Whatever happened to Pirates of the Burning Sea, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Puzzle Pirates?

    
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Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.

Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately? That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing!

In this special pirate edition of the column, we’ll be visiting the fates ‘n’ fortunes of Pirates of the Burning Sea, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Puzzle Pirates. Yo ho!

Pirates of the Burning Sea

Sure, it might well be one of those MMOs that you keep forgetting exists — and yet it does, and it endures as well.

Flying Lab Software developed and launched this game back in 2008, giving players a chance to play an EVE Online-like experience during the age of sail. Pirates of the Burning Sea was taken under the wing of Sony Online Entertainment for several years as part of its widespread library of MMOs. Despite the hefty publisher at its back, the game gradually slid into a very niche position, with only two of the original seven servers active by 2010.

SOE dropped the game in 2012, which some thought would be an instant death sentence. Instead, the team formed Portalus Games and took over both the operation and development of PotBS from 2013 forward. A major “Economic Expansion” push took place during 2014 to beef up that aspect of the game.

The good news is that the game is still very much up and running if you’re looking for an in-depth sandbox and an array of ships and nations. The not-so-great news is that the title looks to be more or less in maintenance mode, with very little being done other than routine maintenance and the occasional Talk Like a Pirate Day promotion. The last patch of any size was back in June 2016 that included a change to the Pieces of Eight exchange, labor values on recipes, and treasure aisle structures.

Still, 10 years of live operation is nothing at which to sneeze, and the interest in the newer pirate games coming out this year might spill over to Burning Sea as players look at what else is out there.

Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Disney’s MMORPGs have not had the best longevity in the genre. While the Mouse House was eager to jump on board the genre with games like ToonTown Online and Club Penguin, it’s scooted back out of the massively multiplayer space with almost the same speed.

And so it was with Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Created to capitalize on the immensely popular Johnny Depp films (not to mention the Disney theme park ride itself), the MMO launched in October 2007 and was promptly ignored by everyone who was not (a) seven years old or (b) a die-hard fan of the movies. Seriously, just about nobody remembers that this game ever existed, even back when it was running.

It didn’t help that aside from its IP, Caribbean Online offered very little new or interesting content that gamers hadn’t experienced elsewhere. The free-to-play title offered a shallow MMO that was aimed at the younger set who wanted to recreate the movies. It rowed about in shark-infested waters for a few years before Disney finally pulled the plug in 2013.

There were enough fans to spawn a couple of emulators, however. Both Pirates Online: Retribution and The Legend of Pirates Online took the piracy theme to heart by altering the game’s code and offering it to a community reluctant to surrender.

The brand name also survived. Last year, Disney authorized Korean studio Joycity to develop and release an MMORTS called Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War. Obviously, it is only related to the MMO in its name and online functionality, but it does indicate that Disney continues to be on the lookout of how to market this brand.

Puzzle Pirates

The bizarre blend of Fisher Price visuals, pirate themes, multiplayer, and puzzles resulted in the endearing Yahoo! Puzzle Pirates. Launched in 2003, this browser-based MMO endured on the strength of its unusual premise and fans’ loyalty.

Development and ownership of Puzzle Pirates was taken over by Three Rings Design back in 2011, the same year that the title made the jump to Steam as a free-to-play game. There even was an iPad version for a brief window in 2013 and 2014, although this was discontinued. The game’s former developers banded together to form Grey Havens and took over Puzzle Pirates’ operation (as well as Spiral Knights) in 2016.

Last September, the devs created and launched a new type of server called Dark Seas. This was meant to offer more of a PvP-focused experience with new maps and a dangerous atmosphere. Other than that, Puzzle Pirates continues to sail under the flag of holiday events and occasional promotions.

Curious about the game’s history? Check out our Game Archaeologist retrospective on Puzzle Pirates!

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costanius

I enjoyed Pirates of the Burning Sea back in 2008. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the game many players and beta-testers wanted.

