Friday, June 22, 2007

Pirates of the Burning Sea - PvP awesomeness?

In all my anticipation I've been grinding around the internet looking for any and all info on the game. And what better place that the game's website itself? A very helpful PR person (thank you, Theresa) pointed me to this dev journal on the subject of PvP in PotBS. There dozens upon dozens of things to learn from this one article, so make sure to take the time to read it. It really enlightened me on the subject, and I'm amazed that I had not read it before. I'm not the world's biggest PvP fanatic, but I like to take part from time to time, and what's more I like it when the game lets me choose when I want to... as PotBS is going to.

Let's pick out a few gems from the journal and talk about them, shall we?

There are several "status" types any port in the seas can be under. From normal (non-pvp) to contention (full-pvp, any nation can attack any other nation). At 1st glance I was worried that the whole game world would ultimately be put under PvP mode then, leaving my chicken-poop arse to run with my tail between my legs my whole sea-life. Thankfully this isn't the case. From the journal...

A given nation can only push three ports into Piracy at a time. Therefore, there can only be at most 12 hotspots in the open sea at any given time. Unrest points also decay each pulse. The current decay rate in the beta is 600 -> 0 points in 24 hours. In order for the state to change the points have to decay past a buffer (100 points in the beta). For example, a port enters Piracy when 500 points are hit, but won’t leave Piracy until the points decay down below 400 points.

The next threshold is for the “Civil Unrest” state (this is a brand new state not yet in beta, but the limit will be 700 points). Once a port hits this state a second inner PvP hotspot is set up around the port. A player entering this hotspot will be in full PvP, meaning any nation can attack any other nation.

The aforementioned points are attained by sinking NPC ships near a port. As in, if you're near a French port, sinking French ships will add unrest points for that port. The owning nation of that port, the French could fight this "unrest" by sinking opposing nations' ships outside their port.

Without getting into too much detail (if you want that, read the article over there as they deserve your patronage!), what this system ends up doing is creating an ever-shifting world of warfare on the open seas. When you log off there might be naval battles in one port, but when you log on next they'll likely be elsewhere... or maybe they'll be owned by pirates because they've taken over the port. But ports are never owned permanently. Through the "Victory System", every so often a nation will accrue enough "victory points" through battling other nations and treaties will be signed and all ports will be returned to their original owners. Here's how that works...

The Server Victory System

This system is the most recent addition to the to the PvP system and, in my opinion, the most exciting. The motivation for the system had to do with the concern of port ownership becoming lopsided. If one nation was really powerful and owned most of the ports it could become frustrating for the other nations. Resetting the state of all the ports would fix lopsidedness, but would be an arbitrary GM decision. However, if we had a game system in place the reset could itself become a game mechanic.

The current server victory system is an attempt to be this game mechanic. The basic goal of each nation is to earn 300 “Victory Points.” Because of initial port imbalances each nation has 20 default points except France which starts with 0 default points. Every week the mission server checks to see if a nation has hit this goal yet (two week delay right after a reset). The nation with the highest point total above the 300 point threshold is declared the victor of the Caribbean and each member of the winning nation is given a “Letter of Marque.” The letters can be turned in for various awesome rewards with special NPCs in the capital cities. Then for 24 hours there is a lock on unrest and all landmark battles are canceled. After that 24 hour period, a treaty notification is sent to the server and all ports are set back to their default owners and all victory points are reset. Finally, the two lowest scoring nations receive a 20 and 10 victory point bonus in the next round. The current victory status of each nation is displayed in the server victory dialog along with a recent history of relevant major game events.

See, my main worry about PotBS was that Pirates would rule the seas and the Brits, French, and Spanish would be vastly outnumbered. Now, that may still end up being the case, but with the above mentioned system, it's only a matter of time in just about any case before treaties are signed and the whole mess gets sorted out. So your port got taken over? That's no big deal. Keep fighting, try to take over another port, and see what happens.

I especially like the part that says the losing nations will have bonus points on the next round. So even if Pirates or Brits end up clobbering the other nations most times, after so many rounds, the other nations could win even thanks to the helping hand of bonus points. Imagine if the poor Alliance had a similar feature in WoW, maybe they wouldn't whine so much (I kid, I kid). And what's more if you'll be getting these letters of marque for being the victorious nation of the Caribbean, which you'll be able to exhange for swag! Yay, swag!

There's plenty more to take from this thing, including the landmark battle system and what happens when pirates capture ports, and in all it seems like one of the most ambitious and well thought out PvP systems ever put forth. I, for one, cannot wait to see it in action. Is it mass invite time yet? Because I'm getting antsy. :)

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