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  • David Paris, Developer and Designer, Disney's Virtual Reality Studio
  • May 2, 2007

The Pirates of the Caribbean films and theme park attractions have had a very broad-reaching appeal, attracting a range of ages, from kids and teens to adults, males and females equally. One of the greatest challenges in making Pirates of the Caribbean Online was how to translate this popularity into a MMO game. In order to accommodate a broad audience, we wanted to create a combat system that's both easy-to-use, yet also presents a handful of interesting layers that will keep even the most advanced gamers happy. In the end, we were able to create robust weapons and combat systems for both sea-based and land-based battles -- but for today, we'll just focus on the latter.

All land-based battle revolves around a combo system in which players execute a series of timed attacks using a particular weapon. If you click your mouse continuously while using the cutlass, for example, your character will simply swing at whatever enemy is in range. Players can transition into more advanced, skill-based attacks by timing their movements, resulting in even more damage against enemies. Each new attack skill is learned as players advance through the game - completing quests and gaining experience in battle. Bladestorm, one of my personal favorites, is a high-level cutlass skill that players can trigger in the middle of combat, setting off a series of five separate hits. Players can also acquire special abilities that allow you to sweep attack all enemies nearby, taunt and aggravate them, and more.

Passive skills are another branch in our combat system. Given the fact that pirates don't wear armor, they must rely on their own agility for defense. "Parry" is an example of a passive skill and one that helps players fend off hand-to-hand attacks, eliminating the need for bulky armor that most likely would lead to chafing...eh.

In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, players gather a "crew" (the equivalent of a group in other MMOs) to engage in both land and sea-based battle. Players can even get hard-hitting team combos by working alongside friends in battle.

Now, as far as weapons are concerned, every player starts off with the cutlass, the basic pirate sword used for hand-to-hand attacks. Most of the basic weapons available to players are awarded through a quest where someone teaches them how to use it. Through additional quests and shop visits, players can purchase higher quality versions of their weapons as they advance through the game.

In addition to the cutlass, there are daggers and grenades - both useful when fighting from a distance, as they can be thrown at enemies. Grenades come in several different varieties, everything from smoke bombs to fire bombs. We've also built pistols into the game, which are ranged weapons that players can load with a variety of ammunition such as venom, steel, or silver -- each administering a varying level of damage.

If you've read previous developer diaries, you may have heard about the voodoo doll weapon. After getting a lesson on voodoo from Tia Dalma, players can use this weapon in battle by approaching an enemy, then selecting from a variety of supernatural attacks. This weapon does take a little longer to use than others, but it also gives players the ability to attack from a range. Voodoo dolls can also be used to heal members of your crew or to fix other lingering problems such as removing a curse. When players level up, they'll also learn how to use their doll on more than one target at a time!

Each player has a treasure chest in which they store weapons as well as other important items like clothing, maps, and treasure collections. In battle, players are limited in the number of weapons they have equipped, but there is no limit as to how many weapons a pirate can carry in their trusty treasure chest.

These weapons, skills, and special abilities were designed to serve as entertainment to both the beginner and advanced gamer. We're particularly excited to see player reactions to the voodoo and magic elements of Pirates of the Caribbean Online, which bring a new twist to combat in this MMO genre.

Check back soon for the other half of this Developer Diary which focuses on sea-based combat...

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