If You like to play an awesome Age-of-Sail-MMO today I can recommend “Naval Action”.
It has many features PotBS has! Like a player-run economy, port battles, player-run nations fighting each-other and much more!
Naval Action is the place to be today if You like a 18th century sailing ship MMO and miss PotBS! You find it on steam!

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I played Pirates of the Caribbean Online. There were actually numerous things I liked about it but there was a mass shutdown of Disney’s MMORPGs not long before they released Disney Infinity. I firmly believe they wanted to push the players of those titles to play Infinity instead, but maybe the player base was lower than I had any clue about.

Yes, it was mainly a kids game, but being that I was in the target age group at the time that worked great for me :D I do remember it had some interesting stuff but also I was so young and it feels so long ago now that it’s hard to recall. It could be that it mostly felt interesting because of my age as well.

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Oleg Chebeneev

I remember being hyped about PoTBS but when I started playing it didnt hook me. I hope one day there will be a game that will give me the same feeling I had when played Sea Legends in 90s

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Nemui Byakko

PotBS is a good game, but real “EVE during the age of sail” is, of course, Uncharted Waters Online. It also has a lot more content than EVE (and interesting historical and geographical content to that), and is more complex.

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Nemui Byakko

Very serious. UWO is very good game, with very rich and varied gameplay, regular gig updates (right now steamships enter the game), helpful playerbase. Of course, it has dated graphics, but a) it is interesting – for example, every city looks like other of its kind (Greek cities have common style etc) but also has something unique (some famous building etc). And sea looks great, with different weathers, storms etc; b) after several weeks of playing you will mostly forget about graphics anyway – gameplay is what is important. Well, I like UWO very much and can continue on and on )

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Oleg Chebeneev

There was a kid in our class who was good at football for his age. He played for our school team and some thoughts he might represent our town’s team. But was he better then Christiano Ronaldo, Pele or other world class superstars? Of course not.

Comparing the complexity of UWO with complexity of EVE is like comparing that kid to Pele

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Nemui Byakko

Well, let’s see, what is “complex”? I think there are at least 2 aspects: 1) complexity of the game itself and 2) complexity of what players do with that game.
In second sense EVE is really most complex MMO in the world. Its politics, player relationships, manipulations, scheming etc are unparallel. UWO in its current state nor any other fame can’t compete with it.
But in the first sense EVE, mechanics- and content wise is not very complex game. Just some degree of abstraction and numbers everywhere in the interface made it the image of something very complex. In fact, ship fitting, combat, crafting are very simple and much simpler than for example in FFXIV. Content is very limited (and can’t be big without well-developed PvE). It is not bad – EVE is great suited for its main attraction: struggle between human players. Just imagine EVE as single-player game! Who will play it? :)
UWO has years and years of content, it is very important attraction here. It is a sandpark, after all. But that doesn’t make it “the best” game, of course. For most people, as we see, it is not what they want.

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possum440 .

Pirates of the burning sea was ok when it first started waaaay back when. Sadly the devs kept screwing up the huge battles and not reimbursing people for lost ships due to bugged combat and exit mechanics.

For instance, prior to the large scale engagement you had a choice of doors to exit out of and this would put you on your selected part of the map, well time after time the dorrs would randomly drop folks in the battlegroup all over the map, ruing the long planned engagement.

The devs response? “It isnt a big thing and you can work through it”, an exact quote from a dev. They also stated no ship replacements for this bug and just “live with it”

Thats why the game shut down a couple times and now is simply on life support with a tiny ghost subculture that plays it.

Couple this with copied islands lousy melee combat and noooooo content and it isnt hard to see why Burning sea is never mentioned anywhere except on a slow news day.

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Melissa McDonald

Pirates Online (POTC) was a WONDERFUL Game.

Because it gave you all the basic things that your fancy-schmancy games today with hundred million dollar budgets can’t give you.

