This week we conclude our coverage of the fascinating world of Pirates of the Burning Sea with part two of our interview with John Tynes. John is a game designer at Flying Lab Software, the company that is currently developing this impressive massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Stay tuned to Just RPG in the coming months as we continue to cover the development of Pirates of the Burning Sea.
Beta Test: In the next few months
Estimated Release: Fall 2003
Pirates of the Burning Sea Interview (Part 2) with John Tynes
JustRPG: Tell What system are you implementing for team play?
John: You can form short-term teams as usual in these kinds of games. Create the team, give it a description, recruit players through an interface, etc. Once you’re on a team, you get access to an automatic team chat channel.
Where we’re taking this a bit further is that each team has a leader. This is the person who creates the team, but he or she can hand leadership off to anyone else in the team. The leader has access to a special interface for issuing tactical combat orders to the team. You can order one player to attack an enemy ship, order three other players to defend an NPC vessel, and so on.
Orders are not mandatory. If your leader orders you to do something, there’s no penalty if you don’t do it. But a team that makes good use of this system will have a huge advantage over teams that don’t. You get on-screen graphics pointing out the targets of your orders, so you know what you’re supposed to do. We expect good leaders to emerge who will make any team they join more effective by using this system.
JustRPG: How is player versus player combat handled in the game?
John: Just like the Caribbean in 1720, this is a fully PvP world. Anyone can attack anyone, anywhere and anytime.
There are, however, consequences. Our legal system tracks crimes you commit and the more of a criminal you are, the more people will be assigned to hunt you down.
There are also areas that are more dangerous than others. New players will start off in areas that are heavily patrolled by the Navy. There’s no guarantee that a pirate won’t try a daring raid into this area, but odds are they’ll be intercepted by a Navy ship before they can sink new players.
JustRPG: How much freedom do you give players to do what they want in the game? If a player wants to play solo do they have that option?
John: We expect group play to be more fun, which is typically the case in MMORPGs. But solo play isn’t a problem. Our mission system supports both solo and group play. And there are plenty of activities that are suited for solo players, such as fencing stolen goods and making stealthy raids into enemy waters.
JustRPG: Akella, developer of Sea Dogs, is helping you with the creation of the ships. How do you hope to benefit from this partnership?
John: Akella has years of experience with sailing ship games. And anyone who has seen their new Pirates of the Caribbean game knows they have amazing artists who do beautiful work. Akella’s art team is creating all of our ships, and we really turned them loose with huge polygon counts. The ships they’re doing are at an unprecedented level of detail in computer games – but one look at our screenshots will tell you that. We’ve been amazed at how good their work for us has been.
JustRPG: What ships will be featured in the game and how much will we able to customize them?
John: At launch we will have about twenty ships, ranging from small, swift sloops to massive 74-gun ships of the line. You will be able to command all of them, though you’ll have to do some work to get them!
We have an extensive list of modifications you can make to your ship. You can tweak it for better performance, more cargo room, or more weapons. Install an infirmary, an extra powder magazine, a passenger cabin, more pumps, or better crew quarters. There are dozens of different mods you can make to your ship – it really is an extension of your character
JustRPG: How will ships operate in combat situations?
John: We give you control over each battery of guns. On a per-battery basis you can specify what ammunition you want to use, what part of the enemy ship you’re targeting (waterline, deck, or rigging), and how you want the battery to fire. With advanced skills, you can use a lot of special gunnery techniques such as Rush Reload, Wind Compensation, Range Estimation, Over-Charge Shot, and more.
It’s the most sophisticated naval combat system ever, and we don’t say that lightly. Ship combat is a major feature of our game and we’re giving it a lot of attention. That doesn’t mean it’s slow and complicated, however. We just give you a lot of control if you want it, so players who are really into combat can squeeze out every slight advantage in return for the time they invest in learning the system. But players who only occasionally get into conflict can rely on their officers to do a decent job of fending off a typical pirate.
JustRPG: How will sailing occur upon the seas? Will weather be an important factor while you are sailing?
John: You know wind speed and direction, and your current rudder heading. The wind changes as you sail around. With advanced sail handling skills, you can perform special techniques like Quick Belay, Jumpstart, Flying Stop, and more. By modifying your ship you can sail faster and turn sharper to varying degrees.
We are using a realistic sailing model. Sailing with the wind directly at your back is actually not the swiftest approach. You sail fastest when the wind is large – that is, when you’re cutting across the wind at an angle, exposing more of your total sail area at once. Also, each ship class has its own sailing characteristics, so that some ships can maintain higher speeds when steering closer to the wind than others. Once you’ve learned how to handle your ship, you’ll know just how close to the wind you can push it while still maintaining high speed. It’s this kind of depth that will make the sailing system rewarding for players.
JustRPG: Will many skills be available for players to learn? Can you list some of these for us?
John: In the initial release, there are six skills: Repair, Sail Handling, Leadership, Gunnery, Commerce, and Command. Each skill then has numerous techniques and specializations, like the ones I’ve mentioned before for sailing and combat. Both you and your officers use the same skill system, so you can use your officers’ skills and/or your own at any time. It’s like having a whole party of characters at your command.
JustRPG: Tell us about the economy and legal system that will be featured in the game.
John: The economy is dynamic. Each port has production and consumption rates for specific goods. As those goods are bought and sold at the port, the prices change accordingly. Both PCs and NPCs buy and sell goods and affect the economy.
The legal system assigns different penalties to different actions, which affects your legal status rating. But those penalties then depend on what witnesses saw you commit the crime. If no one saw you attack that merchant, it’s your word against the merchant’s and your reputations come into play. International factors are also important. If a British ship sinks a Spanish one, Spain will consider you a criminal but Britain might not, especially if relations between the two countries are not very good right now. You have a separate legal status rating for each country in the game.
JustRPG: You will be using Valve’s Steam technology to deliver the game. What are the benefits to using this technology for the game?
John: The biggest benefit is streaming downloads. Even when you aren’t playing our game, Steam can be downloading new patches and content in the background. It doesn’t interfere with your normal web surfing or whatever. But when there is idle bandwidth, Steam will check with our servers and get the newest stuff for you so it’s automatically ready the next time you play. This means no more massive server loads for new patches – Steam gets the patch to everyone in the background, and then once most players have it downloaded we flip a switch to activate the patch.
This has affected our whole approach to design. The initial release of the game is focused on core features: combat, commerce, missions, skills, and chat. We’ll be adding new features to the game all the time, in response to what our players most want to see: political elections, port capture & control, avatars, housing, resource extraction and development, etc.
JustRPG: What are the system requirements players will need to run this game?
John: We don’t have final requirements yet. But we expect to require at least a 1gHz CPU and a GeForce 4 or better video card – you’ll need a serious system to play this game.
We also require broadband. We’re doing no-lag, high-performance gaming and aren’t targeting a mainstream, low-end audience.
JustRPG: Will you be holding a beta test in the future? What do you expect to have in your first beta release?
John: Yes, we’ll be doing an open beta later this year. It should have all the core gameplay in there, though probably not very polished!
JustRPG: Is there anything you would like to add that has not already been discussed here? What do you think players will enjoy about Pirates of the Burning Sea over other MMORPGs?
John: Our focus is really on giving players the freedom to make their own fun. We believe the best content is gaming itself, the daily adventure of sophisticated interaction with friends and enemies, building your career and your reputation, testing your skills and enjoying the rewards of valor
Pirates of the Burning Sea Interview- Part 1
Pirates of the Burning Sea Preview at Just RPG
Official Pirates of the Burning Sea Website
PIRATES OF THE BURNING SEA SCREENSHOTS