Pirates of the Burning Sea Overview
submitted for your perusal by "Bloodloch"

DISCLAIMER: The features and descriptions in this overview are subject
 to change and/or correction prior to game launch

The author of this overview is/was not in beta at the time of it's writing,
and is/was therefore not subject to any non-disclosure agreements.
All information contained herein has been gleaned from public Developers' logs
and forum posts, game site and game conference reviews and demos,
and generally just by asking questions on the official public forums.


   Such an interesting setting for an MMO that I'm a bit surprised it didn't happen sooner. But in a world gaming community of orcs and elves, stormtroopers and the occasional caped super-hero, what's so great (or different) about Pirates of the Burning SeaTM? Is it just your standard MMO with pirate and merchant ships in place of those orcs and elves? Is it Eve-Online in the Caribbean? Is this anything really new, or just a re-skinning of your run-of-the-mill MMO?

   What exactly sets Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) apart from previous MMOs?

   I'll try to share my opinion and answer these questions here.

   Development History and Game Setting -

Flying Lab Software Logo   Five years ago, the developers at Flying Lab Software
TM, Seattle, Washington, set out to create an MMO based upon pirates and swashbuckling adventure. The game has been delayed several times over the years with the developers at one point throwing out an entire year's worth of avatar animation work and starting completely over again from the poly-skeleton. Features they thought they would include they later decided did not enhance game play enough to justify their inclusion and were discarded, and other features they realized should be included were added late in the development process. The result of all this jockeying around their feature set is the game took a lot longer to develop than they'd originally envisioned. In a way that's similar to City of Heroes, Pirates of the Burning Sea has been a labor of love for Flying Lab Software.  Rumor has it they are financially solid, debt-free, and so flush with cash they could self-fund and develop several games simultaneously if they wished, a rarity in the MMO development community.

Pirates of the Burning Sea Logo   The result is an MMO that, in my opinion, may be the first MMO to emerge since Everquest, and all that followed Everquest, that can truly be called "next generation". Oh sure, many games have called themselves next generation games, but in actuality they really weren't a whole lot different from Everquest, except graphically. Zones or seamless world. Housing or no housing. Slow or fast leveling.  Horse trolleys, flight trolleys or free-flight.  Horde or Empire or Neo-Nazis.  Player vs player or realm vs realm, the games many of us have played since Everquest have had some interesting feature sets, but none ever rose to the level that Pirates of the Burning Sea has managed to realize.

   Enough about my opinion. Now on to the facts.

Game Map of the Caribbean   Pirates of the Burning Sea is an MMORPG set in the Caribbean of 1720, or The Spanish Main as it was known back then. Historically, this is the golden era of pirate activity in the area. England (allied with the Dutch Republic) and France (allied with Spain) had just finished with an extended war (War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714) by signing a peace treaty, and many ports-of-call in A Port at Nightthe Spanish Main were returned to their pre-war owners, as was the practice of many such treaties of the era. During the war, many sailors were conscripted into service of the various European national fleets, but once the war ended, thousands of sailors were released from service. All of these sailors with skills in sailing, swordplay, small arms and naval gun operations suddenly had nothing to do and no way to support themselves. Over the ensuing years, several thousands of them turned to piracy.

On the Docks of a Port   The game map covers the entire, historical Caribbean Sea, the southern coast of the United States, the eastern coast of Central America, and the northern coast of South America. Some 80+ ports-of-call are all meticulously represented in game. Compared to the number of "cities" we've seen in most previous games we've played, this is a huge number. Each of the player nations have 3 ports that are perpetually safe areas (the game needs to maintain newbie areas, of course), but the remaining 68+ ports are all up for grabs. You can actually capture these ports for your nation, but more about that later.

  
Who You Are and What You Do -

French Privateer On Richly Detailed Deck   As a player, you can be a member of one of the four player nations of England, France, Spain, or, considered a "nation" for game play purposes, Pirate. The Dutch (among many others) are NPCs, and represent some of the PvE challenges in the game. All bets from the recent war and ensuing treaty are off, and the 4 player nations are all vying for control of the Caribbean once again.

A Pirate Gazes Down The Beach   As far as playable professions goes, as a member of any of the three non-pirate nations you can be a Naval Officer, a Free-Trader (think merchant), or a Privateer (think adventurer). Pirates, on the other hand, can only be pirates.

   Naval Officers can climb the ranks of their military to command the biggest ships on the ocean, the dreadnaught-class Ships-Of-The-Line, sporting a compliment of 70+ to 100+ deck guns.

   Free-Traders get special abilities in smuggling, improved ship speed and maneuvering, as well as pluses to port faction relations to help facilitate more trading activities.

   Privateers are more jacks-of-all-trades and can fill many different roles; taking missions from their European masters, or free-wheeling as opportunists wherever the wind may blow.  Monocled Spanish Captain Exudes Confidence

   And Pirates, well, Pirates do pirate things.  They like to attack and sink or capture enemy player ships, get drunk and start bar fights, cat around with loose women, fart while upwind, and create all other manner of mayhem on the high seas.

