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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. valzabrat / Mar 6 2014 11:47 am

    Very fascinating. Great article. Hmm…..I love seeing the great close ups and different angles of the same moves depending on which way you are facing. It make the same fight never look the same. When farming it really helps that the fights always look new and fun. I like being able to see what powers the enemy has quickly so I can then plan my moves in the time allowed. I knew a lot of work went into this but I really had NO idea. Thank you for all the hard work you have put into this great game and for all the hard work that is currently going on, for I know this game never lets your “In” basket ever get empty. Well done guys. Just brilliant. Every award is well deserved and I hope many more will go on your shelves. 😀

  2. Fair Ashley Holystone / Mar 6 2014 12:39 pm

    Oh, may. Now I definitely see the work you put in! You already added music, own characters and the story seemed rising just by looking at the slashes and blasts. I could’ve started imagining how it would begin, continue and maybe end.
    Fantastic, KI. Really.

  3. Tiffany / Mar 6 2014 12:55 pm

    I’ll *+1* the magnificent Chrissy’s post. I have to say that I’ve tried other MMO games before and never lasted long. There always seemed to be a lot of disorienting chaos and things moved so quickly I was left floundering and feeling like I was a liability to anyone whose side I was fighting on. I stumbled into playing Pirate101 and I have never, ever had a game draw me in like this one has. I just love everything about it (maybe with the exception of not being able to gift away items already in our inventory although I understand the reasoning behind that) and the strategy side of battling is a big, big part of that. Amazing job creating a game that EVERYONE can play and thoroughly enjoy.

  4. Lily / Mar 6 2014 3:02 pm

    COOLIO! i think that NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE knew that.thx p101!

  5. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 3:17 pm

    What I love most about Pirate101 combat is that it reminds me of a chessboard, so I have to have strategy and place my character and my companions in the right spots. Another part is how it changes shape according to the terrain, ranging from short and wide to long and narrow and also vice versa.

  6. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 3:38 pm

    My self and others would like to see (mark this spot), you have us going all over the place and have to come back to the guy that stared the quest. It takes forever to get back to that guy. You have it in wizard101 it should be easy to put it in the game. If you have progammer’s that know there stuff.
    Thank you for two great games

    • Joshua Schwab / Mar 6 2014 10:32 pm

      I also agree! Especially since in Pirate101 you have to usually ride on your ship (Which takes forever) to travel.

    • Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 4:13 pm

      I agree with both of you! I can’t stand when I finish a quest in, say, Floatsom, and I have to go all the way back to Avery’s Court, just to go back to Floatsom.

  7. Dylan / Mar 6 2014 4:18 pm

    this is quite fascinating to watch the prosses happen

  8. Musketeer Danielle / Mar 6 2014 4:21 pm

    I love everything about the combat! I know how hard it is to make that stuff happen because I play over fifty games but none of them are as Pirate101! And I didn’t put my email because I’m on my old computer, I’ve never comented on my computer before, and the laptop I comented with on has the email but I can’t find out what one I put because my laptop died on Tuesday. While I was playing Pirate101. I lost tons of games, info, and sites because of that. I won’t stop playing Pirate101, though. PIRATE101 RULES!!!!

    • Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 4:55 pm

      I love combat

  9. jenna / Mar 6 2014 4:43 pm

    I like how the battles are there less confusing if I’m reading this right I really not that change in p101

  10. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 4:44 pm

    I like the powers best.

  11. Zenobia / Mar 6 2014 5:01 pm

    I love the animations and character of all our crew and the enemies. Sometimes they make me laugh out loud (like with Catbeard’s attacks). There is so much personality in them all!

  12. Shmeps / Mar 6 2014 5:27 pm

    in regards to pvp, I like pirate101 because it is more fair, and people can’t yet get too overpowered. In w101, very low levels can beat higher levels because of gear and tc, but in p101 you can’t do that, higher levels can only compete with higher levels.

