Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with Sam Johnson - Creative Design Lead for Pirate101

    We have a great treat for all ye landlubbers today! Thanks to One Eyed Jack and Blind Mew aka Sam Johnson, I got the chance to interview him! He is the creative design lead who has worked on the storylines in Pirate101! Without him and his team, the great storys we have experienced so far, (Magnificent 7, El Dorado, The Armada, etc..) wouldn't exist. And without further ado. . .
1- When did you first know that you wanted to start a career in Video Games, and when did you start working for KingsIsle?
My road into game design was a long one, and not very typical. I think I first really wanted to be a game designer back in high school, when I was playing Dragonlance at my table and Ultima 5 on my computer -- that will give you some hint of how old I am. Living in Austin, we always had Origin Systems right here, the holy grail of dream jobs. There was a brief span in my early college years where I tried to get a job there, but it didn't work out.
I always figured if I ended up with a job as a writer, it would be for Pen and Paper RPGs (you know, the kind you play with dice, like DnD) instead of video games. I have more than a dozen published RPG credits to my name, but it was never lucrative enough to be a real job. 
 I got my college degree with a double major in History and Archaeology and was working on getting a teacher's certification for Social Studies when an old friend from my high school gaming table asked me if I'd like to write setting and game fiction for the new online game he was making. The game was Shadowbane, and the friend was J. Todd Coleman.  That was my first industry job, which I started in September of 2000. Funny thing, almost exactly a decade later, Todd recruited me again, this time to work for Kingsisle.
2- Your Job title is "Creative Design Lead" -- Can you explain what you do for the game to our viewers and what your favorite part of being one is?
Put simply, I'm in charge of maintaining the creative vision for Pirate101 (I report to the Creative Director) and working with the design, art, and tech departments to implement the grand vision for the game. I also write lots of dialogue. When I first started, Todd and I laid out the core of Pirate101 -- the tone, the main themes, the core of the El Dorado story, and all of that.
Since then, my job has fallen into a pretty sustained pattern: for each Book (or chunk of several Books, depending on the scope of the Milestone), I make a detailed outline of the Main Story quests and generate a list of necessary characters, environments, and game objects from that outline. Then I write visions (brief descriptions) of everything, so the artists can build it all. Then, after revising or cutting the asset lists based on schedule and other production-related factors, I'll revise the outlines accordingly and finally start writing the quests and quest dialogue.  After the main quests are written, we write the side quests.
I don't write everything in the game -- at various points during production a designer or two will help me out, usually with side quests. Also, last year I got a designer relegated to helping me full time -- I tend to write the Main Story quests and the Promotion quests, the other writers focus on Side Quests.  My underling is now writing Main Line quest material too. After it's all written up, I review and polish every quest I didn't write to make sure the tone stays consistent.
Once all the quests (Main, Side, Promotion, and Trainer) are written, I work closely with sound to record the voiceovers (and, in a pinch, I do some voice acting, too). I also have a pretty constant set of duties related to reviewing and giving feedback on art as it's created and dealing with story or text-related bugs as they arise.  In addition to all the quests, there are tutorial tips to write, and every item in the game needs to be named -- again, I don't do all of that, but I do a lot of it, and I supervise the designers who do the rest.
 There are several things I absolutely love about this job. Working closely with such talented artists and watching something I'd describe come to life and end up looking even better than I'd imagined; that's as good as it gets. Brainstorming plots and gags in a room of really talented designers is another favorite part of my job. I also love the actual writing -- how a twist of a phrase or even a whole joke will just arise out of nowhere. When I'm in the groove, sometimes the dialogue writes itself. Finally, I love watching community speculation. Seeing people respond to things I've imagined, find the obscure references, and chew on the mysteries never gets old.
3- We have seen some of your epic posts as Blind Mew over on, the community really loves your responses to some of our questions. What were some of your favorite storylines you worked on [That have been released so far]? And what was your thought when you first heard the pitch about Pirate101?
