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Pirate like activities in a ww2 naval game?

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Im making a semi-realistic adventure/simulation game set in post ww2. It's single player and 2D. The player can work both as a pirate and as a mercenary/privateer for US, GB, Germany or Japan. You command real ships and visit real ports.

You travel the world map and switch to a "combat view" when engaging ships.


I want more pirate-like activities! One example is "find buried treasure" but in a modern way:

Find emergency cache: nations or individuals hide caches along the coast with supplies/weapons/money.


Could that work? More ideas? Have "famous pirates" travelling the world map that the player can hunt down? But maybe a "historical great captain" that either work for a faction or is maverick (more like a traditional "pirate")

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so i'm a pirate in a ww2 era. what would i want? what would i need?


what about me ship? do i have a carrier? a battleship? or something more like a sub tender? or converted freighter? 


So first we be wanting a ship matey.  Aye! and a good one at that!


And then a better one!


and then a whole fleet!


And a really big hat!


An then i can intorducing meself as Comodore.


[ NOTE one of the BIGGEST design flaws in pirate games is you can't attack with all your ships. ]


Pirates would go around and capture ships, and split the men among them, and attack with all the ships.  So picture a couple of sloops and a small cutter with 200-400 pirates total.   Since all guns and ammo were largely confiscated, boarding by hundreds of pirates was a common tactic.


So i want ships.   and fuel, and ammo. and crew members (shanghaied if necessary).  and food and water - and alcohol - and fine cigars - etc etc.    Booty and Swag.  LOTS of swag.


And  someplace to enjoy my downtime. wine - women - song.  or wine - men - song for our piratical sisters.  attractive companionship.  i need a Tartuga- a place to call my "home away from home" - otherwise know as the pub. 


And someplace or places i can trade.  both black market and white market.


Now, how might i go about getting that?


Attacking ships. well, i have naval ships, passenger ships, and cargo ships to choose from.  problem is, its 1940, not 1640.  these ships aren't carting the wealth of the new world back to europe.  They're taking passengers across the atlantic, or cargo.  


but what an i going to do with a bunch of captured passengers? take their wallets and jewelry and leave them adrift with no radio?  not much swag there. probably do better as a pickpocket in London.


and don't forget the radio. big game changer. "you can outrun a cop, but you can't outrun the radio".


attacking a merchant?  what am i going todo with a cargo vessel full of grain? sell it to the germans?  actually....     i might make a good bit of swag that way, by capturing cargo vessels and selling them and/or  their contents to the other side - or a neutral 3rd party.  Keep any useful munitions for meself of course.


attacking naval vessels....   not much swag, but good supplies. ammo, fuel, crew members, food, water, charts, intel.   the ship if still in good enough shape might be worth keeping.  else sell it to the other side or a 3rd party.


and prisoners who might be ransomed would be another source of income.


but it wouldn't be like the old days, with treasure ships about.


And i need a way to fix my ship.  I don't exactly have the dry docks at pearl harbor to work with here.  Its not like i can just weld a new front end onto a carrier in 3 days like the Americans.


But the biggest problem is the navies. Unless they have something better to do, they will always be trying to take me down if they run across me in sufficient strength. And if i become too much of a pest, they will declare war and hunt me down - game over.


So some preemptive actions might be called for, such as reducing naval strength in the region.    Via bombardment of ports, landing party commando raids, sea engagements etc.


unless you could get some really sweet swag from selling stuff to the other side - it wouldn't be much of a life. no treasure chests here.


in 1640 you had 5 factions active in the carribean -  english, french, spanish, dutch, and pirate.  in 1940, just three: british, american, and pirate. the "other side" (axis powers) is across the atlantic.  so its really just pirates and allied forces. hard to play the middle when there's only one side.


life as a privateer would be largely the same, except one faction would consider you to be friendly, as opposed to neutral or hostile. That faction might also offer favorable trade rates or bounties for captured enemy assets.  In fact, bounties might be the most profitable (and difficult) rewards in the game.


i must be able to upgrade my ship withing reason. More cannons and a better ship are what a pirate lives and dies by - so vehicle design as a gameplay feature is a must.  I'm not saying i should be able to swap a destroyer engine into a PT boat, or strip the 16 inch guns off a battleship for my light cruiser. but i should be able to do something like stumble across an unlucky PT boat, take it with my PT boat and crew of 23 vs 12,  get some intel on an army supply depot near shore. plan a raid, land a party, take the depot, and make off with a bunch of 40mm Bofors and say 40,000 rounds of ammo.Then mount 3 or 4 on my PT boat.  Perhaps go as far as welding light field artillery size stuff to the deck of a destroyer escort, etc.