   Every player in the game is a captain of their own ship. It was decided that requiring, or even allowing, players to join each other on the same ship would represent some pretty boring game play for the non-captains onboard. After all, how fun would it be to pull on sail riggings or load a deck gun with powder and shot (also historically known as "powder monkeys") while the captain gives all the orders and has all the fun?

  
Naval Combat -

Ship Of The Line Firing Port Broadside   Naval combat is the core of their game play, and their shiniest feature. If you've seen movies of naval combat set during the "Age of Sail", you get the idea. From small sloops to huge 104-gun first-rate Ships of the Line, unloading a broadside of cannon-shot on enemy ships is amazingly fun game play.

   Naval combat is paced, rather than frenetic. You need to be aware of wind direction and how best to get the weather gage, the practice of keeping your enemy downwind of your ship for greater maneuverability and command of the engagement. It's Packet-Boat Opening Firemore like a chess-match than a fast knock-down drag-out fight. After all, your guns take time to load.

   Your ship has armor and hull values on the fore, aft, port and starboard quarters that needs to be watched. You can do "some" repairs during the fight, if you have the right supplies, but decisions need to be made like, "Do I repair the hull, or replace the gun that just got blown off my deck?". They took the time to get naval combat as perfect as is possible, and the calculation to hit hull, rigging, sails, rudder, guns, or splash harmlessly into the sea is performed on each individual cannonball when you fire a broadside. Your NPC crew is highly animated, and throughout game play are adjusting the rigging or loading and firing your naval guns.

Small Crew vs Crew Boarding Action   It gets even more interesting, in ways that incorporate "ground" combat for your captain avatar and crew.

   By using different types of naval gun ammunition (there are 12 types of shot including langrage, chain shot, bar shot, star shot, canister, grape shot, round shot and more), you can tear up your enemy's sails, slowing them to a crawl. Pull up along side, throw grappling hooks, and BOARD the enemy ship. This opens an instance represented by your two ships' top decks. You and your crew (up to 20 at a time), go swinging across on ropes and leaping from the yardarms and rigging Pirate vs British Captain On-Deck Duelto engage in a boarding action and attempt to capture the ship. Note, this is optional. You can always just remain in naval combat mode and attempt to blow your enemy out of the water with your powerful deck guns.  Well, it's optional unless you're the one being grappled and boarded. ;p

   As you and your crew engage in swashbuckling combat with the captain and crew of the enemy ship (swords, axes, daggers, flintlock pistols, etc), you can replenish or "top-off" your on-deck fighting crew up to a maximum of 20 NPCs at a time (presuming you have a very large ship, progressively less for smaller ships with smaller crews) up to 5 times total during the fight's duration.  For example, if your initial crew size in the first phase of the boarding action is 20, and you lose 3 NPCs during the fight, you can replenish them back up to 20, but that only replaces the 3 dead NPCs and you now only have 4 replenishes left.  Tactics of when to replenish will play a significant role in the fight.
Battle At Sunset
   The end of the boarding action occurs when you duel the opposing captain to the death, or either side runs out of crew. The winner has now captured both ships.

   As a member of one of the 3 European powers, you can only sell or scuttle the captured ship. But, as a pirate, you get to keep the captured ship and sail it as your own if you wish, or bank the deed to the ship to sail at a later time.

   If you sink the enemy from range, you get to loot some booty from the floating debris, but if you capture the ship via a boarding action, you get ALL the loot and cargo on board, so the temptation to capture is strong.

   Ground Combat -

   Whether used in boarding actions or while fighting natives at ancient Mayan ruins, the ground combat in PotBS has raised the bar to a new standard.

   Your avatar has a choice of 3 schools of ground combat -

         Florentine - Fighting with saber and dagger (duel wield, high defense)

         Fencing - Fighting with rapier or foil (single wield, high offense)

         Dirty Fighting - Fighting with a repertoire of dirty tricks, such as throwing sand in your enemy's face or stomping on their foot to put them off-balance quickly (single wield, high balance disruption)


"Just having your pirate hack away with whatever he happens to be holding is lame. We’re shipping with more than 250 combat animations and we promise you haven’t seen MMO combat look this good or feel this cinematic."
 -- John Scott "Rev" Tynes, Producer & Content Lead, Flying Lab Software

Pirate slashing neck of British officer.  Officer reacts by grasping neck   With 250 animations among 3 fighting styles, that's over 80 different moves per style. I cannot think of another game with so much variety in combat moves and specific animations to go with them.  These animations are reactive as well as proactive.  For instance, when the pirate in the screenshot to the immediate left slashes the British officer's throat, the officer reacts by grasping his throat.  Very cool stuff.

   How do we invoke, and the game manage, all of these cool moves?

   Ground combat is based upon, as is the case with historical and modern swordplay, the concept of balance.