Favorite storylines: tough to choose. I love Gortez, I'm very fond of the Magnificent Seven story, and many of the Promotion Quests are some of my favorites: Ratbeard's 2nd, Sarah Steele and Subodai's 2nd promotions, and Egg Shen's too. Oh yeah, the theological debate storyline for Monquista was a labor of love -- the final quest really worried me, because it only consists of lots of dialogue and one big joke, but I do love it so. The warm response it’s gotten has been a relief.
4- Will all the companions that do not have promotion quests receive one at some point or will they be pay gold only?
Some definitely will -- the Magnificent 7 and Monkey King are top tier companions and will get quests, but players currently can't get high enough to promote them yet. The Silk One (aka Shiruku Neko, Ninja Cat) probably will too. Any future companions that get granted to everyone and who speak definitely will. For each new companion, I have to decide if they get quests or not.
As for the rest, I can't guarantee it -- it takes a lot to make a good Promotion quest, and to "backfill" for the companions that already exist but don't have them would require about as many quests as we launched the game with (yikes!)  All the existing game worlds aren't big enough to hold the places needed for all those goals! We ran out of caves in Cool Ranch a while back! There's a potential pitfall there, too: if we add a promotion quest to a unit that used to be gold only, some players will complain that they have to do this hard/boring quest now, while others who already promoted the guy with gold will be sad they missed it. Ultimately, we're limited in what we can produce in the time allowed. I'd rather have a longer Main Quest or more Side Quests to engage players than make sure every companion gets full promotion quests.
5- Are there any non spoilers you could share with the community about the next chapter(s) of Pirate101?
I think I'll just reiterate what I've said before -- the next update is about war. It's also about consequences. In Skull Island players learned how to be a pirate. In Cool Ranch players learned how to be a hero. In MooShu they learn just how big and strange the Spiral can be, but ultimately, the MooShu books were a diversion from the Map and El Dorado. It's time to get back on topic, revisit the central conflict of the game, and raise the stakes . . . big time! The next storyline update will also include, in terms of numbers of quests, the longest single Book we've yet released. It's an epic -- or two!
6-  Who is your favorite Armada Leader? Favorite Skull Island Trainer? Favorite Companion so far in the game? Favorite World? Favorite Easter Egg? [And why?]
I must preface this by taking the parents' classic position of "How can I choose? I love them all" -- however, if forced to choose...
Armada Leader: Kane. Hands down.
Skull Island Trainer: Too close to call, really. I dig all of them, but I must say the Commodore wins by a nose -- it's the Anglophile in me, I suppose.
Companion: Bonnie Anne, but then I typically only play Musketeers. There's a joy to her that's really fun to write. She's about to do some growing as a character -- we'll see some very different sides of her, and I'm eager to see if y'all like it as much as I do.
World: It hasn't been released yet. J
Easter Egg: There are thousands... I'm very fond of Mick Dagger, Hopper, Moo Manchu, and all the Planet of the Apes jokes in the Monquistan theology debate . . . and the Jolly Ranchers. When it comes to the Easter Eggs, I'm very fond of the subtle ones -- I'm stunned somebody found the Rocky Raccoon reference so fast, I like 'em like that. I think my favorite of all may actually come in the next update -- it's a piece of "stunt casting" that I, as a child of the 80's, cannot resist.
7- How much story that is written actually makes it into the game, and how much is cut out in the end? Do you save it for the possibility of using it in the future?
The way the process works, things that get set aside tend to get set aside very early, so no dialogue is written yet -- I'd say there are usually 1 or 2 ideas per milestone that end up falling out of the story. Some get recycled as side quests, others become irrelevant as the main story evolves over time. But yes, our goal is always to save cut ideas and bring them back later. There were two pretty big set pieces we envisioned for the next update that were beyond our grasp, but I fully intend to bring both of them into play at some point in the future -- they'd make marvelous promotion quest fodder or a cool Gauntlet add on.
Again, a huge thank you to Sam and Tom! Your work is fantastic thus far, and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us with Pirate101's future updates! I hope you all enjoyed the interview! See you around the Spiral!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Companion Ideas!

