Beta Devlog: Ships of the Line
Ships of the Line (SOLs) are the rulers of the sea. They are a symbol of power and naval dominance. In Pirates of the Burning Sea, the presence of SOLs shapes the outcome of port battles and thus the conquest system. Groups of SOLs are very tough to defeat.
From the start, our goals have been for SOLs to be very rare, very hard to earn, and to be deployed only at port battles of great strategic importance to a nation. We havent met these goals very well. In the closed beta, SOLs were earned by getting a Writ, and the most efficient way to get a Writ was by mindlessly grinding high-level NPCs. Since grinding would get you an SOL, they were seen frequently at port battles where they utterly dominated. This meant that getting an SOL was a sucky single-player grind and that many players got them and used them in every battle they could.
We also had a problem with cost. The progression of costs across the different SOLs was not in synch with the progression of power. When a First Rate ship was so incredibly powerful but only incrementally more expensive than, say, a Fourth Rate or Third Rate SOL, players tended to skip over those middle SOLs in favor of going directly to the First Rate. Those middle SOLs have important roles to play and should be more common, but few people built them due to the small cost variance.
We took a step back to think about how to achieve our goals of making SOLs the equivalent of Death Stars: massive, resource-intensive projects that required coordination on a national scale, and that were deployed only when it would make a decisive contribution to the national interest. We also wanted to get away from the single-player grind and make constructing an SOL something that involved many, many players at all levels of economic gameplay. And finally, we wanted the fourth-rate SOLs to become the workhorses of port battles instead of stacking every battle with First Rates.
What were doing is making SOLs much more expensive to construct. While the actual doubloon cost to execute the recipes will be larger, the more important factor is that making them will now consume far more economic goods. The goods used to produce an SOL will not just be high-end specialty items, either; low-level players who only dabble in the economy will still be able to make goods that are needed to build an SOL. This means societies will have directed activities for newbies to perform, so they can all pull together to pursue this goal.
In addition, we are increasing the difference in cost between each rated SOL. This will make building Fourth Rates much more attractive, and even third and second rate SOLs will be worth building instead of going straight to the first-rate 104. This should increase the diversity of ships at the high end and reduce the overwhelming dominance of first rates in port battles.
Building a high-end SOL will now be a major, major project requiring the work of many people. Like the Death Star, a nation wont have fleets of them. They will consume so many economic goods that losing a point of durability from one will be an extraordinarily costly event. This means that SOLs will be very attractive targets to other nations in a port battle, since destroying an SOL may actually inflict more economic damage than taking the port itself. This in turn means that nations will only bring out their high-end SOLs for port battles of great strategic significance, and rely on the fourth-rate workhorse SOLs for most battles.
All of this should help us hit our goals. The Writ-grinding will be replaced with large-scale, coordinated economic activity. SOLs should be rare. They will be used only for major battles. And those players lucky enough to see one in combat will have a great story to tell.
This change has several implications:
Many players feel that SOLs are the only reason to choose Navy. While their skills are well-suited to SOLs, we do not want to require you to earn writ-level ships just to be effective at the high end. We are therefore changing the Fourth Rates to use huge outfitting instead of Colossal, and these should be the ships that the vast majority of navy players use at the high end in port battles. We are also making skill adjustments to better match Fourth Rate gameplay, which will improve the effectiveness of navy players in those ships. The net result should be that navy players in Fourth Rate ships should be very, very effective.
Pirates have difficulty winning port battles when high-end SOLs show up. The goal of pirates in port conquest should be to wage economic warfare on their enemies by using cheap ships and numbers to overwhelm opponents. Fielding an SOL against the Brethren should be a risky move, because they have cheaper ships they can throw away to sink the SOL. However, it cant work that way unless SOLs are too expensive to risk casually. In closed beta, throwing your fleet at SOLs was a losing proposition because they were too cheap to replace. You couldnt destroy them faster than theyd replace themselves, and it would come at a great cost to the Brethren. Now, pirates who face high-end SOLs know that if they can somehow take that SOL down, they will have dealt a major blow to the economy of that nation.
Freetraders are going to be critical to the creation of SOLs. When we looked at increasing the cost of SOLs in terms of goods, we purposefully shifted the balance towards large quantities of low-end economic goods such as unprocessed oak logs. By doing this, we enable producers at all levels to make major contributions to the vast pyramid of goods needed to build a nations SOLs. The further result of this is that it shifts the increased cost away from doubloons (spent on high-end recipe execution) and towards labor, which is free but takes time. Adding large amounts of economic labor to the SOL pipeline further encourages distribution of the load across many, many more players than before. This increases the value of freetraders because they have the cargo capacity to move the vast bulks of goods around from port to port, and at the high end they have access to advanced structures that can greatly reduce the labor time needed to produce goods for SOLs.
The various Pommerns are Fifth Rate frigates that are meant to be fearsome opponents in Open Sea ad hoc PvP, while still performing admirably in port battles. Their current cost is way too low and they are both common and dominant in the Open Sea. The changes in costs for all SOLs should make Pommerns less common and improve the diversity and the balance of Open Sea ad hoc PvP.
In conclusion, these changes to the way SOLs are built are certainly major. We hope this devlog explains our reasoning. SOLs should be something special, rare, and representative of a nations best efforts. We believe these changes are going to go a long way towards making that happen.