In the wee hours of tomorrow morning (between 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. PST), Flying Lab Software (FLS) will migrate patch 1.2 of Pirates of the Burning Sea onto the live servers. Since launch, they have monitored the state of the game closely and this patch introduces some incremental improvements that they believe should reduce the barrier of entry for new players and provide additional content for experienced mariners. Joe Ludwig, the newly installed Producer of PotBS - he previously served as the Director of Development - spoke to us about what players can expect from their biggest content patch to date.
"[Patch] 1.2 is the sum total of all the content that the art and mission design teams have been working on since we froze for the gold master in November, so we have quite a bit of stuff in it," Ludwig explained. In addition to ongoing bug fixes and game balance tweaks, 1.2 contains new zones and missions that appeal to novices and veterans alike. Perhaps the most notable change is to Pointe-à-Pitre, the French capital city. Pointe-à-Pitre sees a complete overhaul in Patch 1.2 that allows it to stand out from other French ports.
"The second biggest thing in the 1.2 content update is 'Bey's Retreat,' which is an epic mission," said Ludwig. "Basically, a really hard, really long group-oriented mission," The mission is available at Rank 25, but scales so as to remain a challenge to players of all ranks. Expect to take a full group of minimum Rank 25 players with you and make sure you allow a considerable chunk of time to complete the encounter. "Bey's Retreat" will subject players to wave after wave of enemy ships, multiple bosses and loot that will be attractive to even Rank 50 players.
For players who are more interested in the PvE aspects of Pirates, "Bey's Retreat" is a taste of things to come. There are a number of other epic missions in development for Pirates - including a mission available only to Rank 50 players slated for Patch 1.5 - but "Bey's Retreat" is an important proof of concept for the mission design team.
The patch also introduces improvements to the game's user interface, especially the chat and social systems. Previously, the chat pane featured a few unintuitive elements that obscured its core functionality. FLS streamlined this interface in 1.2, which makes it easier to customize the chat log, form and modify groups, and ignore obnoxious gold-spammers.
The refined UI is one big way they've made it easier for new players in 1.2, but the developers have gone a step further in the refinement of the tutorial system. Realistic naval combat has a skill-set that is unique to Pirates, and Flying Lab found that these skills weren't necessarily impressed on players strongly enough when they were introduced to the game. To remedy this, 1.2 features unique tutorials for each nation that should help players get a feel for the game's core, unique mechanics.
And, of course, FLS addresses game imbalances and exploits in while they're at it. One such exploit allowed players to hold position outside a port under contention, effectively trapping ships departing the port in a combat zone and making them fodder for enemy cannons. In 1.2, this one-sided situation is no longer be possible, as players will be able to re-enter ports - regardless of their proximity to the docks - after their departure.
When asked about the ratio of Pirates and British to players of other nations, Ludwig sounded satisfied with the current levels of player diversity. Surprisingly, nation balance has remained consistent with early surveys conducted by Flying Lab. What's unexpected is that more skilled players have flocked to the less-played nations, which makes them increasingly competitive. Despite the fact that fewer players chose to play as the French, they have already accumulated numerous server victories.
In keeping with their constant interaction with the community, Ludwig spoke of a new forum initiative that Flying Lab unveiled last Thursday. They have removed a number of barriers for players to suggest improvements to Pirates, in the hope that the game's ongoing development can become a more collaborative effort. Players will be able to offer suggestions, ideas for missions and general improvements, which are then cherry-picked by the developers. From there, standout ideas are up for discussion at length in a forum titled "In Concept." Not every idea that makes it to this stage in the process will see the light of day on live servers, but it has never been easier for eager fans to let their voice be heard in the development process.