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Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Complete Pirate101 Review


Well, J. Todd Coleman is continuously stressing how nothing in beta is set in stone, and so I've embraced that idea... to an extreme. Based on my play through the entire main storyline and a good variety of side quests, I've kept notes of what I enjoyed and did not, and have offered some suggestions as to what should be done. I'll apologize in advance for being blunt and whatnot, but I do believe I'll effectively convey some ideas you'd be interested in.

Tutorial

I know that you've been adding to the tutorial. Everything has been cleaned up overall, and that looks nice, but I have a few critiques. When hitting Ctrl+G during the first part of the ordeal (Boochbeard and Gandry intro, character creation, quiz), the screen freezes in place. It unfreezes when you turn the health and such back on, however. This actually caused a game crash during my first tutorial attempt. The solution, though, is not to disallow the Ctrl+G, but to simply fix the freezing.

When skipping the quiz, and circling answers, you choose the second and third option, and it re-circles the previous column's chosen option.

When beginning to fight the Armada, the arrow pointing to the health bar appears a bit early and does not match with the dialogue.

After fighting the Armada ship, you can already have arrived at Skull Island, and still be waiting on the use of fuel and the other timed tips. Try positioning the Armada battle further from Skull Island in the skyway.

The use of Boochbeard's ship and the Armada fight here in clever - and I loved the newer Storm Lord incorporation.

At first I wished that you'd explained a bit more in the tutorial, but now I'm glad you essentially threw us in the water, hoping we'd learn to swim quickly.

Incorporation of Boochbeard and Gandry

I was really disappointed with the lack of these characters in the game after the tutorial. You present them as iconic Pirate101 "good guys" and should be treated as such. Why not have a vortex ship battle where Boochbeard's ship comes to the rescue? How about a tough Skull Island fight in which the two join you?

I really hope to at least run into these guys while questing. Perhaps they're stealing MooShu treasure while we're on a quest, and maybe we even have to defend them at one point.

Skull Island Pre-Ship Quests

No beating around the bush here - you introduce ships much too early. I was really looking forward to getting my ship, and it drove me to continue questing. Use this in your favor here, and draw out the initial quests to receive your first quest, just a bit.

Combat

Very exciting new approach to combat. While I'm not sure how I'd fix this problem, I have one for you - when dealing with traps and such, I'd have really liked to have selected my own path, rather than had preset options to the destination that I was headed for. I can see how this might be a difficult fix, however.

It seems that currently, mousing over enemies with the average damage message always shows "0" as the average damage. This average damage bar also covers the health bar of enemies of allies that are all the way at the bottom of a battleboard, which I'm not a fan of.

I appreciate the mouseover feature that tells you if a unit or units do not yet have commands.

Be careful with battle angles - perhaps we could rotate the camera 360 degree around the area? Oftentimes, I'm looking at posts, columns, or walls in front of the battle rather than the actual fighting.

Some companions' special attack hits are just slightly blurry or pixelated, especially those of Kobe Yojimbo - careful!

Really enjoy the various critical attacks of both companions and enemies. I also like how the "victim" of a critical looks away - I especially like the Bloodbats covering their faces, and the Skeletal Cowboys tipping their hats down!

Some of your Combat goals are doubling for some reason - I see the same goal twice.

I'll comment more on combat as I progress.

Companions

Superb job here - companions are a home run so far. The idea of collecting them is fantastic. Here's one thing I'd like to mention - you use the example of playing a game with all aces. I agree with you there. However, with the new curve, you're basically playing with high chances of getting your aces. Change the curve just a little bit. It should still have the same starting point (100% for the Firstmate) and the same endpoint (0%) starting the second page, but should be slighting different in the middle. I think that you should have a decent chance of getting about all of the companions on that first page.

Of course, you'll still have the highest chance of receiving those first few, but I think this'd even things out a bit. Call it the NCLB (Originally the "No Child Left Behind" academic concept, now translated in pirate terms to "No Companion Left Behind").

Also, you're companion enlisting isn't spread apart very well. If I'm not mistaken, you have about two companions simply at level 9, and hardly any at higher levels. Change that up a bit!

Right now, you've concentrated on making promotions for the initial companions we receive, but all companions need them, or they get left behind. Talents make or break and companion, so even if one of my companions is much worse overall, his talents might earn him a spot higher than others. If you do not wish to create promotions for these (and gold always works), then give them four to six epic abilities to begin with.

