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March 6, 2014 / KingsIsle Entertainment

The Evolution of Pirate101 Combat Part II

Last week we introduced you to a few early versions of Pirate101 combat as KingsIsle Lead Software Engineer Josh Tigner explained the steps taken to create the Pirate101 combat system you love today. Today we conclude this look into the journey combat took to become our current version!

Frame the Action
We needed to figure out how to frame combat to the player in a way that was exciting and engaging.  Giving them complete control to swing around the board only caused issues, and we had no way to predict which angle players would be viewing the action.  It would be too unpredictable to build areas or create animations without a clear guide about how they would need to be framed.  This became the primary goal for the next iteration of Pirate101 combat.  The camera became entirely automatic, ensuring that all players would have the same experience, similar to Wizard101.  However, we had to account for issues that weren’t required in our previous title.  Combatants were not in static locations, they were allowed to move around and face any direction.  Projectile timings were not consistent because attack duration would vary depending on the distance from attacker to target.

Once the camera position was locked, it became obvious that selecting units was going to become a problem.  Some units would be off screen, while small ones were unable to be seen behind large ones.  We knew that the only direction we could go was up, so we continued to rotate the camera overhead, hoping to find a “sweet spot” that solved all of our view problems.  We finally found it when we were pointed straight down!

The Good: This was great! The attack sequence was enjoyable to watch and you were able to truly appreciate the care that went into creating the animations and particle effects for each action. We had strict adherence to “The Line,” an invisible axis that prevents viewers from becoming disoriented when the perspective changes too drastically.

The Bad: The combat framing was ideal for watching the action. However, looking directly down at the world caused disorientation and didn’t feel right. You couldn’t easily discern between units that had similar visuals, and there was no easy way to see detailed information about the combat.

Planning goes 2D
We needed a way to present a unified view of the combat, and all the important information that gives players a sense of strategy. The answer was to create the first version of the Combat UI that is in use today. This would allow us to present the most amount of information with a cohesive feel.

The Good: Selecting companions was no longer a problem. Strategy was much easier to set up and perform. It was very easy to have a high level overview of the entire combat. You were able to feel engaged in the action and enjoy watching your army storm onto enemy ships like real Pirates.

The Bad: It needed a lot of polish, but most of our problems had been solved. For the first time, the list of “Good” outnumbered “Bad”!

A Final Note
Once we had completed the Look & Feel of the experience, that’s when the real fun began! We began adding layers onto the system. We added ‘Area Of Effect’ spell types like Radial, Line, and Wall. Next, we added Reflex Talents (First Strike, Riposte, Double Tap) and Auras (Hold The Line, Cheap Shot, Repel Boarders). The addition of “Bullet Time” gave the critical hits a great flair. We are constantly working to generate new ideas for the next power, talent, or strategy. We have some great updates that we have been working on for a few months and we can’t want to show them to you. The community has been instrumental in providing us with information about what you want to do and the types of skills you like to see. So, now it’s your turn. What is your favorite part of combat?

Josh Tigner
Lead Software Engineer


Leave a Comment
  1. Anne Radcliffe / Mar 8 2014 8:32 pm

    I enjoyed the second part of this article very much, as I did the first. As for my favorite part of Pirate101 combat? Hard to pull it apart, as there is so much to like! I very much like being able to use strategy in setting up the battle board; I love how combat has this wonderful cinematic quality, that you feel that you are part of an exciting movie. I love the animations, especially all the critical animations and the responses of the characters (friend and foe) to victory or defeat, whether dramatic or comical. Pirate101 combat works so very well as a whole to make a most satisfying game experience.

  2. Rio Nickerson / Mar 8 2014 9:10 pm

    I love this game! I think it is amazing and I love all the hard work that is being put into this game. My favorite part about combat i the music and the different moves. I am such a fan that I want to work at KI some day!

  3. Isacc Newton / Mar 9 2014 7:07 am

    please leave it like that i love it

    ~ Isacc Newton


  4. Holly / Mar 9 2014 8:21 am

    my favorite part of combat is that swashbucklers are powerful and i have one and with one power attack i always win 🙂 and if you want to friend me my name is holly on pirate101 🙂

  5. Anonymous / Mar 9 2014 8:34 am

    i loooooove pirate101 bought o you by dead eye tyler upton

  6. AluraRB / Mar 9 2014 9:07 am

    Didn’t realize how much time and effort was put into just the combat system! I absolutely love watching an idea unfold and become something spectacular! You guys are amazing!!

    Can’t wait to see more awesome posts like this 😀

  7. Anonymous / Mar 9 2014 10:43 am

    I like the powers and I like the damage I do to take out the enemies fast. But I wish I had crowns to by areas and get new men but my parents would not let me.

  8. Niney321 / Mar 9 2014 11:01 am

    I like the battles between the flying fish and barracudda,thats my awesome combat.i just got there and dont get enough crowns or money,i wonder if the crowns place is awesome

    • abighail / Mar 20 2014 5:10 pm

      it is
      my name is charming Abigail hawkins level 10 i haven’t been to crowns place but i saw videos of it it is amazing

  9. cody ogor bloom / Mar 9 2014 11:31 am

    this is really interesting I think they should create another game based on morganthe

  10. Anonymous / Mar 9 2014 1:07 pm

    i like seeing the like wich doctor and the little like portal things around the guy it looks cool!

  11. Anonymous / Mar 9 2014 6:51 pm

    This was really awesome and the part i like most is the fighting parts its awesome and pretty good :3.

  12. Anonymous / Mar 9 2014 8:36 pm

    I absolutely LOVE the amount of personality you put into these characters, even when they aren’t main storyline ones, such as the swashbuckler cat and the ninja pig, it’s so great to see such attention to detail.

  13. Brave Dante Keeler / Mar 10 2014 1:16 pm

    Witchdoctor Brave Dante Keeler-
    The best part of combat is the super attacks and the criticals.The way it goes in slow motion and the super moves. Its just a cool game.

  14. Anonymous / Apr 9 2014 3:27 pm

    better idea is to make them options on how we want the look to be not the skull and potion and the bar looking like that

  15. pvp girl :D / Oct 14 2014 11:21 pm

    When did this happen 😛

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