FileBlog: Pirates of the Burning Sea Interview
Note: FilePlanet is no longer being updated and is in the process of being archived.

Home / FileBlog Home / Archives

FileBlog Archive


Pirates of the Burning Sea Interview

February 05, 2007


My Pegleg needs batteries. Here's some Internet piracy we can all get behind: Pirates of the Burning Sea (See GameSpy's Info and IGN's Info) is a pirate-themed massively multiplayer game from Flying Labs that'll be rolling out this Summer. Last month when I wrote about why so many MMOs stick to the fantasy genre, I briefly mentioned some of the challenges these guys will face by breaking the mold and making a pirate game. Producer John Tynes wrote me directly, and before long we were chatting about three of my favorite things: Pirates, colonial economies, and Johnny Depp.

Fargo: In my January 22nd editorial, I talked about why MMO designers keep gravitating back to the Fantasy genre. I called out how designers needed a variety in environments in order to keep people playing games for the long haul. Then I said: "I'm curious to see how Pirates of the Burning Sea solves these challenges: if you're fighting pirates, exploring jungle islands, and sailing ships in level 1, what are you doing at level 20? 40?" Since I've got you on the hook, how would you answer that question? What can we expect from Pirates of the Burning Sea?

Yarrrrr!John Tynes, Producer: Like most MMOs, we have a whole lot of content for you to play through. When you start the game and make your first character, you've got 1,000 missions to play through. This includes something we're calling the roleplaying storyline, an epic tale that continues from level 1 to level 50. You are the star of that story and you make meaningful choices as you go that change the course of events. That's one example of something that's going to keep you playing and finding new surprises throughout your career, but here are a few more treats:

1) Legendary Missions in which you play through a flashback to a historic sea battle to find out how well *you* would have done had you been there.

2) Supernatural Missions that slowly reveal the spooky secrets of the Burning Sea.

3) Lots of environments to explore: towns, Mayan ruins, ancient tombs, dense jungles, elaborate fortresses, grungy pirate dance halls, swanky mansions, and much more.

4) Ships, equipment, skills, and missions unlock as you level up. At level 40 you're still experiencing major changes in your gameplay and discovering new ways to play.

The biggest thing, though, is our strategic gameplay. Our RvR [Realm vs. Realm] system provides for player-created PvP zones used to conquer enemy ports, but you can also make major contributions to the RvR situation just by playing PvE missions and doing economic activity. Everything you do in the game feeds into the realm vs. realm system and has real consequences for all players in the game. We really believe the RvR system is something every player will interact with and that will involve them in strategic gameplay more and more as they level up.

EVE Online and WoW have both shown, in very different ways, that the most compelling content is other players. We're doing a lot with environments and mission content but we really do believe that long-term play requires a game that puts player interaction first. What we're bringing to this is the strategic element and a new way of integrating PvP into the main gameworld without it just being no-holds-barred ganking.

Fargo: How do you compel people to pick up and try a massively multiplayer game? What do you think it's got to have to spark that initial interest?

Tynes: You either need a brand/IP that players respond to or you need a concept that is attractive. WoW is an example of the former and City of Heroes, the latter. Both are great games and have succeeded on their respective terms.

One great thing WoW has done for the field is really promoting the idea that paying $15/month for an online multiplayer game is a reasonable idea. It's no longer a strange obsession of a small subculture -- it's the biggest game in the country. So we don't have to cross that hurdle anymore, which wasn't true four years ago when we started working on Pirates of the Burning Sea. In our case, our concept is clearly something different and we really believe it will get people to take a look.

But I'd hate to be launching a fantasy MMO this year.

Fargo: Once you've got people playing the game, how do you keep them there? What keeps the game novel for people one month later? Three months later? One year later?

Tynes: It's a tired statement but you have to focus on the fun. I really believe you can either go for the big laundry list of scattershot features and hope you win points for variety or you can focus and do a few things really well. (Or you can spend sixty million dollars and do both, I guess!) We've worked hard to make ship combat both tactically interesting and easy to learn. The result is a fun, challenging game system that we're really excited about. Our swashbuckling system is also a blast. We found some veteran animators at LucasArts and Sony and asked them to make the pirate swordfight of their dreams, and they really delivered. With their visuals and our fast gameplay the result is delicious cinematic delight.

We feel confident that we're going to release something great on the fun front. Looking longer term, it's the RvR system that should really keep you playing. We've tried to make it similar to sports -- there are the equivalents of seasons and Superbowls, with prizes for the winning side and compensation for the underdogs. We think the ongoing battle between England, France, and Spain will drive a lot of gameplay and keep things lively.

Dead Mean Tell No ... You Know.
Fargo: How do you balance out the need for the game to be accessible to casual players (read: Johnny Depp fans), yet complex enough to keep the hardcore players sailing away for weeks on end?

Tynes: We definitely aren't a casual MMO in the sense of Toontown or Pirates of the Caribbean Online, both of which are aimed at young or casual gamers. But it's not like there aren't Johnny Depp fans playing Counterstrike or Halo or World of Warcraft, for that matter -- everyone loves pirates! We think any gamer who wants to play a pirate MMO will have no problem with our game and if they stick with us, they'll find the gameplay deepens in significant ways as they level up.