Shore raids of valuable assets is another possibility. In a port city, a getaway boat works just as well as a getaway car in a bank robbery.  So just how far is it from the atlantic to fort Knox in Tennessee anyway?  <g>.


Hey! Drake did it to the spanish why can't I?


Or if i wanted to be really nasty, i might sail around the horn into the pacific, and take the cargo ship deploying the a-bombs to the pacific theater.  think of the possibilities mate!  The world's most powerful weapon. and you can put it on a ship and sail it into any port - Washington, London, New York, Tokyo Bay, The Kiel canal, Sevastapol, Rome - no one would be safe! . You could hold the entire world for ransom!  Think of the swag they'd give over to stay safe!   Now that would be worthy of a "King of the Pirates" in a ww2 setting.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Thanks for the ideas! Keep em coming!


The map covers africa in the west to indonesia in the east, with India in the middle.

The base game is similar to Sid Meiers Pirates. You can trade in ports and upgrade stuff like engines and armour.

You can have up to 5 ships in your convoy but need lots of money and skills unlocked for it. You control only your flagship, the escorts are contolled by AI.


You cannot seize ships you defeat (that would make equiring them too easy). You must buy them in ports.


Im thinking building your own "pirate haven" might be fun. Collect resources and invest in buildings sort of. But what would be the need of such a place? You are strong enough (late game) to assault real ports so maybe set up your own empire instead?

(the nations are weakened after nuclear war so 500-1000 soldiers can conquer a smaller port).

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How about smuggling?  Trying to bring in illicit cargo* while avoiding patrols?  Kidnapping and ransom?  Either by sneaking into the governor's mansion at night, or by intercepting ships.  The former would need to be mostly automated based on skills, and the player would mostly need to avoid patrols to get to the port.




*Human cargo, resistance fighters, or guns and ammo, or something less self righteous like drugs.  (or slaves, but that can be a bit icky to encounter, so might be best not done)

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You could try a modernized version of bounties. There have always been instances in history when governments and factions want things done, either under the table, or just need help in general, and are willing to pay top dollar to mercenaries and modern version of pirates.


For example, the German Kriegsmarine (German Navy) could put out contracts to sink Allied shipping. You could have something similar for each faction.


Pirates in that era probably won't be getting treasure off of ships. Really the best thing to steal would be things like oil/petrol which have a high sale value on the market, or munitions and weapons, also something worth selling or keeping. You could raid shipping and sell stuff to make money.

The region you've chosen also had a good amount of colonial unrest at the time. Take India, for example. There were many, more violent, independence movements that would probably have been interested in buying black market items, and probably would also want to put out contracts to raid British shipping, especially for military, etc.


Assassination contracts are another possibility, also put out by various factions.


Honestly contracts have a lot of different ways you can go in general. You could even provide some more structured missions here.


Another cool thing would be to allow people to join in major battles and influence the outcome, which could affect the region itself.


You could attack a ship carrying a high profile person and hold them for ransom, something piracy is fairly well known to do.


Base building, as Norman mentioned, is probably one of the best routes, especially considering that there are a lot of resources that would be on the sea lanes that you could use to build a base with. 


Norman Barrows has put out a lot of good ideas as well.


I'll post more ideas if I have them, but this is what I could think of.

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Something that hasn't been said is mutiny. Mutiny could be a nice crew management mechanic where if there are too few crew to run the ship or ship resources are low then the player must manage or put down a mutiny. In 1905, the Russian battleship Potemkin experienced a mutiny during the Russo-Japanese War when an officer threatened to kill crew refusing to work because of food shortages. Players could even spark mutinies on board other ships by siphoning resources, causing low morale etc and forcing the crew to rise up.


