• Joe Shochet, Creative Director, Disney's Virtual Reality Studio
  • Samir Naik, Senior Programmer, Disney's Virtual Reality Studio
  • June 25, 2007

As you probably know, one of the things that set MMOs apart from other games is the socialization that players engage in. The bottom line is… it's just more fun to play with friends! So, in designing Pirates of the Caribbean Online, all aspects of in-game socialization have been top-of-mind with our team.

Usually when players form a group in an MMO they "party up." Similarly, in our game, players "crew up" since they are, of course, pirates. A player's crew accompanies them on various high-seas adventures. In this team-like environment, the Captain mans the helm and the crew stands guard at the cannons, keeping a lookout for enemy ships. Any gold earned at sea is split fairly amongst the crew and Captain. A crew can also stick together on land taking part in quests and entering the PvP (pirates vs. pirate) arena together.

We've designed the crewing-up experience to be convenient and as easy as possible for players. While on land, players can click on another player and, via a drop-down menu, ask them to join their crew. It is to a player's benefit to have as many crew members as possible — the seas of the Caribbean are not safe for lone travelers! There is safety in numbers, not to mention more opportunity to earn gold. There is, however, a limit to the number of crew members a player can have, and this is determined by ship size. Smaller boats can hold 2 or 3 pirates while bigger ships hold between 6 and 8 crew members.

A list of crew members is viewable in a drop-down menu alongside your list of friends and your Pirate Band. Crews are somewhat temporary and consist of other players that you interact with for only one or two adventures at a time. A Band of Pirates, similar to guilds in other MMOs, represents a group of players that are together for a longer term. Within Pirates Bands, players can share resources and lean on each other for help when needed. In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, tapping into a Pirate Band is also a great way to crew up when first entering a game-play session. Just as you clicked on another player to ask them to join your crew, you will do the same to add members to your Pirate Band. While anyone can join a band of Pirates, only Members with Unlimited access can create them. Additionally, a Pirate can only be a member of one band at a time.

In addition to embarking on exciting land and sea battles, players can participate in parlor games alongside crew members. At launch there will be three parlor games available — blackjack and two variations of poker, what we call Tortuga Hold 'Em and your basic Seven-Card-Stud. In addition to playing these for fun, we have also built them into some of the quests.

To add a unique pirate twist to the card games, we've designed them so players can cheat! In addition, we've incorporated a system of poker "tells." Poker is a game of bluffing, a skill pirates can definitely excel at. By stashing cards up their sleeves and whipping them out when needed, a player can increase their chances of winning. Be careful, though, because there is a penalty for getting caught, and for falsely accusing someone of cheating — cheaters are promptly sent to the local jail! If a player makes a good hand or suffers some bad luck, he has the chance to exhibit a "tell," which other players may detect and use to their advantage. Pay attention to the other players' emotions at the table to pick up this useful bit of information to increase your poker winnings.

To kick off a parlor game, players can enter one of the various taverns strewn about the islands for a pickup game. Or, if there is no one to challenge, the match-making interface Lookout System will come in handy. By opening their sea chest and clicking on the spyglass, players can access the Lookout System from anywhere in the game. It can be used not only to find other players to challenge in parlor games, but also to find opponents for PvP combat, to look for crew members, or to find others who share the same quests.

With all of that said, there is no limit to the number of parlor games you can play … the limit comes only when you run out of gold to wager! We've designed both the crewing-up system and the parlor games to be fun and easy for players to use. We understand that even a pirate needs to take the edge off, kick back and hang out at a tavern once in a while. Socializing with mates and hitting the card table is something every pirate will certainly enjoy!

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