• Jason Yeung, Game Designer and Programmer, Disney's Virtual Reality Studio
  • May 2, 2007

In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, players can purchase and captain their own ships to go on high-seas adventures -- battling, boarding, and sinking enemy ships, all while fighting off sea monsters along the way! Ships are a primary means of travel and allow players to sail from island to island to meet new players, explore new lands, conquer enemies, and participate in quests.

Players are first introduced to sailing in a tutorial that takes place in Port Royal early on in the game. After learning the basics of this essential pirate skill, Jolly Roger makes an appearance and destroys the tutorial ship, leaving players washed up on shore. At this point, players are directed to a shipwright who gives them a quest to earn enough gold to buy your own ship.

Shipwrights play an important role in Pirates of the Caribbean Online, as they are the key means for players to purchase and outfit their ships. Players go to shipwrights to purchase their first ship as well as all future ships. All ships are destructible and can be damaged by enemy fire or even sunk during battle on the open seas. Shipwrights can fix damaged ships, however, if a ship has been completely sunk, players will have to earn enough money to purchase a new one. With all that can happen in the Caribbean, it is a good thing that shipwrights are easily accessible to players and available on every island!

Once players complete the first quest and accumulate some gold, they return to the shipwright where they can view each of the different ship classes and sizes and purchase a ship of their choice.

In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, there are three main classes of ships: Interceptors, Merchants, and Warships. Interceptors are the smallest of the ships and have triangular shaped sails. They're the fastest and most maneuverable out of all the other classes, but since they are the smallest, they cannot carry as much fire power. Merchants, on the other hand, have square sails and are quite large in size, which slows them down but also makes them tougher and able to take one more enemy fire. Lastly are the Warships -- which have the most firepower. Warships can be outfitted with the most broadsides, and are in between Interceptors and Merchants in terms of size.

Within the three main ship classes, there are also three size variations – small, light ships, medium battle ships, and large warships. The bigger the ship the more expensive it is and the bigger the crew it can hold. In addition to size, the class type also has an effect on price (Warships are the most expensive, for example.). Players purchase their ships using gold, with prices ranging from 150 gold pieces for the smallest ship, to 1,500 pieces for a medium ship, and 15,000 pieces for a large ship.

As with most MMOs, a large part of the player experience revolves around interacting with others. In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, we've created a built-in socialization feature with our ships. Unlike other games where a ship is manned by only one player, each ship will have a crew, which makes for more of a community-based experience. Aboard a ship, the owner takes on the role of captain - standing at the helm, steering the ship, and giving orders – while the crew that the captain has gathered man the deck and take aim at enemy ships using on-deck cannons.

Another interesting difference between Pirates of the Caribbean Online and other pirate-themed MMOs is the absence of wind and the disturbance it can cause. Although wind can create a realistic experience, it can also make sailing less fun and efficient! With wind influences, players can be pushed off course and end up far from their intended destination. We tried to make sailing more accessible by taking the wind factor out of Pirates of the Caribbean Online. To add a sense of maneuvering when operating a ship, we've incorporated different sailing "skills" instead.

That's all for now! You'll learn more about these sailing skills as well as the use of ship weapons and sea battles in a future diary, so climb up to the crow's nest and keep watch!

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