Monday, February 4, 2008

Running away in PotBS

Keen from Keen and Graev feels he is being griefed in Pirates of the Burning Sea. But there is an interesting twist to the story: Keen is the pirate wanting to attack other player's ships, and their method of griefing is to run away.

The whole problem here is that ship-to-ship combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea is instanced. Ships engage in combat on the open sea, but then are transported to an instance to fight it out, while on the open sea only two circling ship models indicate that there is a battle there. While you are in the instance, you can't see what is going on around you in the open sea. And you can only leave the instance after a certain time without combat action.

As a freetrader mostly avoiding PvP zones, my main problem are NPC pirates, who can attack you anywhere. They often are much higher in level than me, and come with multiple combat ships, against my transport ship which has lots of cargo space but very little combat abilities. So I run away. All my ships are equipped with speed outfittings, a freetrader gets additional speed abilities, and so I'm simply faster than the NPC combat ships. NPC pirates basically cost me 2 to 3 minutes of boring running away.

Of course if for some reason I was entering a PvP zone and was attacked by player pirates in slow ships, I would try to run away as well. There is no way I could win such a combat, so running away would be my only chance to survive. Knowing that I wouldn't enter a PvP zone with a slow ship, but choose one of the fastest ships around in the game, the Mastercraft Bermuda Sloop, outfitted to the max with speed outfittings. With such a ship you could reasonable hope to "run blockades", that is get in and out of a contested port without losing your ship and cargo.

It is obvious that a pirate wouldn't like me being able to run away that way. But if it was the pirate who attacked, there is no way you could call the freetrader running away "griefing". It isn't quite clear from Keen's post, but I think the griefing he is referring to is some sort of an escort tactic: As I said, if you are in a ship-to-ship combat instance, you are trapped inside for at least 2 minutes. Now imagine a contested port with a pirate ship cruising up and down before it, trying to catch everyone trying to get in or out. Now take two players trying to get a huge load of goods into that port. Huge cargo ships are slow, and would be captured by the pirate. But if one of the players takes a very fast ship and *attacks the pirate*, the pirate is out of the game for a while, and the other player can sail past with his slow, huge cargo ship. Meanwhile his partner in the ship-to-ship combat instance can keep the pirate trapped in the instance by firing at him from maximum range, running away, approaching again and firing, and so on for a long time. If the pirate has a big, slow combat ship, there isn't much he can do against that tactics, he is trapped in the instance. Whether that is clever strategy or griefing depends on the circumstances, like whether the fast player is helping a friend to run a blockade, or whether he just does it to annoy the pirate. See the recent quote on griefing: "you win if the other guy gets so annoyed that he quits the game".

In the closed beta I was also playing a freetrader, but there was an infamous pirate around. He did *not* use big combat ships, he had the fastest ship with the fastest outfittings around. Nobody could run away from him. He won fights by outmaneuvering the enemy, shooting their sails until they couldn't move any more, then keeping behind them and firing at them from an angle where they couldn't fire back. That pirate had my respect, because he wasn't afraid to attack much bigger ships than his, and frequently still won. He even attacked me once when I was escorted by a naval officer, but I had understood his tactics, shot at *his* sails as well, and then he couldn't evade my escort's superior firepower. His bad luck that at the time I was in one of my combat ships, not a cargo ship.

I think if as a pirate in PotBS you want to keep people from running away from you, you need to have the fastest ship around. Or you need to team up with a mixed group, a fast ship disabling the enemies fast ship's sails, and slower ships coming after them with better firepower. As a player pirate, you can't rely on a slow, powerful ship for your pirating activity. You'd only catch even slower cargo ships with that, never blockade runners or players with speed-based counter strategies.

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