E3 2007: Impressions on Pirates of the Burning Sea
In the world of MMO’s, there have really never been enough pirates (or ninjas, but that’s another story). Sony Online Entertainment and Flying Lab Software are looking to change all that. Today at E3, I got the chance to sit down with Drew Clowery of Flying Lab Software to get a closer look at Pirates of the Burning Sea. At first glance, the game looks like an MMO that has simply been moved to a Caribbean setting. However, further study revelas that there is much more to it than that.
First off, not everyone has the attitude or the temperament to be a pirate. Knowing this, the designers are offering up three European races in addition to the pirate race. England, France, and Spain are all represented here, and available for players to choose as a race. While the three races have some differences, the biggest difference is in the pirate race. As they have no government behind them, they live more of a nomadic lifestyle.
Of course all the swordplay is here that you would expect. In fact, the game utilizes a balance-based system. The player’s balance is represented by a ring around their character. Each character and NPC has attacks designed to knock their opponent off balance, thereby making it easier to hit them with attacks. Players will also gain initiative by landing attacks, which is then used to power other, more powerful attacks.
Maneuvering your ship through the waters of the Caribbean is very intuitive, requiring only an eye on the wind, and a bit of care not to overbalance a small ship. Combat from ship to ship is also here, allowing players to duke it out on the high seas. Now, I know you’re thinking that you don’t want to lose your hard-earned ship. Well, you might, but even if you’re sunk, your ship will lose a point of durability and respawn at a nearby port. Player death can be easily overcome through the use of smelling salts by someone in your party.
For those of you who envision a life as a scalawag attacking every ship that comes along, that’s not always possible. Pirates does include open PvP, but only when an area is ‘in contention’. Basically, when a nearby port is being raided, the land and water around it are placed in contention, relaxing the laws, and allowing open PvP in that area. Players are not forced to enter these areas, but if they must, they do so at their own peril.
The last thing I thought was worthy of a mention is the fact that level is no shield in Pirates. We were told that a level 1 character could in fact kill an AFK level 50 character. While your level will give you an advantage in the types of items and ships available to you, you will by no means be invincible.
We didn’t actually get a chance to play Pirates of the Burning Sea, so I can’t tell you how well these systems actually work in practice. All I can say is that I am interested to see how this title plays out after launch. It could join with Tabula Rasa in heralding a major shift in the way that MMO games are designed.