It’s one of those weird weeks where everyone else seems to be playing and blogging about a game that I have yet to touch (Diablo III), and it makes me feel like there’s this party that I’ve been avoiding. It’s probably for the best right now, as Blizzard’s super-smart move to make a single-player game always online has resulted in a clusterbomb of errors and unplayability. It’s not THEIR fault, mind you; it’s probably something your own sins coming back to haunt you.
I’m not in any rush to get D3 (maybe today once my check clears), as I’ve got loads on my plate: SWTOR leveling, a new LOTRO patch to explore, Planescape: Torment, tons of projects, etc. But one newly announced upcoming MMO’s captured my attention, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why it’s not getting more buzz on the blogosphere. I’m talking about KingsIsle’s Pirate101, the companion MMO to their hit Wizard101.
When you think about it, pirates have not really succeeded in MMOs. Oh, sure, practically every game’s got a famous pirate NPC or a pirate section or a pirate faction or a pirate costume, but that’s mostly just for geek flavor. When it comes to full-blown piratey MMOs, the results are much worse. Probably the most famous is Pirates of the Burning Sea followed… perhaps… by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, but those are niche titles at best — and the remaining games are smaller than those. You’d think that one of the grand points on the holy geek star (Pirates/Ninjas/Cyborgs/Zombies/Firefly) would be a shoo-in for a huge MMO with a built-in audience of fans, but it has yet to happen.
Could Pirate101 tap into this largely unexplored territory? Considering just how big Wizard101 got even while being a primarily kid-centric game that wasn’t based on any established IP, I’d put good odds on KingsIsle knowing what they’re doing. I got really excited when I heard the announcement, because it makes sense. It’s a more cartoony take on pirates, it looks to embrace all the fun piratey themes that made games like the Secret of Monkey Island so enjoyable, and it’s going to build off of the lessons learned from Wizard101.
Massively posted a nice interview with KingsIsle about Pirate101 yesterday, and it’s very much worth a read. Probably the most interesting element to me (other than having the ships being flying ships) is that KingsIsle is replacing the card combat of Wizard101 with a companion/board game system this time around. You collect pirate companions instead of cards and then deploy them in combat against foes.
It’s also notable that Pirate101 is taking place in the same game universe as Wizard101, so there’s some potential for crossovers and continuity. Pirate101 is supposed to come out this year, and I’m definitely going to be checking it out when it does. Could this be the first pirate MMO to hit the big time? If nothing else, it’s going to be huge with kids who love swashbucklers just as much as wizards.