I've also heard complaints about lack of female companions - I'm neutral here, and it can't hurt to change it!

Companions bought in the Crown Shop do not offer promotions, making them extremely overpriced and hardly useful.

Companions like Rooster Cogburn are spot-on! We'll actually use these guys, as opposed to the others you've put hard work into that will sit on the back page, never being used because of their lack of epic talents.

I'll continue to talk about these as we go.

Crown Shop

The new mounts are pretty interesting, and the I think that the ability to change the color of mounts is going to be a big deal in sales. It makes everyone more unique.

Continue to add more ship parts to the Crown Shop. Lower the prices a bit to something reasonable, and I think you'll sell a number of those.

The Troggy Booster pack is a great idea - a Companion is a fantastic grand prize. However, I seem to be getting too many of the same item. If you want the pack to sell, either turn down the ratio of items to troggies, or add more items and lower the chances of getting the items. Also, to make sure it's a best seller, I'd add two or three epic talents to that Troggy.

I talked about Companions above - we should be able to get promotions and talents for these, as if we leveled them from the start. Also, you won't likely sell many at $25 a companion. Consider this - you might sell 100 of these and make $2500 (obviously a small scale example). However, at $10 (5,000 Crowns), you might sell 500 of 'em, and make $5000 dollars. My point here is that something questionable can be discouraging, while a definite great deal will fly off of the shelves. As such, be careful with those mounts as well!

World Setup

I like the overall setup of worlds and the various zones - thank you for not making tunnels or caves to every new location.

I love what you're doing with making the islands in the background look picture perfect, however, they seem a bit pixelated - is there any way that you could go for more of a blue (with the same blue/white tint)?

Some of the islands do not have far enough docking abilities. With some, I can dock from the back, in others, I have to sail around close to the dock. I don't mind either way, just make it uniform.

Some islands are slowing me for being too close to land before I even have the docking prompt. That should be the other way around.

I prefer Life Fountains to be in ship areas. The one in Skull Island is alright, I suppose, but in a few places in MooShu, you had some later into the locations. The funny thing is that in the areas in which you had us traveling through three or four zones, you had none but near the ship locations.

In MooShu, I saw a lot of unused or lightly used locations - awesome job! You need to overwhelm us with new areas, places or explore, and quests! Previous worlds, however, need more of these. And it doesn't mean new islands, just new subdivisions of current ones.

Travel

Something has to change about travel - it takes much too long. Consider Wizard101 - traveling from MooShu to Wizard City was simple. Traveling from MooShu to Cool Ranch is a huge pain. Obviously, you're going for the pirate theme here, and you want to minimize teleporting, so I have a few ideas.

First, make all of the world threads interconnected, but there's be no windlane style areas. Instead, you'll wonder in "space" or the Spiral through multi-zone Stormgate-style areas searching for a world. You'll literally have to navigate the Stormgate, as opposed to following a path.

Second, you could incorporate more Stormgates in a centralized area to various worlds. For example, Skull Island might have Stormgates to Monquista, MooShu, and Cool Ranch. Monquista might have Stormgates (spread out, if you prefer) to Avernus (Valencia) and MooShu (not used until after Cool Ranch, of course). This'd make for easier travel, which may still be inconvenient at times.

The distance between locations isn't a huge deal at first, but eventually, it is literally the determining factor in whether or not I partake in one activity or another.

Be careful with how many zones you do put between a ship and the end of an island. That can be irritating to walk all the way back if you should be defeated.

If you don't want to do changes here, introduce a few Pirate101 $39 giftcards with 50 and 60% speed boosts, or perhaps clothing with these boosts. Alternatively, place varying levels of speed boosts on gear across the Spiral along with bonuses. Obviously, you'll have a higher boost with a higher level.

To make everything easier, you need overall maps of worlds. Also, if you have a location without a map, don't change the map title to the location you're in without a new map. It'll confuse players, and they'll wonder if there should be a map there.

Skull Island Overview

Although you had some tough spots in Skull Island, I know that you've been correcting some of that, and haven't tested it since. In Wizard101, you started with Wizard City - put frankly, it was not your best starting world, especially compared to the later worlds in the Spiral. In Pirate101, on the other hand, you've taken an extremely strong world with a well-done pirate theme and introduced that as the game - a job well done, here.