  13. Fishthief / Mar 6 2014 5:31 pm

    i love commanding my companions i’m a privateer, a born leader in both life and the game. i sometimes just for the fun of it yell out a command like “Formations!” or something just as idiotic or crazy

    • Brave Charger / Mar 8 2014 1:14 pm

      I do the same! It’s fun to be able to tactically lead a battle and still be a pirate.

  14. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 5:38 pm

    Amazing too see the work that was put in too make pirate101

  15. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 5:38 pm

    My favorite part of combat… is WINNING!

    • Nichita Siri / Mar 6 2014 6:36 pm

      Me too Lol

    • Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 6:36 pm

      me too i also like how you can battle against or with your friends.

  16. Serious Isaiah Chamberlain) / Mar 6 2014 6:00 pm

    Pirate101 is pretty much like actual life so pretty much the goal in combat is succeeding. But its really just a game and its made to play and have fun, so the goal isn’t to win. I think the goal is to just have fun and enjoy the game. Its the same exact way for wizard101 and its really fun to be able to communicate with other players. So I think we just have to enjoy the game and do our very best in it. I thought it was boring at first because I didn’t know how to communicate with other players. But when I figured out I could type that’s when the fun sprouted. I am now a level 65 buccaneer and I officially LOVE this game. Thank you for allowing me to comment on this, Kingsisle!

  17. Swashbuckler Me / Mar 6 2014 8:31 pm

    I love the part when there is epic or super hits. It looks awesome with any weapon, not just swords.

  18. Anonymous / Mar 6 2014 9:39 pm

    my favorite part of combat is… broad side combat because you get nautical xp for you,r ship and the skull island ships give me 1 nautical xp. what a rip! the ophidian ships gives me the 200s or the 300s. ka-bom!

  19. Joshua Schwab / Mar 6 2014 10:28 pm

    I really enjoy selecting my companions to attack, the battle music, and the animations.

  20. romantic grace silver ( desiree ) / Mar 7 2014 8:37 am

    I love the combats in p101 especially the close ups and sound effects and that pets can fight right along with you. p101 you rule 😀

  21. Jeremy Sheridan / Mar 7 2014 8:43 am

    My favorite part for pirate101 combat is where no powers fizzle because i didn’t like when powers fizzle on Wizard101.

  22. luis raul r / Mar 7 2014 2:41 pm

    i like how the game changed, like first you could not do broadside, that is weird, i hope the next update will permit you to go inside your ship, and you can put furniture inside and outside the ship, but overall the game is almost good.

  23. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 2:43 pm

    my favorite part about combating is shooting the gun and fireballs that come out of the gun

  24. IAC2003 (Serious Isaiah Chamberlain) / Mar 7 2014 3:15 pm

    this game is perfect.

  25. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 3:17 pm

    THIS BATTLE MOTION IS THE BEST I WOULD GIVE IT A 10000000000/100000000000

  26. jesus46ft / Mar 7 2014 3:24 pm

    i love just winning every fight

  27. Dommy :) / Mar 7 2014 4:23 pm

    I love this game so much! Speaking of battle system, I hate how Milo Graytail has a circus background! Please change that. Other than that, kudos to you guys! I love you for this game. 🙂 But I kinda hate you too! (aka: addicted) Bye guys!

  28. si1verwing / Mar 7 2014 4:37 pm

    My favourite part of combat is the critical hits. The fancy attacks, flashing blades, slow-motion, and music is just awesome.

    ~Mary “the Sarcastic” Silver

  29. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 4:46 pm

    This is all very interesting thx for showing us KI

    • ethan / Mar 8 2014 10:57 am

      i think the combat is awsome. I like it alot better than wizard 101 combat.

  30. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 5:24 pm

    I like when your crossing your fingers for an epic hit because the enemy has like 450 health left and then your turn comes and your like “Yes!!!!” and it’s all awesome.

