Baby Seal Clubbing

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m no fan of player-versus-player (PvP) combat in MMOs. According to the Bartle Test, I fall squarely into the “Explorer” category. I’m more interested in surveying the virtual world around me than in being pwned by a 12 year old.

Although some MMOs are PvP-centric, most keep it cordoned off from the PVE sections of the game, and provide players with the choice to opt in or out at their discretion. Often, if PvP combat is the central theme of an MMO, the game designers still provide a protected “beginner” area where players can learn the game’s mechanics before being thrown to the level 50 Wolves of Ganking.

Player versus player combat has always been a part of Pirates of the Burning Sea, and for this game’s genre, it makes sense. Epic sea battles are its mainstay. But what doesn’t make sense, is the developer’s decision to allow high level players to attack low level players in the beginner areas.

PotBS has a map conquest system that I profess to not completely understand. It involves seizing your enemy’s ports by attacking their ships as they sail in or out. Players often exploit this by camping outside the ports of the beginner areas, because they know that low level players will be attempting to move between the ports to complete PVE missions. It makes sense strategically, but it creates a miserable experience for new players. I recently got stuck in a British port at level 10, unable to complete any more quests because high level pirates would attack anyone who tried to leave. I asked in chat if there was any solutions to this problem. Someone suggested – without a hint of irony – that I should log out of the game until the pirate players had left the area.

PotBS’s player population has been declining since the game launched 2 years ago. Slow, repetitive combat and a steep learning curve were some of its biggest drawbacks. Currently, Flying Lab Studios is in the process of closing 3 of their servers, leaving only two – a US and a European server – remaining. In light of this waning player base, it strikes me as odd that FLS would allow a game mechanic that is so detrimental to the retention of new players. One veteran player cynically referred to it as “baby seal clubbing”. I call it “going bankrupt”.


8 Responses to “Baby Seal Clubbing”

  1. henebry says:

    Wow. That sound eerily like what the real Caribbean must have been like 200 years ago.

    — How am I supposed to get past these pirates?

    — Just wait until they leave. ‘Course, by the time this group’s moved on, there will be others…

  2. Joshua says:

    Maybe they figure it’s truth in advertising: if you don’t like the game experience as a newbie getting ganked by level 50s, you won’t like getting ganked by 50s for the next 40-some levels until you have a chance to fight back, either.

  3. Chargone says:

    i always figured the only way around this sort of issue is to do away with levels all together.

    instead, make such activity heavily resources dependent.

    meaning you have to be either VERY successful at it, or spend a lot of time doing something else to make money, or you end up just as screwed as the weaker people you’ve been beating up. (and with a difference that is in no way dependent on something as arbitrary as levels)

    in this case, the ship takes damage, you use up your munitions, crew need to eat and/or get payed, your holds only have so much space, and so on and so forth.

    this would, if done right, in theory, result in it only being Profitable to attack those who are successful, and thus most likely to be able to fight back usefully as well, if they’ve been paying attention. The odds of newer, weaker players carrying enough of anything significant to maintain the level of awesome you’d need to be able to cause them this kinds of problems are virtually none existent.

    just my 2c on the subject.

  4. henebry says:

    In other words, Chargone, the solution is to make it more like the real world, not less. Maybe…

  5. Chargone says:

    could be so.

    the alternative is to just kill PVP in games designed primarily for PVP, and stop trying to build in PVE into PVP games… that would probably reduce the issues too.

  6. Chargone says:

    and there is no edit button?
    second PVP should be read as PVE.

    edit: turns out it had just taken me a lot more than 5 minutes or whatever to get back to the tab and realise I’d made a mistake. heh. sorry ’bout that.

  7. pffh says:


    That system sounds like EVE. In EVE, for pirating, you usually either camp low security stargates (far away from newbies) and kill everyone going through, run around in a small group in low sec systems taking out solo targets or suicide bomb someone profitable in a high security system.

    In all these cases, except the last, you risk being killed by someone since the people that are in low sec in the first place are either newbies or people that you expect to be able to handle themselves or they wouldn’t be there and in the suicide run you’ll lose your ships so you better be attacking someone carrying some precious cargo. You CAN attack the newbies but the gain/loss will be so low it’s not even funny.

  8. rollo says:

    PvE’ers were forced to choose between forced ganks and logging out till the PvP areas cleared. PvP’ers were forced into getting involved with the byzantine PvE economy to acquire ships, or somehow exploit others who did, or exploit duplicate ships (like the French on Antigua did).

    To top it all off, it all made perfect sense to the devs and the forum trolls who would drown in flames anyone who attempted to voice a contrary opinion.

    This game was one huge waste of an otherwise excellent age-of-sail simulator engine. EVE-style games are dysfunctional, EVE is only still around because of all the blatant cheating, exploits, and covert developper interventionnnism.

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