I can appreciate the fact that there are four skyways here, and that most intersect in one place or another. I did like that you introduced Port Regal later in the storyline - it was a very impressive location with a variety of interesting characters and storylines. If I'm not mistaken, you'll be introducing things far before you conclude them in Pirate101!

I'm not sure where the first Paygate is. I recall it being at the Gold Mine docks, in front of the Dark Jungle - this is a pretty good spot.

Overall, a job well done on Skull Island. I do have a few critiques, however. First, you really don't have enough of this world. You really try hard to "rubber band" us to the island itself, but it's made up of very few zones. My recommendation is to add a few locations - maybe even if they're just for side quests. Put a jungle between Skull Island Fort (Avery's Court) and Skull Mountain.

I noticed, also, in Mooshu, that you have some very strong (overused, but there's simply no other word to describe it) island designs with varying elevations. Maybe you could try some of these as a Skull Mountain.

I also noticed, throughout all of your worlds, that you have a lot of battles with the "Defeat All Enemies" objective. This gets a bit repetitive. Try some more variety - I think this is a much needed change. I loved the Water Mole fight, where you only had to defeat the boss, but he was blocked by an unmoving row of other moles!

Try some battles in which you must defeat only the boss. Add some turn limits to a variety of the battles. Try some more puzzles in battles.

Stormgates

I did talk about travel in Stormgates above, but I wanted to expand a bit. I really liked your initial Stormgate design - your shooting stars left long trails, and you had swirling energy bits and pieces all over the place. Now that the sparkles and lights are gone, they're much less appealing. I'd prefer those the old way, with these decorative elements amplified.

I noticed that when on a Stormgate path, or world thread, that your ship is constantly leaning, as if being pushed away by the boundary outside the path. At times, I was even pushed off of the path and into a battle. My advice is to pull the boundaries of the sailing area out a little. Not only would we like to venture out a bit more, but then you wouldn't have the leaning ship and sailing off of the path. You wouldn't really have to add anything else, just expand the sailing area.

I did see that you updated the Avernus skyway with the Bone Drakes. I'm not sure whether I was a fan or not of uncontrollable boardings.

When exiting a Stormgate, my screen often loads with me in a battle. Try to position these so that these inevitable fights are nonexistent.

I think you could slightly improve the design of the physical stormgate (the whirlpool-type portion). Try a bit more lighting. Maybe it's a constantly flash of lighting, just hitting in different areas. You might also try some semi-transparent particles swirling around and into the gate. More of the "wind" effects wouldn't hurt, either.

Monquista Overview

Excellent work with Monquista. At this point, between Skull Island and Monquista, I must compliment your composer (still Nelson Everhart?). He or she does fantastic work.

I noticed that this world is only one skyway. I'm assuming we'll return here. If not, you really ought to beef out this world - a lot! You have a lot of potential story here with your theme, so work with it! My hope and feeling, however, is that we'll return later.

Good job with the Zenda and opposition storyline. You had some interesting drain dungeons, and cool stories and scenes (1,000,000 bananas!).

One of the highlights of this dungeon was the Cave of the Crescent Moon (Monkey's Paw) - fantastic references here, along with an awesome environment, and amazing enemies (and their demises!). I would not at all mind repeating this dungeon. That's one of your strongest parts of Pirate101 - the varying environments. That's how you're strengthening Wizard101. Before, you had a uniform street layout, with a unique center. Now, you have completely unique locations, and that's a huge change! Stick to it!

Again, hope we're returning!

Companion Promotions

At this point, we're seeing our first companion promotions. As I talked about before, you'll need these for all companions to make them worthwhile. That, or you need to introduce new, "unpromotable" companions with four to six epic talents.

These companion promotions really are long, but not necessarily rich in story as you suggest. In fact, many have a variety of "filler battles" that turn them into tedious quests. Don't cut out any of the story or unimportant battles, but try to omit the "filler" items.

Good work with a variety of these - loved Bonnie Anne's sniper promotion!

Valencia Overview

At first, I thought Valencia was a bit of a joke! However, I now realize that it's an early introduction, and that we'll certainly be returning, too. I'd assume that that'll happen post-Marleybone. Again, I know you've been adjusting some battle difficulty, but several of these battles were tough.

Overall, you did well for having one skyway of quests. The Armada disguise portion was neat! You did some really cool architecture here as well, I'm looking forward to seeing more!

