As some may recall, I made a bit of a fuss about the initial play experience in PotBS, back in my original “review”.  Since PotBS is now nearing the end of open beta, I took some time I probably shouldn’t have (I’m behind schedule as it is, I feel guilty about even blogging, but sanity is important, too, right?), went back and revisited the character creation routine, just to see if there had been any adjustments.

The answer is “kind of”.  The big thing they added (I think… I might have overlooked it the first few times thru, I suppose) was a very explicit step in which you are prompted to open a full-screen graphic describing many of the interface elements and basics in significant detail.  If you take the time to read the entirety of both pages (one for swashbuckling, one for ship combat), you gain significant insight into the mechanics.  There were a few other adjustments as well, minor changes in NPC placement, etc.

It is better than it was, and I’m definitely glad they found time to make these adjustments.  On the other hand, I was hoping for something a bit more… interactive.  For example…

Scene 1: Small sleeping quarters off of Captain’s cabin aboard ship

Description: bunk or hammock, sea chest, tiny writing desk, chair with personal journal, quill pen, and stoppered ink bottle, a little open space for avatar movement

Goals: basic familiarization with avatar movement and interaction with interface and environment

Events/Steps:

  • inform player of movement keys, encourage use of each.
  • highlight personal status elements, with brief explanation of purpose of each
    • hit points
    • initiative
    • balance
  • direct player to move to sea chest, open and explain inventory screen upon interaction.  Highlight inventory button on main interface bar as well.
  • direct player to move to personal journal, open NPC interaction interface, describe general situation (aboard the “ship name”, a vessel captured from buccaneers earlier in journey; impressed Captain and crew mightily during voyage, been made interim captain of the captured vessel; looking forward to making port, Captain seems nervous, almost fatalistic at times; possibly being followed by suspicious ship for past couple of days…)
  • upon “closing journal”, sounds of cannon fire and shattering wood.  Establish first quest “Speak to First Mate, find out what is going on”.  Direct player to exit cabin.

Scene 2: Captain’s cabin

Description: large, rather empty room, a few scattered maps, navigational tools, journals and books about the floor.  Upon entry, loud explosion to explain large hole blasted in the back of the room.  2 dead crewmen near hole, first mate stands ready to report…

Goals: firm up basics of swashbuckling, start tutorial process

Steps:

  • Direct player to interact with First Mate.  First Mate reports sneak attack by multiple vessels, boarding underway.  Wants to recap recent lessons in basic combat moves to prepare you to defend/retake ship (optional subquest)
  • If player chooses to execute subquest, enter combat mode against First Mate.  He directs use of each of the 4 base maneuvers, highlighting the impact of each on the PC’s statuses as well as his own, and driving home how finishing techniques require certain levels of initiative and/or balance to be used.  Mentions options for more advanced training in port.
  • First Mate directs (respectfully suggests) player to retake the deck while he flushes out any bilge rats from below deck.  Direct player to exit cabin instance.

Scene 3: Retake the ship

Description: typical main deck of a ship; 4 bilge rats scattered across deck, 2 individuals and 1 group of 2 at far end; 2 crewmen to rescue

Goals: give player experience with swashbuckling combat, introduce directing of allies/crew, progress on initial plotline

Steps:

  • Main goal is simply to defeat all bilge rats, none are exceptionally tough to beat, but remember that since player may not be comfortable with interface, it may seem more challenging than might otherwise be the case
  • Releasing prisoners by defeating the group of 2 gives an opportunity to highlight the ability to direct crew; have pairs of additional (slightly tougher) bilge rats run out from below decks, encourage player to direct crew to engage one while fighting the other.
  • Upon defeating 2 additional pairs, direct player to return to captain’s cabin to meet with First Mate.

You probably get the idea of what I mean by a more interactive experience at this point: show and tell, not just tell.  However, the existing system, especially with the recent adjustments, should be good enough, and the systems _are_ relatively straightforward… it’s not that hard to pick up the basics anyway.

My two cents…

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