While we are still working on finishing up the transition of Pirates of the Burning Sea, Vision Online Games wanted to provide the community with an update regarding their current plans for Pirates of the Burning Sea and their progress. The following is a message from the CEO of Vision Online Games. Additional updates, messages or information will be provided when available.
From the Desk of Darrell Benvenuto, CEO of Vision:
Re: Pirates of the Burning Sea, February Status Update
I have been involved with this project for quite a few years now, not only leading the team overseeing the back-end Vision infrastructure that underlays the game from an executive and supervisory level, but also at times working directly with members of the Portalus Development team, with my own hands directly in the servers, to help implement various improvements, recoveries and changes over time.
As was mentioned in the last update, Vision's initial efforts at the end of 2018 centered on modernizing the game's underlying infrastructure, increasing the number of CPUs in the Servers, their speeds, reliability, etc. I was closely involved in this effort, and oversaw every minute of the transition.
After the transition was complete and the game was running smoothly, a series of Design, Staffing and Marketing Strategy meetings took place internally within Vision and together with Portalus. These talks covered a wide range of wrap-up tasks, immediate next-steps and mid-term / long-term plans.
While discussing the needs and wants of the players moving forward, a key item was a long-standing division dating back to the early post-Sony days of the game (and the changes that followed). One of the recommendations put forth by Portalus to resolve it was that a Legacy Server be created, which would allow the portion of the player population that prefer the classic Sony-era game to indulge their preferences in full, while those who prefer the current game style would be able to continue playing it unimpeded.
After talking it over with the team, I agreed that Vision would work to create a Legacy Server, which would allow us to provide both styles of play.
Once that matter had been decided, talks moved on to the steps necessary to make it happen. The engineering logistics of implementing the Legacy Server are going to be significant; aside from creating two development tracks, the classic game's code will require fairly extensive updates to function in the current environment. The Engineering Staff for the game already have a significant list of fixes to tackle on the current game before they can even begin to turn their attention to the Legacy Server project. As a result, players should not expect work to begin on it immediately, but rather after quite a few other things have been gotten out of the way.
Thus, the Legacy Server officially became the new "Step 5" in Vision's plan:
Advertise the Burning Sea across Social Media
Increase the number of Daily Players
Add more Staff to the Live Operations Team
Overhaul and Stabilize the Current Game
Prepare and Launch the Legacy Server
Visually improve the Game over time
As to Step 6, members of Vision's Engineering and Art teams (who had examined the game to offer suggestions, but are not currently assigned to the project) had offered the possibility of adding a number of visual improvements to the game; better shaders, fog banks, dynamic weather (including storms), cloud effects, day/night cycles, rain/smoke/particle systems, more realistic wave effects, more realistic islands, towns, forts, plants, shores and dock areas, higher polygon-count and higher-texture characters, volumetric lighting, cloth physics and other effects. While these sounded very interesting to everyone present, naturally they would have to happen as part of a carefully thought-out plan, over time.
Visual improvements of this nature are part of Step 6, and are expected to become the core of our long-term, ongoing improvements to the game. Another reason this would come in Step 6 is that any such changes would necessarily be carefully planned out and implemented by a dedicated team of Designers, Artists, Animators and Engineers that are more or less permanently assigned to the game -- and who would be attached only after successfully iterating a few times through Steps 3 & 4, building the player population of the game up to a level that can sustain them.
As player satisfaction is the entire purpose behind any such visual improvements, I mentioned that any such new visual features should be optional -- that anyone who wanted to continue to play the game as it looks now should be able to continue to do so by going into Graphic Options and selecting the original shaders , then disabling each of the new visual features.
The topic of meetings then turned to Staffing. As the player population has been steadily growing in the wake of the transition to Vision (and as the upcoming Marketing push is expected to grow it further still), customer support requests have been increasing. It was decided that the first new Team Member to be added to the project will be a GM, providing additional Player Support.
Beyond that initial new team member, it was agreed that Brian Taney (who had been a part of the project since its early days at Flying Lab Software) would be transitioning from Portalus to Vision, to initially oversee Player Support and Community Management. Brian has been central to the entire transition to date -- indeed, it could not have happened without him. He is expected to continue to act as a strong pillar supporting the game as he eventually transitions to Head of the Live Operations team at Vision.
The Marketing group is currently in the process of determining what channels various marketing campaigns will be rolled out promoting the game, to help rebuild the player population back up to a sustainable level. It is anticipated that campaigns will be run across Facebook, Google, Tumblr, YouTube and Instagram, becoming steadily more focused on the channels that produce the best results in terms of new-players-per-month.
These Campaigns are expected to be a mix of still images, video footage, animated GIFs, and Influencer promotion (at later stages). As the precise dates for each of these campaigns are locked down, they will be announced to the players ahead of time, along with sneak peeks at some of the ads and content.
Various options of enlisting the players' support for these campaigns have been discussed, including contests for the best screenshots, most amazing video footage and more. We want to show new players what makes this game so amazing -- and who best to do that but its most ardent fans? As any such contest plans are finalized, they'll each be announced as well.
Talks are still underway, as are staffing efforts and other initiatives surrounding this title. There is a large amount of effort that takes place behind the scenes to support and sustain the live operations of any MMO. The Burning Sea is no different in this regard, but its dedicated players are expected to make all the difference in helping it succeed in the years to come.
I look forward to speaking with you again in future updates!
Darrell Benvenuto, CEO
Vision Online Games