  31. ndddddddd / Mar 7 2014 6:03 pm

    My favorite about combat is fighting I love fighting games like pirate101,minecraft,wizard101, and lots of other games but what I don’t like about pirate101 fights is that they take so long I flee.

  32. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 7:02 pm


  33. Anonymous / Mar 7 2014 7:07 pm

    I’m not crazy about combat, I want to put my pets in the yard or the water, grow flowers & fix houses up, I want to paint my furniture & want more furniture that does stuff…sorry I’m a tired old pirate who likes to putter around my house….or I’d like to decorate my ship that would be cool

  34. Brianna Higgins / Mar 7 2014 7:34 pm

    It feels so GOOD TO WIN! 🙂

  35. Mage1524 / Mar 7 2014 10:31 pm

    My favorite part of combat is trying to figure out what the enemy is going to do next. Placing traps is very engaging to see if I can predict their movements. **However, sometimes I still have a problem with overlapping moves in the same spot as another player and I am stuck doing nothing for a turn. Also the hold the line talent shouldn’t prevent a unit from attacking if they intended on attacking a different target. The target that stops the companion from moving past it should be attacked instead.

  36. Anonymous / Mar 8 2014 5:49 am

    I like the first one the second on I didn’t the first one has best graphics and is easier to handle

  37. Lily / Mar 8 2014 6:54 am

    GUYS! I must ask you… what is the part about Pirate101 that you like most? Mine is Combat!

  38. Anonymous / Mar 8 2014 7:07 am

    Hi Kings Isle,

    My strongest pirate is Shy Chelsea Kid. She is a level 30 musketeer. That is all I wanted to say.

  39. Steven K. Mariner / Mar 8 2014 8:27 am

    The question was what do we like best about the P101 combat system — I’d have to say the flexibility. If you didn’t model it after D&D 4E I’d be surprised. Very nicely done. Tactical implications, ability to use terrain as a combat feature — very nice. Of course, improvement doesn’t generally come from knowing what’s good about a system, so this question is of minor value. 🙂 Still, nice work.

  40. Anonymous / Mar 8 2014 9:21 am

    i like when when you kock out the enemy

  41. Tireless Jack Jones / Mar 8 2014 12:25 pm

    Hmm… it would be interesting if we kept the old enemy description in which the portrait would be showed with the stats. We have a form of it but its not as interesting as the old statistics.

  42. ally jemstone age 12 and a half / Mar 8 2014 12:39 pm

    my favorite part is when they show them selves attacking the bad guy,Thanks KI!!!!

  43. Esmee NightBlood / Mar 8 2014 1:57 pm

    What I love about combat is that you have partterns at your side which helps kill faster

  44. Anonymous / Mar 8 2014 2:41 pm

    Pirate101 is the best game yet. Everything to hte combat and energinering its just awesome.

  45. Lynn English / Mar 8 2014 4:40 pm

    I like the fact that combat positioning is fluid, rather than static (as in Wizard). I enjoy being able to see the combat as it takes place – I like the 2D effect. The only thing I would like to see in combat is an ability to request someone not join a battle. Too many times I have been in a battle – almost to the end of it – and someone joins. I end up “dying” and not getting the quest item the battle was supposed to give me!

  46. chris / Mar 8 2014 6:19 pm

    I think pirate 101 combat is great i like the way that combat music matches up with companions from the same world as the music for example duck holiday and coopers roost music

  47. chris / Mar 8 2014 6:22 pm

    Oh i hope you guys will add a little more time for combat planing.

  48. Anonymous / Mar 8 2014 6:56 pm

    Thank you kingisle! That was very interesting, and it’s nice to have a better understanding of my favorite online MMO!

  49. Fiery Charles Thatcher / Mar 8 2014 6:58 pm

    i like knowing stuff like dis itz so cool! :)>


  1. RunicPortal » Pirate101 explains the making of its combat system

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