Sailing Forward - Ask a Pirate Day: Discussion and Q&A with the Devs

Posted on November 24th, 2020 11:48 PM EST
Ahoy Pathfinders!

There will be no patch this week, so instead we’re delivering some information based on some questions we have collected and seen around the community!

Since we announced the renewed ATLAS journey last Summer, a lot of things have changed in the development cycle, and we are still working on improving our processes and the feedback loop with the community as well. Like in any adventure, some parts of the journey can be rough but as we overcome them, we continue to move forward and build on our experiences. Whether we are making small steps or revisiting old ideas, it is important to remember that we are still sailing forward! Development is very often not linear, and understandably things can get confusing for the community - even for those seasoned Pathfinders who have been sailing the seas of ATLAS since the very beginning. We hope that today’s discussion and some of the answers to your questions will help the community understand our vision for ATLAS and where we are currently at.

ATLAS, in general, is lacking a strong theme. Yes, we are a Pirate game, but it's currently a mishmash of a bunch of different stuff and we are looking to address that post the release of the current feature slate (Trade System, New Ships, and Claim System). Right now the idea we are liking most is something we're calling "Stormpunk" which centers around that idea that there are more resources to capture on the water (like harnessing lightning). We are going to maintain an element of fantasy moving forward, but it may not be so openly Dungeons and Dragons (although we love this game!) or high fantasy feeling. As with all things, everything will remain as we introduce new things, and we will fade things that people lose interest in.

What is the long term plan or overall vision? It'd help explain a lot of these changes if we were also privy to just a rough idea what the long term will look like, because right now it seems things are going a bit backward in regards to accessibility, especially for small groups and solo players.
At the highest level, the goals are as follows:
  1. Get players out on the ocean - there are lots of things we're doing to encourage this but it basically means that we want players spending more time at sea and less time on land. In order to do that we really have to blow out all the things you can do at sea so that they are as fun and interesting as what you do on land.
  2. Make ship-to-ship combat fun. There is so much to this, but we really want PVP interactions on the water to be richly rewarding.
  3. Increase player recuperation. Survival games can be tough and we want to make sure that players can be devastating to one another, but that the losing side player doesn't have to feel like they are starting over each time. We also want to make small companies and lone wolves more viable.
We still have a ways to go before we reach these goals. We know that we are not there yet and that the current state of ATLAS does not reflect what we envision. Most of what we have implemented so far is still in its beginning stages, and are only just setting the foundation for how the gameplay is going to evolve.

Trade System
For instance, one of the main goals of the Trade System is to increase play at the smaller group and solo level. We recognize that right now the system is not very friendly to these players - There's a lot of balance to be done there and a number of missing elements, like the upcoming Tradewinds feature, but we are working on it. Ultimately, when all pieces are in place, we are planning for a system where large companies will actually be incentivized on a different scale for helping small companies and solos.

The Trade System is still in its alpha stage, and as of build 515.17, all Trade Shipments are virtual and locked to a single grid. We are continuously working on Market optimizations as well as bug fixes and server side improvements to bring the system to full functionality. Subsequent patches should see more refinement to the Trade System, opening up more routes and eventually the NPC Trade Ships. Please note that at this stage, we may have to disable and re-enable Trades sometimes to work out and troubleshoot any issues that may potentially arise.

What about the players that do not wish to utilize the market system? Asides from the market, are there any other big gold "earners" in the planning besides maps and whales/sunken treasures?
Although the Trade System is meant to be one of the core pillars of gameplay, our main goal is that "gold comes from the sea". So yes, you'll see some additions and refinements to life on the ocean which should make getting gold easier for non-marketplace participants.

Claim System
We are looking into rebooting the original claim system that allowed players to take over a section of the island. This is done by placing down a claim structure that takes longer to build and is more robust than a claim flag. It may also have its own defenses. Once fully built, it will have to be destroyed for you to lose your claim and everything that goes along with it. We are not completely reverting back to the old claim system, but will be taking the original idea and building off of it. We are currently still testing some ideas.

Ship Systems
Getting a new ship system into the game that can support future expansions does take a bit more time than just putting out a "new" one on the existing system, and we are excited to be getting closer to it!

We teased the first one, the Ramming Ship, a few weeks ago and we have a number of other ideas for these unique and specialized ships, but we don't want to spoil the surprise completely. The important note here is that we are moving from releasing ship parts to releasing complete ships that have special roles in the game and thus begin to grow the strategy of managing a fleet.

