Month of Pirates

Not strictly true, actually – I’ve also spent a good deal of  time this month working on Dwarf King, but it certainly feels like it’s been pirates all month. Travelled to Denmark on vacation on a pirate themed boat and stayed at a Pirate themed hotel  (great fun for the kids), and did a ton of work on Pirates and Traders 2 as well as writing and editing some new stuff for the current game.

With respect to P&T 2, I’ve been working on the new ship model, the port system, and the contracts. I’m pretty happy with both. Compared to the existing game, the new ship and combat system will be similar, but with a few important changes. Ship’s speed and handling will be separated from the Rigging factor, which means that big ships (like Galleons) will have high rigging ratings (making them correctly hard to disable), while still being slow and sluggish.

The combat system remains essentially the same, but with a few tweaks that I think will make the system a bit more tactical. I also have some ideas for multi-ship combat that will hopefully make it possible to handle “fleet” engagements in the new version. The tricky part is to make the system as easy to play as the current version, while still making it meaningful from a gameplay. You should really only want a fleet in two situations – taking on enemy fleets (such as an invasion force or in fighting the treasure fleet) – and when carrying out military expeditions (which may now involve fleet engagements).

The port system is something I’m really enjoying tinkering with and considering how to strengthen. It will contain the same options as the current game, of course, but the basic framework is going to be a lot more flexible as I’m scripting it with the same basic system as I’m using for the adventure modules. What this means is that entering a port – any port – is essentially the equivalent of starting an encounter. And I can do some really fun things with that which would be extremely hard otherwise. One aspect that I’m making possible (though it will probably not be something implemented in the first version) is the ability to have the player be a character independent of their ship. In other words, one could – in principle – be a non-Captain character, and still travel around the Caribbean and have adventures. It opens up the possibility of – for instance – having the player start the game without a ship, and then – through adventures, encounters, and jobs – letting the player build up their character to the point where they can buy or capture a ship. It also opens up the possibility of Robinson Crusoe-like scenarios – e.g., even if the player is marooned or loses their ship (e.g., through having it sunk or being imprisoned by the authorities and escaping), allowing the player to keep playing and  attempt to recover their fortunes. In short, if you like the adventure/RPG aspect of the game, these changes open up the possibility to significantly expand on this aspect of the game (almost comparable to a real CRPG). If you don’t, these elements should make little difference to the core gameplay.

Finally, I’m playing around with introducing a new contract system to the game. Currently, the game has your plunder divided up according to a simple formula which – sort of – emulates the way Pirates divided their booty historically. But it’s a really poor model for traders and others. What I’m thinking of adding to the game is a more clear delineating between what you own, and what your crew owns, with concept of a ship’s contract. Pirates, for instance, would have the historical egalitarian model, with your captaincy dependent on the support of your crew. Ships under a Piracy contract would be constantly on the lookout for the big score – if you don’t feed their hunger for booty properly, they’ll eventually vote in a new captain. An alternative would be the Privateer model; it would require you to own the ship, but allow you to treat your crew more as employees (kind of like the current game model). This would probably be something you’d work your way up to, though, rather than being the default state. Under a Privateer’s contract, the player would be pretty free to work as he likes. Finally, one might also have the trader’s contract. A typical starting situation for a player as a trader would be as a part shareholder (and captain) of a trading vessel. Your crewmembers in this model would expect a living wage, but no part in the profits (though they would also refuse to risk their lives on piratical ventures). You would be able to buy and sell shares to the ship, and my plan would be to expand the banking system significantly to finally allow for some real merchant-based role-playing. Yes – that would include owning additional ships sailing on trade routes, as well as lots of other ideas that will probably not make it into the first version.

My first priority is still getting Dwarf King to alpha state (which I’ll write a bit on soon, plus showing of more of the great illustrations being done for the game by our artist), but once that is done, I’m hoping to rush P&T2 into alpha shortly after. Though I do wonder whether I should call it P&T2, or something else. Pirates, Privateers and Traders doesn’t sound so catchy, though. 😀

Oh yes – and I haven’t forgotten about the existing game(s):

Pirates and Traders version 2.7.0 is just around the corner with the usual bug fixes and tweaks, as well as a new “troublesome” trading mission, and – assuming I finish the editing in time – the first part of the last of the three big story line quests I promised for this game (if not in 2.7.0, it will follow in an update shortly after).

Also, Pirates and Traders: Retro will receive an update that should allow it to be playable on phones with xxhdpi displays (and bigger… though at higher resolutions I do doubt how “playable” one can call it). The update will also include a few bug fixes.