    How are all ye landlubbers doing this fine day? I was thinking about the main core of Pirate101 today - Companions. Without them we would just be one lonely pirate saving the spiral! What do they do currently you ask? Well they help us in battle - which is great! But thinking about it more and more, if Kingsisle creates other activities or things our companions can do - that would be even better! I mean some of the companions on my crew doesn't even see the light of day in battle! But what if some of the ones who weren't that good in battle were great at other activities?
    Some of the ideas I've come with are below, let me know what you think and if you have any ideas let me know in the comments!
    If you play Wizard101, you are familiar with this idea. Basically, you would train a companion you choose (Whoever is in the firstmate slot) and play minigames created for this to raise their level. At each level goal, you unlock a talent (Can be selfish - which would actually be useful in this game as it could boost up their strength, will etc..) or a real talent or another epic to add onto the ones they already know.
    They would train in which game you choose for them to participate in, and they gain XP ~ After each game, you can let them grub on some food or perhaps some yum? That boosts the xp even more - sort of like snacks on W101.
    While you are out, traveling the spiral with some of your crew, who is watching your hideout?! You dont want other pirates to come and take it over, or worse steal your treasure! You can leave and assign spots in your house for some of your crew members. They can collect gold, loot, and gear from whichever npc mob is trying to steal from you. But will they be strong enough? You will get a notification on your screen if your companions back at home are in danger of failing to protect your house. 
    That is left up for you to decide. If the npc mob are succesful in raiding your house, you run the chance of losing some of your gold or perhaps a furniture piece you have placed. *Note this is an optional feature as some may not want to worry about their house* Dorms do not have this. This feature would really spice up the "Pirate" in the game!
    If you think one of your companions or a team of them are strong enough to go out on their own while you are out questing with the others, this would be a perfect feature. Most taverns would have "Bounty's" listed on their walls. You would talk to the Tavern keeper, and would select the companions you would want to go out and try to bring back the villain. If they are successful, gold, loot, and or rare gear are in your grasps. If they fail, well they come back to your crew knocked out, and you lose some gold. *You would have to use a life fountain to heal them. These jobs could take some time to complete, and you wouldn't be there to watch it take place.
    For example, say I want to send out Kan po and Bonnie Anne to take down a Monquistan soldier who has stolen goods from Skull Island? I would select them and they wouldn't be avaiable to help you untill they got back or you call them back forfeiting the job. This particular job for example would take about 30 minutes. Do you think your companions are strong enough to venture forth themselves representing you?
    Another very familiar feature similiar to Wizard101. Except this time its with Companions! Some of your crew may shine in battle, and others could possibly shine in Skull Islands Derby! This would go along of course with the Companion Training feature above. A companions stats (Will, agility etc..) would also contribute to how well they do. If you win, you get tickets of some sort to trade in for cool gear that boosts your companion for Derby and some other unlockable companions!
    This new feature would allow you to choose a couple of your companions who you would like to work the cannons and other things below deck while you are sailing or fighting another ship. Each companion has unique abilities that could raise or lower your ships stats. Find a good balance for your ship and set sail!
    These are just some of the ideas I've been thinking up for companions! If I think of anymore Ill let you all know. Please if you have any ideas like these let me know by leaving a comment!
Thank you for reading and enjoy the rest of your night! See you all in the spiral!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lets take a trip back in time...

    Today I thought it would be a good day to go back in time and show some pre launch pics of the game as I played. Its a chance to see how much Kingsisle has improved the game and its graphics since launch! Enjoy!
    As you can see, the game has improved ALOT since pre release. What in the game right now would you want to be updated? The UI? Certain graphics? Class attacks? Leave a comment letting me know.
    Hopefully Test realm will be out soon, I know you guys are all so anxious to try it out!! Cant wait to see Ratbeards new 2nd promo hat and some of the other updates!
Have an awesome Tuesday peeps!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

That there be Troggy Country!

