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Modern pirate game - what would you add in terms of gameplay?

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Hi
Im doing a singleplayer, 2d pirate/free roaming naval game and the basics are up and running. Pretty much like sid meiers pirates but getting better ships will be harder and a little more simulation style and less cartoony arcade (no dancing for example). Setting is cold war times (sixties-seventies), map will be suez to indonesia in the east.
I want to avoid modern times since naval warfare its all about cruisemissiles, air capability and high tech stuff now. I want some projectile guns (more fun for gameplay)

What would you like to see in such a game in terms of gameplay? There will be pirating and trading, and working for different nations. Upgrading ships and skills. But what else? And how to focus the gameplay but still keep it open world/sandbox.
What did you like/dislike with pirates? (classic and modern version is ok as reference).
What could be the ultimate goal of a match?

Thanks for your input!
Erik

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I don't think modern pirates have much in the way of cruise missiles.

Establishing hideouts on islands? Landing/boarding parties in the vain of X-Com/Jaggered Alliance? That might be to much of a game in itself though. Salvaging? Treasure Hunting?

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yes, REAL modern pirates (for example in Somalia) dont have much of weapons at all. Im thinking you start out in a 4 man boat with some guys with rifles but upgrades and later get hold of patrolboats, military corvettes and maybe even frigates/destroyers. Sort of like becoming a modern privateer, sanctioned by a major political power.

Yes building hideouts/outposts would be cool. Sort of like a economy/city building side game maybe? Im also thinking you could take over smaller settlements and demand tribute or something. The setting will be a bit ww3 /apocalypse so such a thing is not unthinkable (it would be in a stable world).

Treasure hunting is a given:) (get tips on hidden drug-caches, smugglers hideout and similar)

Anyone else?

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(no dancing for example)[/quote]
Big mistake in my opinion. Pirates the the classic romantic sense are all about dancing, boasting, and swearing. Otherwise a pirate is just a nasty cutthroat like the guys on the Somalian coast. Nobody likes them, nobody would want to play such a character. They're the kind of people you fire cruise missles at when you see them in the distance.

A good pirate needs to be stinking and swearing, dancing and boasting with burning fuses in his dreadlocks while swinging the cutlass. And he needs a parrot, or a monkey. The bigger the feather on his hat, the better.

Wooden legs and hooks are a must. Losing an arm could actually be a reward in game mechanics rather than an annoyance, if you get a cool hook that works as a weapon which cannot be disarmed. Or a wooden leg, which does not allow you to run as fast, but lets you do swift 180 degree turns in combat. A hook and a wooden leg could also raise your reputation score among the crew, so they are less likely to maroon you. Or, the dread factor when you board a ship.

Also, since you're a pirate, you can't put your money on the bank. Burying treasures which you can only find again if you own the correct treasure map is the way to go. And Black Dog wants that map.

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I think it is a mistake to make it about "modern" pirates. There is no romantic feeling about this at all, you can't be someone drafted to military and then taking over a navy ship because the officers were cruel and go on an adventure and pillage. You are a vilian. True villian that eveyone will kill without blinking an eye. Also, you absolutely can't be a sanctioned privateer nowadays. Modern times are simply not suitable for romantic pirates.

If you do it a Fallout style (after nuclear war) they you face 2 problems. First, eveyone will associate them with brutal road gangs (thanks to Mad Max legacy and Water World). Second, everyone think after WW3 there will be a desert (search for water theme which is extremly popular in that genre), so sea activities are not the best for that period.

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ok then dont focus too much on that it will be a "romantic pirate game". Its more of a naval adventure game, and of course there will be some humor to it.
I dont see at all why such a game couldnt work.

And the view that conflicts now are simply sad and cannot make fun gameplay and historical conflicts are fun and lighthearted/romantic is a bit wierd. GTA works, and its basically a lightweight and fun approach to modern problems like violence, gangs and drugs.
And historical pirates were no romantic heroes. They were hated thugs, desperate, ruthless and died of hunger and deseases. Much like somali pirates today. Im looking for a middle way.

Yes im obviously aiming for something with a BIT more serious style then sids pirates . But that game was not fun purely because the main guy had an "excuse" for killing and plundering.
If its post-apoc, why is associating the player with brutal road gangs a problem? In fallout you can be exactly that, and thats fun for players who like to be a bit bad.

Plz continue commenting on these things, but also more on gameplay specifics. What is rewarding in a adventure game like this? What should be avoided?

