by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
by Joe Ludwig, Director of Development for Pirates of the Burning Sea
When Pirates of the
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: Starting
off, why did you decide to implement all the changes that you did in
the 1.4 patch?
There will be a new
career 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.
Ten Ton Hammer: What sort
of skills do the buccaneers possess?
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.
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: So they
all saw power boosts rather than nerfs.
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
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: Some of
the other news we've had lately was the GM server mergers.
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
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
Ten Ton Hammer: Anything
else in 1.4?
There will be a focus
on trial account implementation in 1.4.
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: When is
1.4 going live?
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
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: So what
are the content people working on?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
A new flag voting
system will be coming in an upcoming patch.
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: Where do
you see yourself going in the future? Are you going to explore other
areas of the world?
We tend to self select for a nicer crowd.
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
have an expansion scheduled? Or will you simply maintain this constant
continuation of content?
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.
definitely going to keep the content flow going; people pay 15 bucks a
month for that service.
Ten Ton Hammer: But you
will have a physical expansion sometime down the road?
Our discussion of geographic locations is in an expansion context, but
there's nothing firm there yet.
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
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.
Ten Ton Hammer: What
would you suggest to players that initially started play the game but
quit? Why should they come back?
There are plans for
an upcoming expansion to Pirates of the Burning Sea.
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.