Exclusive Insider Information Article
Note from Falconer: During the Beta, it became clear that the community had far deeper questions than the Beta participants were allowed to answer. Yet, we were itching to get the answers out and share our enthusiasm over the game. We approached Atari and Firaxis, asking if they would be willing to participate in an Insider article. This article would consist of answers to burning questions from our forum users that would get answered by us, with the help of Firaxis. Our very own Civrules answered the questions and Firaxis' Barry Caudill filled in the gaps.
Note from Civrules: Some questions may not have been answered mostly because they were duplicates, or you could find the answer from another question which has been answered already. Only one or two questions had to be deleted from this article. Overall, I think you’ll get a good impression of what is headed your way. :) Special note: When I received the article back from Barry, I updated it and I was surprised myself at the progress the game had made from Beta to final. Then again, I have to admit, I shouldn’t have been surprised!
Q: I think I somewhere that there are hurricanes in the game. Can you confirm that? And if they are in the game how strong are they and how big? Can you lose control over the ship when you are inside one and can your ship be destroyed?
A: I think this is misleading information. In the videos and screenshots, the storms you see are the ones you get. They can be pretty nasty, especially if you are on harder levels. The winds are very strong, lightning will damage your sails, and so forth. Definitely storms to watch out for. Even, sometimes when sailing close to shore, it is not a good idea to get caught in one, because like you said, you will loose control and your ship might go in nearby reefs and get hull damages, costing you hard earned money.
Even though storms are deadly dangerous sometimes, they can also be exploited. Like what has been mentioned before in other previews, if you sail close to the storm, you might pick up some wind, and that will give your ship a little boost.
On the harder levels, it is more difficult to sail east as the winds usually blow much harder. Using a zigzag tactic will help you sail faster eastward, even though at the end you will have passed more distance. You will also notice that sometimes your ship just will not go east (if directly facing the wind).
Just as the winds are stronger on higher levels, also are the storms. Of course, that is not the only thing that makes the game more difficult as you progress higher up.
Q: Does the number of men you take into a battle (in particular, a swordfight) affect the outcome of the battle, or does it all rely on your skills. For example can you take 20 men into a swordfight against 150 and win if you are a good swordsman?
A: This is a good question that depends on a lot of factors in the game, including age, morale, and difficulty, and yes, crew number. On the easier levels, if you are quick, but still outnumbered by a good amount, you have a good chance of taking the ship. On levels that are moderately difficult, you must indeed consider number of crew versus what you’ve got. If on these levels the enemy outnumbers you by ~25 or so, you still have a good chance; but not if you are old and your reflexes are slow (this is in the very, very late stages of the game!). Then, things almost cancel out, so your crew number, even if it is more than the enemy may get beaten, because you are old, slow and morale is low. Again, slow reflexes appear at the very late stages of the game.
On the third hardest level, I think it’s safe to say that you will lose if you have 20 men versus 150. What I mean by harder levels, is levels above what you can play and win at easily.
Civ's note: When I played on the second hardest level, Journeyman, I found it very easy to take over ships even when you are much outnumbered. The easiest ships to catch, naturally, are non-military ships. And of course, for each non-military ship, there are different captains, some of which will be easier to beat, and some of which will be a little bit better at fighting you. Even though it was on the second hardest level, I sometimes found it difficult to gain enough ground and beat the enemy captain. Note that even though military ship captains are better equipped, it does not mean that they are better at fighting you than some other pirates who are not that well equipped.
Q: How easy do you get promoted by the governor? can you affect this in options? In mods?
A: Sometimes it can be frustrating to come back to the governor without being promoted. This is because you are not doing enough to affect him. If that ever happens, you have to go out and plunder, plunder, plunder yourself to promotion and fame. Again, you will not be able to change this in Mods.
Getting promoted faster will allow you to progress faster in the game. This is all linked to your skill at the game. If you set clear goals to do what the governor asks you to do (basically to be his puppet), he’ll promote you more often, which will give you benefits such as getting crew easier at that nation’s ports and other benefits. If you stray off from what he wishes you to do, promotions might come, but not until you please him with something. You will not be able to change this in mods.
Q: Is Panama still the strongest and wealthiest city in the game?
A: Panama is still one of the most powerful cities in the Caribbean, yes. The merchants will only deal with sailors who are reputable and ones they can rely on based on their actions in the past. They will not deal with you if you continue to plunder that nation’s shipping. This, of course, goes with other high-ranking cities.
Panama is also very important for the reason being that there is basically a chain of ships from the city to the northern cities. If you break, or interrupt the chain, eventually you might earn yourself a hefty amount of goods and other riches.
A game I played near that location kept me quite busy. Even though Panama has this “chain” to the northern cities, basically all of the southern cities (which are on the continent of South America) have their own ship routes to the northern cities, and operating near one of the larger southern cities is a good idea.
