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August 3, 2007
Comic Con 2007 - Pirates of the Burning Sea Preview

by Mark Arsenault

At ComicCon San Diego 2007, I had the extreme delight of meeting Troy Hewitt, Community Manager for Pirates of the Burning Seas from Flying Labs Software. Now here is a man with a passion for showcasing what should be an incredibly fun (and somewhat addictive) title to the gaming masses. After talking with him for just a very short time, his enthusiasm made me immediately wish that the game was already available for purchase, or at the very least, in a form of beta that I could partake in. Much to my surprise, they were indeed sporting a closed beta program. I was given a key, told to email Mr. Hewitt to get an account activated after ComicCon, and I would be off to the races. There are indeed benefits to attending public conventions where game developers are strutting their stuff.

The backdrop of the MMOG is set in the Caribbean during the early 18th century, in a bold new world where one man (or woman!) can make a difference, and carve out of piece of that world to capture and call their very own. The game is broken up into two distinct combat forms: first person melee fighting, and ship to ship combat. You are, after all, a pirate - what other things could you possibly want to do in your quest for fame, glory and riches?

To show us what melee combat was like for a swashbuckling adventurer, there was a demo running at the Flying Labs booth. It was an example of an early instanced quest, almost a tutorial of sorts. There were 3 separate bars to take note of: the Initiative bar, which builds in combat and appears to determine the order of attacks between the player and their foe, the Balance bar, which affects how well you hit and how well you avoid hits, and finally the Hit Point bar, which is simply the line between life and death. In order to give time to let people get a feel for the combat, characters were set to a form of god mode, where all attacks were blocked and parried. The demo was more for showing the different melee attacks, graphics and style of game play, than it was for immersing players in the realistic feeling melee combat that is sure to follow once development is complete.

The most fascinating component of combat was definitely the ship to ship fighting. The battles that I saw took place in open water, where wind and the elements play factors in determining an appropriate strategy for winning the fights. Your ship is equipped with cannons, which can be loaded with various types of shot, depending on what kind or scope of damage you want to impart on your enemy's vessel. Fights play out exactly as you might expect - using the wind to your advantage to slowly circle your enemy in an attempt to get a shot at him with your cannons, in such a manner that he is unable to return fire. Or at least not as often as you can, since naval fights of this type are one of attrition - the ship that manages to not sink is the winner.

Unfortunately, I did not get much of an opportunity beyond this to actually sit down and explore the full limits of the game. What I did see impressed me very much, and definitely left me wanting to see more. I guess that is always the point of showcasing an upcoming title - to tease gamers into a frenzy of interest, and get some feedback about what they liked and did not like. The information that they have available on their website is extensive. I would suggest that if this genre of online game appeals to you even the slightest bit, to go explore that web site and see everything that the game will have to offer. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed in what you find - and who knows, you might even realize that at heart you've always been a bit of a scallywag. Now you'll have an opportunity to explore that side of your personality without all of the potential financial risk and bodily harm.


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