Enter the Skirmish
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to introduce a long-awaited feature that will be going live in patch 1.14: the skirmish system! This is the first completely new major game system we’ve introduced since launch, and we’re giving it extra Testbed exposure. You’ll be able to try out skirmish on Testbed as early as the 1.13 release coming out this week. There’s still a lot of polish work going into the system, so what you see on Testbed will change before it goes live. We’ll be giving you more information on Testbed skirmish events in the near future.
Skirmish has been at the top of our major feature wishlist for a long time, and we introduced duels shortly after launch as the first step towards the complete system. I’ve been leading the development side of the implementation. Full time work began on skirmish behind the scenes while the Avatar Combat revision was in the spotlight, which gave us time to get the big pieces of the system in place before we began expanding the Skirmish Strike Team. The strike team’s currently focused on the last-mile effort on filling in the gaps and polishing it up into a smooth and exciting experience that’s going to be heaps of fun for lots of players. We’ve been running massive company-wide battles twice a week in addition to daily strike team matches. Once we started running the playtests, we quickly found that everyone would be five minutes late if we called a brief meeting before a match ended. Those five minutes provided just enough time for everyone to finish killing each other before the meeting.
The skirmish system is a really exciting addition to PotBS. PvP action is the hottest part of our game, but the difficulty of “swimming with the sharks” in the open sea has made for a significant barrier to entry. Skirmish gives players the chance to learn how to PvP without facing all the dangers involved with conquest. Societies and veterans can use the skirmish system to teach newer players the ropes in a risk-free environment, which means more people who’ll be prepared for port conquest and open sea PvP. And of course, it’s a great way to simply have some fun fights without worrying about the consequences!
Skirmishes provide a vastly expanded range of PvP possibilities. You can now create customizable avatar or ship battles on demand. These battles range from one-on-one duels to massive clashes on a scale comparable to port battles. An easy-to-use matchmaking system helps you find opponents from all across the Caribbean without leaving the comfort of your home port. Skirmish also provides new experiences, such as massive four-sided battles and international groups. Ever want to try out a battle with all five careers in one team? Now you can, and that’s just for starters.
Skirmish settings can include character level restrictions, so you can set up a level playing field (or not it’s up to you!) for players at all stages of advancement. You can also restrict ship level and size for naval battles, which could mean a clash of titans or a swarm of pea-shootin’ bathtubs. These restrictions open up PvP to a much wider range of player levels and skills than traditional open sea fighting. For sustained battles, you can specify individual or team respawn pools; or if you prefer, turn respawns off entirely for a hardcore, last-man-standing deathmatch. Skirmishes also have an optional, adjustable time limit. Squeeze in a quick ten-minute match, or stay for hours and litter the sea floor with the broken hulks of your opponents’ ships; the choice is yours!
If you’re not interested in creating your own battle, it’s easy to jump right in to an existing skirmish battle with the “Instant Action” button. It finds the battle you’re eligible for that’s closest to full, to get you into the fray as quickly as possible. If you prefer, you can also browse the full server-wide list of skirmish battle lobbies and join the one you like best.
In the skirmish lobby, you can review the battle options, join the team of your choice and let the battle owner know that you’re ready to go. Lobbies are persistent, so when one battle wraps up you’ll still have everything all set up if you want to go again. If you prefer, you can leave the lobby at any time to join or create another. Everyone in the skirmish match can communicate using the Skirmish Chat channel (/skirmish), and each side will have their own Battle Chat channel (/battle). These chat channels have no language restrictions, so you can strategize (or trash-talk) your heart out regardless of nationality.
This initial version of the skirmish system is by no means the last word. We’ve got a long list of features that we’d like to add in the future. Of course, the most important thing is to get the system into your hands so you can tell us what you think, and what you’d like us to add in the future! Making skirmish available on Testbed a full milestone ahead of 1.14 means we’ll have more time to listen to your feedback and launch a feature that’s both robust and fun to use. And by no means is that the end of it we’ve got a lot more ideas for the future of skirmish, well beyond 1.14, and we’ll be paying careful attention to what you tell us so we know what to work on next.
Naturally, there’s already a long list of additions and enhancements we’d like to make. Nothing past what we’re doing for 1.14 has been settled yet, but here’s a sneak peek into some of the things we’re considering for the future:
- More battle types. Right now we offer a straightforward “deathmatch” game type where the side with the most kills wins. We envision a much wider variety of game types, each one providing a fresh and distinctive style of gameplay.
- Prize Pools. We’d like to allow skirmish creators to specify entry fees to create a prize pool, to be split among the winners.
- More maps. You can never have too many maps!
- More configuration options, and the convenience of tweaking these options from within an existing lobby.
I’m extremely proud of what the Skirmish Strike Team has accomplished for this initial release, but this is just the beginning. I encourage all of you to get out there on Testbed and see what a fantastically fun time it is. No doubt you’ll have tons of suggestions for how to make it even better, so give it a shot and then fire away!