Fargo: Judging from previews on both GameSpy and IGN, Pirates of the Burning Sea aims to have a robust economy with lots of niches for players to exploit. Can you talk about that, and what it offers above your typical online fare?

Tynes: We've got a fully player-driven economy. NPCs do not buy or sell anything. It's also what we call a 'production economy' rather than a 'crafting economy.' You aren't making a single cannonball. You're producing stuff by the ton, operating farms, mines, forges, shipyards, and other structures, and then stuffing your cargo ships full of goods and shipping them to the major auction houses for sale to other players.

The scale of the economy, in fact, is too big for one player to do everything. You can't start with a forest and end up with a ship. Players will find their specialties and niches within these enormous production chains, focusing on textiles or mining or building ship hulls or whatever. Because you have to move goods physically through the world, there can be players who literally just buy low and sell high, taking on the risk of cargo hauls through the pirate-infested Caribbean.

It's a very ambitious approach to economic gameplay, but it's true to the setting. This is the New World and everyone is here to get rich by buying and selling.

Of course, players who choose the Freetrader career will have advantages over others. They'll get access to skills that will help them navigate and move cargo around, as well as operate on a strategic scale.

Ports produce resources used by the economy. This means the RvR system of conquering ports is hugely important to the economy. When a port with a valuable resource is conquered by the enemy, merchant guilds will put pressure on navy guilds to take it back! And they'll pitch in themselves, smuggling goods to the conquered port to help generate unrest points there that will begin to shift the port's allegiance back to their side.

It's also a flat economy in terms of competition. Nothing in the economy requires that you be any higher than level 1. If you can raise the money and take the time, you can start producing meaningful stuff right away. There's no leveling up through making crappy daggers just to grind XP, and it means everyone can participate in the economy to whatever degree they're comfortable with. Even navy players who are focused on combat can still bring in a little extra cash by operating a rum distillery.

Hard to believe these are actual screenshots.
Fargo: Is Flying Lab still self-funded? What advice would you have for small companies trying to create a project as complicated as a massively multiplayer online game?

Tynes: Yep. We have financed this game 100% by ourselves. While we are talking with a variety of companies about retail box distribution, we don't need their money to ship the game we've been working towards for the last four years. That doesn't mean we'll be perfect or anything, but it does mean that we are wholly responsible for delivering on the vision that has driven us this far.

As regards advice, that's a tough one. If we were starting out now we would definitely be evaluating more MMO middleware to see how it is. It's a funny thing -- our graphics engine, Alchemy, is a solid engine for visuals but behind the scenes it has some architectural features that have turned out to be critically important in building a stable client-server architecture, something you'd never expect to get out of an engine built for console action games. But they had some great engineers developing the engine and it's paid off for us hugely. You can get a big benefit from good middleware and anyone starting out who wants to do everything themselves is probably going to waste a lot of valuable time.

MMOs are expensive to build and expensive to operate. Five guys can ship an Xbox Live Arcade title, but you need a lot more people to make a competitive MMO these days. I would advise starting with a smaller online game to build some expertise before jumping into a full-blown MMO.

Passion and vision are crucial. Yet they aren't enough. You need professional practices, skilled staff, and good leaders to inspire everyone. And, frankly, you need a lot of money.

Fargo: And finally... Will Pirates of the Burning Sea have monkeys?

Tynes: I think the ninjas killed them all.

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 9:55 AM PST
Edited on: February 05, 2007 11:57 AM PST
Permalink

