Sid Meiers Pirates
Recently I had a chance to speak with gaming legend Sid Meier, about Atari and Firaxis Games classic Sid Meier’s Pirates, and how the game has been updated for the 21st century. I want to thank Mr, Meier and Terry Goldman at Electric Artists for making this interview possible.
GVK: What is the background and setting of the game and how did the process to revive the game after 17 years come about?
SM: In Pirates! players take on the role of a swashbuckling pirate captain in the gorgeous 17th century Caribbean where they embark on a great adventure to become the most revered or feared pirate on the Spanish Main. From the feedback we’ve gotten from fans over the years, all of us at Firaxis knew this was a game that people really enjoy.in fact, 17 years later many folks are still playing the original game. We finally decided that the time was right and that technology had advanced to the point where we could really bring the world of pirates to life for the 21st century.
GVK: How are commerce and combat setup in the game and what different styles and options will players have?
SM: Players can combat the enemy in duels, ship battles and land battles, which have all been dramatically enhanced. In addition, we have added two new action sequences: dancing with the governor’s daughter and sneaking into or out of unfriendly towns.
Players can earn upgrades in their weapons as their dueling skills improve. Sid completely reinvented land battles for this game with a turn-based system that is incredibly fun. Pirates now come is several varieties (Buccaneers carry guns for ranged combat instead of the cutlasses favored by regular Pirates) and defenses now include cavalry and mobile cannon, along with the usual infantry. Things like height advantages, tree cover and morale will impact the battles.
Ship battles are thrilling in this gorgeous 3D world. The main controls are the arrow keys for direction and the space bar for firing. You’ll have the option to change views and to choose different types of cannon shot (round for hull damage, chain for sails, and grape for crew).
There is a working economic model in which players will be able to trade in various goods (Sugar, Spice, Luxuries, Food, Cannons, and generic goods).
GVK: What weapons will players be able to select from and how will players go about upgrading their weapons? Will they only have the option to buy or can they use items obtained via combat? (see answer above) and.
SM: The player can get items in a variety of ways. Some can be purchased, some are found amongst the plunder, and some are received from other characters as gifts. Here are several examples: you could be given a weather glass that allows you to better navigate around storms without taking sail damage, a leather vest will add to your defense when dueling, and a 3-stringed fiddle will keep your men more content on long voyages. The items are pretty much all equal with regards to rarity but it would probably take several complete games to see everything.
GVK: How many styles of ships are available and what are some of the weapons and features that will be included?
SM: We have 27 different ships in the game ranging in size from miniscule Tartanes to huge 32-gun Frigates. Each can be customized with various enhancements like different kinds of shot or special cannons. The player can have up to eight ships in his personal fleet at any time.
GVK: How is the A.I. for the game setup in terms of challenges that it will offer players.
SM: Easily the greatest feature of Pirates! is that the player is always in control and able to make lots of interesting decisions throughout the game. The game is centered on the life of a pirate or, rather, the swashbuckling life of a movie pirate. Our intent is to use action sequences as they are used in movies, to tie together story segments in a fun and interesting way. As in the original game, you will be able to choose your allegiance and switch it at any time to better suit your situation. Now, however, you will also be able to influence economic and political conditions both locally and for the entire region.
On a local level, patrolling the waters outside a city can have a dramatic effect on its economy (something that was implied but not modeled in the original game). Players will also be able to incite native villages or other pirate captains to attack local towns to weaken their defenses and set them up for your own land attack. You will also influence towns through opportunities to either escort or attack ships carrying new governors, troops, or colonists.
On a regional level, you may be asked by an English governor to carry a peace treaty to the Spanish. Depending on your outlook and allegiances, this may or may not be something you want to do. If peace seems like a good option, you can take the time to sail to the Spanish city and sneak into the Governor’s mansion (maybe he has a beautiful daughter you would like to visit as well). If peace doesn’t seem “profitable”, you can simply drop the document in the water and continue to attack any fat Royal Galleon that comes your way.
Some highlights in your career as a pirate might be defeating one of the top pirates like Blackbeard or the Evil Mendoza, courting the Governor’s beautiful daughter with charm, wit, and heroism and eventually marrying her, capturing a town after a land battle and installing a new governor, finding a lost city of gold, and capturing the treasure fleet or the silver train.
GVK: What sort of graphic engine is the game using and what features does it allow you to include in the release?
SM: We’re using the Gamebryo 3D engine as a base and have built our own layers on top of it to make the entire engine for Pirates! With the 3D engine we’ve created a gorgeous world full of interesting places to visit and characters to meet. We’ve added new story elements and quests, upgraded dueling, reinvented land battles and ship battles to give the player more options and control, and added new action sequences like dancing and sneaking in and out of towns. Our hope is to deliver an incredibly fun and compelling game that will give the fans more than what they’ve been waiting for, and show a whole new generation of gamers how much fun it is to live the life of a pirate!
GVK: What forms of multiplay if any will be available?
SM: One of the key reasons Pirates has been considered fun and successful is because the game is all about you, the player. For that reason, we have always considered Pirates to be a single-player experience, so there will be no multiplayer. We will, however, have downloadable content and an online community. Players will be able to download new skins for the player character and other models in the game. You will also be able to customize your ships with new flags, hull textures, and sail emblems.
GVK: I have heard dancing will play an element of the game, what can you tell me about this?
SM: Dancing adds a cool new rhythm game to the mix. If you impress one of the Governors or his daughter, they may invite you to a Governor’s Ball where you’ll have a chance to win the daughter’s heart (and possibly some other goodies that will help you in your quests) if your dancing skills please her. The daughter will guide you through the dance with subtle cues.if you follow her lead well you’ll reap the rewards.if you stumble all over the dance floor she’ll send you away.
GVK: How will player and ship navigation and combat be implemented, Real Time or Turn based?
SM: The player explores the world, engages in duels, ship battles, dancing, sneaking round town etc. all in real time. Land battles will run on a new turn-based system.
GVK: Thank you so much,
SM: Thanks for the interview Gareth! Sid Meier, Firaxis Games
Sid Meiers Pirates