2015 is now behind us, and it was certainly an exciting year! The development year on Hearts of Oak has been no less interesting and has seen quite a few changes, both in team members and game assets, while the New Horizons mod team has been tirelessly working on new and improved content for PotC.
Let's take a look back at the highlights of the year at PiratesAhoy!...
A Promising Start
Cast your mind back to the beginning of the year, and this is one of the first development videos released in 2015. In the video, @Captain Murphy talks about some of the issues we had with the Suimono water system, shows off some the Ultimate FPS features, and fires the first flintlock pistol to make it in to the game.
A couple of weeks later, he shared some of the lessons he's learnt from using the Oculus Rift VR headset. If you haven't seen this video, it's well worth the look, as it got us all pumped up!
Watching the video is a bit disorienting, especially if you're not wearing 3D glasses, but you can tell by the excitement in his voice just how immersive an effect it is.
Changing of the Guard
Unfortunately, soon after that video, Captain Murphy chose to step down as lead programmer and moved on to work on a new project full time. Although this took us by surprise, he hasn't actually gone very far from our project, and continues to graciously offer us his support and expertise, both of which are very much appreciated.
We wish him and the rest of the development team at Wolfpack Games the very best of luck in their endeavours. Their project is Letters of Marque, an arena-style multiplayer naval combat game that looks incredible so far! You can learn more about the game on their website.
Needless to say, Captain Murphy's departure left us wondering just where we were headed, but we certainly weren't going to let that setback stop us! Before long, as luck would have it, we found a new lead programmer almost immediately in @JohnSilver.
A screenshot from our July demo, the first publicly playable release of the game.
Since taking over, JohnSilver has done an outstanding job of getting Hearts of Oak back on track. The team got to work refining the design document and refocusing our efforts on getting a playable tech demo out to you all as soon as possible. This was both to reassure ourselves that we could actually do it, and to give a little something back as a thank you to all of you who have followed the game's progress over the years.
In the past few months, you have seen those demos go live, which proves at long last that we weren't just talking about making a game, we ARE making a game!
Here's a selection of screenshots from our various tech demos:
Our August demo saw the return of the St Albans, replacing the placeholder galleon.
In the first of two September demos, we introduced firing stations to allow for finer control of the guns.
The October release featured new AI and damage effects, including destructible rigging.
The damage effects were further improved in the November demo with hull damage decals.
We also saw a video from JohnSilver showcasing a recent build, and we're hoping to have more videos next year.
Fast forward to our current release, and the player can now walk freely around on deck.
Towards the end of the year, something incredible happened. The Indie of the Year Awards came around once more, and to our amazement, Hearts of Oak made it into the Top 100 for the second year running! This is in spite of the fact that we didn't make a push for support, on the grounds that we felt there were more deserving titles out there at this stage.
Nevertheless, you still made your support known, and for that, we can hardly express our gratitude enough. Thank you all again for the support and encouragement you have given us throughout the game's development!
For so many of you to have the confidence to vote us in, even though our demos are still a little rough, is tremendously encouraging! That confidence helps us work that much harder to deliver on our promise, and goes a long way in driving us to meet our ultimate goal. It also proves that we are on the right track with Hearts of Oak and that there IS a demand out there for this type of game!
Where are we headed in 2016? Well, we can't reveal all our secrets here, but we can tell you that it will be an exciting ride! We have some incredible things coming up for the new year that we hope will really set Hearts of Oak apart from anything that has come before it. Here is a sneak preview showing some screenshots from the current work-in-progress build:
The last few demos have concentrated almost exclusively on getting ship physics and basic controls set up to a good standard. Now we feel it is time to expand the world a bit, and we really think you will enjoy exploring a bit more in the next demo!
The Journey Ahead
Where will the game be by the end of 2016? That is a tough one to answer; we have a long way to go before we get Hearts of Oak up to the standard of game that we all want, and it will take feedback from all of you to help us get there.
That is why we recently created a new QA Tester group to help track down bugs and to get quality demos out more quickly. So far, the response we've had is pretty good, with quite a few applications and a good team of testers now under our belt.
As a result, for the time being, we are no longer accepting QA applications for the team.
Please do not apply for this position, as you will not be given the role.
If, however, you'd like to help the team by other means, remember that we're still accepting more artists, programmers and sound designers, so feel free to apply for any of those roles in our Recruitment forum as usual.
Double the Progress
While progress on laying the foundations for the Hearts of Oak base game continues, that is not all that has been happening this year. PiratesAhoy! is about more than just one game after all, and we could never forget the reason we are all even here.
We have spent the past twelve-and-a-half years working on the New Horizons mod for PotC and we have every intention of continuing on it. A separate team of enthusiastic modders have been hard at work experimenting, squashing bugs, and adding tons of new content.
While these people are not directly involved with the progress on Hearts of Oak, PotC makes for great testing grounds to try out various advanced game concepts. So while HoO is still in a relatively basic state, we can already find out what works and what does not in advance. It is all part of a learning process to make both games as good as they can possibly be.
A new release of New Horizons should be ready for public release quite soon.
Some of the new and improved features to look forward to include:
For a full run-down of all the new features and bug fixes, stay tuned for the news article accompanying the mod release early this year.
- A huge amount of fixes
- Brand new storyline "The Gold-Bug", based on the famous short story by Edgar Allen Poe
- Free Play storyline with many custom start scenarios and a wide variety of predefined characters that are fully customisable
- Distinguished between different play styles, allowing play as merchant, privateer, navy officer, pirate and smuggler and allows you to mix and match between them
- Completely redone Levelling System that applies equally to all player and non-player characters
- Many improvements to many storylines, including an improved, extended and finished Hornblower story and several unique fixes to Jack Sparrow
- Completely redone Nations Relations, now finally fully functional
Before the mod team can consider the new build release-worthy though, they need as much input from players as possible.
If you have the original PotC game and you'd like to help out, please do give the latest internal build a try on our forum. Our modders will be extremely grateful!
Alas, as the year draws to a close, we can look back on all that we've achieved together in 2015 with pride. Through highs and lows, we have persevered and come out as strong as ever, with a fledgling game that shows great promise and a legendary mod that gets better and better.
We hope to build on our successes and see just how far we can go from here, with the support of everyone on our team along with all our dedicated fans out there. Let us hope that 2016 holds much more to get excited about!
From everyone at PiratesAhoy!, we hope you had a great Christmas and wish you a happy New Year!
Special thanks to @Thagarr who helped to write this article.