We arrive in Valencia between levels 15 and 17. In my time here, I didn't level once. I can understand some low-experience quests, but goodness! With a few sides, I finished the game at level 49, so maybe you could add a level in here to bump that up.

I also noticed that the Monquista-Avernus Stormgate was identical to the Avernus-Valencia Stormgate. I think you'd benefit from making one unique.

It wasn't until I returned here that I realized how beautiful this place is. I absolutely cannot wait to see more!

During the dialogue before talking with Phule, in Pollo's tomb, none of my companions are wearing the correct colors! Barnabus also says something to the effect of "Look! A blue windstone!" This, I believe, is a line from the sunken ship where we fight the sharks. It's obviously not placed correctly, because the area has no windstone, and we already posses a blue one.

After engaging in ship to ship combat with these Valencian ships, I'm stuck at the same, slow speed for a long time, even well out of range.

Cool Ranch Overview

I loved Cool Ranch! The allusions here were fantastic! You did a nice job hiding a number of companions across this world - I wish the other worlds did the same. This is a good, extensive area for questing. It has six skyways, full of locations.

I have to compliment you on the Haunted Skyway. Excellent design and change of pace, as well as an awesome conclusion to the world. Incorporating two exciting battles right next to each other was interesting!

I feel like you really did a good, extensive job with this world. You've packed it with side quests, have a variety of interesting main quests, and offer tons of new locations to see as we progress. Just when you think you've seen it all, you introduce something new here.

The highlight of this world was the story with Death - that was excellent, and very funny, in my opinion. You then proceed to summon Death, and get to see his awesome Puppet Show, followed by an interesting storyline.

My main critique here is the Captain Blood fight - this is an awesome moment! Add some special goals to Captain Blood's battle - it's one we shouldn't forget!

Superb Job with the Deacon battle! Don't change it, or the dialogue after it!

MooShu Overview

I'll admit, I was worried when I discovered that you were using MooShu is Pirate101. It wasn't exactly a favorite world in Wizard101. However, upon arrival, I began to change my mind - MooShu is beautiful. The whirlpools used as Stormgates in the main skyway are gorgeous! I love how you have the skyways at seemingly different levels here.

One thing I wasn't a fan of is the recycled music. As I said, you've got a great composer - tell him we need some new MooShu music! I also know that you're working on Marleybone - don't reuse music there! You have this amazing, unique world, so match it with unique music!

You did an awesome job with so much of this world. You had some awesome islands with greatly varied elevations. I noticed that your reused a variety of location templates in a lot of places. In some areas, you used templates from worlds like Grizzleheim, where each location is unique. However, in MooShu, you pulled a variety of locations from Wizard101 that had the usual "street" and unique center. Many have said that you should not have used these, but I disagree. As long as you keep the use minimal, I think that the new locations you created make up for them. I am assuming that you're continuing MooShu, so when you do, keep this in mind.

I noticed that, on the quests, you told us which dock to dock at. This was not at all helpful, because the docks are not marked on the map. Do the quests like in other worlds, where you tell us what location on the map to dock at.

What's brilliant about this world is that it's packed with locations, and we hardly use some of them - I like that! It leaves us to wonder which side quests to work on to use them to their fullest, and doesn't leave us feeling like we're sick of a certain area.

In the fight with the Metal Guardian, the lanterns have some strange background against them. You might look at that.

Skyway Design

I like the overall skyway design. I would recommend less of the cloud texture used for the bottom of the skyway. It isn't as attractive as it could be when seen as the edge of the skyway. Instead, cut pieces of it out as you do around islands in Cool Ranch, or have it fade out a bit more. I really like the areas where the clouds come up above the ship. They're fun to fly through and attempt to navigate, avoiding enemy ships and creatures.

I noticed that your vortexes are meant to have their bottom against the skyway. Unfortunately, some are not. Our angle puts them against a very high-contrast background that shows that definite edge of the bottom. Keep that hidden - whether by moving it more into the skyway, or adding some tall clouds around it.

Layering Issues

Some of your in-game pieces are not layering correctly. For example, a skyway that should be behind a vortex shows up in front of it. Or a name disappears behind some railing. You might take a look at that.

Quests

Good job with quests overall. Rather, though, then having a load of quests goals for a huge XP reward, I'd rather you divide it into several smaller quests for smaller quest rewards. The implementation of the "It's a Surprise" rewards was really neat, but they almost always turned out to be companions. Add more of these, and award us with gear, weapons, unique housing items, etc.