Erik

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ok then dont focus too much on that it will be a "romantic pirate game". Its more of a naval adventure game, and of course there will be some humor to it.
I dont see at all why such a game couldnt work.
I have never seen "a naval adventure game" that was not "a romantic pirate game" at the same time :) I guess my imagination simply does not reach far enough to imagine such game type :D Can you give any examples of games that were similar to what you are trying to achieve?


And the view that conflicts now are simply sad and cannot make fun gameplay and historical conflicts are fun and lighthearted/romantic is a bit wierd. GTA works, and its basically a lightweight and fun approach to modern problems like violence, gangs and drugs.
And historical pirates were no romantic heroes. They were hated thugs, desperate, ruthless and died of hunger and deseases. Much like somali pirates today. Im looking for a middle way.
I was reading the old records of pirates and it really stuck me that the "romantic pirate" image appeared at the time when they were pillaging the seas. They were perceived as romantic heroes by the people back then, they were pillaging and ruthlessly killing merchants and still people of that era perceived them as not exactly villians. It was not invented later, as some sort of sentiment to old times, not at all... Quite shocking :) I guess, it could be because if the low difference between the normal navy recruiting practices and the incredible abuse and brutality on normal ships and pirate ships. There were a huge percentage of pirate ships emerging from mutiny on normal ships because of living conditions.
The same way of thinking won't work for current times because the level of abuse by the govenment/society is not enough to win any sympathy to those who go on rampage and kill merchants.

If its post-apoc, why is associating the player with brutal road gangs a problem? IN fallout you can be exactly that, and thats fun for players who like to be a bit bad.
In Fallout you *can* be a villian, in the game you propose you *have to* be a villian. That's a huge difference.

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In Fallout you *can* be a villian, in the game you propose you *have to* be a villian. That's a huge difference.

ok but in GTA or Mafia or many other games you HAVE to be a villian. Still fun games. Not to mention practically ALL wargames (and many actionsgames) on the market...
I mean there could of course be some background story to why the player is a pirate but im not sure that will have a large impact on the gameplay as a whole.

Any comments on gameplay at large (other then moral objections to the setting).

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Yes, you are perfectly right, you can make a successful game where you have to be a villian. But you have to accept the consequences. I won't play your game :) I don't find GTA fun at all. With Fallout you have a choice, you cater to those who want to be good guys, bad guys and to those who don't care (probably the biggest number of players). When you make a choice that forces players to play in a specific way you lose a portion of players. It is not necessarily bad, but still you have to estimate if the gain outweights the loss.

The biggest problem is the player base. How are you going to advertise the game? Who is your target player? Do you want the people who play pirate games play your game? If yes then you have a problem, since probably a huge majority of them are the "romantic pirate adventure" types. Would they want to play a modern Somalian pirate? I doubt. You could turn to Fallout players, but then they are accustomed to deserts, motor gangs, radiation. You don't have these in sea themed game, it's very "unlike Mad Max". I have trouble visualising what you would write on the box and what kind of player would desire to buy it...

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Resources needed to execute an attack need to come from somewhere. You walk into a town with a pile of money and buy food, weapons, and supplies to last your crew a few weeks out at sea, you're going to have an impact on the economy there, especially if you keep coming back. Maybe you even start to become liked (rob from the rich, do business with the poor). Maybe the money the businesses receive from you is invested and the economy of the town grows. Maybe word that a pirate does business in that particular town gets out and traps are set to capture him. Or maybe as the economy of the town grows, tempting targets for pirates (the player or otherwise) arrive at the town. When those targets are hit, sympathy that was once there for the player might be lost.

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Yeah local oppinion and growth is cool.
Also siding with one faction and driving out a colonizing power. This will demand military engagement on a larger scale then small scale pirating though... I have loose plans to allow for several commanded ships at the same time.

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I'd avoid setting a game about pirates in an unglamorous place (the explored and disciplined seas of the 20th century), full of unglamorous people (your pirates would be random African, Arab, Indian etc. criminals, with only their cool and unique personality to make them likeable) using unglamorous technology (rifles and, even worse, radar; offshore bank accounts; boring steel ships without guns).
A modern naval setting could be redeemed by prominent marvelous elements (e.g. a secret war of mutant superheroes, sea monsters and mystical islands against Nazi sorcerers, submarines and undersea fortresses), but the game wouldn't be about being a pirate captain.

