Pirates of the Burning Sea got spooky during a demo last week in San Francisco. They introduce “the supernatural”. Thankfully, this isn’t a flimsy excuse for Flying Lab Software to add magic to their semi-historical MMORPG, but rather a unique kind of gameplay capturing horror elements.
FLS understands some players come to their game partly because of its grounded setting and they were careful to ensure that those supernatural elements included were both within the legend of their setting, and completely and totally optional as part of what a player must do to advance. This means that while there are a slew of missions for players to enjoy that deviate a bit from what is strictly possible, characters can in essence choose not to believe in that kind of thing and avoid them altogether.
The supernatural elements of the game are confined both through story and geography. Players must undertake missions to experience that content and it is confined to specific areas. While there are “ghost ships” (players cannot capture them) in the seas around these areas, the majority of the content is land-based.
Most games would simply replace the pirate or brigand avatars with zombies or ghosts and call it a day, but FLS went a step further. For example, with ghosts, players quickly find they cannot just poke them with their swords and, what’s more, the ghostly hands pass right through the players. In order to slice them up, players need to acquire ghost dust, which is material taken from the ghost’s grave (and something players should usually stumble upon before they meet a ghost) in order to “solidify” their enemy. As more ghost dust is used, both the player and the ghost can do more damage, eventually allowing for victory … or defeat.
Zombies are another unique puzzle. Individually, they’re slow, can be outrun and don’t do much damage. However, if a player gets caught by a pack of zombies, things can get pretty nasty. Content Director/novelist Jess Lebow demonstrated this. At first, he toyed with one zombie. He could easily kill it, outrun or ignore it as he chose.
Then, he made things even easier for himself. Apparently, in PotBS, players can acquire an item which disguise their pirates as zombies. When equipped, players look dead and – if they walk – shamble along. The zombies, not renowned for their intelligence, ignore the player. It seemed too good to be true, Lebow simply shambled along the beach, found the item his quest had sent him after and began to walk home. Not a zombie was the wiser.
But, shambling is slow business, and as many players would be tempted to do, Lebow decided he was out of danger and made a break for it. As soon as he did, the zombie horde saw him for what he was and began running after him. No problem, they’re slow zombies right?
Not so right. It turns out boss zombies are not only fast, but also have a handy ability to hamstring (root) their opponents. In a true sense of horror, on a deserted beach, with zombies shambling towards him in all directions, one boss monster bolted through the crowd and disabled the poor, soon to be surrounded pirate.
The main man in that mission is Loa, the Voodoo god, poses a challenge for players. He was not intended to be a boss monster, in fact, to succeed players basically have to avoid him. In essence, he is there for flavor.
“We designed him to be damn near invincible,” Lebow told us, before admitting that in saying that he virtually guaranteed that someone, somehow will figure out a way to kill the creature. For singular pirates though, it didn’t seem like a good idea.
Lebow believes that a good 10 to 15% of their game can be experienced through this kind of optional, supernatural side-mission. The bulk of them are instanced and as mentioned, segregated for those who don’t believe in that kind of hokey-pokey, but for those who want to spice things up, they’re available.
According to Lebow, the game is virtually locked down and their team of 74 developers will spend the next couple weeks furiously polishing before they begin to burn CDs in advance of their January 22nd launch.
Post launch, they emphasized their commitment to continued content updates in the game, although Lebow did admit that they might spin a small team of five to 10 people off onto the concept phase of a second project.
For more supernatural screenshots, check out our gallery.