Visiting Tortuga Before Solidifying My Opinion of Ports
I’m back with more on Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS). The first thing I did when I next logged on was to find the location that Russell Williams (am assuming he’s a Flying Labs employee based on his comment – see my previous post) suggested I try out. As it happens, Tortuga is in pirate country and a respectable distance from my home port of Charlesfort, Florida. When I saw where it was and how far, I figured Russell was out for a laugh at my expense because of my post, and he expected me to get my ass handed to me several times on the trek south. It’s only BETA and it’s still the default ship with full durability so I said, “Screw it let’s roll.”
I still noticed the uninspiring shoreline while making the voyage but I did have to pay much more attention to other ships in the water. I was pursued a couple of times but they broke off engagement before catching up to me I guess. Dunno, I was just reading what the log said. Docking in Tortuga I could see a big difference in that port versus all the others I’d visited. First off it was much larger and was multi-leveled like Booty Bay in World of Warcraft. It was seedier as you’d it expect it to be given it was held by pirates. I walked around a bit – tried walking to things and off of things, and found fewer visual boundaries in existence. Some of the NPC interactions – towns folk, were still a bit exaggerated because if they are doing that same exact thing every time I come, it will look odd – group of pirates clapping, jumping and dancing up a storm near the pier.
Side note, I’m not looking for things to fault. I’m just saying what catches my eye and my notice and I don’t really consider myself a person who has a strong attention for detail. These are the things that jump out at me as I’m playing…
If Tortuga is the direction for the ports then they need to do this everywhere and post haste. Having the first two ports you encounter be small is expected – starter zones. However, I’d been in at least a half dozen along my coast and they were all the same small, overly instanced fare. I wouldn’t have encountered Tortuga for a VERY long time as something other than a Pirate.
Sticking a Toe into PVP
The only combat I’d done thus far was against NPC manned ships. On my way back north I decided to find a ship at my level and pick a fight. I found a ship a bit out of my league but engaged it anyway. I was expecting to lose – out manned and out gunned. It was close but I actually won! Novice that I am, I just kept the wind to my advantage and stayed upwind of them so I could move faster. I shredded their sails and masts to slow them down – learned that trick in a tutorial. Then I moved in, out and around bombing their ship. It was close. I wasted some time trying to lower their headcount and took too much damage until I decided to just slug it out and hope to be the last ship standing. I was so WOOT me.
Afterward, I quickly headed for safer waters because I wanted to figure out how to build a warehouse not really mess with PVP yet. That will come – just like death and taxes. It was more important to me to understand how you make money. I recalled seeing an auctioneer in one of the buildings and figured a Tutorial-type NPC was probably nearby.
I sailed back to my home port. I ZONE INTO said port. I found the building with the auctioneer and ZONE INTO the building. I saw a quest starter NPC near and checkrd her for available quests. I saw what I was looking for in her list. I start the quest, she says her peace then tells me to meet her in her office. I ZONE INTO her office. She talks some more. I do what she says and am done. She says to meet her outside her office. I ZONE OUT. She talks some more and says to meet her back in her office again. I ZONE in. She talks some more. I do what she says. She says to meet her back outside her office. I ZONE OUT. We did the ZONE IN and ZONE OUT one more time, and I thought my self, “this is rather ridiculous.”
The interactivity and movement for the sake of, was mildly tedious. It was the zoning required that made it stick out in my mind as annoying. There’s nothing fun or entertaining about doing that back and forth. There is no fun to be gained by zoning, therefore don’t have me do it anymore that absolutely necessary.
I understand that they wanted the encounter to happen in a private instance because it was a tutorial. Fine, let’s do it all the first time I was in the office. Break it up into pieces INSIDE the first time – ask me to interact with items in the office to start/stop the quest versus sending back and forth with zoning. Like, “Have a seat…”, “Take a look at this ledger…” “See that book on the shelf there…” “Take that bag of coins…” Do whatever you need to do, just stop asking me to zone in and out of places.
Just so you know - all PVE objectives I’ve encountered thus far are all instanced. On land or at sea, you’re moved into an instance. I don’t think that bothers me as much as too many things require zoning. I’m curious to see how this mechanic works for group quests, if those exist. Net-net, I understand why some things are instanced but they need to cut down on the zoning. Watching a transition screen is never going to feel valuable or an appropriate use of my time.
As I mentioned earlier, if you enter into combat on the seas, the combatants are moved into a private instance. I can appreciate the need for this mechanic. It will definitely keep others from jumping into the fight. The scenery is also in greater details in the instanced areas. What I would suggest however, is if something can be done about how it looks to others on the Open Seas. What we see are the ships locked into a circle. They’re yellowed out or something – color washed out, their enclosed in a circle and have a message above them that says something like they’re in combat and you can’t join.
Obviously I have no idea how to do that differently other than to say, it immediately reminds me I’m playing a game – I’m pretending and it takes me out of my character. Frankly, maybe we don’t need to see them at all. We can’t see the actual fight. We can’t engage. I’m not so sure there’s any value in showing the ships lip-locked out in the open area. I do however, like seeing in the battle message over a port. That’s seems just fine to me. I think there’s a thunder cloud or something and I know to sail far around, least I get jumped by someone emerging from the battle.
For besieged ports however, I still think something a bit better can be done. What about showing the port being attacked? Not a real-time depiction although that would be sweet. Just replace the static washed out graphic with an animation of the port being attacked and vary the animations based on if the port or the assailants are winning. Fires, cannonballs flying, smoke plumes, ambient gunshot noises, screaming, etc., anything animated would suffice. Some cannon fire could hit the surrounding waters, some bodies or wreckage floating nearby, etc. Just a bit of additional flavor and polish to let me feel something is happening in the virtual world that we are all inhabiting together, that just might affect me as a player. Right now it feels like something is happening over there somewhere that doesn’t concern me, even though I'm just a few yards away.
Conclusion of Impressions Part II
Are the issues I’ve encountered with the instances and zoning game breakers? Eh, not so much but it depends on the player. I do think they degrade the experience from a role-playing perspective. And I don’t mean hardcore speak as I am, role-playing. I mean just pretending that you’re a pirate, officer or whatever in this game, I believe that the bond and momentum built with my character while playing, is severed and jolted by the heavy use of instances and zones. Things that take you out of the moment in an RPG are bad – so the fewer the better in my book.