Again, the game I played was in one such region. It was pretty fast paced, as I kept plundering the plentiful Spanish Galleons there. After I left the region alone, I headed up north with my ship, and all the gold I had plundered. Earning gold from a rich area of ships, and then using it in another area, is an extremely smart idea.
With this game, you can apply a variety of different strategies, my strategy was just one of which will help you reach your full potential as a pirate.
Q: How many difficulty levels are there?
A: There are five difficulty levels: Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, Rogue, and Swashbuckler!.
Before anyone starts playing the game for the first time, I really recommend they play at least one game on the easiest level (Apprentice). This will not only give you a feel of the game, but will teach you a lot of things that you might not be aware of on higher levels. This is mostly due to the fact that it is almost like a tutorial. You will see pop-ups (and no, they are not annoying) that will give you helpful tips. This level is pirate friendly. Play it first. However, when you install, you will only be able to play apprentice first. When you divide plunder, or when you start your second game, then you can move up.
For me, at least, Adventurer level appeals to me the most, as above it, the game really gets more difficult, considerably. The weather is tougher, the AI is tougher, cities are tougher, and all these will combine into one to make it more difficult for you to reach that desired “#1.”
Q: There was still no official word about it but which Pirates Version is now included in the LE? The C-64 version
or the Pirates Gold version?
A: The Pirates! Gold version will be included in the Limited Edition pack both in Europe, and in the USA.
I have the feeling that most players who pre-ordered the Limited Edition will be pleased because of this. A lot of players think that the Pirates! Gold version was better than ones before it.
Q: In the original Pirates! it happened quite often that cities hidden their gold after you attacked them. Is that still in the game?
A: That was just an arbitrary event. This time around, the more guts you have to go to battle, or the more massive the victory, the more your gold goes up.
This is now really the case. In this game, you cannot be a wimp! Take a chance, that’s what real pirates did. You’d be surprised how this will affect your overall success.
Q: What customizations (such as ability to sail under your own flag design) are there in the game?
A: The game contains a ton of customizations. The game will let you modify in-game textures, characters, and ships. The best part is that if you want a female pirate character, you can have the option to add her in. The designers understand that a fan can have just as much fun customizing his or her game as playing it. This still lives on in the current Pirates!.
I’m one of those people that love to customize the game. I’ve got the feeling that indeed I’ll have just as much fun customizing the game as playing it. As the game is so customizable, I can see a lot of people in our community altering the game so they like it better, and so it fits their playing style. Even though the game itself can be altered, so can playing styles. The developers also let you play exactly how you want to play, as well as change any graphics, or mechanical aspects of it.
Q: Are there still different time periods in the game?
A: Of course. The time periods are: 1600 - Merchants & Smugglers, 1620 - New Colonists, 1640 - War for Profit, 1660 - Buccaneer Heroes, and 1680 - Pirate's Sunset.
The earliest time periods have a lot less cities and you can get the feeling that you have to sail a lot longer to get to certain places.
Prices of goods and basically everything else is affected by the era you choose to play in. Here, in different eras, you really have to have a flexible strategy approach for trading, especially.
Like I’ve said, in one single game, you can have a lot of strategies which you think might be most beneficial to you. But you also have to change these strategies as you change time periods (and difficulty levels).
Q: Are there any new cities or just the ones we know from the original game?
A: The game is historically accurate, so in different time periods, there will be different cities and different amounts of them, and all which existed back in the golden age of piracy.
Another aspect that I should add in is that there are also lost cities, which if you find, you get tremendous rewards. There are only a few of them, so finding one will be difficult. You might get help from a partial map, just as in treasure hunting.
So far, I had never found a lost city, but I hear that if you do, rewards can double, triple, or even quadruple the gold you already have. This kind of boost in gold, can certainly help you get a higher rank, if you use it correctly. After you get this heavy amount of gold, rest assured that you will not be in any financial troubles for some time to come, unless, of course, another pirate takes that wonderful opportunity from you.
Buying special items, upgrading, improving, and buying goods will be a breeze.
Q: Will the types of ships in the game depend on the time periods, remembering that the ships in 16th and 17th centuries differed from each other? (i.e. they developed from ships with high fore and back castles to somewhat sleeker types).
A: Your starting ship may change depending on the era you choose, but if other aspects of the game permit, you may see all ships in one era.
Of course, you do see much of the ships you see later on, but some are difficult to get, and difficult to find. This is one of the great parts of the game – setting goals for yourself that are hard to accomplish, and when you accomplish them (capturing a rare ship) you do feel good, and the game you are playing becomes that much more valuable.
Q: Will the steering equipment of the ships be visible from close range and are they period sensitive? Remembering here that 16th- and 17th-century ships were generally steered by way of a whip staff, not a wheel.
A: You will definitely see how your ship operates, how the sails move in reaction to the wind and so forth. You will also be able to see the various improvements your ship has in your Fleet Status. This will also be visible at close range. An example is that when battling another ship, if you have copper plating, and you make a sharp turn, you will see the color and the reflection of the copper on your ship. There you will also see how much – if any – damage your ship has sustained during previous battles. A note to keep in mind is that object detail must be at its highest at that time, and naturally, your game may slow down if you don’t have a good video card or a fast enough CPU.
