A Message from Fodderboy, Operations Manager at PotBS

We would like to start by expressing our sincere wishes that everyone and their families are doing well in the global COVID-19 virus pandemic. We hope everyone is following safe practices and doing their best to help protect others by following the instructions provided by their local health care officials. For most of us that means staying home -- and during that time, we hope that PotBS will provide an opportunity to pass some time catching up with old friends and reacquainting themselves with a game that is undergoing a number of long-awaited changes. These times can be trying, but we hope that with the company of good friends and fellow brethren of the Burning Sea, we can fend off cabin fever by trading a few broadsides and enjoying a few small gifts that we are preparing to distribute to add to the fun.

Beginning May 10, 2020 we will start distributing a gift to each account that logs in each day!

This will continue each day until May 17th, 2020. Each day’s gift will be awarded based on the level of the first character to log on from the account each day during the gift period. Gifts are divided into leveling characters (levels 1-49) and non-leveling characters (level 50). The character you log in with first will determine which of the two types of gifts the account receives. These gifts cannot be traded, but they can be saved for use at a later date, when it is most convenient for you to play. Let’s all be safe, think of the safety of others and have some fun on the Burning Sea until this storm blows over. Happy sailing!

A few words about this and future Dev Blogs

DevBlogs are not Patch Notes. DevBlogs are much higher level and conceptual, while patch notes are extremely detailed lists of the exact changes that will be appearing in upcoming builds. A DevBlog is crow’s nest view (if you will) of our general course at that particular moment, which is updated and adjusted with each future DevBlog that is released. DevBlogs are also not Newsletters. DevBlogs are produced when and as needed, rather than on a schedule. We hope that changes will be coming quickly enough that DevBlogs will be published more frequently than Newsletters, but it is not our intention to put them out on a scheduled basis. DevBlogs will be published when we have enough information for one, and feel it is the right time to produce one.

To begin, let’s review where we are now, so it can lead into where we are going next.

Vision assumed operation of PotBS from Portalus Games. Server hardware was upgraded dramatically. Several third-party services were removed and replaced by internal Vision resources. Marketing testing was done with valuable data gathered. Social media presence has increased. Newsletters are once again being sent. We now have an official Discord Server and also still maintain our game forums. An engineer has been assigned to the game and has been updating the game’s source code and libraries while improving the internal infrastructure of the game and readying both a new Server Build, a Game Client and a new Launcher. A new user dashboard was created on the burningsea.com web site. New customer support and feedback systems were built into the site. A new password reset system was set up. The old, geographically-limited PayPal system was changed to allow Captains from all over the world to purchase BSN. We announced there will be a Legacy server started and that we plan to continue development for the Antigua and Roberts servers as our destinations and little more. Until now, the ship has been slowly drifting in the right direction as we have been getting our final preparations in order to set sails and start launching our new builds.

I’m happy to say that day is just about upon us. The preparation steps we outlined, resolving our launcher issues and restoring the build and deployment processes are nearly complete. In the month of May, we plan to release the new 2.17 build to replace the current Test Server build. If all goes as we hope, the 2.17 build could finish testing and move to the Antigua and Roberts servers as early as the end of June or the first week of July.

The publishing of the 2.17 Test Server will mark a milestone in the progress toward the launching of the Legacy Server, in that we will now have the new launcher needed to deploy the Legacy Server. We will move into a stage of selecting the specific build for server start and likely by the next DevBlog we will be able to specifically state which build it will be and when it will be available.

I know there are many players anxiously awaiting the Legacy server, and I want to assure those players the Legacy server is a high priority for us. I anticipate that when the launcher work has been completed, the pace toward the Legacy’s launch will quicken.

I do hope that changes that will start occurring with the Antigua and Roberts servers during the wait will at the very least make things a bit more interesting.

For those not waiting for the Legacy server, the two most common questions being asked are:

 What is the future of Antigua and Roberts?

○ Where is the game going?

Many Captains want to know so they can decide where they invest their game time. Are they more attracted to what the Legacy server will offer, or in what Antigua and Roberts will evolve into? I will try to answer these questions below as clearly and concisely as I can.

The Legacy server represents a “safe harbor” for the players who have the deepest affection for the game as it used to be, along with the classic mechanics (whatever version they preferred) that the original designers intended for the game.

The Legacy Server is a critical component of the plan moving forward in that it represents a port of call for those who may not prefer the changes that will be made to Antigua and Roberts.

It is also important because it allows us to approach the sort of changes we feel are necessary to promote growth of the game, in a far more radical way than we would find possible if we were maintaining only one code base. It allows for a greater divergence in mechanics while maintaining a similarity in concept true to the game’s origins.

At the highest level, the course forward for Antigua and Roberts is one of mechanic and system overhauls and redesigns. The servers will become more PvE friendly. We are going to begin decoupling the mixed system of conquest where PvE and PvP players are both trying to compete together, refashioning it into one of PvE competing with PvE and PvP with PvP.

