Friday, March 30, 2007

Puzzle Pirates!

Last week was a harrowing one: thousands of final exam papers waiting to be checked, lots of attendance notes to collate, and a non-existent grade record to build. In short, it's the end of a grading term for me, which means it's one of the few times I actually work. Not that I'm thankful, I'd rather really avoid working as much as I can and just wallow in...hedonism.

Anyway, with tons of work to do, I naturally started looking around the net for stuff to occupy my time. Penny Arcade once again showed me the way: a discussion about Puzzle Quest led to them dropping the link to Puzzle Pirates in one of their news posts. Which I promptly clicked.

Puzzle Pirates is a multiplayer puzzle game, all centered around the theme of pirating. Players create their own beginning pirate, and then wander around in a persistent world, doing piratey stuff. It's basically just like an MMORPG, you get an avatar, which you can dress up in piratey gear (Ahr!), and you can interact with the other players: talking, trading, and fighting with them.

In this game, piratey stuff is accomplished by performing various puzzles: for swordfighting (an important piratey skill, useful for fighting duels as well as fighting with your own crew members during a ship grapple), there's a falling block-type of game where blocks can be eliminated by a sword of the same color. As you eliminate more blocks, attacks are dealt to the opponent's own board in the form of grey blocks, blocks that cannot be eliminated until about 2 turns have passed, in which case they turn into random colored blocks. A pirate gets knocked out when he booches it; that is, his entire board is filled, and there's no more space for falling blocks.

Different puzzles represent working on the bilge pumps (those pumping out water from the hold of a ship), sailing (my favorite; determines how fast your ship goes), carpentry (for patching up holes on the ship's hull during a voyage), and even gunnery (operating the four-cannon ensemble common on most ships).

What's more interesting is that you can become a member of the crew of a real player-run ship, with a Captain in command, calling the shots, a Navigator, several Sailors to fill the ship's sail with wind, Bilge Pumpers, Gunners....and this whole shipload of pirate players gets to sail all over, looking for plunder and pillaging!

My character, Lenard (Sage Server), started out just knowing how to sail (probably the easiest puzzle to pick up), and was content with that as long as he gets paid his cut of the booty. Sure, sometimes, when the Captain grapples with the other ship, he had to let go fo the sails and draw his foil, wading into a battle royale with the crew of the other ship. But that's just icing on the cake. Ahr.