Official:Release Oct06 PM

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Event Blockades and Trophies! October, 2006 release postmortem

Ahoy mates, Hypnos here, and welcome to what is the first in what will hopefully be a continuing (and wildly popular) series of articles dispatched "post-mortem" of a release.

These articles are meant to provide a bit of fun insight into the decisions that go into what to include in the game and what gets left out. As a warning, it will not be going into great detail about what we will be releasing next, as the cap'n likes keeping ye pirates surprised. (Keeps away the scurvy.) Instead we'd like to give a feeling of some of the daily decisions that are made in the production of a release and how individual contributions come together to make a release.

The current focus with this release was adding more to do at sea for players, and to include some surprises so that our older players would also want to come back and have a look. Blockades have long been regarded as something that should be more fun and more inclusive for players, and were a good area to look to for expanding player experience at sea beyond pillaging alone. They are also the foundation on which many of our upcoming game features (referred to in Captain Cleaver's Letter from the Captain) are going to be based.

This release was to lay the groundwork for future game additions by making blockades more accessible to officers and ship owners. Event blockades, which do not require a warchest, are customizable (if one does not want to risk losing one's sloop, or one wants a smaller ship bumpercade instead of a war frigate powerhouse shootout) and can be declared quickly and easily without a great deal of marshalling of forces and supply planning, were decided upon. Arcturus was set to work implementing event blockades and blockade pay, two features which seem to have been very well received indeed, especially by cheering red-eyed blockade admirals of all oceans.

The other main addition? Trophies! Trophies were implemented by Cephalopod and whisked into existence by Three Rings arrrtist Greenbones, who is so quiet that he doesn't even have a Y!PPedia page yet. He made the trophies in Maya, then imported them to Studio Max, where there is a specific renderer used for all Puzzle Pirates art to give it the hard-edged 2D look.

Trophies were an oft-discussed feature that paired well with event blockades as both are meant to be accessible to all players, especially for the mid-range aged pirate. The motivation was a concern that after one joins a crew and pillages for a bit, the game can feel like it's lacking in concrete goals if one is not a brilliant puzzler or part of a large flag that is actively blockading or colonizing islands. Since the trophies were going out side-by-side with event blockades, it made sense to create a number of blockade-based trophies and implement those, as well. (By the by, it has been agreed upon that we will not release the specific triggers for trophies, much like the rating system does not have numberical levels, so there is no need to petition an oceanmaster to ask how to get a specific trophy!)

As for the surprises, in this latest release we have seen a drastic change in the appearance of yer pirates' info pages, crew pages, and flag pages. The page appearance and layouts were designed by Nemo, and implemented by Cephalopod. Since the new page layouts looked rather incomplete without a portrait to feature in the center, the decision was made to make some sort of free portrait available, but to keep it plain and non-distinctive if possible. Ideas to make the free portraits black and white, feature a frowning pirate wearing a barrel, or otherwise markedly different from pre-existing portraits were rejected, as arrrtist Nemo proclaimed, "NO! If you make something ugly, everybody will want one."

The changes to the pirate and other pages have been a long time coming. Bluebeard, though hard at work on Bang! Howdy, paused to comment that he was glad that the flag pages had gotten an overhaul. As he was one of ye first arrrtists that worked on Puzzle Pirates, he remembers flag pages first being implemented in June of 2003 and that he'd found them basic and thought they needed spiffing up even back then!

Cleaver, ever a fan of social networks such as Orkut and the enthusiastic prompter behind the real-life couples Y!PPedia page, was the mastermind behind the hearty section in the pirate info pages. He maintains that they will be fun.

And finally, a minor change on the notice board that may not have even gone marked by many a pirate received the most e-mails around the office of all: now that we plan to be putting in all sorts of adventures a pirate may partake in and post job offers for besides pillaging, what do we call the notice board tab? Many an idea was tossed out, including "Adventuring", "Jobbing", "Swashbuckling", "Earn Your Coin", and "Set Sail", prompting the ever-articulate Nemo to comment, "Even before we heaped chimeric baggage on the word, I don't think 'Adventure' is really what we're saying here. 'Voyages' sounds best to me." And so it was.

We hope that you enjoy this release and keep yer eyes on the radar for the future excitements that we have planned, especially those relating to the future of blockades. Onward!