Side Quests are a major problem here. For a good long while, I did not accept a single side quest. I would completely ignore the potential story content and look at the reward. All of the quests do not give adequate rewards. They are simply not worth your time. For example, we cover over 150,000 experience in gameplay while leveling. There's a quest to collect ten crates in the skyway for 10 XP. Can you imagine collecting 150,000 crates? As you can see, the ratio here isn't quite what it should be. I can understand a lower rate of experience, but it shouldn't be so negligible. You got to motivate us to do these quests, because they really have some great content. If you don't want to overload us on XP, offer some gear or companions.

As far as I know, no ship equipment or housing items were awarded for quests - we could use some of those!

I did notice that you don't mark command and training points as rewards - this is very necessary. It is extremely irritating to finish a bunch of quests and receive no command points. I don't like guess work when it comes to what I'm getting for a quest.

Some the areas you've created are really packed with smaller areas and subdivisions, so it can be difficult to find all of the available quests. I myself have been trying to located all of the side quests in Valencia, having docked everywhere possible and accepted every quest I've found. And yet, I still haven't finished them all, because I don't have the badge that another said she received for completing all quests in the Argon Skyway. I think we need some sort of QuestFinder tool that points a blank yellow arrow to the nearest available quest.

When I open my quest journal, the page I open to is 1/X, but it isn't actually page 1. I'll scroll right, and it'll change to 4/X or whatever it happened to be.

Keyboard Shortcuts

My Quest Helper has been malfunctioning. It won't turn on at times for any of my quests. Furthermore, Ctrl+T, which I use rather than going through options, turns the helper off, but not on.

I'd really like "O" to turn on and off our chat box, as it does in Wizard101.

I noticed that you do not have maps for a variety of areas. It isn't just that it's a subdivision of some other location, it's that no map shows up at all. Pressing the usual "M" key, as well as clicking on the map button, does not work. I'd also like to see overall world maps, and the ability to zoom out to them. If not, I could at least use a zoom out to the current skyway map.

Combat Variation

After finishing the game, I really felt like there wasn't enough combat variation. I felt as though there were constantly defeating all enemies. I talked about it earlier, and now it has earned its own section. As I said, I loved the Water Mole fight in which we were required only to defeat the boss, but had a row of unmoving enemies in front of him. I also liked the Metal Guardian fight. I really wish we had more puzzles and variations, because these are the most exciting areas.

I recently did a side quest in Cool Ranch, where I had to survive twelve turns against a Banditoad onslaught - this was one of the most enjoyable battles ever!

A New Way to Use the "Rubber Band" Method

You spent extra time on places like the Haunted Skyway, and they deserve extra attention. Now, whether or not you've noticed it, you've done a beautiful thing that you've never done before in a KingsIsle game, and it's definitely a winner. You've created an area that becomes ideal for training something - nautical level in this case - by engineering the area for that activity. Not only do you have ships that are well-spaced and choose not to follow you or board you, but they're also decently leveled and drop a lot of equipment. You've also offered a variety of other leveled ships (namely the 47s) that I assure you will have people coming back to train.

With this, you've uncovered a new way of bringing people back to an area - and when a lot of people come, they meet and make friends, and it just furthers your game as a whole. The training becomes less tedious because you've made a cool location fun to do it in, and you've attracted a wide audience. The neat thing is that you can do this in a variety of location, and each can be specialized for something different.

For example, you might have a side quest that unlocks a mini-skyway, like a gulf, in one of the cool Ranch bluffs. Here, you'd have one extremely high-level ship that could not be boarded. It might be level 100 or so. You'd make its drops very worthwhile, such as rare ship parts, and it'd give good experience. I can tell you now that you'd attract a load of people to this spot. Speaking of this, have you ever considered including a mini-skyway in a dungeon? You'd enter on foot, and your ship could be docked inside.

You can do the same thing on land. Create enemies that are good to farm for gear or items. Perhaps there's even certain enemies that specifically drop good housing items. You can put them in new locations, or wherever, and you'll end up with people swarming to those areas. The thing is, you'll have enough of them that you spread out your players.

Ships and Nautical Level

Ships are pretty impressive. I really like how you've done them, and given us gear to increase this and that, and it's just a job well done overall.

