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March 20, 2007
GDC - Pirates of the Burning Sea Preview

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Preview

By Staci Krause

I finally got to sit down with those wonderful folks at Flying Lab and take a gander at their upcoming MMORPG, Pirates of the Burning Sea. After spending a couple hours talking with Jess Lebow and actually getting my hands on the keyboard and mouse to check out the game for myself, and when all was said and done, I discovered a fun and innovative game that I am definitely interested in playing, and so should everyone. Here is why.

Walking the fine line between historical realism and fantasy, Pirates of the Burning Sea offers players the chance to fight either as a pirate, or as a member of one of three navies, the British, the Spanish or the French. There are advantages to choosing each of these options, but joining one of the navies gives players a chance to experience a different area of the game pirates will never be able to enjoy. Regardless, in beta, they have found that most players want to live the life of a pirate!

Being a member of the navy means a player can battle over control of ports. This will give the members of the navy controlling a port benefits, particularly taxation. Also, once one country has complete control over every port, this part of the game will reset, so it isn't indefinite power. Players of the controlling nation will get benefits, though, in the form of commendations that can be traded for special items. However, don't think controlling every port is going to be an easy task, as there are over 80 player-controllable ports in the game. Pirates can control a port for a short period of time and get a few benefits from that, but the main draw of being a pirate is the ability to steal from other players.

Stealing ships has a dynamic all to itself. Every ship starts out with a certain number of points. If a pirate steals the ship, that pirate only gets one point, so if they are sunk, the ship disappears from the game forever. On the flip side, of a navy officer's ship is sunk, they lose a point, but not the ship until their points are completely gone. So losing a battle isn't the end for navy officer, but will be for a pirate, when it comes to the ships of the sea. Also, when a pirate steals a ship, they immediately have a PvP flag placed on them that doesn't expire, so they become a very clear and open target. If a navy officer manages to defeat a pirate, they don't get the ship, but instead will be able to receive a reward that would be equivalent, in the monetary form.

There is a leveling system, but it isn't so much about gaining experience to apply to attributes as it is gaining abilities that will make a player naturally more powerful. This will also give them access to better equipment and ships over the course of time. There are two forms of combat in this game, the typical combat players would find in any MMO, all of which will be melee and ranged driven, and the more innovative ship-to-ship combat, which is where the game really shines.

I got to engage in a little ship-to-ship combat during my sit-down and I will say, it was so much fun and felt so real! Moving the ships really has the feel of sailing, which is so hard to manage in a game where your only controls are a keyboard and mouse, but Flying Lab succeeded wildly. Ship combat involves lining up cannons and shooting at other ships when they are both in range and in sight. The system is very user-friendly, so there isn't a lot of struggle with learning how to engage and fight. Instead, the struggle remains squarely where it should be, in making efficient use of weapons and navigation. Once a ship is sunk, loot will automatically be offered, which is nice, so there's no double clicking on a ship after a battle to claim loot. Loot can come in many forms during ship-to-ship combat, including rum!

This was just a sampling of what the game has to offer, and as it gets closer to release, we'll have more details of the systems involved in the game. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, it is absolutely gorgeous graphically - which is generally expected in this day and age - but should be mentioned anyway. The graphics combined with the fun ship-to-ship combat and an almost limitless ways to play the game should put this title on everyone's radar.


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