There will also need to be dramatic reductions in game items as the game has gone beyond a point where adding more of the same is not going to do any further good. We need to clear out some old debris, streamline and consolidate – and, most importantly – we need to improve our performance with new players at the earliest levels of the game, well before PvP is even an option for them.

We need to make the learning curve less steep. We need to introduce some concepts of the game to new players at later levels, instead of front-loading them with so much to learn all at the very beginning.

We need better tutorials that are more engaging and educating. We have a lot of changes to make, and a lot of work to do.

I’m certain what I just wrote has some PvP players concerned, but I would remind them that we do intend to maintain PvP on Antigua and Roberts. We’re just going to make things so those that only want to PvE can do so without it having a negative impact on PvP (such as situations where PvE dictates PvP conditions).

I’ll give a brief teaser here of something in development I think exemplifies this. We will be adding (in the not too distant future) a new flag called a “PvP Cargo” flag. This flag is something that can be assigned to any type of cargo. A ship that is hauling this cargo is required to have the PvP flag on.

This means that hauling this cargo makes that ship not only vulnerable in red zones… rather, it becomes vulnerable for the entire trip, adding a wider range to PvP hunting activities on the open sea. It also allows us to address the issue using current PvP immunities to move certain cargoes through red zones and giving us more latitude to improve the experience around red zones for players who prefer other non-PvP aspects of the game.

Our early Vision builds moving forward will focus on the tasks of beginning to start clearing items from the game that either haven’t worked properly, are not really effective, are obsolete, defunct or non-functional, fixing whatever bugs we can and beginning to put in the earliest pieces of the changes we intend to make. I can’t go too far ahead in details, as we maintain a flexible plan moving forward that has to swerve course to match ongoing challenges of any given day. There is a general plan that actually projects out several years ahead, but there are so many what-ifs involved with that future, that the details of that plan will have to wait until they are more solidified before being revealed.

One particular area of focus in our reduction plans that we want to get started into motion is starting to reduce the overall number of ships available in game.

There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that it will help with ship distinction. When there are too many ships (especially of a similar class), the variations between them are not as apparent to new players, and the ships begin to feel almost identical. The second is we will have a Legacy server -- there is a desire to bring back some of these older ships (especially those from the subscription era of the game) to the server they were created for.

The Legacy server by default gets a dramatic reduction in available ship types, as no ships added after the SOE era will be present in the Legacy build. The reduction of ships on Antigua and Roberts will be a slower process, as we will move through the standard progression of retirement by recipe removal and withdrawing of some offerings currently available in Treasure Aisle.

As this is going on, we will begin restructuring some of the ships within their classes to accommodate the fact that certain ships will in the future only exist in player inventories, as well as to fit our future plans regarding ship changes.

I do want to give players some advance notice that the restructuring changes we have planned affect all ships, including the premium ones.

At the center of these changes are those that involve the Concorde. Currently, the Concorde is a “fulcrum” in the ship hierarchy, one that is rather inflexible -- in part because it is a ship that should never have existed. Its inclusion in the game was by popular request, and at a time when revenue to sustain the game was badly needed by Portalus. The request was for an 18 lb cannon ship with frigate-like qualities -- something that never actually existed in the golden age of piracy, and something that would always blur the line between what constitutes a line ship and what does not.

Although the Concorde has become popular, I think we are reaching the time where we need to bring an end to the Concorde era and put a final limit on their number in game.

The ship will always be special and valuable as there is no intention to change its place in the ship hierarchy. I’m sure some will always remain out there, in various Captains’ inventories, but their days of dominance will come to an end when there are eventually no replacements for any that are lost at sea.

As I am aware there are players still in the middle of trying to finish their constructions of ships in work, we will continue to allow a bit more time to produce these ships, but I want to sound a warning here and now that by Vision’s second build (likely in July), we will be removing the ability to construct Concordes, along with the removal of several other (currently obsolete) ships from Treasure Aisle.

There will likely be removals of one form or another in each build moving forward. Because we do not have a dedicated testing department and we desire to move new builds to the servers as rapidly as we can, we are going to have to adopt a build strategy of small numbers of changes coming across frequent build releases.

My personal target here is one build per month, possibly more, depending on needs for bug fixes and the types of changes being made. With this rapid of a release schedule, I hope players will understand that at times the Build Patch notes accompanying each release may seem light. This is intentional, as we are trying to keep ourselves in a position to react quickly as possible to any potential issues that may not be detected in our internal testing or in the time the build is live on the Test Server. We will only put out as much work per build as we feel we can address potential issues in before continuing on to the next.

I hope this overview gives players some idea as to where we are heading in general. We can now begin to dig into the planned upcoming builds and the changes they contain.