   Your avatar, and your target's avatar, each have a  semi-circular graphic displayed on the ground at their feet. The color of that graphic represents your Two Players vs Wild Nativeavatars' balance during the fight; green for well-balanced, yellow for semi-unbalanced, orange for very unbalanced, and red for totally out-of-balance and completely vulnerable. If you attack your enemy with a damaging move while he's well-balanced, chances are extremely high that he'll just deflect or dodge your attack. The trick is to get him or her off-balance with balance disruption moves, then when their balance is low, attack with a high-damage or finishing move, all while keeping yourself well-balanced.

   If naval combat is akin to a strategic chess match, ground combat is more like tactical speed-chess.  It sounds complicated, I know, but it's very intuitive once you get the hang of it. Also, there is no jumping around like a rabbit on steroids in PotBS. In fact, jumping isn't even in the game. And there is no facing issue either. When you engage in combat, your avatar automatically turns to face your enemy in a straight up engagement of swashbuckling.

   Of course, regardless of your fighting style of choice, you can always just draw your pistol from your belt and shoot them in the face, a la Indiana Jones. ;p

   Okay, so that's the essentials of Ground and Naval Combat, now on to some more details of game play.

  
Character Creation -

Character Creation Screen   This feature set has been compared to City of Heroes for the sheer variety of character appearances and clothing attire available. Sixteen appearance features (coats, shirts, vests, gloves, pants, waist, boots, boot accessory, hair, hats, feathers, neck, face, face accessory, jewelry, eyewear) are all customizable with scores of choices, and even your avatar's attitude can be adjusted (rebellious, aloof, friendly, etc), as well as the condition of their clothing (new, worn, ragged, etc). You also can change the default primary and secondary colors of your attire from among 168 color choices to best suit your tastes.  And finally, most of these features (perhaps except face) can be changed later if you like in Tailoring Shops scattered throughout the Caribbean.  Besides changing your default choices in the Tailor Shops, there will be unique, dropped clothing items you'll receive from looted cargo or as quest rewards, again expanding the diversity of your characters' appearances even further.

   The screen above right and below are all pirate-attire I believe.  It seems that every time a game site got to try it out and take screenshots, they always jumped to the Pirate class right away.  But of course, besides having many more options for pirates, there are also scores of options in the attire sets for Navy, Privateers, and Free-Traders.

   Also, the attire sets are further customized by nationality, so you can instantly tell not only if you're looking at a Free-Trader, but whether they're a French, British or Spanish Free-Trader, and so on for each profession and nationality.

   The chances of running into a double are probably a billion to one or more.
 

   Armor, Weapons and Equipment -

   All items in game are player-created, except for your starting clothing, equipment and ship. There is no armor, nor does your character need it. Sailors and captains wore clothes, and carried swords and pistols. And that's exactly what you get to do in PotBS.

   But, won't I need epic armor and weapons as my character levels-up, and gets more powerful?

   No, as a matter of fact, your character never increases in hit-points at all, and you won't be finding any +5 swords of pirate-slaying or +10 helms of invisibility to French or any other such familiar fantasy-style "pluses to armor and weapons" drops.  Instead, as you level up, more skills become available to you such as ground and naval fighting skills, the ability to sail larger and more powerful ships, and skills to add or attach better or optional outfitting equipment to your ship.  


"There are lots of things outfitting can modify through different parts of the ship. Hull, sails, guns, rudder, etc. [Things like] maximum ship speed, turn rate, acceleration, armor integrity, structure integrity, sail integrity, maximum crew, damage, short-range damage, accuracy, grappling attack, grappling defense, reload rate, maximum range, detection range (makes you harder to spot), detecting range (helps you spot enemies), and so on."
-- David Ryan "Taelorn" Hunt, Flying Lab Software Designer



  
Mission System and Character Skills -

   PotBS contains a rich and robust mission system that includes hundreds of ship-based "Naval" adventures as well as ground-based "Avatar" adventures. There are over 1,000 missions per nation, so over 4,000 missions total in the game. This is on par with or may even exceed the mission content of World of Warcraft at launch. In fact, one enthusiastic game-site reviewer referred to to PotBS as "Waterworld of Warcraft".

Player talking to crusty old pirate   Then there's the main storyline. Each character has a personal storyline that starts at level 1 and carries them through level 50 in their adventures at sea and on the scores of islands that dot the Caribbean. You have choices to make in your acceptance or declination of missions, choices that effect your storyline and future missions. So running around a port and grabbing every mission you see would probably not be advisable as you'll want to consider each mission's goals, it's effects on various factions,  and the potential outcomes on your own main storyline before accepting them.

   Interwoven into your avatar's adventures are notable NPCs that you can become "involved" with. Maybe it'll be a friendly rival, or perhaps a romantic love interest (I kid you not). But it's up to you if you want the NPC relationship to flourish, or take a different path that leaves the NPC as a short but memorable encounter never to be seen again. These notable NPCs will also have missions they'll share with you, and even may join you on your own missions, becoming "life-long" friends or partners to you in your adventures on land and sea.