Now Nautical Level is where you hit a home run. For the first time ever, you've offered something optional that really impacts your gameplay. And yet, it's completely optional. That means that post-game, you've got players still excited and training. It also means that those with more time can invest it in your game, as opposed to those with more time finishing quicker and spending less time in-game, as with Wizard101 (though you're moving away from it).

I hope to see more of this in general - more time means a better experience. And that's certainly not for my own benefit, because I've got a blog, among a variety of real life tasks, to keep up with. You can sell extremely expensive items (for example, you might have one of each type of ship part for 100,000 gold each that is quite a bit better than others, and looks more interesting), or offer very good gear at a low drop rate, etc. This means more time spent in-game, and a more accomplished feeling when something in finally earned.

Ship to ship combat is also incredibly impressive! I'm loving the screen shaking and firing and hits! I also think it's very neat that you incorporated the summoning of a number of creatures.

The Summon Seraph power has no photo for when it's recharging, thought you should know.

Puppet Shows

These are brillaint - Jeff Toney did awesome work here! These are some much fun, and very well done. I'm extremely glad we can replay them. Not much else to add there!

The Storyline and Real-Life Values

Your storyline in Pirate101 is extremely impressive. You have a variety of smaller stories, all contributing to one big-ticket item. In television shows, there's the episode's conflict, of course. However, the better shows introduce a long-term foe or problem that is added to briefly in every, or almost every, episode. This makes for a much stronger story. This is essentially what you've done here. Don't be afraid to mention the Armada, though, at various times while completing quests. One of the best parts of the game is breaking Napolenguin out of jail because you learn so much about the overall standing of things.

One thing I was really looking forward to here was playing on the right-wrong idea. I don't feel like you really made the "pirate with a heart of gold" as prominent as it should be, and that's a very strong idea to work with, so don't ignore it. This could be as easy as adding dialogue talking about how you're simply a pirate, and won't amount to anything good in the Spiral.

It's neat that you're justifying all of our wrong actions, though many might not believe it to be necessary.

In-Game Decisions Affecting Gameplay

One of the best things you have going for you right now is confusion. That's because the moment someone starts understanding everything, there's a guide for the entire game, and players get lazy. They don't like a challenge, and they aren't interested in working for anything, and that means less time in-game. You want to keep us confused so that we're enjoying ourselves while guessing what comes next.

One way you do this is with the quiz at the beginning. I propose adding more questions to it. In the future, let them affect what ship you receive, or which boss you must defeat for a certain quest. Furthermore, let us make one or two decisions in the game itself that make a difference. For example, we might lower a boss with down to one health and have the option of defeating him or letting him go free. This'd reinforce your right-wrong idea. The boss, if let free, might join your crew, but might also return more powerful to defeat you in the future. Defeating him isn't necessarily the safe way out, though. His ghost might come back to get your pirate.

Chat

I'm having problems chatting in-game during combat. I can't hit "f" to open my Friends list, and so I can't reply to messages. I'd also like to be able to hit "r" to reply to the last person that sent me a message. I'm fine if you leave out the right clicking on a name to send them a message, though it was helpful.

I find chat in general very confusing. Could you change the box color for private chat? While on a ship, or just anywhere in general, I wondered why people were sending me private messages - turns out, it was just where chat showed up.

Gold and Training Tomes

I think that you're under the impression that we earn gold faster than we do. The first indicator of that is warning us of reaching the gold limit at 70,000 gold, where the limit is 100,000. In fact, even all of the main storyline quests do not award 100,000 gold. Gold is surprisingly difficult to come by for quite some time.

Hiding Training Tomes was a great idea - I loved stumbling upon them here and there. Selling them is another thing. With a limited number of quests, it will become necessary to buy these to level companions when we hit end-game. You simply cannot charge 31000 gold for a single Command Point. I don't know that I'd pay more than 5000 gold! Even that's expensive! Can we get a break here?

Hidden Items

The Fin companion was a brilliant idea I also love how you've got so many badges for this and that. I'd say that you should definitely continue to surprise us with things like this! Make equipping a certain badge after certain quests makes a secret door to a unique location appear?

Adding elements like this would keep people discovering new things for months. And it'd be exciting and motivating, as well.

What You See Needs to Be What You Get

One of the most irritating parts of Pirate101 is scoping out a spot with the fewest enemies, and finding areas where their names are all white, then engaging to have more enemies suddenly appear, and every name change to red - how does this make sense? When even go to the trouble to color the names and put a specific number of creatures in a specific area if it simply changes upon starting a battle. Instead, give us the difficulty of enemy that we see to begin with, and start us out with the number of enemies we see. More cna join up to the maximum, just as new pirates join battles.

