Swashbuckling and Derring-Do - Exclusive Pirates of the Burning Sea Interview
Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Combat in massively multiplayer games is almost always the area that
makes-or-breaks a title. A world can be crafted with meticulous
precision or the creativity of a virtual href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci"
target="_blank">Da Vinci, but if the combat
doesn’t hold up, players will fail to remain a part of the
game for any extended period of time. It’s like biting into a
target="_blank">Krispy Kreme donut only to find
that someone forgot to
fill the center with the calorically rich goo. It would be an
appalling dietary downer.
combat will have a brand new face after the revamp. Hooray for
swashbuckling! Hooray beer!
Every so often a game comes around that introduces
two different types of combat in the same game, and arguably the two
most prominent titles in this category are href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/42"
Burning Sea. Both games include ship (star and
avatar combat, and each development staff made substantial
modifications to try to adjust their avatar combat to coincide with the
team’s vision of the game.
In the case of Burning Sea, more avatar combat changes are in the
works, as discussed by Kevin “Isildur” Maginn, the
game’s lead designer, in a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/46706" target="_blank">recent
developer blog on the topic. After reading his entry, the Ten
Ton Hammer team knew that we had to get to the bottom of this mystery,
so we hopped into our own virtual version of the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:IMG_1794.JPG"
target="_blank">Mystery Machine and asked a number
of questions to Kevin about the upcoming avatar combat changes.
According to Kevin, the PotBS team has been working on updating the
avatar combat system since shortly after the team shipped the game.
They weren’t entirely satisfied with the way avatar combat
felt, so they have been continually making iterations on the design.
“I consider my top priority to be designing a game
I have fun playing; if I’m not enjoying it, I certainly
can’t expect players to enjoy it,” Kevin said.
“And while I had moments of fun in our initial avatar combat
system, I also had moments of irritation, where I just wanted to reach
inside the game and change things. Luckily for me, I can do
As any lead designer would hopefully suggest, Kevin isn’t
comfortable with any part of the game being less than 100% and he
believes that it is his responsibility to make it better. But
the change couldn’t come from Kevin alone, and almost the
entire content and most of the QA team is working on revising the
missions that the combat system will impact. Kevin noted that the work
is being done “slowly and carefully” and that
“it’s a monumental amount of work, but thankfully
the new system is somewhat easier to tune, so content creation and
revision can move a bit faster than it used to. Even so,
we’re going to be working right down to the finish
combat should allow me to quickly jump in and rescue my pirate comrades
ala Jack Sparrow!
That being said, we gamers are a notoriously fickle bunch. We want to
target="_blank">play with our cake, href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNy96wYnNsg"
target="_blank">toss it on the ground, href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHZzHEpYFkc"
target="_blank">stomp on it a few times,
then expect it to be spotless and shiny href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf1xLbThZTA"
target="_blank">when we want to eat it. So what
will happen when old veterans of PotBS see this new combat system? I
posed that question to Kevin who reassured me that the team at Flying
Labs knows the score and wants to insure that every gamer that ventures
into PotBS feels comfortable with the new system.
“First, the new avatar combat won’t be completely
unfamiliar,” Kevin explained. “I’ve tried
to work with the existing systems and mechanics as much as
possible. There will be familiar elements, and experienced
players won’t find it impossible to adapt. One of
our early playtesters, in fact, is a player with a lot of experience
with the old system, and we’re relying on his feedback to
manage how we introduce the system to veteran players.”
“That said, we’re going to be easing people into
the new mechanics in a handful of ways. First,
we’re making avatar combat respec items much cheaper, so that
you’ll be able to experiment with different builds before you
settle on one. Second, we’re revising the tutorial
significantly to teach the new mechanics. Third,
we’re creating more daily avatar combat missions,
particularly at the high end, so that there’s plenty of
content available to try out the new system. And fourth,
we’re adding a ‘sandbox’ mission that
will allow you to have as many ‘practice’ fights as
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