Ghost ship disappearing into the fog under a full moon  Historical as well as supernatural missions are available for both on-land and at-sea adventures. For the historical purists, when hearing a rumor about a ghost ship with a ghoulish crew in a certain area, the player can opt to scoff at such superstitions and decline to investigate further.  But for players with a taste for the more macabre or fantasy style adventures, there are surprises in the game that will raise the hair on the backs of your necks.

   As you level up, there are 18 trees of skills (9 naval skill trees and 9 avatar skill trees) with 5 specific and unique skills within each skill tree.  Hence there are 45 naval skills and 45 avatar skills for a total of 90 possible skill choices.  The specific flavors of each tree are not known to those outside of beta, but we do know that some will be purely combat oriented, while others will enhance your manufacturing or trade game.  Each alternating level, you get to choose a new naval-oriented skill, followed the next level by a new avatar skill.  By the time you hit level 50, you'll have 25 naval and 25 avatar skills for a total of 50 skills out of the available 90 skills in the game.  This allows for a tremendous amount of character diversification in skill choices while also ensuring that no single player can learn all possible skills.


Heroic Pirate Considering Story Path   But perhaps the biggest difference in the PotBS mission system is that you are the hero in the story, the protagonist of the adventure.  You are not taking missions to follow in the footsteps of other legendary,  backstory heroes that came decades or centuries before you, and there are no statues of famous heroes of by-gone days in any of the port cities.  On the contrary, you ARE the central character in your missions, and in your story. 

   You ARE the hero.

  
Crafting in PotBS -

Large Frigate With Sails Furled on Lightly Rolling Sea   The first rule of crafting in PotBS is, there is no crafting in PotBS. Instead, every single character in the game is a boss ... an employer ... a sort of industrialist if you prefer. There are no endless button mashing sessions to manufacture items in game.
What you can do is purchase up to 10 workshops per server, regardless of how many characters you have on that server.  Some workshops may be raw materials production oriented, while others may be work-in-progress oriented, while still others may be finished goods oriented.  In addition to your allowed 10 workshops, you may also have warehouses to store goods in, but warehouses are not counted as one of your 10 workshops.  They do, however, cost progressively more and more gold for each additional warehouse you purchase.  Both workshops and warehouses have fixed locations that tie them to the port in which they are constructed, which means you have to visit them to use them.  Each workshop builds up stored man-hours of labor which you can “spend” to have raw materials, work-in-progress or finished goods manufactured.

   Labor will store-up in real time, 1 labor hour per 1 real-life hour, up to a maximum storage of 72 man-hours of labor.  This keeps the production game on a more equitable scale between those that can play marathon sessions daily, and the casual players who may only be able to log in every couple of days or so. 

   Occasionally, you can stop by your workshops, check your supplies and stored labor, decide to make some planks of timber, and tell your workers to make it. You have to pay them for their labor of course, in gold doubloons.  There is no delay, however, and if they have the resources and the stored-up man-hours of labor, the Manufacturing Recipesfinished product is instantly produced. You may then opt to stockpile those finished planks of timber in your warehouse until you have the other supplies to make whatever you wish to make, or put it in the local port's  market house to sell to other players visiting that port, or transport it by ship to a different port to place for sale in that local market house where the prices may be more favorable to you, or place it in one of the major regional Auction Houses located within a handful of the larger, unconquerable port cities. But there is no one-man-is-an-island style of manufacturing in PotBS. In other words, no one can take raw resources, and make all the items needed to pop out a finished ship at the end, at least not in a timely or efficient manner.

   So, manufacturing will have niches of specialization. You may make planks of timber. Or you may make pulleys or winches. Or you may make cannons. Or you may make sails. Or you may make masts. Or you may make ships. But you can't feasibly make them all.

   To the right you can see the recipes for making a Small Scout Hull, and a Huge Dreadnought Hull.  And that's just the hull.  No masts, no riggings, no cannons, no sails ... just the hull.

   Just to be clear.  You don't have any crafting skills at all.  Your workers have the skill, and you are their employer.  So unlike most other games, there is no "leveling up" of crafting skill.  You simply grab your lots and workshops and warehouses, and start making anything you are able to get the materials and recipes to make, whether by having workers gather resources, or simply by buying the raw materials or work-in-progress widgets from the Local Market Houses or Major Regional Auction Houses.  This makes the manufacturing game one of opportunities found and capitalized on, rather than one of time-consuming gathering and grinding. 

Keel and Rudder Revealed in Crystal Blue Waters   Most ports have either their own Local Market House or a Major Regional Auction House that you must travel to in order to purchase items, or to place them for sale at more favorable local prices, similar to the Final Fantasy XI auction house system. If you want an item in Tortuga and you're in New Orleans, you must sail to Tortuga to purchase and pick up the item. If you discover in your journeys that the best price for an item you sell is in Caracas, you may wish to load up the cargo-hold of your ship with your goods and sail to Caracas. Of course, there are dangers in sailing with your cargo, since if you are captured or sunk, you lose your cargo.

