These reports are notes from the MMO Anthropology livestream on Friday and Saturday night. Pirates of the Burning Seas is an MMO pirate game by FlyingLabs software and involves swashbuckling and some sailing; and Minecraft is a well-known creative sandbox virtual world.
Pirates of the Burning Seas, 2013 August 2nd After Action Report
I went into Pirates of the Burning Seas with my co-hosts, Nelson Williams and Arienne Keith. As is proper we all rolled pirates on the Antigua server and together, ran through the tutorial. As a game, we altogether moved through the tutorial pretty well learning how to fight on the deck and how to captain ships on the high seas. We’re pirates after all.
Nelson and Arienne decided that we would run with fancy hats so I went with a flared purple tricorn and Arienne wore a tophat. The tutorial was solo so it doesn’t reveal much about team play or how the community of the game might come together, so we moved quickly onto the mainland which was a sort of Pitcairn Island pirate hideaway replete with cheek-and-jowl shanty houses, dirt streets, the (virtual) smell of salty air, and the call of seagulls.
It took us a little while to get into the first quests of the game because we spent so much time exploring the town itself. Not a very large map, but filled with all sorts of interesting details including a thumping, burbling brewery connected to a bar. A seagull standing on a dead man’s chest (maybe he was asleep.) Even a random pirate NPC who appears to be eternally toting around a woman in a fireman’s carry…
We saw a few other players in the town but the population seemed rather minimal, there might have been a bit of phasing, but the game has apparently lost a bit of its popularity recently. Other pirates seemed interesting enough and many had Russian names written in Cyrillic letters—no doubt there’s a bit of a Russian population in the game.
We discovered quickly that during quests dialogue options can be superseded by teammates. The bloodthirsty pirate she is, Arienne interrupted some dialogue we were having while investigating a “mysterious artifact” to choose an option apparently labeled “shoot him in the face.” Since, while I was reading the quest-text, her character up and shot an interloper in the face. Needless to say, this action precipitated some mayhem.
Not a bad start.
We went on to sail the high seas together and used our combined knowledge of sailing to waylay other pirates right outside the port. Arienne and I are poorly trained on piracy simulators, but Nelson is an expert at waylaying unsuspecting boats on open water and he put gunpowder and steel to good work against the pirates. In the end, with teamwork, determination, and no small amount of hilarity we managed to scuttle on the order of nine vessels. Not a bad day’s work.
Although we tried to chat with other pirates, very few responded to us. Sadly the night was to take a dreadful turn.
The next step of the story quest turned out to be a solo mission. Each of us ended up in our own solo instance with an NPC ship, flew our banners high, and were required to use pirate cunning, back steel, and barbed wit to kill three skips all on our own. While I managed to send the scurvy knaves to Davey Jone’s—Arienne and Nelson found themselves obliterated (although it sounds in an unexpected single shot in both cases.)
To keep up with them, and because solo in an MMO is anathema to all that we hold dear, I quit the mission prematurely even after finishing all the objectives to join them.
We ended the night amidst the jaunty tunes of the pirate port, talked about our experience, and the interesting mixture of gameplay elements. PoTBS has both the swordplay fighting and the seamanship to its name. It’s a fitting pirate game although it may do better if players were able to keep their parties together throughout.
Minecraft Saturday, 2013 August 6th After Action Report
Due to recent dental surgery, and my talking too much during the previous stream, I spent less time speaking and more time listening. The group rezzed into the Minecraft world where we left off with the lodge at the top of a narrow chasm, and we began to look at the world from there. With us came rkou1 (TJ), Kazz5000000001 (Kazz), ArienneKeith, Omnicynic (Nelson Williams), JChristFollower (Jay), TheKingOfAllPie, bm1_ (HV4C), as well as Cynicman,
During the call a few new people joined us including 241s (241)—who spoke with a confabulated accent for most of the call and traded wit with Nelson—and one of his friends who had a Chewbacca avatar.
Instead of building much, I went around checking on other people to see what they were working on. During the stream HV4C showed off his underground workings that incorporated some of the chasm itself that included a room designed to be a forest, containing a cow, sheep, and pig. As well as a waterfall.
TJ and Kazz went out into the desert prominence right next to the island and made a deep hole in the ground (quite wide, its dimensions are unknown to me but a diameter of at least 20 blocks.) Originally named the “Strippler Hole” due to who made it, and it eventually came to receive a glass ceiling so that people would not fall into it.
As the night wore on, the participants spoke about their week and what games they’d played as well as interests in general. Nelson also had begun building a tower with extending platforms cropping up starting at the higher floors that extended like wings and contained grass-covered dirt. It became a target for flaming arrow barrages by playful Creative mode players (to no deleterious effect as flaming arrows cannot hurt buildings or players.)
Near the end of the night TheKingOfAllPie revealed some of his megastructure work. Work that he’d been able to do on the server without the assistance of Creative mode. The first megastructure was an extremely large, finely built, wheel at around 100 blocks up and perhaps 100 blocks wide. While the center of the flat disk was empty, five blocks of the edge were filled as well as four spokes at 90 degrees (following the compass directions.)
He also took members of the server into The End—the space of the Minecraft server where the Ender Dragon was fought and defeated—to show off a megastructure best called a “contraption” that was designed to farm Endermen (an NPC foe that spawns in The End.) The structure was built off the primary land mass of The End so that Endermen would be forced to spawn in it. To reach the megastructure, we had to walk down a long corridor overflowing with water and only 2 blocks high—this design prevented Endermen from entering (as they’re 3 blocks high) and since they’re damaged by water, they would be forced to teleport away.
The megastructure itself was an ever-rising series of stone rectangles with a hollow center (which will be explained below) that went almost to the full block height of The End. The upper tiers were 3 blocks apart to allow Endermen to spawn on them, but also covered with water causing them to teleport elsewhere. Teleporting therefore would cause them to teleport onto pressure plates that would trigger a piston and shove the Enderman into the center, causing them to fall. One section of the rectangles contained vines along the sides so that the falling Endermen would slow and resume falling at a very particular height, this height would cause them to hit the bottom (or killing chamber) with only ½ heart.
A redstone-powered piston system in the killing chamber could allow the floor to recede just far enough to kill Endermen on impact; or raise the floor enough that they could be slaughtered with a single punch or swing of the sword.
In this way, TheKingOfAllPie constructed what Nelson dubbed “a genocide machine,” that could net TheKingOfAllPie almost infinite experience (used for enchanting items in the Minecraft virtual world) and Ender pearls (an item used for various items).