Summary: Pirates of the Burning Sea promises to be upon us in a few months and JCal has the latest on this innovative and unique MMO straight from the parrot's mouth!
FiringSquad: First, how did the deal come about for Sony Online to handle distribution of the game? Did Sony approach you or was it the other way around?
Russell Williams: Weirdly enough, it was a third party that brought us together. Akella is a studio in Russia who makes a lot of sailing games and they modeled many of our early ships for us. They also publish EverQuest II over there and they’re on good terms with SOE. We made a deal with Akella for them to publish Pirates of the Burning Sea in Russia and while we were talking, they ended up bringing us and SOE together. That was actually a year and a half ago and a lot of time passed before we were ready to talk seriously about a deal, but we kept in touch and gave them a demo now and then, just as we were doing with other interested publishers. As time went on, SOE got more and more excited about working with us and we felt the same way.
FiringSquad: How much will having Sony Online handing the marketing and distribution of Pirates of the Burning Sea free up Flying Lab to handle other aspects of the game?
Russell Williams: It mostly means we can keep doing what we’re already doing, which is what we’re good at: making a great game. If we had self-published, we would have had to quickly develop a lot of expertise and find a lot of partners to help us with marketing and distribution. This way, we stay focused.
FiringSquad: There is some worry that the game might end up in Sony Online's hands similar to what happened with Sigil Games and Vanguard. It was mentioned that you guys have a lot of funding behind you but don't you also need the game to have a solid subscriber base in order to keep the game going?
Russell Williams: Game studios need money to operate – typically, millions of dollars. Fifty people working on a software project rack up a lot of paychecks every month. This money usually comes from game publishers, who advance the studio their operating costs on a regular schedule in exchange for satisfactory, demonstrable progress on the game. Then when the game ships, the studio is out of money – their royalties are devoted to paying back the publisher and not to keeping the doors open and the next project financed. This is why you see a lot of news stories every year about a studio shipping a game and then going out of business.
Russell Williams: No and yes. No, in that we’re not putting big new features in. With the latest beta build, we have our vision of what we wanted to launch with, and we get to spend the rest of our time polishing it. But yes, in that there are relatively small features that you’d think of as polish that will be going in. When we do one of our development sprints, we reserve a percentage of that time for new features requested by the beta testers. These are usually one to two day tasks, and we prioritize them and add them in as we have time.
FiringSquad: When can we expect the game's open beta to launch and what will the beta contain in comparison to the full game?
Russell Williams: Open beta will launch very close to the release of the game, and it will be the full game minus some last bug fixes and polishing. This month, however, we’re inviting 10,000 new beta testers into the game to give us a big jolt of fresh blood and really start pounding on large-scale game systems like the economy and port conquest.
FiringSquad: By the time the game launches, Windows Vista would have been launched for at least several months. Are there any plans to add DirectX10 features to the game at some point?
Russell Williams: Nope. DirectX 10 is fantastic, and we could do a lot with it, but it only reaches a relatively small number of users right now.
FiringSquad: When can we expect the game to launch? Will it be before the end of the year?
Russell Williams: Yes.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Pirates of the Burning Sea?
Russell Williams: Flying Lab is an independent studio and that’s always a hard road. We’ve been diligent throughout this entire process, and our fans have been a big part of our success. The game is looking and playing great, and we are on track for a very strong release. When you buy the Pirates of the Burning Sea box at your local game store and bring it home, you’re going to get exactly what we wanted to give you. We can’t wait to see what you think!
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