   Long Distance Traveling -

Ship Arriving/Departing Port on Open Seas Map   The Caribbean Sea is recreated in exacting detail in PotBS.  Obviously, the real time it would take to sail across it's length and breadth would be many days.  So, the developers have made a navigation mode map, called Open Seas, that allows you to sail from one side to the other in about 45 minutes to an hour.  This all assumes a fairly straight-line course, favorable winds, and without any distractions from NPC or player pirates or other events you may encounter. 

Navigating the Islands on Open Seas Map   Imagine zooming out from the full size view of the harbor you're leaving to a greatly-scaled down version of the ocean and your ship with stylized graphics representing your ship and the ports along the shorelines of islands.  The names of ports appear in the sky above nearby destinations to make navigation easier.  But you're still in full control of your ship's direction of travel.  There are no point-and-click travel methods in PotBS. 

   Above left is the Open Seas map as you arrive at a port. Notice how the port's buildings are graphically stylized. To the right above is an Open Seas map as seen Full Scale Instanced Encounter at Seafrom off-shore of several ports, some close with their names opaque, and some more distant with their names translucent.  If you encounter an enemy ship while traveling the Open Seas (see Travel Encounters below), you have the option of engaging them in battle. If you do, you will drop into a full-scale instance to play-out the engagement, as seen in the immediate left screenshot.

   Travel Encounters At Sea -

   As you sail about the Caribbean, there are basically two types of encounters at sea that you may find. 

   First is Player Vs Environment, or PvE.  These will be enemy NPC ships that you may encounter anywhere in the Caribbean.

   The second type is Player Vs Player, or PvP.  This can only happen near ports that are being contested for ownership by other players, and will appear on your Open Seas map as a roughly circular area of red-tinted water for leagues around that port.  If you are one of the European nation players (British, French or Spanish) and enter that "PvP zone" near that port, you are eligible to be attacked by Pirates, or possibly by other players if you belong to one of the two nations currently in conflict for that port.  Similarly, if you are a Pirate, you are able to engage any player from any other nation you come across while inside these contested waters.  More information about how this works can be found in the "Capturing Ports" section that follows a bit further down.

   The Life of Your Ship -

Sloop Firing on Unseen Enemy Ship   Ships in PotBS are not necessarily lost if you are sunk or captured. Instead, they use a "durability point" system. Every ship has durability points assigned to it depending upon it's historical design and game rank, and there are over 60 unique ships in the game.  They are ranked in a way that you'll discover there are several better ships that you are skilled enough to sail about every 5 levels. Low level ships have lots of durability points, and as you level up the number of durability points on the ships become less and less, until the highest level ships have but a scant few.

104-Gun Ship Of The Line Under Full Sail   Each time you are sunk or get captured, you respawn at the nearest friendly port along with your ship, which has lost exactly 1 durability point. Of course, if your ship only had 1 durability point left when sunk or captured, it is permanently lost to you.  But have no fear, even if you can't afford to buy a new ship to replace the lost one, a "default" ship appropriate to your level will be provided to you at no charge.  It just won't be as powerful, strong, fast or as well-equipped as a player-manufactured version.

   Pirates Capturing Ships -

Pirate-Captured Ship on Cloudy Day   Pirates belong to the only "nation" that are allowed to sail ships they've captured. Once captured via a boarding action, a pirate-captured ship has it's durability points set to exactly 1.  Hence, the pirate can sail that ship until it's sunk or captured exactly once.  They can opt, however, to convert the ship to a Ship Deed, which they can bank for later use.  Also, pirates in a  captured Ship-Of-The-Line or certain other "restricted" ship types are flagged as KOS (Kill On Sight) to the other 3 nations anywhere in the Spanish Main, so there's another edgy bit of danger there for the Pirates to enjoy, or dread.

  
Elder Game Mechanics -

   Many games never consider the elder game or what players will do in the elder game, or they simply copy the tried-and-true endless-raid and ever-expansion for gear game. Over time, I've grown weary of the constant raid to get better gear, so I can raid to get better gear, so I can raid to get better gear, so I can ... what? Stand around and look good in my raid gear?

   Don't get me wrong, I enjoy each raid when taken as an individual evening's adventure, but the long-term point of endless raiding becomes a bit muddied over time, and not having anything on the horizon except endless attempts to get dozens of players geared up to do even harder raids has lost some of it's luster, at least to me.

   The PotBS elder game has been thoroughly thought-out and planned. The Caribbean of 1720 is rife with competition for resources, and as representatives of our game nations we'll be trying to take over the entire game map and own every port.

  
Capturing Ports -

   Ports start off in a stable condition. The NPC citizens are pretty happy and going about their business. But let's take a Spanish port for an example of how a port can be captured, and lets assume I'm a British Navy captain.

Naval Fleet Ship Chasing Down A Pirate   I, and other British players, may start doing a lot of missions in the area near that Spanish port. British Free-Traders may start flooding the market of that port with British-made goods. This has a destabilizing effect on the port's inhabitants. They become unhappy and begin to argue with each other. 