Again, it is details like these that make the game so good in the department of graphics. It is pretty great to see details such as these. They not only make the game more lively, but they also make it look how it should look, detailed, and 21 century. Quite an improvement over the last Pirates!.
Q: How does saving a game work? Can you still save at any point in the game?
A: Saving is incredibly easy and it literally takes a second. You can save at any time while you are sailing. If you are in town, or in a duel, you cannot save obviously. The game automatically saves right before you enter or sneak into cities, attack them, go in ship battles, or sword duels. This is a very convenient feature to have. Another feature is “Quick Save/Load” button.
For the first time I started up the game, I was very surprised at how fast everything gets set up for you. You will not be waiting for anything when you load up the game.
This is still one of my favorite things about this game. It’s something little, but yet, if it was something different, it would not be as good, and as functional.
Q: How about clothing styles? The long captain's jacket (visible in some screenshots) was a late development and should thus not appear in the earlier periods.
A: Eras do not affect clothing styles. However one thing to keep in mind is that not all styles are abundant. Some are rarer to find, and more expensive.
Even though eras do not affect this, like I said, there is some truth that different clothing styles are harder to find. This is to make the player explore around the Caribbean more and to find these rare clothes.
Q: What are the Ship Upgrades and how do they affect your ship?
A: There’s a wealth of different ship upgrades to choose from (but not all at one port!).
Copper Plating: This affects the ship’s turning speed, making for tighter turns than usual.
Cotton Sails: Combined with Copper Plating, this will make a noticeable difference in the ship’s speed.
Triple Hammocks: If you are overcrowded, but still want more crew, this is something you should definitely consider, as it increases your crew number significantly.
Bronze Cannons: This affects your accuracy. Without this upgrade, when you take shots, you’ll see how some cannonballs fly off target and crisscross with the accurate shots.
Fine Grain Powder: This mostly affects the range. Again, with Bronze Cannon, this makes your ship more efficient as your shots will be on target most of the time.
Iron Scantlings: This protects your ship from incoming cannon shots, it protects your hull.
Chain Shot: I love this one; with a powerful ship and a few shots, the enemy ship’s sails are down just like that! This lowers their speed to zero and they are quite literally sitting ducks.
Grape Shot: If you’ve destroyed the enemy ship’s sails with the Chain Shot, but you are worried that they still have quite a bit of crew, you can lower the crew number significantly with Grape Shot.
There is not a single upgrade up there I do not love. These are essential to your victory, or even benefit when fighting another ship. I’ll just give you an example. If you do not have grape shot, for example, you may be forced to use regular round shot or chain shot to try to reduce the crew number (no where close to how affectively grape shot does it). While you reduce the crew number slowly, you also damage the ship much, much more. Eventually, you might accidentally sink it… Sinking a Treasure Ship accidentally just because you do not have grape shot, is not something I would wish – it’d be a bad day for me, if I did that (which I have).
Q: Sloop of War (fully upgraded): What are the stats?
A: The Sloop Of War, fully upgraded, is indeed a lethal small ship. It is perfect for plundering merchant ships and even some war ships out there.
Maximum Number of Guns: 16
Maximum Crew Number: 100
Maximum Speed: Rated Fast
Turn Rate: Rated Tight
Another thing I like to do when I play is to get my hands on one of these fine vessels. Even when I have a larger ship, I love to keep a balance between a Brig of War and a Sloop of War. Having a smaller ship like this will let you be more flexible in your battles. You would not always want to go to battle with your biggest ship, against a smaller, faster one. Going to battle with this ship, against another small ship is a clever idea. This is definitely one of my favorite ships in the game.
Q: What are all the ship types?
A: There are 27 ship types in the game. Here is a list of them:
Sloop, Sloop of War, Royal Sloop, Pinnace, Trade Galleon, Treasure Galleon, Fast Galleon, Flag Galleon, Royal Galleon, War Galleon, Barque, Costal Barque, Ocean Barque, East Indiaman, West Indiaman, Brig, Brig of War, Brigantine, Frigate, Large Frigate, Ship of The Line, Fluyt, Large Fluyt, Merchantman, Large Merchantman, War Canoe, and the Mail Runner.
Even though you might think that, for example, the Frigate and the Large Frigate are the same ship, they are not. There is a big difference between every ship in the game, no matter if it is a Sloop, or Sloop of War. Do not confuse yourself in thinking that if the partial name is the same, the two ships are the same.
Personally, I’ve developed an extreme like for the Brigantine, Brig, and the Brig of War. These ships are simply awesome. They pack a lot of firepower, they are fast, and they can even beat more powerful ships, with their agility.
Even with all the positive things about them, I still find them most charming. They apply to me quite well. I’m sure most people will agree to me when they get the chance to get their hands on one of these great ships.
Did well this time
Watch me fry this dude
See!? Dude's on fire