From a Blogger's Standpoint

Thank so very much for allowing us to use Ctrl+G during dialogue! Love it! I also love the zooming or in to show us certain areas, which you are beginning to incorporate into Wizard101! Nice work!

I really wish it was just a little bit easier to back up against things. It seems like we have to tilt the camera angle up a lot to make our character invisible.

Bugs Not Mentioned Above

The Buccaneer class has two abilities (the block a certain percentage of damage ones) that are exactly the same. I believe you meant for one to be five turns instead of ten, but it's identical to the next. You might take a look.

There is a huge issue that is extremely frustrating with freezing. When running, or even sailing, and the game decides to freeze up (which is saying something, because I have a fairly speedy computer), I find that, when it unfreezes, it has sent my ship or character in a random direction a small distance. Can you imagine my frustration when I am carefully walking the side of the road, and and freeze, and end up in a battle? I take my hand off of the keyboard completely upon freezing, and this still happens.

You're also having a load of game crashes, whether it be at the start of battles, or whenever. It seems to be random, but it's happening a lot. I hope there's some improvement you can make, because you're going to be overloaded with crazy pirates ready to play in the weeks following the release.

You've got some crazy things going on with talents. For example, an enemy will get First Strike, then a companion might get Vengeance Strike, and the enemy gets First Strike, and you end up with this never-ending chain of abilities. Also, the first hit contains all of the future hits in one, layered set of numbers, and the following hits are all zeros.

Companions are also continuing to attack "thin air" if they killed an enemy with an ability, and did not yet make their regular hit.

The Buccaneer class receives a sword from the final quests in MooShu. When using their strongest attack talent (has a broken shield symbol, name escapes me), the pirate normally throws that sword up into the air, jumps up and grabs in, and spins down to hit the opponent. This sword is not thrown up, the pirate just jumps.

When walking up the ramp to Tumbleweed, you go through it and end up on the ground.

A LOT of the Life Fountains are not binding properly. I also hope you're planning to make these manual rather than automatic.

Drawing a Difficulty Line

While some of your battles were much too difficult, a variety were just way too simple. I know that you'll get complaints from players who love to fly through everything, but I'd say that, overall, battles could be just a bit harder.

I'd also like to see more Epic battles - those are exciting! I was confused on why some battles vital to the storyline were not epic, while those less important were.

Where You're Headed

I'm assuming you're working on the next bit of Valencia and Marleybone. I think you easily have Valencia under control. For Marleybone, come up with some original music. I'm hoping you also have at least one skyway or area that is a night sky with stars - that'll be impressive! Can't wait to fight Rooke!

If you're sure you must add PvP, be careful! In Wizard101, it has come to dictate every other part of the game. I desperately hope that this isn't the case in Pirate101.

Marketing Your Game

When you put the game up into live, keep these things in mind.

First, I think it's neat that you're offering a discount for both memberships - good idea! Second, I think you ought to sell the membership in a slightly different way. Instead of showing three columns of playing options, explain each on a separate page, and require users to visit the members page to subscribe. On this page, rather than simply list benefits, show the impressive pictures you can take from stormgates and other worlds - as a player, this would really help seal the deal for me.

Pirate101 Community

I'd like to see the community flourish and do well, so I'm offering a few tips. These are not simply my own thoughts, I've conversed with a variety of others who feel similarly. Please note that I offer these pieces of advice with all due respect.

First, avoid fansite monopolies. One fansite should not be dominant over all others. For example, I know that the Central sites are well-done and deserving, but it doesn't look good to anyone but Central when you offer them your actual font and no other official fansites. I also looked at the beta key giveaway numbers. They seemed to vary by site. So, I tried to make a ratio between followers/members and keys and could not. So I tried it in more of a curve. Didn't really fit either. When the numbers just don't add up, it also isn't looking too terribly good. I think that equality is a good thing to practice. Rather than take an already impressive site and promote it further with more of something than everyone else, evenly distribute items, offering smaller fansites a chance to grow more. I do not say this for my own benefit. I see it in a variety of places.

Second, where your promotion is concerned, keep up the social media incentives. You've got a huge fan base, so direct them to your social media pages! Facebook is doing a fantastic job - you've lined those pages with concepts. They've become a must-see. How about something similar on Twitter, or Pinterest?

