Pirates of the Burning Sea: Patch 1.5 Details Unveiled in Exclusive Interview

Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor

Answers by Joe Ludwig, Director of Development for Pirates of the Burning Sea

When Pirates of the Burning Sea was launched a few months ago, many players were clearly interested in the game, but a fair number were disappointed by some of the systems that weren't thoroughly completed before the release of the game. However, over the last few months the developers at Flying Lab Software have been retooling a number of the in-game systems along with merging the servers to increase the player economies in the game. At the ION Games Conference, Cody "Micajah" Bye sat down with Joe Ludwig, director of development for Pirates of the Burning Sea, and discussed what's been happening to the players in the game and what players should expect from the newly unveiled patch 1.5.

There will be a new career in the 1.4 patch.

Ten Ton Hammer: Starting off, why did you decide to implement all the changes that you did in the 1.4 patch?

Joe Ludwig: There were a bunch of little changes in 1.4, but the one big change was the addition of a new career for the pirates.

Ten Ton Hammer: Why’d that happen?

Joe: The trouble was that with only one career, the pirates were very difficult to tune. The second career gives us the ability to put the support and group skills into the second class and keep the cutthroat class focused on solo buffs and direct damage kind of stuff. Between the two of those careers, we can now balance things.

Previously with three national careers and one pirate career, we had to either lump all the skills into one pirate career (which would lead to an overpowered character) or do it like we did and have one pirate career without those support skills, leading to a weaker class because they can’t do this mixed force sort of thing.

At the beginning of 1.3, we started working on this new career and then went in and tested it on 1.4 using some focused group testing where players tried out the career throughout the game’s level range and in PvP before it goes live.

Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of skills do the buccaneers possess?

Joe: They have a lot of group buffs that - I think - the freetraders have on the national side. They also have a bunch of skills that are unique to a situation, so if they can make the situation happen - which happens pretty often in group combat - then they can take advantage. They have a lot of the same sort of skills that are available in the freetrader and the privateer, which weren't necessarily available to pirates before but are now thanks to the buccaneer.

At the same time, because we have this new class, we wanted the new class to be a little bit more powerful and more effective, so we ended up revamping the other four classes at the same time. So they all saw upgrades.

Ten Ton Hammer: So they all saw power boosts rather than nerfs.

Joe: Right, right.

Ten Ton Hammer: Besides the buccaneer class, what was your main focus in 1.4?

Joe: There were a number of changes in 1.4, but the buccaneer was definitely the big one, because with a new class you have to do new missions, career appearance items, and that sort of thing. That's all taken a lot of effort from a lot of the team.

In addition to that, we have set up a lot of trial account restrictions so we can better control the abuse of trial and buddy accounts by gold spammers. We have implemented a number of things, on the back end, to help with customer support. That's an ongoing theme, because as we see more support requests, we provide more tools to make the GMs lives easier.

Ten Ton Hammer: Some of the other news we've had lately was the GM server mergers.

Joe: That actually came in right before 1.3 went live, about a month ago. To update chronology, 1.4 has been on the test server for a little more than a week, and the second test bed build just hit the server with a bunch of bug fixes.

There will be a focus on trial account implementation in 1.4.

Ten Ton Hammer: Anything else in 1.4?

Joe: Previously, players were able to initiate port battles instantly by dumping a bunch of resources into a port and flipping it into contested mode instantly. We stopped that by only allowing players to take it half way but not the whole way. One of the things that's included in 1.4 is a revamp of that entire system.

With the new system, any number of players can contribute to the flipping of the port, but all the resources go into a queue that gradually are released into the port. That way all of the resources are released over time and the defending players can go in there and distribute resources of their own to try and keep the port from going into contention.

Ten Ton Hammer: When is 1.4 going live?

Joe: Probably in two or three weeks. It depends on how it goes on the test server, and we'll continue to put out new builds on the test server till we get it right. Assuming everything goes well, it will be two or three weeks.

Ten Ton Hammer: What's the news on 1.5? What's that all about?

Joe: What we've been focusing on up to this point is trying to make sure that the big systems - PvP, the economy, and conquests, that sort of thing - are all in good shape. What we're doing with 1.5 is a little different. Instead of focusing on these big new features that address our big issues - which are in much better shape then they were a few months ago - we're spending the entire month working on nothing but polish. Getting rid of things that are annoying to people kind of issues.

We've been working on a little bit of that as we go along, but now we really want to work on them to make sure that the things in the game are really sparkling. So we have every department, except for the content folks, focusing on the little things. That's really what 1.5 is all about.

Ten Ton Hammer: So what are the content people working on?