1) You could crew together on one ship. Scurry around and man different cannons during battles, with either NPCs or PvP ships. The owner of the ship was captain and steered and controlled a main gun battery. The passengers manned the rest of the guns. it was hectic and fun during a battle.
2) obviously then, you could sail together and travel together to distant islands, land there, and experience quests.
3) factions, dueling, economy trappings, appealing avatars
4) a generous F2P game that ran in a window/lower res, subscribe to play full screen/higher res.

It was a true MULTIPLAYER ship/pirate game. I LOVED it. These “fleet” games where you are actually your ship, everyone is a captain, everyone has a ship like POTBS (and Star Trek Online) is just not as social, or as satisfying of an experience.

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Sorenthaz

Well put. Sea of Thieves is like the only sort-of-but-not-really MMO that’s doing this. Assassins Creed, ArcheAge, and Black Desert Online have done similarish too but SoT is the first since PotCO to make an online pirate game in this fashion.

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Nick Martin

I remember Pirates of the Burning Sea… it seemed like such a brilliant idea on paper, but it did nothing at all to grab me. I just found it boring and somewhat tedious.

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Loopy

I was so hyped about PotBS when i first got into it. This was just before SOE took over. I had a ton of fun learning the game, and it seemed like it could be something that i could get into for a long haul. Aaaand then the SONY hack happened, and PotBS alongside other games went offline. This lasted for weeks, and my interested slowly waned. Ultimately, i got into some other games, and the relaunch of PotBS flew under my radar until some months later, after which my interest simply wasn’t around any more.

I tried to get into it recently, but the game’s age is very much showing. Coupled with a very small population, it simply isn’t something i will be picking up.

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Jack Pipsam

PotCO was my baby, what a fun solid game. It wasn’t as BS with the chat restrictions like Toon Town and unlike PotBS you could actually run around on the deck of your own ship!

Great vibes too, loved the art-style and sound-track, some really fun systems in the game too for what really was just a marketing tie-in, a lot of thought went into it. Such a shame Disney just enjoys closing games.

But it was laggy as hell and for some reason the game never accepted a sub outside of America it seemed, so they were just passing down the chance for money from say people like me, which sucked as playing free you really did just hit a wall where you couldn’t progress.
I also remember once they asked for feedback on the game, but specifically asked that only boys give feedback, I don’t know what the deal with that was.

PotBS was interesting for sure. I only really played it when it was an SOE game, back then it had actual updates and the account system actually worked. I think I first played it through the Station Launcher like so many of the SOE titles I tried for the first time then.

I was simply just a bit too young to fully appreciate a lot of the economic heavy systems. Oh I knew how to play them, I could follow the instructions of how to play easily enough, I just kinda got bored with it fast.

I was easily frustrated with say how you couldn’t jump (if I recall), how all the ports looked really cool, but you couldn’t really move around properly, you were super closed in on the ports and couldn’t go off and explore the ports, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

The PVP aspect also meant that one faction (Pirates) just dominated and any player with a dank ship just could grief you easily.
I was stupid enough too play as the Spanish and just never could get anywhere (I feel like maybe it was the smallest faction?), hardly any good ports and all scattered.

Oh and you couldn’t run around on your deck! The missions kinda got a bit boring after a while as well.

An interesting game for sure, but it needed more flexibility for players, at least players like me at the time.
After it left SOE, I haven’t really touched it, I only check the site every few months just to see what’s up and there never is any updates, just server maintenance.

Seriously their site is made in like blogger, I think it’s purely being kept online as a passion project and hey, good on them for doing it.

deekay_000
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deekay_000

ultimately from what i remember when people were talking about potbs alot is that it suffered heavilyh from both faction play andSOE enforcing players to not multifaction. people who had multiple accounts to cross faction were literally told to pick one account and close the rest or risk having them all banned,.

as cross factioning really severely hurt factions in the game.

throw in the usual faction imbalances on top of a dedicated pirate faction that could ffa the rest with impunity and it was a recipe for disaster.

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Jack Pipsam

That feel as a lonely Spanish player in a sea of pirates :'(