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Interview: Battlefield Pirates

Battlefield

Battlefield Pirates is a mod for EA’s first person shooter, Battlefield 1942. We’re here today with the mastermind behind it all, Guy Smiley.

So tell us a bit about Battlefield Pirates.

Pirates is the mod with “Big Hats, Big Guns, and Big Ships”. It’s specifically aimed at those of us that played pirates as a kid and get a real rush out of layin a 30-cannon broadside into the enemy ship from half a mile away and yelling “Aaaarrrr!”

The original game is set in one of the bloodiest conflicts man has ever seen. What prompted you to swap the tanks and planes for galleons and cutlasses?

I love playing battlefield and all the various mods. I just wanted to do something that was completely different and something that was funny instead of serious.

Were you influenced by games such as the Monkey Island series which also feature pirates in them?

Well, yes and no. I was never fortunate enough to play the Monkey Island series, even though I know they’re great games, and most of the “fighting sail” sims I’ve played have actually been pretty disappointing. I guess you could say that in itself influenced me because I’ve always wanted a decent pirate game. The first time I started playing around with modding Battlefield I thought, “you know, I may not be able to accurately simulate sailing, but I could sure make one heck of a fun pirate game with this.” And so that’s what I decided to do.

Many mods these days have teams of 10 to 15 people behind them. How do you manage with only 4?

Well, that number of 4 is about to change. You have to realize that this mod actually started out as just a portfolio piece for me. I’m a game artist by profession and just wanted a way to show off my work. When I decided to turn it into a full mod, I adopted many of the same work processes that the companies I work for use.

We are still in what you would call “preproduction”, where ideas get kicked around and the basic workflow is figured out. What you’ve seen so far has been what would be considered a “prototype”: the basic code has been worked out, network bugs ironed out, and things like that. I’ve got a complete design doc ready to go, and pretty soon we’ll be switching into full production. I have a talented group of people that I work with locally that I’m going to be bringing on, but the team is still going to stay pretty small and mostly local. It’s just easier to work that way, at least for me.

Pirates is getting increasingly popular within the Battlefield 1942 community. What do you think sets your mod apart from the rest?

I made a conscious decision right from the start that this mod was NOT going to be at all historically accurate or serious. I think what sets Pirates apart is our efforts to make it funny and imaginative, like when you played “pirates” as a kid.

Pirates introduces animal warfare to Battlefield 1942 – a first – with the Komodo dragons. Will we be seeing more of this or is it just a treat for testers?

Oh, you’ll definitely be seeing more. We don’t want to turn this into an animal mod, but you will be seeing at least 3 other species introduced into the game at some point. It’s still a secret for now. I’ll just say that we have come up with some pretty interesting ways of dealing with the problems of land travel in an era before there were engines.

What can we expect to see in Pirates in the next few months?

Up to now I’ve been focusing mainly on getting the network code to work with all those cannonballs flying around. Pretty much everything else in the game has just been “placeholders” so that we could release something people could play. Starting with the next release you’re going to see a lot more finished (or mostly finished) art and more emphasis on interesting things to run around, hide behind, jump over, and shoot from. You’re also going to be seeing bigger ships: MUCH bigger ships. We also have some pretty unique maps in the works, each with a different strategy to it.

With all the development work, do you ever get time to play Pirates?

Hehe. I’m actually on for at least a little while just about every day. You may see me on as Captain Guy Smiley right after a release when I hop on as “me” just to say hi and to see how everything is going, but normally you won’t know it’s me because I’m incognito. I play just for fun and I also sometimes just watch what people are doing and take notes. That’s the best way to see what works and what needs fixing. My goal is to make the game as fun as possible.

Thank you for your time

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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