pirating among the enemy. Looked upon by the Navy with a barely tolerated eye as a borderline Pirate.

Another feature of the game is the player driven storyline. This is where players will be introduced to a personal set of NPCs that he or she can interact with. The storyline progresses as the player levels, changing with each decision the player makes. Throughout, the player will be introduced to characters from which a love-interest may be pursued. These NPCs will also provide quests and may accompany the player on the adventure, providing help or hindrance.

This cast of characters will be different for every gamer, but will contain similar elements. Depending on the decisions you make, you make a loyal friend… or not. Someone who may be a bitter enemy or perhaps a friendly rival, and a love-interest whom… you may just decide isn’t worth the time and your rival may be crowing over you the next time you enter port.

Spanish Town

Spanish Town

Spanish Town

What’s still to come?

One thing that Flying Labs has stated from the beginning is that they have a plan to follow but priorities may change. At launch, the mission and quest engine will be fully fledged as will ships and ship combat.

Flying Labs hope to implement a fully tested economy system which Game Designer Kevin “Isildur” Maginn hopes will strongly resemble the Austrian School economics of Hayek and Mises. At this time, the economic system models a primitive supply and demand algorithm.

Avatar game play – personal boarding and capture of a ship or duels and sword play / gun play is definitely an aspect of the game that’s in the works and will be implemented in the future.

In-game mail system – the ability to post letters and send gold and small items is high on the list of fans “wants” and will be implemented after launch.

Don’t forget the player achievement prestige rewards. Parrots and Monkeys to name a couple that keep being brought up on the community forums.

Spanish Town

Player In-Game Involvement

There are extensive plans to support player run ports and towns, and those plans are evolving to include a much larger scope than originally planned. In Troy’s words, “Player governance is a feature we intend on including in future PotBS development plans.”

Gamers will have the ability to flag ports that they have plans to attack. PotBS has an event scheduling system which players can use, and events can be private (password protected) or public, but this proposal is for in-game flagging so that players who do not check the event system can participate or steer clear of the port in question.

The trade and trade skill system will eventually become part of the in-game economy system and player actions will create significant impact. Gamers will eventually be able to build their own ships from material bought and found in the game.

Missions and quests are integral in the gameplay as that is how gamers will level and gain skill points to spend, acquire gold to purchase ships and equipment, learn the world, travel and trade. However, PvP is not the be all and end all of the game as trade will be an integral part of PotBS.

Trade was a major force in the Caribbean of 1720, and will become a major force in PotBS. Indeed, as described to me, insidious use of trade is how ports are destabilized and primed for takeover. Bring good French wine and lace cheap to a British port and the denizens might become friendly to you and decide that they don’t like their British governor so much.

I can’t wait to see how that plays out and I wonder if blockades will work… I tried to plant the idea of players sneaking into ports and planting explosives. Ahh… if wishes were horses, gamers would ride.

Final Words

Pirates of the Burning Sea looks good, plays well, has a small but dedicated team that is closely involved with their player community, and they like to have a bit of fun. Arrrr! Who else has a Community Envoy and promotes Talk like a Pirate Day?

From what I’ve seen, even as Sid Meier’s “Pirates” is regarded as THE Pirate Adventure game for the PC, Pirates of the Burning Sea may in the future, be regarded as the seminal Historical Naval Combat MMO.

You can comment on this article here.


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.