FileBlog Weekly Archives

10/24/2010 - 10/30/2010
10/17/2010 - 10/23/2010
10/10/2010 - 10/16/2010
10/03/2010 - 10/09/2010
09/26/2010 - 10/02/2010
09/19/2010 - 09/25/2010
09/12/2010 - 09/18/2010
09/05/2010 - 09/11/2010
08/22/2010 - 08/28/2010
08/08/2010 - 08/14/2010
08/01/2010 - 08/07/2010
07/25/2010 - 07/31/2010
07/18/2010 - 07/24/2010
07/11/2010 - 07/17/2010
07/04/2010 - 07/10/2010
06/27/2010 - 07/03/2010
06/20/2010 - 06/26/2010
06/13/2010 - 06/19/2010
06/06/2010 - 06/12/2010
05/30/2010 - 06/05/2010
05/23/2010 - 05/29/2010
05/16/2010 - 05/22/2010
05/09/2010 - 05/15/2010
05/02/2010 - 05/08/2010
04/25/2010 - 05/01/2010
04/18/2010 - 04/24/2010
04/11/2010 - 04/17/2010
04/04/2010 - 04/10/2010
03/21/2010 - 03/27/2010
03/14/2010 - 03/20/2010
03/07/2010 - 03/13/2010
02/28/2010 - 03/06/2010
02/21/2010 - 02/27/2010
02/14/2010 - 02/20/2010
02/07/2010 - 02/13/2010
01/31/2010 - 02/06/2010
01/24/2010 - 01/30/2010
01/10/2010 - 01/16/2010
01/03/2010 - 01/09/2010
12/27/2009 - 01/02/2010
12/20/2009 - 12/26/2009
12/13/2009 - 12/19/2009
12/06/2009 - 12/12/2009
11/22/2009 - 11/28/2009
11/15/2009 - 11/21/2009
11/08/2009 - 11/14/2009
11/01/2009 - 11/07/2009
10/25/2009 - 10/31/2009
10/18/2009 - 10/24/2009
10/11/2009 - 10/17/2009
10/04/2009 - 10/10/2009
09/27/2009 - 10/03/2009
09/20/2009 - 09/26/2009
09/13/2009 - 09/19/2009
09/06/2009 - 09/12/2009
08/30/2009 - 09/05/2009
08/16/2009 - 08/22/2009
08/09/2009 - 08/15/2009
07/26/2009 - 08/01/2009
07/19/2009 - 07/25/2009
07/12/2009 - 07/18/2009
07/05/2009 - 07/11/2009
06/28/2009 - 07/04/2009
06/21/2009 - 06/27/2009
06/14/2009 - 06/20/2009
06/07/2009 - 06/13/2009
05/31/2009 - 06/06/2009
05/24/2009 - 05/30/2009
05/17/2009 - 05/23/2009
05/10/2009 - 05/16/2009
05/03/2009 - 05/09/2009
04/26/2009 - 05/02/2009
04/19/2009 - 04/25/2009
04/12/2009 - 04/18/2009
04/05/2009 - 04/11/2009
03/29/2009 - 04/04/2009
03/22/2009 - 03/28/2009
03/15/2009 - 03/21/2009
03/08/2009 - 03/14/2009
03/01/2009 - 03/07/2009
02/22/2009 - 02/28/2009
02/15/2009 - 02/21/2009
02/08/2009 - 02/14/2009
02/01/2009 - 02/07/2009
01/25/2009 - 01/31/2009
01/18/2009 - 01/24/2009
01/11/2009 - 01/17/2009
01/04/2009 - 01/10/2009
12/28/2008 - 01/03/2009
12/21/2008 - 12/27/2008
12/14/2008 - 12/20/2008
12/07/2008 - 12/13/2008
11/30/2008 - 12/06/2008
11/23/2008 - 11/29/2008
11/16/2008 - 11/22/2008
11/09/2008 - 11/15/2008
11/02/2008 - 11/08/2008
10/26/2008 - 11/01/2008
10/19/2008 - 10/25/2008
10/05/2008 - 10/11/2008
09/28/2008 - 10/04/2008
09/14/2008 - 09/20/2008
09/07/2008 - 09/13/2008
08/10/2008 - 08/16/2008
08/03/2008 - 08/09/2008
07/27/2008 - 08/02/2008
07/06/2008 - 07/12/2008
06/29/2008 - 07/05/2008
06/22/2008 - 06/28/2008
06/15/2008 - 06/21/2008
06/08/2008 - 06/14/2008
05/25/2008 - 05/31/2008
05/11/2008 - 05/17/2008
05/04/2008 - 05/10/2008
04/20/2008 - 04/26/2008
04/06/2008 - 04/12/2008
03/16/2008 - 03/22/2008
03/09/2008 - 03/15/2008
02/24/2008 - 03/01/2008
02/03/2008 - 02/09/2008
01/06/2008 - 01/12/2008
12/30/2007 - 01/05/2008
10/28/2007 - 11/03/2007
10/21/2007 - 10/27/2007
10/14/2007 - 10/20/2007
09/30/2007 - 10/06/2007
09/23/2007 - 09/29/2007
09/16/2007 - 09/22/2007
09/09/2007 - 09/15/2007
09/02/2007 - 09/08/2007
08/26/2007 - 09/01/2007
08/19/2007 - 08/25/2007
08/12/2007 - 08/18/2007
08/05/2007 - 08/11/2007
07/29/2007 - 08/04/2007
07/22/2007 - 07/28/2007
07/15/2007 - 07/21/2007
07/08/2007 - 07/14/2007
07/01/2007 - 07/07/2007
06/24/2007 - 06/30/2007
06/17/2007 - 06/23/2007
06/10/2007 - 06/16/2007
06/03/2007 - 06/09/2007
05/27/2007 - 06/02/2007
05/20/2007 - 05/26/2007
05/13/2007 - 05/19/2007
05/06/2007 - 05/12/2007
04/29/2007 - 05/05/2007
04/22/2007 - 04/28/2007
04/15/2007 - 04/21/2007
04/08/2007 - 04/14/2007
04/01/2007 - 04/07/2007
03/25/2007 - 03/31/2007
03/18/2007 - 03/24/2007
03/11/2007 - 03/17/2007
03/04/2007 - 03/10/2007
02/25/2007 - 03/03/2007
02/18/2007 - 02/24/2007
02/11/2007 - 02/17/2007
02/04/2007 - 02/10/2007
01/28/2007 - 02/03/2007
01/21/2007 - 01/27/2007
01/14/2007 - 01/20/2007
01/07/2007 - 01/13/2007
12/31/2006 - 01/06/2007