Joe: Back in 1.2, we put out our first epic mission - which was basically a really hard mission. That was really well-received and people enjoyed it. We've been working - since then - on the next epic mission. This second epic mission is supernaturally based, and we've been working on it for a few months now and it’s in internal play-testing now, so it will go out in 1.5.

Ten Ton Hammer: How are you progressing as far as the reception for your content? Are you seeing a surge of players as you continue to polish things up?

Joe: There's definitely a steady flow of new people, as the game continues to remain in stores. New people are picking it up all the time. We're expecting the number of new people to increase pretty sharply as we get the trial accounts really rolling. So far we've only done buddy keys as a member of a trial service.

But we really want to get the buddy key support and trial account support out there before we really go gung-ho about the accounts, so that we can insure that the trial accounts don't become a way for gold sellers to harass people. That said, the number of people coming into the game has been fairly steady.

Ten Ton Hammer: I know that before the game released, one of the big selling points was the availability for players to create their own content in the game. Are you still actively supporting that?

Joe: We are still supporting all of that. With the ships, 1.4 includes four - maybe five - new ship models that were all created by users, including the first freetrader refit ship (a high level freetrader ship).

For the flags, we've been in late beta testing on the revision to our user content voting system. In the old system, players have to scan down this list of items then select the item and rank it 1-5. The new version just puts two sails in front of you, and you just select the one that you like the most. It's much faster to vote.

It's been working really well. Within the first four hours of the beta going up, we had 31,000 votes. The top 5% or so of the sails are pretty clearly prominent; there are clear winners and clear losers.

A new flag voting system will be coming in an upcoming patch.

Ten Ton Hammer: I always felt like the community in Pirates of the Burning Sea was of a different sort of flavor than what you might find in other games.

Joe: It's the water. They're saltier. *laughs*

Ten Ton Hammer: *laughs* Do you think it's an older user base?

Joe: I think it's a couple of things. It is partially an older user base, and the ship combat is definitely slower paced than most MMO combat. I think it appeals to people who are a little more deliberate in their game style, and I think those people are a little bit older. But at the same time, I think we really try to respond, listen to, and be engaged with the community. I think that's caused our community to be a little nicer than some other games are.

We tend to self select for a nicer crowd.

Ten Ton Hammer: Where do you see yourself going in the future? Are you going to explore other areas of the world?

Joe: We have a number of different things on our long term goals. We've talked about different sorts of geographic expansions, but we don't have any firm plans. We've talked about the Mediterranean, the east coast of North America, the South China Sea, and the Barbary Coast. We don't know where that's going to go; all of those are options.

However, there are even lots of expansion options in the space we've already got. We could do more inland adventuring, more ports, more open sea adventures, and all of those things are options. Nothing has really firmed p yet.

Down the road, there's a number of different things that we're working on, including another series of epic missions that follow the same sort of story arc. These next missions will also all be level 50 like the second one. There will also be improvements on players' control of the conquest system and the way people get into port battles. All of those areas are getting a bit of attention, but all of our plans are staying fairly fluid until we get to the specifics.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you have an expansion scheduled? Or will you simply maintain this constant continuation of content?

Joe: We're definitely going to keep the content flow going; people pay 15 bucks a month for that service.

Our discussion of geographic locations is in an expansion context, but there's nothing firm there yet.

Ten Ton Hammer: But you will have a physical expansion sometime down the road?

Joe: Yes, but it's in the long term. There's not much we can say about it now.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any more classes you need to roll out?

Joe: I think we're in pretty good shape for ship classes with the three national and two pirate classes.

During the development phase of 1.5, we're going to start looking at the avatar combat of each class and see if we need to change skills within classes or what we need to do there both on the content and system side.

There are plans for an upcoming expansion to Pirates of the Burning Sea.

Ten Ton Hammer: What would you suggest to players that initially started play the game but quit? Why should they come back?

Joe: It depends alot on why they left. If they left because they like ninjas more than pirates, we can't do anything for them.

Ten Ton Hammer: You could put ninjas in the game.

Joe: How do you know they're not there already?

Ten Ton Hammer: True.

Joe: But in general, all of the things I mentioned are definitely improvements in the overall gameplay. For instance, the viability of pirates in PvP is greatly enhanced by the introduction of the buccaneer. We've adjusted the port system, and we increased server populations because of the server mergers. For the different complaints people had, we definitely made a wide variety changes for the wide variety of problems.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and Pirates of the Burning Sea fans?

Joe: Just that we're ready to move on to really polishing the game up with 1.5 and cleaning up any small annoyances the players may have.

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