I’ve given up.
After quite a bit of hand wringing, I decided not to renew my subscription to Pirates of the Burning Sea when my initial 30-day subscription runs out. I mentioned in an earlier post that the best that we bloggers can do when giving impressions of a game is to answer the question “Am I willing to make a $50 bet that it wont suck later?”
As to the first part of the question, despite some misgivings, I was willing to make the bet. I definitely think the bet was worth it. I think the jury is still out on the second part of the question. And to be fair, the second part relates to an individual’s own preferences.
I think we need indie studios producing indie games that are different and innovative. This is good.
I also think that we need to put our money where our mouths are and also vote for quality. While I think FLS has done a great job with certain aspects of the game such as ship combat (which is excellent IMHO), other aspects are still kinda rough. No, not Vanguard rough by any means (not even in the same league), but frustrating enough in these days of $50-a-box and $15-a-month to get in the way of the fun at least for me.
Likewise, there are still a number of core features that are subject to a bit more than tweaking or balancing. Ultimately, the more you explore a game, the more you run into the impacts design decisions have on gameplay (highly zoned or instanced play, etc.). When the goal posts are still moving, however, its tough to decide whether to stick it out.
Keen and Tobold have several excellent posts analyzing the nature of the RvR-based PvP and the in-game economy and some of the challenges FLS (and players) faces in that regard. Some of these continue to be the subject of not so minor tweaking. I still have hope for the game and plan on checking back in a while, but right now, I feel like I’m paying for a beta. A very good beta, but a beta nonetheless.
Unfortunately, I think a few more months with a large closed beta population could have greatly benefited the game in terms of the minor polish issues (UI functionality, mission bugs and tuning, etc. ) as well as having a real opportunity to address game play mechanics (port contention, alt and society interaction, the economy, population/faction balancing mechanics, gank squad PvP, etc.) that are the major source of my frustration right now.
Some of this stems from the unique difficulties in creating a PvP-focused game. Because each encounter among live players is unique, PvP will test every boundary of play mechanics and mercilessly punish faults. It seems that in an RvR game which has persistent effects, these can be multiplied and accelerated (e.g., “accelerated” port flipping). If a PvE quest has a bug or exploit, it may be frustrating, but its hardly a show stopper unless it completely bottlenecks progression. Most PvE players wont care if an encounter has a problem that amounts to an “I Win” button, but such a problem would be utterly game breaking in a PvP game.
Not so in PvP. Every PvP encounter has a winner and a loser, and with a not insubstantial loss penalty, the amount of time invested in acquiring skills, materials and equipment may be simply too high a price to pay when unintended consequences flow from bugs and exploits. So the RvR PvP of PotBS faces unique challenges to accommodate the needs of its ultimate playerbase, but for now, I’m going to sit it out until the dust settles. When it does, hopefully it will be a game I’ll want to play and pay for.