This could add some cool storylines and decision making on the part of the player. Also adds to the base building elements that other posts spoke of.


More modern piracy tactics also included 'disguising' the ship. We all know about striking fear into the hearts of simple merchants when they see the skull and crossbones, but adding an element of stealth to the game with disguising the player's ship to get the jump on the enemy could add a variety to the gameplay.


Another concept is that modern pirates use smaller boats/ships to attack its target. A smaller boat has more maneuverability and a small crew can take a large cargo ship quite quickly. Combine this with modern tech like Norman was talking about and include sonar and radio as ways of targeting, isolating and disrupting enemy ships and you have more variety to add to your battles.

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Well, especially after Norman Barrow's post I doubt piracy theme fits into this era. I mean you can't go to a port and order/buy a destroyer and you can't match a navy even a submarine within the ship. Nowadays modern piracy isn't being "owner of the seven seas" but striking rather defenceless ships for ransom using zodiac boats like in Somalian pirates and run away when something noticeable comes. Doubt it provides much gameplay as it's matter of time to be pinned down and destroyed in modernish naval warfare


Sorry if I am combo breaker but maybe changing era is a better idea.

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being able to buy ships would be an immersion breaker for me, unless you're buying decommissioned ww1 era hulks.  After a nuke war you think someone is going to sell off a warship?   you can't even build them anymore!  think Mad Max at sea - no wait - that's Kevin Costner in Waterworld - but you get the idea - vehicles are valuable.


one more thing i did think of is the ability to buy arms and munitions. if you bring the germans a lot of prize ships, they might just sell you a sweet 88 (88mm anit-tank / flak gun) for your foredeck.


i suppose they might offer you a ww1 destroyer, but its not like they will sell you anything like these:


Prince Eugen




Scharnhorst (a rare color photo)












Graf Spee


Edited by Norman Barrows

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being able to buy ships would be an immersion breaker for me, unless you're buying decommissioned ww1 era hulks.  After a nuke war you think someone is going to sell off a warship?   you can't even build them anymore!  think Mad Max at sea - no wait - that's Kevin Costner in Waterworld - but you get the idea - vehicles are valuable.


I think stealing a ship would make more sense. Especially starting off with something like a PT Boat, from which a crew could easily be like 'screw it, we're going out on our own' and start going at it on their own as pirates. Stealing a ship while it's in port might make the most sense. Perhaps capturing one when it's going off alone. There's no easy way to do this, to be very honest. 


Another possibility is that a merchant ship/freighter decides to go rogue. 


I believe that it's not an impossible concept, it's just damned tough. You'd have to have a faction of some kind backing you to be able to get your hands on a  powerful ship like a destroyer. I think that the game will make the most sense if something small, like a PT Boat, or a merchant ship, went rogue. Even a submarine isn't beyond the realm of possibility.


The hardest part after that is how does such a ship then continue running. A freighter isn't super tough to keep running, to be very honest. There's plenty of ports that one could dock at with the correct disguises. A battleship, sub, or PT Boat are basically impossible to dock at any real port.


The only way that that could work is if a fictitious rogue port was invented somewhere that'd deals with criminals.


WWII as a piracy era is a little tough without at least a little bit of fiction created tbh. It would be easier during the war, as there are a lot of factions who'd be willing to make use of pirates/piracy type things. After the war, with navies not fighting each other, it's a bit tough for rogues to move about, especially in that era. Maybe with Cold War era factions you could do some stuff where there are contracts to get intel from a ship, assassinate someone, abduct someone, or downright stop shipping altogether, especially to a key conflict going on somewhere. Another more interesting thing would be getting interesting things off of shipwrecks.


You really should think of this in terms of a mercenary rather than a straight up pirate, if you want to remain somewhat true to the era. 


The other way for this to work is to make it an over the top, tongue in cheek style game that doesn't really take itself too seriously. Then you can probably take the design in all sorts of directions imo. 

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