Pirates of the Burning Sea
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.
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?
Development History and Game Setting -
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.
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.
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.
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 more 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.
Florentine - Fighting with saber and dagger (duel wield, high
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.
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 avatars' 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.
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 -
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.
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.
You ARE the hero.
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 finished 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.
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 -
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.
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 from 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 -
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.
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
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.
Open Seas Spawn Manager and Port Contentions
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.
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.
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 -
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.
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 -
"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).
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:
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 -
So What Was It Again, That Makes PotBS Truly Next Generation?
Flying Lab Software and Pirates of the Burning Sea are
trademarks of Flying Lab Software LLC.