Instead, setting your game in 17th century and in the Caribbean Sea has the advantage of interesting and likeable pirates, appropriate and fun technology, and interesting political background (including the choice of privateering for different powers or going rogue). The ultimate purpose of a "classic" pirate game could be, for instance, becoming powerful enough and uniting enough people to make Jamaica or some other major island independent from European masters and turning it into a nice place to live.
This people-oriented approach would require management of crews (recruiting skilled pirates but not traitors), managements of diplomacy (being nice to other pirates and to governors and officers), management of secrecy (mainly hiding your objectives and movements), management of finance (raising capital, paying shareholders, making long-term investments) and less focus on upgrading guns and replacing ships (a real pirate uses captured or rented ships; even if he could pay for custom-built ones, being able to wait and plan for them would be unusual) and on trading loot (a real pirate is in the business of making raids, not of managing warehouses: there are trusted partners for that).

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its going more towards a naval/war adventure game. In the fifties, with the main powers from ww2 still at war. There will be some pirate-flavour to it but not a traditional pirate game.

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I find the modern setting, using enough creative freedom, to be very interesting. It's fresh and I can imagine a lot of fun play coming from that. Taking over and/or raiding ships and coastal villages, trying to get loot and hostages before some army/navy/local warlord intervenes, taking down other pirates, setting up your operations so that the danged westerners can't locate you for long enough to hit you with a cruise missile or a squad of GIGN commandos, acquiring heavy weapons and forcing your enemies to back off by threatening to wipe out oil refineries and such.

I'd prob go for a Syndicate-like mood - no hero BS, no explaining anything, just quality banditry and running a good business. Game ends when you have accumulated enough influence to be the unofficial ruler of your seas, crushed the last large concentrated attempts to take you down, and tied the hands of anyone who would want to try again.
(I note Starcraft: Brood War more or less ended like this and it was a lot of fun!)

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Otherwise a pirate is just a nasty cutthroat like the guys on the Somalian coast.


Sorry, have to comment this... Are you aware that a lot of international fishing companies fish out there waters, and even destroy the nets of small fishing villages with there huge nets and boats. Most of those "pirates" have nothing left to feed there families. They are that poor because of the western world, i'm not saying it's good or anything but i certainly can't blame them for getting there fair share. As for the whole of africa, they would certainly have a better live if we in the western world stopped using silly luxuries. Slavery is still going on in these modern times and we are befitting hugely from most of africa and other poor countries.

As for the game,

Setting up trade routes and defending them would be an option. Also bribing and extortion could be good mechanics.

I also love micromanaging stuff like finances (wages, maintenance, upgrades, etc), and having to store food, gear and ammo while still having enough cargo hold for loot. Mutiny or betrayel by your man could be a viable option too when your not paying enough or run out of food/luxuries.

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I would also stick to the idea of not implementing too much macro management (building/managing outposts/colonies). You ‘ll loose the pace in the game very fast if your player has to start to pay too much attention on stuff he probably doesn’t wanted in the first place. Make the game fun to play and focus on the game mechanics during fights.
I would love to have the time to tend to my ship and crew as much as possible. Try to follow me on this. Imaging a game where you can hire/save specialists for fighting (canons/mellee) navigation, cooking, repairing, customizing, bribing, healing etc.
The player would be drawn to perfect his crew and ship. In that way he would be motivated to engage in certain missions.
e.g. - Save artillery specialist from prison (improve naval fighting capability)
- Wrestle for control over a port were they have lemons (improve health of crew)
If you ship “grows” as does your crew you get much more attached to it as in comparison if you buy/steal a new “better” one. Ever played Homeworld, specially Cataclism? It was awesome to see how your mining spaceship evolved to a battleship. Even more, your players might want to paint their ships and attach stuff to it so it suits their personality better, which will make them to commit even more.
You choosing your crew could also be used to express your ingame-morality (good/evil). You could gather a cutthroat crew that is awesome in battle but very unwanted in any port (high prices for supply) or have high rewards on their head (government/military trying to catch you). In comparison a “nice” crew might gather allies or might buy stuff others can’t.
Reputation would also be a very important gameplay feature, imho.

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Seriously, real pirates have always be plagued by venereal disease (with the first thing the pirates heading for on a newly capture ship being the medicine chest to try to find mercury compounds)

Little more PG-rated would be drug/alcohol addictions.

Proper/appropriate injuries for crew members might add interest (names like lefty and one-eye werent happy nicknames)

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