Age of Booty Sets Sail for PSN Today

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Hey PS Fam! Long time no blog. It’s my pleasure to announce that Age of Booty will finally become available today on the PSN for only $9.99. I know there was a delay bringing this title to you, but we had to make sure we fixed all the bugs before we deliver one of the most original digital games on this platform.

Age of Booty

Anyway, Max Hoberman, the President of Certain Affinity and the developer of Age of Booty, wanted to give you some insights into this critically acclaimed game. He’ll also answer any questions you have about the game. Without further ado, heeeere’s Max!

This is a follow-up to my previous post, where I described the genesis of our upcoming downloadable pirate action RTS, Age of Booty. I left off with us signing a publishing deal with Capcom and beginning production. That was a year ago, and since then we’ve had a lot of time to improve upon the original design.

At this point you might be wondering what exactly Age of Booty is all about. In my last post I touched on the game’s unique combination of simple, intuitive controls and mechanics and strategic depth. But that was all pretty high-level, so let’s dive a bit deeper.

In Age of Booty you are the captain of a pirate ship, a representative of one of several pirate factions. These factions are fighting it out for control of the hexagonal seas. Yes, that’s right, the environments in Age of Booty are constructed of three dimensional … hexagons. This harkens back to the game’s early board game influences and early tile-based computer game influences. There’s beautiful simplicity in a world built of tiles. For starters, levels are incredibly easy to create and to tune, both for the game designer and for the player. (Yes, Age of Booty comes with a map editor.) Tiles clearly defined in the game world are also great for strategic planning, and so toward this end each unit in Age of Booty occupies exactly one hex. This holds true for ships and towns, a decision that created some interesting artistic challenges and that contributed to the game’s stylized graphics.

Unlike other strategy games you control just one ship in Age of Booty. I know, a strategy game with just one unit seems pretty odd. It actually works amazingly well. The camera is decoupled from your ship, so you find yourself constantly scanning the map. An overhead map is available but it doesn’t show enemy ship locations, and so this “scouting,” or spying on your opponents if you like, is integral to the game. At any given time you’re controlling your camera, controlling your ship’s movement, and managing your upgrades, resources, and infrastructure. Until you’ve played the game you won’t appreciate how much is really going on. Of course the game play movies that people have seen on the web don’t do the game justice unless you know what it is you’re looking at—you’d be better off just watching the emotions on someone’s face while they’re playing!

Alright, so you control a ship on a tile-based playing field. But to what end? While the core mechanics lend themselves to numerous game objectives, in order to focus our efforts we settled on just one for the shipping game: town control. This is most similar to territories games, if you’ve played them. Each map has a set number of towns, all of which start out neutral. When you take over a town it raises your faction’s flag. The first team to control a specific number of towns wins the game. Typical maps have between about three and eight towns, with control of two-thirds of these towns usually required to win a game. This number is set on a per-map basis, however, so a map might require control of all towns, just one town, etc.

There are layers upon layers of depth built upon this foundation. For example, if a town is adjacent to resource hexes it starts producing these resources for you when you take control of it—gold, wood, or rum, to be precise (what else?!). Resources can be used to upgrade your town defenses and also to upgrade your ship’s speed, armor, and cannons. Even though games last between just five and fifteen minutes it’s extremely rare that a team wins without upgrades, and so collecting resources becomes a constant objective underlying your ultimate goal. Sure, taking control of towns doesn’t sound too complicated, but keep in mind that there’s one or more other teams trying to do the exact same thing, upgrading their offensive and defensive capabilities along the way, and trying to pick off your newly acquired towns, which are weaker than neutral towns, and you start to see where some of the depth comes from.

There’s one more aspect of the game I want to discuss. Sharing might not be for pirates, but one of the key elements to Age of Booty is team play. Whether you’re playing the single player game or multiplayer you almost certainly have one or more teammates. These can be computer controlled players such as Pegleg Pete, your sidekick in the single player game, or friends—Age of Booty supports up to four players on a single console and up to eight networked. As soon as you have even just a single teammate new strategic opportunities arise.

For example, right off the bat teams have to decide how to distribute ship upgrades. Most maps give you enough resources for two to three upgrades at the start. Is it better to split the upgrades evenly? Or perhaps to load one player up with guns and armor (become a “tank”, as we say) while the other stays fast but weak? If you both upgrade you’ll present a powerful pair when you’re together, but if you split up you’ll likely be overwhelmed by enemy tanks; nor will either one of you be quite as fast as the un-upgraded player, causing you to lose the race for resource pickups. On the other hand, if you take all of the upgrades you’ll move fairly slowly, while your teammate will be too weak to take neutral towns without assistance. There’s no right answer, and a lot depends on the particular map and your strategy and ability to coordinate.

This array of possibilities only grows as you add a third and even a fourth team member, and sometimes a third (or more) team, each with its own strategy and agenda. And that’s just at the start of the game; as you earn more resources you’ll be faced with similar strategic decisions. For instance, if one team member has taken all of the upgrades at the start do you let him or her continue taking future upgrades or do the weaker players start to upgrade?

I could go on and on describing the strategic intricacies of the game, but I’ll leave the rest for you to discover—the subtle advantages and disadvantages of various ship upgrade types, the strategic use of Curses, pilfering native villages, the importance of positioning in combat, and so on. I’ll be around to answer questions and provide more detail on the game, so join in the discussion!

This is John D again. What are you waiting for? Go download the game. I’ll be back soon to talk about SFHD Remix and Flock! Till next time. Yarrrr!

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