Update 12/23/04 It appears that the Puzzle Pirates game system is not affiliated with Yahoo! at all. The system is a product of Three Rings Design, Inc.
I’ve always been a fan of Yahoo! Games. They’ve kept to the spirit of the net, and most (not all, but most) of their games are still Java based, and therefore run just about anywhere.
I noticed a new project they had put out called Puzzle Pirates, and decided to give it a go. It’s sort of a cross between Everquest, Popcap games, and Legos.
First and foremost, let’s get one thing out of the way. This is not a ‘game’
per se. You don’t go and ‘play a game of puzzle pirates’. This is really a scaled down Mmorpg (Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game). It has many elements of an Mmorpg, such as a character Avatar that can change looks and clothing to match whatever you like, a financial structure that, for such a simple environment, is quite complex, an inventory structure (you can buy or sell goods), and a long, detailed method for advancing your characters skills and abilities.
The Mmorpg portion of the system is just a way to sort of raison d’etre for the games. Yahoo restyled many of the classic puzzle games into a form that would fit with the ‘pirate’ environment. The games are now a part of the ‘world’. A duel between 2 characters is played out in the game, which may be ‘swordfighting’ (an extension on the concepts used in JT’s Blocks and Toki Toki Boom. Think head to head tetris) or various other games.
The games can be wagered upon, and a duel can result in you gaining or losing money. The money can go toward just about anything – by default it goes into your local bank (which charges an outrageous 15% interest! Robbery! :). Generally folks look to getting new clothing first. Your avatar in the game looks like one of those small plastic Lego characters (no doubt on purpose by the game designers. The game, though richly detailed and well thought up, is very careful to keep all elements of it light hearted).
As you play games, you advance your personal skills, and gain you more benefits. The more swordfighting you do, the better your ranking, and you can enter tournaments. These skills also come in handy when you decide to take part in a crew on a ship.
A ship captain can invite you into the crew, where you set sail and do various tasks on the ship to make it a more effective fighting vessel. The tasks are, naturally, puzzles, such as Carpentry (fit the puzzle pieces into wooden holes in the decking), Bilge pumping (the easiest game – very similar to Bejeweled), and gunnery (a difficult game, I never quite mastered it). As you participate as a member of the crew, your captain can direct to what needs to be done. Carpentry repairs the ship and makes it faster and less prone to damage. Sailing makes it faster. Gunnery makes it’s cannon fire more effective. Eventually the ships come together and there’s some good ole fashioned swashbuckling, which takes place, as you might imagine, in the ‘Swordfighting’ game. It’s your crew against he other ship’s crew, and the last one left standing wins.
Economy and advancement
As a member of the crew, you’re also entitled to the spoils! Money in the game is “Pieces of Eight” (or, as in-game parlance has it, ‘PoE’), as well as trading goods and cargo. The ship owner can use the cargo in port to buy and sell and make more money. Of course, if you lose your fight, your ship gets plundered, and your profits go down. A successful ship requires good teamwork, leadership, and skills of the crew (on my few fights, crewcounts were between 15 and 35 people – as the swashbuckling fights dropped down to the last 5-8 folks, others who were all watching the fight would cheer on the players in the chat window. A lot of fun).
I’ve only explored the surface of this part of the game – there’s references to entire business, trade, and commerce within the system that I haven’t even touched upon. People have their own stores for goods and services (custom made clothing, anyone?), as well as the normal trade of goods between the islands. Besides, what good is a pirate game without commerce to prey upon? 🙂
The game is very well written, completely in Java. What attracted me was the main page that offers downloads for Windows, Mac, or Linux. The game runs quite well on my litle Linux laptop (PIII-800), but a little more horsepower probably wouldn’t hurt it. The folks at Yahoo also put in an automatic update mechanism for downloading new versions (my last invocation automatically updated itself without any interaction on my part)
As someone who has never played MMORPGs before, studiously avoiding what I see as the truly life-sucking nature of them, this was a new experience in meshing gameplaying with socializing and true multi-player over-the-net interaction (not just blasting away at a random Quake character). I was pleased I didn’t have to compromise on anything because I was running under Linux. The system just plain worked, and worked well.
And now, I’m off to crew again, to try and get enough PoE to buy myself a new outfit. These lackey rags just won’t do ‘tall!