   Eventually, the port enters into a "State of Unrest". When that happens, the ocean for leagues around that port becomes PvP+ for the Pirate nation. Pirates can then attack to capture or sink any French, British and Spanish player ships they run across in those waters.  And the NPC citizens become more angry.  Bar fights may break out.

   If the destabilizing actions do not cease (i.e., the British keep pushing missions and goods into that port), the port enters a "State of Contention".  At that point, British and Spanish ships also become PvP+ to each other within that same area around the port, and the pirates, of course, are still able to assault whoever they wish in that vicinity. Panic erupts in the port, street brawls may break out, and sea battles explode between the British and Spanish.  During this Contention phase, players that partake in these battles build up "Contention Points". At a certain point in time, a lottery is held to select 25 British and 25 Spanish players to engage in a final, ship-to-ship, mass battle royale on the open ocean or in the harbor for port ownership. The more contention points you have the greater your chances of being selected by the lottery.

   If the port is successfully defended by the Spanish, the port remains Spanish and returns to a stable state.

   If the port is successfully captured by the British, the port now becomes a British port. The inhabitants (NPCs) become British and happy, the taxes on British goods drop while the taxes on Spanish goods go through the roof. British players can set up resource lots and the Spanish may have trouble accessing theirs, and in fact may even abandon them depending on faction standings. The Spanish likely want it back, or maybe the French cast a wistful eye in that direction, and the cycle of that port's conflict starts all over again, or the combatants may move elsewhere to another juicy port.  Up to 12 ports can be in contention at any one time.

   Open Seas Spawn Manager and Port Contentions -

   In addition to PvP engagements to sway the balance of nations vying for control of ports, players can also engage NPC ships in PvE near the port in order to build  Contention Points (CP).  If, for instance, the British players are attacking a Spanish port once again, the British players can sink Spanish NPC ships, and the Spanish players can sink British NPC ships to gain CP for their respective nations and for themselves.  But what if there are no British NPCs or Spanish NPCs handy to engage?  There will be, and this is where the Open Seas Spawn Manager (OSSM) comes into play.

   The artificial intelligence of the OSSM constantly monitors (every 30 seconds) the various Peace, Unrest and Contention states of all ports in the game.  As soon as it detects one of those ports has entered into an unstable state, it will intelligently spawn the correct ship nationality types at nearby ports and send them to those waters to keep engagements active and interesting.   In addition to port contention monitoring and intelligent spawning of engagement ships, the OSSM also keeps the Caribbean alive with all sorts of ships in transit from port to port constantly, whether they be warships or trade convoys or pirates.

Open Seas Spawn Manager Demo   Click the button on the right to see a low resolution animation video of the OSSM developer's tool they use to monitor and plan how the Open Seas Spawn Manager operates.  Note, this is NOT in game footage, but just a short video of how the developer's tool operates, greatly speeded up to better view the relationships of ship movements over time throughout the Caribbean.  In some cases each blip probably represents a single ship, while in other cases it may represent a squadron of ships.  In any case, it looks like it's going to be a very active ocean.

   To read more details about the Open Seas Spawn Manager, visit this link.


  
What Happens If One Nation Owns Nearly All Ports?

   If one nation essentially does take over the entirety of the Spanish Main, the powers in Europe (an in-game AI program) will negotiate a peace treaty, most (but not necessarily all) ports will be returned to their original, pre-war owners (as was often and historically the practice to do), the winning nation receives some prizes (special, beneficial buildings in their home ports and other as-of-yet unnamed prizes), and the losers receive "something" that will give them a better shot at winning as the next round of contention for the Caribbean starts all over again.
 

   The Effect of the Elder Game -

   The elder game of competition to own ports has an enormous effect on on everyone in the game regardless of profession.  As a Free-Trader, you may have some favorable faction-gaining abilities with ports of enemy nations, but if a port with resources you desperately need for your production line falls into the wrong hands, the prices on your goods can become exorbitant, and cheap resources may be difficult to obtain.  As a Privateer, a quest-line you were working on may not be functional if you cannot access a port necessary to that quest.  As a Naval Officer, you may be called upon by those Free-Traders and Privateers for assistance to take, or re-take, a port.

   And the pirates are the wolves among the sheep.  Every port that enters into unrest or contention becomes open waters for their PvP wolf-pack efforts against the other three nations.

   It's possible, of course, to completely avoid PvP by simply sailing safely around and skirting the PvP unrest/contention waters, which are visually displayed on the world map with red-shaded circles centered on the ports in contention.

   The Music of Pirates of the Burning Sea -

Adam Gubman (left) and Jeff Kurtenacker (right)   The Developers have spared no expense in creating an immersive, Triple-A game title, and they did not scrimp on the music.  Hiring two of the industry's premiere game music composers, the talents of Adam Gubman and Jeff Kurtenacker bring the Caribbean to life with over an hour's worth of historically and nationally flavored mood and event music, queues and scores.  Get ready for a different experience from the music you are accustomed to hearing in most of the games you've played.