All of the upcoming Ships that can be bought with gold will be primitive class and up. Ramshackles will still be available at Freeports for now, but when you buy things with gold they will be good ships. 🙂

In regards to the existing Ship system, can we get tokens as random loot drops from bosses to craft schooners/brigs/galleons please? So there is a route for smaller groups to get boats?
This probably won't happen. Right now we're really happy with how hard it is to get bigger ships. Many players have reported having more fun than ever with "Sloop Wars". Dropping tokens would benefit large companies more and go against what we are trying to do, which is to fundamentally change how ships are currently perceived. Right now, ship progression is linear. Once you can build a Schooner, you never build a Sloop again and so on up the ladder. We are more focussed on giving every ship type a viable role on the ocean and introducing strategy and reasons for each ship type to exist.

On the Horizon
Post integration of the claim system we'll be going back through all the content that is currently in the game and be making quality of life improvement and balance adjustments. We aren't very interested in nerfing things so much as bringing their fun factor way up.

How far out are we from super wind sea-highways that make traveling around the map faster and consolidate content?
We're trying to get it by the end of the year. A lot depends on how long it takes to balance the Trade System, new Ship System, and new Claim System.

Any plans for expanding fishing so it doesn't suck so much? Like better random loot tables from fishing, maybe getting maps randomly from fishing. higher quality fishing pole=better maps/blueprints/gold etc.
We can answer this by saying that we don't think there is nearly enough fun stuff to do on the water and we are looking to blow that out significantly. This will include water creature taming, better fishing, ocean resource gathering, and better diving.

Any planned changes for freeports? Exponential decay or something to prevent freeport living?
Not yet. We have to put in all the systems that allow lone wolves and small groups to survive elsewhere first. Long term, we envision settlements of any kind to be more friendly or hostile to you depending on how you've treated them in the past.

Can you tell us more about the ideas behind how breeding is envisioned by the Dev team for beginner breeders through the most advanced breeders? Right now it takes too much time to do, unless an entire weekend day is devoted to it. Perhaps more difficulties while raising babies through their infant stages, but have it be for a much shorter duration so that it is more practical and enjoyable for a wider audience.
One of our designers has taken the breeding and taming of creatures under her wing. In the background she is working on a completely revamped system that should be more of what you want to see. Can't tell you when it will ship, but I can tell you that we are working on it.

Treasure Maps need a lot of work. Are big changes planned for the hunts to be more engaging? The distance requirement is also a negative map factor. It's not enjoyable to sail 7 grids out, 7 grids back to run a Masterwork map. Could maps that are of any qualities spawn on an island that are closer?
Yes, a rework of this is planned, but it's down the road. It's not where we want it either and for sure we are looking at the treasure spawning closer.

Additional Q&A
What is some of the work that is currently being done to help with optimization and performance issues?
About half our engineering staff is on performance and optimization. We know it's a problem and are working to fix it. The issue is that we also want to continue to put the rest of the planned features in the game to see if they are viable. We want a high performance game as much as you do. Remember, optimization isn’t going to suddenly happen in one patch. Some improvements may happen in small steps over time, while other improvements are a bigger engineering endeavor and may not be seen until we are further along.

Is the team still looking at ways for players to keep some progress through wipes?
Yes. We haven't figured out a balanced and scalable method yet, but we do want that. Adding a new global server structure with the Trade System was the first step on this and we'll keep working towards it. The challenge here is that the funnest part of a wipe for most people, is that they are all on an even footing again. Allowing players to retain progression may also allow them to maintain oppression.

Can we please get a HUD indicator once a ship is protected by the new shiphouse structure? The green text popping up once the anchor is down is not such a great indicator.
Totally agree that this is a bit confusing. A complete UI revamp is on the schedule and this item is part of that.

This is nitpicking, but can handling sails trim opposite to how they do now? It is backwards to real world physics
Ok. We'll look into it.🙂

Teleporting bed to bed, and killing yourself to respawn on lawless islands for discovery points is one of the lamest things I have to do in this game. Will other features be looked at for discovery points that are more interesting?
In short, yes. We agree that killing yourself and bed teleporting is lame. We all want to fix that and give you more ways to travel the world more quickly.

Will we be able to have the fog of war back? We had it early in the game, but it could be cheated by sharing game files and so was removed. The thrill of exploration was exciting for many players. As things stand at the moment, you just always have the full map explored.
It's something we hadn't thought about. We’ll look into this idea.


Final Note
Again, we would like to emphasize that ATLAS is still in Early Access, meaning many things can and will likely continue to drastically change - even in the middle of development. Anything discussed is only up to date as of the moment it is posted. Features and changes that ultimately make it to the next patch may be different from what was previously discussed.

As always, we appreciate the suggestions and feedback from the community. Please keep them coming! Thank you for all of your support! :)


Happy Sailing,
- ATLAS Crew

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