Finally, continue to work with Wizard101 to promote this game, and use this one to promote them. I think it's very neat how you have references to wizard in this game, and hope you add some to pirate in Wizard101. Getting players into both games is a great goal.

A Thank You

Well, if you've made it through my review, I thank you for reading. I know that I much prefer a straightforward approach with reviews of my blog, and so I offered the same here. I spent the time I did with it because Pirate101 looks to be a fantastic game, and I want to see it become the best that it can be.

If you're reading this on the forums, thanks for your time - I'd love to hear some feedback!

If you're reading this via my blog, you're probably wondering how you got through this abnormally long post. Thanks for sticking with it, and feel free to leave feedback!

8 comments:

  1. VERY great review, Swordroll, and lengthy too. :)
    My greatest problem in-game is the lag that is often caused when getting in ship battles, and that even when unwanted, you can get into one. I think there should be an ability for all ships to become invisible from enemies for a period of time.
    I've also had an issue in the last battle of an instance lately where we could move, but not attack. This caused my team to flee, and return into the dungeon, where we skipped back to the boss. The same thing happened. Our only solution was to restart the entire thing.
    Also, Pirate101 is still in Beta, so there might be some of the changes you mentioned happened when the game launches. :)
    Once again, FANTASTIC review! :)

    -Chris.

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    1. Thank you! :)

      Yeah, one idea that I didn't mention that I might have to edit in is an idea like that. Wouldn't it be neat to have a sail that, instead of giving some minor accuracy bonuses, gave an "Invisibility" ability that caused your ship to go semi-transparent and become immune to battles? I know I'd want those sails.

      Too often do I just want speed across the skyway to the other windlane. LOL!

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  2. Did you ever see the "secret skyways when you played" like how you need the same Orange windstone for the Aquila Skyway in Valencia as Marleybone skyway in Moo Shu. Also we have seen the Krokotopia Skyway as well as a extra blank skyway in DS and another blank in Monquista. Last, I really think we should have raids or strong fights. Wizard101 really isn't as mature for raids but I believe Pirate101 has the ability to be a nice teenage game since it does add stuff such as guns and not being the "hero" all the time which makes it exciting for a older audience. Raids would also be perfect for the battle perspective. The battleboard in Wizard101 was simple 4 on one side 4 on the other. Casts spells one at a time to win. In Pirate101 the battle board can be as big as the Stormzilla battle which is an entire city or the 6 by 4 grid on your first ship. Just make raid boards big to allow a large player, lots of enemies and a lot of players and their companions.

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    1. Funny you mention upcoming worlds, it was my next planned post. :)

      Now I have absolutely no idea where I mentioned it, but I'm fairly certain I mentioned something similar to raids. If I didn't address the fact that one-ship boss battles are quite enjoyable, I should have. Didn't I use a level 100 ship example in there somewhere, though?

      Yep, I've seen the Aquila, two Valencian, Marleybone, and two unused stormgates, just revisited them all today.

      That was one of the neat things about battleboards - they had a number of different sizes and shape, so they can go anywhere, rather than requiring a battle circle space.

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  3. I liked your review, it was a bit hard to understand since you weren't talking to the reader, you said "you" as if you were talking to KI and "you" as if you were talking to the reader.

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    1. Apologies!

      I'm certainly no grammar guru, and while I'll purposely defy some of the rules for various purposes, my back and forth use of second person (not to mention first and third) is not spot-on.

      Glad you enjoyed it, however!

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  4. Hello,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the puppet shows for Pirate 101. My name is Robert Lovelett and I am the lead artist and animator for them. Hate to be nit picky but I would have appreciated getting credit for them. Jeff Toney did help out with several Puppet Shows however, and he was a great help and a pleasure to work with.

    You can check out my artwork here: http://blog.roblovelett.com. I'll be updating my website and blog to include clips of the Puppet Shows soon!

    - Rob

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    1. Hey, Rob! Love your work! I actually had no idea that you ran the puppet shows. I'd love a chance to talk with you sometime, but I don't think I'll get it, as I am only allowed to interview if I'm an official fansite.

      This review is pretty old at this point, despite the fact that several of these bugs and suggestions still stand, but I'll be happy to add your name in if you let me know that you'd like me to.

      In the mean time, I'll keep an eye on your blog! Thanks!

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