PotBS Music Samples (Mp3) by Adam Gubman:

Pirate Cue - Adventurous and lively tune

Canary Island - Ja mon, you are in paradise now

Small French Port - With the talents of the young vocalist from "Phantom of the Opera"

Late Baroque - Harpsichords, horns and strings add to the flavor and classic sound

Pirate Attack - Full of tension and epic grandeur

Pirate Defense - Rollicking good tune with comedic strikes, horns, strings and flute flourishes

Tides of Fire - Likely the main title theme music, a grand conclusion to the samples

PotBS Music Samples (Mp3) by Jeff Kurtenacker:

British Travel - All the pomp and grandeur of His Majesty's Royal Navy

Caribbean Port - Ja mon, you are in paradise, again!

Mission Attack - Mounting tension to accompany intense combat

PotBS Video Teaser (wmv) with Music by Jeff Kurtenacker:

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Enjoy the show

Bonus PotBS (wmv) Video:

2007 E3 Conference Trailer - Lots of cool ground and naval combat footage

 

 

Mysterious Mayan Temple

 

   A Few Comparisons To Features In Other Admirable Games  -

   The Part That's Like (and Not Like) Eve-Online -

   There is one obvious similarity between PotBS and Eve-Online.  Both involve getting bigger ships and using those ships to do combat with enemy nations.  But, that's about where the similarities come to a screeching halt.  The crafting in Eve is a bit of a grind for asteroid resources, whereas in PotBS you have workers that do the resource collection labor for you.  In Eve, you can conceivably build a ship from raw materials all the way to the finished product, whereas in PotBS you can only feasibly (read: in a reasonable time frame) perform steps in the building process, allowing for greater specialization and niche marketing.  In Eve, huge sections of space are permanently safe, and huge sections of space are permanently dangerous, whereas in PotBS you have a few, limited safe ports while the rest of the ports will move in and out of safety and danger entirely based upon the actions of players.  In Eve, you are your ship, and can never disembark, whereas in PotBS you are your avatar and can embark on a plethora of land-based missions as well as ship-board missions.  And finally, in Eve they use insurance to help defray the costs of losing a ship, which you do lose with every defeat, whereas in PotBS you have durability points.  The Developers of PotBS did it this way to avoid the "fight or flee" decision that everyone in Eve makes at the beginning of every fight, thereby encouraging a more daring-do approach to ship combat. 

   The Part That's Like City of Heroes -

   The most obvious feature that seems similar to City of Heroes is in the dynamics of the character creation process, and the fact that you can change your appearance as you desire by visiting Tailoring Shops in the game.  This has long been a highly acclaimed and much-loved feature in the super heroes game, and those that enjoyed that won't be lacking for that diversity in Pirates of the Burning Sea.

   The Part That's Like Final Fantasy XI -

   The play-style of having to travel from port to port to purchase and sell goods in Local Market Houses, or alternatively one of the few major regional Auction Houses, is similar to the  system used in Final Fantasy XI.  What makes the PotBS version interesting is that anytime you move goods on the open ocean, you are at risk of NPC ships that may attack anywhere, or at risk of attack from other players within PvP port-contention waters.  You may opt to sail around and avoid these PvP-enabled waters, or take that shortcut through them at risk to your ship and cargo.  Having friends escort you with their warships becomes a viable method to transport goods through dangerous waters. 

   The Part That's Like Dark Age of Camelot -

   DAoC's exciting realm vs realm warfare could be compared to PotBS in that their elder game to control the Keeps of the outland zones is similar to PotBS's  competition to control the ports of the Caribbean.  The biggest difference here is that in PotBS, captured ports are full-featured cities that have a huge and cumulative effect on everything your character does in game.  How they travel, where the resources are, where to buy or sell their goods, how to avoid or go looking to engage in PvP.  It affects taxes and the prices of goods throughout the Caribbean in significant ways that won't escape the notice of every player in the game.

    The Part That's Like World of Warcraft -

   A robust mission system, a fun and relatively rapid leveling scheme (about 300 - 350 hours from level 1 to 50 for the average player), safe respawn points, and NPCs that are animated in the extreme and well beyond what we're used to seeing, even in the hyper-popular WoW, are the obvious similarities.

   What's Cool About Pirates of the Burning Sea -

   I started to make a bullet list here of features, but instead the question that is begged is, "What's NOT cool about Pirates of the Burning Sea?"  Nothing that I've been able to detect so far.  The graphics are state of the art, but optimized in such a way that even someone with only 512 Mb of Ram can play and enjoy them.  This has a lot to do with how they utilized their textures technologies, and how they designed the water itself. 


"We've learned to stop fearing high polygon counts. Our ships are intensely detailed, with poly counts in the tens of thousands for breathtaking fidelity."


   There's no swimming in the game, which is again historically accurate.  Swimming just wasn't a sought-after skill in those days and in fact was avoided due to superstitions about it being bad luck.  Hence, the developers did not need to make the water 3D swim-enabled, and instead could focus their efforts on making the surface look amazing.  But don't worry, you can't fall overboard anyway, and if your ship is sunk, you're dead and hanging out at Davy Jones Locker, figuratively speaking.

