When less is more, a lesson learned.

The upcoming release of Pirates of the Burning Seas has highlighted some interesting discussion points about MMOs and the importance of certain features. As is often the case, it is not until we see both sides that we realize how important certain aspects are, and how we perhaps over-value others.

We know now that PotBS was once VERY similar to EVE Online in terms of avatars and how much time you spend in your ship. Initially PotBS did not have avatar combat or land missions, and your character was represented in a similar manner to EVE, a portrait. At some point in development, someone at Flying Labs thought that adding land combat would make their game better, so after a lengthy delay we now see the fruits of that labor. Regardless of whether you like or dislike Pirates, almost everyone agrees the weakest part is the land combat, and by a large margin. The divide seems to be whether this feature breaks the game for you (as is the case for me) or whether it simply annoys you, but the other parts are enough to keep you playing.

When reading reviews of EVE, the lack of an avatar is often sighted as a negative; that players can’t relate to a ship in space. Before Pirates, it was hard to argue this point, as everyone assumed adding avatars could only be a good thing, right? Well clearly not, as Pirates has shown. When you have something that works, like EVE overall and the ship battles in Pirates, sometimes adding more detracts from your game, reducing the impact your good parts have and forcing players into aspects that you are weak in.

I can only imagine how much better Pirates would be if they had not added the avatar parts. Instead of running around a copy/paste town, would Pirates not be a better game if it handled towns like EVE handles stations? Would it not increase immersion to see an image of you rowing into town as you load, and then having access to all town functions (auction house, production, quests) from a menu, with the image of your ship docked at the harbor? If nothing else, it would certainly get you back into your ship and out to sea faster, instead of having to run from quest to quest, loading small rooms to talk to a shopkeeper or auctioneer. And would anyone really miss the sword fighting quests? If the sword combat was limited to boarding actions, it would not appear as shallow as it is, since its screen time would be greatly reduced.

Fans of Pirates must now hope Flying Labs improves sword fighting enough to make it worthwhile, and even then, will it really matter? If you want to play a sword fighting game you have a lot of options that are far more competent in the subject than Pirates will ever be. The appeal of Pirates is… well being a pirate and sailing the seas, engaging in ship combat using your cannons, or sailing the seas as a merchant dodging said pirates. It’s not running around a copy/paste cave or fort, using your two or three abilities to take down the same generic enemies until the game lets you get back to the ‘fun’ part, your ship.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, MMO design, Pirates of the Burning Sea. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When less is more, a lesson learned.

  1. Keen says:

    Actually for me if PotBS did not have avatar play I would likely not playing. I think it’s a big part of the game to actually see your pirate and go into towns/ports. The ports are sub par and the avatar combat is poor though. If those are fixed (not an easy task) it could make for a great COMPLETE experience.

  2. michael, St Erroneous says:

    @Keen: if you had to choose between FLS getting the avatar play up to standard, or making the sea based experience immersive, with meaningful exploration, etc, which would you go for?

    Which key gameplay mechanics that you like would suffer without a wandering avatar?

    For example, what’s good about PotBS’s avatar play compared with, say, the periods in Autoassault when you got out of your car and walked around towns (which people seem to think was dull and got in the way of the main game).

    Can you tell I’ve played neither of these games? ;)

  3. syncaine says:

    Oh Keen, for some random reason, your blog is now blocked by my companies web filter. First blog I have ever seen that is blocked by it, very odd.

    And PotBS could keep the avatar, but limit him to standing on the ship, and boarding combat. You would still see him, and get the sense that you are a captain, not just a ship.

  4. Huff says:

    I find the Avatar based stuff to be very horrible. If you are going to make the effort with that style of play, then actually make the effort. As it stands, all the Avatar based stuff feels like playing a broken mmo from 5 years ago. It seems very much like an after thought. A shame, as I like the ship based stuff, and if they had just taken a more Eve-like approach, i would be alot more interested.

  5. T-Bone says:

    I’ve never been interested much in the quests. The only other MMO I’ve played is Guild Wars, and that’s because of its balanced and competitive multiplayer that didn’t require tons of PvE time and searching for random drops. So I’m not interested in PotBS quests either.

    What does interest me is the nation versus nation thing, where there can actually be a winner. I also like the idea of the economy. I haven’t had time to play much, so I don’t know very well how things work. I expect that there’s some good opportunity for someone who’s business savvy to see what is profitable and exploit it.

    What also would excite me is if it’s feasible to come up with effective strategies to help the nation, more effective than blindly overwhelming a port with attacks. For example, could a team, using the “Nation” chat, get people to target attacks against a port with a rare resource that is found nowhere nearby, in order to starve the opponent of that resource?

    So far, the land combat seems okay to me. Looking at the skills available, it’s much more complex than I would have imagined. There is some strategy to it, such as trying to reduce the enemy’s balance to increase your chance to hit, and you’ve got choices of AoE skills, team-oriented skills, self-damaging skills, offensive/defensive toggles, and so on. Though there’s probably more opportunity to think on your feet in PvP than versus dumb NPCs.

    Regarding the Avatars, I think I’d prefer to not have to run around a town, load screens for each room, and so on.

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