Ship Wanted for Able Crew
It’s been several weeks now since Disney announced the closing of their Virtual Worlds games (Toontown, Pixie Hollow and Pirates of the Caribbean Online). Players from all three communities have made various efforts to either stem the coming tide or made pleas with Disney for an alternative.
Some folks have taken it all pretty hard.
But, we all must take it in stride that every good thing must end at some point. Disney has hopes that its Virtual World players will take the leap to Disney Infinity. And while there are some fun elements to the concept, former pirates are feeling a bit left behind.
To that end, I’d like to discuss why a pirate-themed MMO is something that other game developers should seriously consider for a future project. And not just because there are THOUSANDS of homeless pirates out there now. Thousands of ‘willing to pay’ pirates.
One thing that makes the Golden Age of Piracy such a fascinating background is that it actually happened. Maybe not like the movies. No one ever really walked a plank that we know of. Few pirates ever hid massive treasures buried on remote islands (though there are documented cases). And most often, an attacked crew would peacefully surrender some cargo rather than face a bloody battle.
But, in just a few decades, actual incidents with real people burned into history and well into the imaginations of the populace around the globe.
Pirates were a very real threat. Ships ferrying goods from the New World to the Old and back were under constant watch. Privateers swung the balance of power in the Spanish Main. Images, names, and phrases are still fresh in our minds as they were over three-hundred and fifty years ago.
The iconic skull and crossbones has come to symbolize danger as in the form of warning labels or adorned proudly to represent one’s willingness to bend or break the rules. The image of the pirate is just as much a representation of lawlessness and crime as much as it has become one of freedom and independence.
A well-done pirate MMORPG should be able to balance real history with its own mythos to create an involved world that players can easily identify with and desire to be a part of. While facts show that the average pirate’s life of crime was rarely longer than two years, and most met nasty fates, we can just leave those darker parts out – can’t we?
Literature, television and particularly film has created a sensational world for the pirate. Untold wealth, unearthly dangers and endless adventure.
Yes, it can be violent. And maybe bloody. But we piratey types live for battle. Whether against other crews of cutthroats, various naval factions or even the supernatural.
Sword fighting, brawls, swinging from ropes, sea battles, chases, escapes… did I mention sword fighting?
Being able to gather a crew to plunder the waves, board enemy ships and pilfer what we will is just as much part of it as sailing to a new island hideaway.
A challenge to game developers is coming up with an intriguing tale that the player will want to pursue and follow through with. It’s what makes good games great. The best games don’t always have the hottest graphics or all the bells and whistles as much as they have a great premise, strong characters and a involving story.
And despite the games that have come, there is a wealth of real and fictional tales that have yet to be heard.
A Proper Mix
The Golden Age of Piracy is also a great character fit. It was a time when the use of a sword was just as common as the use of a firearm. And if there were supernatural powers, you have even more options.
Though female pirates were not as historically common, it’s fact that they did exist and many prospered in those times and weren’t having to wear chain mail bikinis to get the job done.
Pirates came from all walks of life and all parts of the world. Seeing a crew with members from various lands was not uncommon and despite some racial differences, those mates were brothers in arms.
Colonial times also mean the possibilities of proper crafting, too. It’s not all about the plunder if you can make it or make it better and those skills were abundant still. Blacksmiths, gunsmiths, etc. found plenty of work.
The Undiscovered Country
To those hearing my words, the realm of the Golden Age of Piracy has not all been explored nor has it grown old or weary. It brings out something in many people. That thrill of adventure, the curiosity to explore, the boldness of freedom to face your adversary. Yes, it’s mostly about criminals. Some of the worst kind. But, we are talking about a pretty rough time in history, even just for regular folks.
Let us not trouble our hearts with such negative things, but don our tricorns and strap on our cutlasses. Weigh anchor and helms-a-lee as we look to the horizon of a Caribbean that COULD be, not what’s it been so far.
So, to you… fellow gamers, game developers, designers and their corporate overlords I say – hoist our colours high once again!