I was kind of bored last night, the wife decided a 4 hour nap sounded like a good idea, and so I started farting around the internet. That's when I saw that Fileplanet has a subscriber's beta for Pirates of the Caribbean Online. One very tiny download (not kidding, only about 140MB for an MMO) later and a quick install and I was off into Disney's newest foray into online gaming.
Say what you will about Toontown Online, as it's certainly not a game for the "hardcore", but ask any kid what they think of it and they'll go on for hours. They knew their audience with that game and they hit it hard. After spending an hour or so last night in PotCO (heh) I think they may be able to do it again.
There's a nice article on Fargo's Fileblog at Fileplanet about how the guys at Disney's VR Studios set about making Toontown and now PotCO. Essentially, it boils down to - Keep the specs as low as possible and make the game as light-core as possible. And most importantly, make it free to try and hope to hook them into paying the monthly fee once they realize they're having fun.
Disney's market with PotCO isn't you or me, the rabid MMO gamer with high standards and tons of theorycrafting... it's the kids and moms and dads who enjoy the movies and might just get hooked on a game where they can be the pirates. By keeping the requirements low, their potential userbase is widened, and by making it free (supported by Disney ads) they've widened that base even more.
The real question is though... does it play?
I can honestly say, that unlike just about any other free-2-play MMO, yes it does.
It's not grand, it's not "epic", and it's not even particularly pretty. But it's fun. I'll list a few of the things that stuck out to me in my short play session.
1.) CUT-SCENES GALORE - Not altogether unlike LotRO, Pirates has plenty of cutscenes to keep the story you get set on interesting. The graphics make it hard to look as pretty as LotRO's, but the voiceover work is excellent.
I'm fairly certain Cap'n Jack and Tia Dalma are voiced by their real life actors too. In fact, all the main characters might be. Not to mention your 1st glimpse of the game's main bad guy, Jolly Roger, is actually quite memorable. For what little money they seem to have spent on making things "purdy", they seem to have spent plenty on voice talent. Even if the actors aren't the real thing, they sound damn close.
2.) COMBAT IS ACTUALLY UNIQUE! - Huh? A free to play game not just using the highlight and auto-attack method of combat? Can it be? It sure is.
Instead you actually will swing your sword with one click, and with the right timing, a second slash attack can be added for a 2 hit combo. Miss the timing, and you'll barely dent your enemy. One assumes that more attacks and skills will open up as your character levels. Special skills are used by right-clicking to bring up a special skill menu and then clicking the corresponding attack you want. It was clunky at first, but became second nature for me quick enough. These attacks are much more potent, and often damage more than one foe.
It's actually a pretty ingeniously simple system that seems like it could make PvP (which I haven't tried yet, but apparently it involves temporarily becoming undead by grabbing a cursed coin) very interesting and skill based.
3.) YOU GET A BOAT, YA SCURVY DOG! - Not only do you get a ship of your own, but you get to man the canons and blow the other salty dogs out of the water. Didn't get to play with this too much yet, but when I have I'll let you know how it pans out. It's a nifty feature for a game I thought would just make WoW-Lite and chalk up the money coming in.
There's lots of other neat little touches, like a name helper that helps you organize and pick the best pirate-like name for you, which also appears when you name your ship. I think mine is called "The Scarlet Rogue". It's a wee-fast little speeder, but in time I'll get me a frigate.
The lag was bad last night though. I'll chalk it up to server load because of the doors being opened on the game. And I did experience 2 CTDs for apparently no reason. But should the developer straighten out server stability and client stability... this little free game will likely win a spot in the hearts of many Pirates of the Caribbean fans.
For me, in all reality, it's going to be a nice diversion... but what it really serves to do is hype me up even more for Flying Lab's Pirates of the Burning Sea.
Once a hardcore gamer, always a hardcore gamer... even if my free-time says otherwise. :)