   Then you respawn.

   A robust avatar combat system, amazing animations, diversity in character appearance, ship-to-ship broadsides, boarding actions at sea, missions galore, interesting NPCs that can become sidekicks, and of course, the main thing that's cool about Pirates of the Burning Sea ....

   ..... Pirates, ye scurvy dog, Pirates!

   Expected Launch Date -

   Autumn 2007

   Pricing -

   "Comparable" to current MMOs for retail box and monthly fee, so I'd guess around $50 US for the game and around $15 US per month to play.

   Collector's Edition -

   There may be a collector's edition available, but we have no firm details on what goodies it might include.

   Minimum System Specs -

   Windows System XP/Vista, 1.5 GHz or AMD Athlon 1.5 GHz, with 512 MB or more of RAM, 128 MB 3D video card supporting Pixelshader 2.0 (NVIDIA GeForce 5600 or ATI 9600 or better) and a broadband connection.

   Macs - Runs fine on equivalent-specced, Intel-based Macs using x86 system with Microsoft windows drivers (i.e., Bootcamp).

   Distribution -

   In a recent announcement (June 25, 2007), Sony Online Entertainment's Platform PublishingTM will be handling the marketing, billing and distribution of Pirates of the Burning Sea.  While many gamers have had some less than stellar experiences with Sony developed and managed games in the past, including this author, Flying Lab Software is retaining complete control over the development, game content, servers and customer support functions.  In other words, Flying Lab Software is retaining sole ownership and control of the project.  By retaining control while outsourcing the promotion and distribution to Platform Publishing, Flying Lab Software has secured a sweetheart deal that allows them to focus on what they love doing ... making a great game.   Still, the two burning questions many may ask are:

1) Will Sony mess this up like they messed up Star Wars Galaxies?

Answer: No, Sony has absolutely no control, no ownership and no input whatsoever in how the game is coded, developed or designed.  That is 100% Flying Lab Software's territory, and according to the developers, so shall it remain.

2) Will Sony come in later on down the line and buy out Flying Lab Software?

Answer: Not a chance.  Flying Lab Software is debt-free, flush with mountains of cash, and according to the developers, they have no intentions of selling their company or their game. 

   So, we can either allow our paranoia about Sony limit our game choices in some sort of vengeful wrath or payback motif by refusing to play any game even remotely associated with Sony, or we can realize that Sony's involvement here is so paper thin and kept in check that it doesn't matter if they handle the distribution and marketing.  In point of fact, if Sony's Platform Publishing label really takes off, more and more independent developers will take advantage of their service and avoid the headaches of trying to develop a game and then try to market and distribute it themselves, further limiting the field of games that self-proclaimed  "Sony-haters" find available to them.

   For myself, while I'm not wholly enthusiastic about some of my own past experiences with Sony, given their extremely limited role via their Platform Publishing label, and furthermore given Flying Lab Software's stated healthy financial condition, I will not pass up the chance to give what appears to be a revolutionary pirate MMO a fair shake-down cruise.  Besides, at the first hint of any Sony shenanigans, the "Cancel Subscription" button is pretty easy to find.

   You can read more details about the Platform Publishing deal here.

Official Website -

   Pirates of the Burning Sea

Awards -


  

Pirate Racing Towards Jungle Adventure

So What Was It Again, That Makes PotBS Truly Next Generation?

    Because it's the first MMORPG that achieves ALL of the following in one package (yeah, couldn't resist the bullet-list after all):

  • Easy To Jump In And Play without any steep learning curves

  • Micro-Balance Of Opposing Factions via matched skills and equipment

  • Achieves Dynamic World Changes through both PvE and PvP actions

  • Intrinsically Ties the PvE and PvP game to the game economy

  • 100% Player-Driven economy

  • Palatable And Robust mission-driven leveling system

  • Cinematic Game-Play with full animation of avatars and NPCs

  • Uniquely Historical avatar combat system

  • Uniquely Historical naval combat system

  • Amazing Graphics that maintain rich appearance on moderate computers

  • Mac Compatibility via x86 system with Microsoft Windows drivers

  • Huge Diversity in character attire and appearance

  • Full Circle, Winnable Game with rewards and with no end-game grind

  • Non-Grinding Production System for the manufacturing of all player items

  • Heroic Storyline that is different for every player, based upon choices made

  • NPC Sidekick Potential via unique storyline missions

  • Character Skill Choices, rather than gear, differentiates character ability

  • Absence Of Gear Competition promotes good game environment among friends

  • Thar Be Pirates, Matey!

 

Flying Lab Software and Pirates of the Burning Sea are trademarks of Flying Lab Software LLC.
 All graphic contents ©2007 Flying Lab Software.
Platform Publishing is a registered trademark of Sony Online Entertainment
 All rights reserved.
Editorial Commentary solely that of the review author

Forum Comments Here ...