Portalus Games

Amazing Online Experiences

Portalus Games, founded in 2012, is an online games developer.

Click here to sign up and play Pirates of the Burning Sea!

Items, Stacks, and Volume

Hey there captains of the Burning Seas…

I’d like to address one of the biggest concerns that we've received from players in response to the 2.15 Economic Expansion update that we've just released -- the new limits on stack sizes for most items in the game.

How We Got Here

In essence what we've tried to do with this change is add a new dimension to the cargo and inventory aspect of the game. While previously we've had just the weight component, a critical factor in any naval voyage, the design has largely punted on the volume component.

Stacks have always been a sort of quasi-volume mechanic, but the implementation (every stack is exactly the same volume regardless of what or how much it contains!) resulted in the need to provide stack limits that more or less threw the question of cargo volume overboard.

This is how we arrived at a situation where you could build a warehouse for 200 doubloons that could hold up to 2,500,000 oak logs in it. Even with an economy scaled to the in-game production needs of players (versus a slavish adherence to real-world numbers), that’s clearly beyond any notion of the space that an oak log would take up.

What We’re Trying To Do

What Fodderboy attempted to do with the new stack limits in 2.15 is bring back that notion of volume, to add that dimension to the calculations needed for cargo hauling and storage. I fully agree with his intent, and I think that it ultimately will create for a deeper experience in the economic aspects of the game.

However, I failed in my job of providing him the necessary tools to do so properly. Since he’s not a programmer, he needs to work within the confines of what the game code already provides, and that is the stack system. In my capacity as lead programmer for the game I said that it would not be worth the additional work needed to properly support cargo volumes.

I should have seen earlier that attempting to recreate the concept of cargo volume using the existing stack mechanic would never work properly. Instead I allowed this change to be released in a half-formed way that clearly is to the benefit of no one, and does not reflect our vision for what the game should be.

How We’ll Fix It

Given the scenario we’re in, it’s clear to me now that we need to implement volume as a property of individual units of cargo. There’s no way for us to deliver on the goals of the Economic Expansion without doing so.

As such, this is going to be my top priority for our next major update. I don’t know how long it will be until that update is released, however the need for this change is critical enough that I’m comfortable moving our other plans back to ensure that we get this out in a timely fashion (nothing like how 2.15 went).

There are a few pieces to this plan that we’re considering to ensure that it is received by you all as fully formed:

  • Every cargo item in the game will have a volume defined per unit. We may avoid this for “personal” items (e.g. avatar equipment) as that stuff largely exists in its own “space”. Basically we’ll only add volume to containers where we currently track weight, and to warehouses.

  • The total volume used within a given container will be the sum of the volumes of every unit of cargo in the container -- stacks will be purely for organizational / interface purposes. This also means that we’ll basically be treating all items as liquids, able to make maximally efficient use of the container volume. It’s easier for us, it’s easier for you.

  • Every ship will have its own cargo volume defined, as opposed to all ships having the same (currently invisible) maximum number of stacks.

  • Warehouses, including society warehouses, will have a volume that is defined and can be upgraded on a per-warehouse basis.

The warehouse aspect of things is still the least well defined, as we want to ensure there are reasonable limits on how much warehouse space can be maintained. This likely means that we’ll be implementing some kind of maintenance fee that scales with the amount of warehouse space you have in a given port.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the one-time exponential warehouse build cost, as it drives players to create extra characters to use as warehouse mules, because its the most economical option (or in the current design, the only option once you've reached your 250 stack limit for a given port).

Once again, I apologize for my decision to let this aspect of 2.15 be released as a half-measure to what we’re looking to create. I hope that you’ll be patient with us as we work to correct that decision, and I especially hope that you’ll be willing to participate our process for determining what the volume numbers should be on all the various items, ships, and warehouses!


To that end, I welcome any feedback you have regarding the implementation of volumes in the cargo system both here in the comments and over email via feedback@portalusgames.com.

I’d especially love to start a dialog with anyone who is heavily invested in the economic portion of the game, be it as a small-scale single manufacturer, a medium-scale producer for your friends and society mates, or as one of those economic titans wrangling dozens of accounts to make things work under the current system (you know who you are)!

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may you have fair winds and following seas in all your adventures throughout the Caribbean!