Build 2.17

The two primary features of the 2.17 build are the new launcher and Visual Studio 2019 libraries. We do not want to load this particular build up with too many changes or items to test, as the two primary features already have many things to test. The builds released to the Test Server will come in two stages. The initial release will contain the two primaries and some content changes. The second release will add additional content changes for final testing before we move the approved build to the Live Servers. If this all goes well, there will only be 7-10 days between 2.17 v1 and v2, with a short period of about the same length of time before we go live.

Build 2.17 features include:

-        New PotBS Game Launcher

The first is our new launcher. With the BitRaider launcher moving further out of date and throwing alarming messages, it was becoming increasingly necessary for us to move to a launcher that we would have total control over and could customize to suit PotBS needs, especially as we are moving to maintaining two code bases across the current servers and the Legacy server.

The new launcher will be available in the next few days for all players to download the 2.17 Test server.

We hope everyone will give the new launcher a try and provide feedback regarding its performance. Without a dedicated testing team, we very much need to rely on player feedback to determine if we are getting the performance we expect from the new launcher. Keep in mind that different build versions must live in their own directories. So if you try doing any type of custom install and don’t want to overwrite a particular version of the game you want to maintain access to, use a different directory.

-        Updated Game Libraries

The second primary feature is all the game libraries have been updated from decade-old compiling to the latest version of Visual Studio. This was a major change, as recompiling often broke the old libraries and required extensive, additional work to bring up to date. From early testing it appears the new libraries offer greater stability, improved connectivity, greater speeds in places and very importantly the updating of the libraries corrected some fundamental flaws in the original code design. While this feature of the 2.17 is for the most part invisible, we would love to hear feedback from players who take the time to try out the 2.17 test server when it is available and let us know if they see a significant improvement in their game experience.

-        NPC Auction House Agent Changes

Up to the 2.17 build, NPC Auction Agents have operated with both unlimited supply and unlimited demand. This will be coming to an end with the 2.17 build. With the 2.17 build, NPC Auction Agents will begin working with both limited supply and limited demand. Using a new system created for this purpose, NPC auction prices will begin to fluctuate in a manner that is independent of builds for changes. The changes are initially set to be evaluated at specific intervals that will shift to be somewhat less predictable and will be sensitive to the status of the port they are located in as well as adjacent ports and the overall status of a nation in RvR scoring. This system will be watched closely as moving away from a world of unlimited supply and demand has the potential to dramatically affect economic production. As time moves on and players begin to adapt, the system will become increasingly more sensitive to what is going on in-game (RvR-wise).

-        Unrest Supplies Removal

We are going to be removing the recipes for creating Unrest Supplies and the ability to turn them in to the Garrison Commander/Rebel Agent from the game in the 2.17 build. Marks will still be able to be used in the manner they currently can. This is in part a move we planned to do all along as part of the decoupling of PvE and PvP in the current game. Current RvR population levels make these items in conjunction with high account number usage very disruptive to the game and given the high levels of customer service complaints regarding them, we decided to accelerate our plans and remove them with 2.17. Remaining Unrest Supplies can be liquidated at the Junk Dealer/Fence in the 2.17 build as they will have no further use in the game (except for the Legacy server which they are still part of).

-        Governor Cost Increases

We are going to be raising the costs of being a Governor and maintaining port infrastructure dramatically. The exact figures are still being finalized but they could be in the range of as much as a tenfold increase (or more) for some governor features. This change is in part an adjustment to the amount of doubloons built up on the servers and the fact that several ports actually have consistent issues with their treasuries literally overflowing.

-        Vulcan and Eagle Changes

As the number of Concordes on the Open Sea will gradually diminish with every ship that is sunk, the Vulcan and the Eagle are going to receive some minor improvements to help them better fill the void created by the loss of the Concorde. We want a clear distinction drawn between line ships and everything else. The updated Vulcan and Eagle will help show where that line lays.

-        Fall Back Changes

New players in general are finding the game difficult and we think something that might help them along is to improve the guns on the starting fallback ships. As this is a back half release to the 2.17 server, the details have not yet been completely finalized. Details will be presented in the patch notes, but in general we want all starting fallback to carry at least six (6) guns and we will evaluate the poundage of those guns in order to give new players better survivability as they are first learning the game’s ship mechanics.

-        Other Removals

For the most part, the rest of the removals in build 2.17 are those loot items such as books with recipes that are no longer valid, as well as some lower-end outfittings that generally never see use. These items will be detailed in the Patch Notes to be released with each 2.17 release. 

-        Bug Fixes

Any specific bugs fixed will appear in the second half of the 2.17 build’s release. Some bug fixes will actually be deployed in the first build, however we cannot disclose information about them in advance as they are of an exploitive nature. We’ll release the full list of what is supposed to be fixed in the second release so there will be adequate time to react to feedback regarding them prior to moving the 2.17 build to the Live Servers.

That’s the 2.17 build at glance, with more details to come. The next DevBlog will likely be regarding the second build from Vision (sometime toward mid to later July) or the Legacy server, depending on which appears more ready first.

-- Brian "Fodderboy" Taney, Vision Online Games