    How are ye landlubbers doin this fine day, eh? Tonight we will be continuing on our adventures! Last time we left off, we helped the Monquistans stationed at the Gold Mine! We are now headed into "Troggy Country" as one of the soldiers called it! We shall meet those devilish frogs again, seems they are not just on Skull Island. Woot!
    We are looking for a Monquistan named "Criado". He knows the way to Gortez and the "Golden Monkey". After beating up some of the wild frogs, we make our way to the Campsite the Monquistans were stationed at here. It was... err.. ransacked from the troggies! Bonnie finds a rock carved with a message on it!

    After searching the village, we head inside the nearby cavern and find a bunch of Monquistans inside! They are hiding from all of the poisonous troggies.
    This is the group of Monquistans that were sent to find Gortez and bring him back home! Sadly, they never made it to Gortez...There is a swarm of deadly bee's blocking the way to the Valley where he is located. There are a bunch of side quests here, if you would like to pick them up. Basically Ramos tells us a little about Gortez and then tells us that Criado was taken by the Troggies. We head back outside and defeat some of them to see if we can find Criado anywhere.
    Once we defeat some Troggies we level up and head back to Skull Island to learn 2 new spells from Vadima. Shadow Step - One of my favorite Witchdoctor spells! It allows your pirate to teleport to any square on the battle board! This is great for puzzles and other objective battles as well as getting away from enemies etc. Widows Touch slows the target down for 5 turns!
    What will be inside the cave? Will we find Criado? Find out!

Until next time Pirates! See you in the skyways!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pirate101 Test Realm is up!

    The Test Realm is live once again and available for download. Please join us in testing over 800 fixes, improvements, and updates coming to The Spiral soon! See the Update Notes page for information regarding Companion Benching, Power Management, Buccaneer Improvements, new ship bosses, Cool Ranch housing vendors, and all the other highlights fit for print!

- This Test Realm is available to Members with an Active Membership.
- This Test Realm is also available to Crowns Players who have made a purchase of $6 or more in the last 30 days.
- This Test Realm is NOT available to Free to Play Players.

    If you meet these qualifications, log into the website and look for the Sneak Peek flag under the "My Account" Icon.
    Pictures and more to be added on this post when I can hop on and explore! This update looks pretty epic and I hope you all enjoy it! Take a moment and Thank Kingsisle and Pirate101 for bringing us quality content!
See ya in the new "polished" skyways!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maruzame the key to Ninja101?

    How is everyone doing? Earlier when I was finishing up Mooshu - (Yes lots of new blog posts coming soon for my p101 adventure!) You end up going on a floating turtle to find Cao Tzu. The NPC who helped Marco Pollo find El dorado!
    Before we could summon forth the beast, we had to collect the 5 legendary turtle balls guarded by the legendary beings. (Monkey King, Friar Sand, Pigsly, and Dragon Prince - Shunzang held the last one)
After lots of adventures and challenges, we collected them all and threw them out into the skyway while at the Eye of Harmony.
    After summoning the Turtle, we sailed our ship to him and had to complete a set of trials before getting to meet Cao Tzu. This included, the Water temple, Wood Temple, Fire Temple, Metal Temple, and the Earth Temple. Now call me crazy, but what if this is an Easter egg of a possible "Ninja101"? What if these are the schools that Ninja's can learn?
    I then thought, nah that wouldn't make any sense... but then when I was thinking about it more and more, each of these are weak/strong against eachother. 5 classes, Water is strong against Fire. Fire is strong against Wood. Wood is strong against Water. etc...
    What do you think? Could this be possible? Just for fun, which "Ninja" school would you be? Water, Fire, Metal, Earth, or Wood? Leave your answer in the comments below!
Thank you all for reading! See ya in the skyways!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Friendship Festival!

Hello there!
    You may recognize me, I'm Valentina Heartsong who visits Wizard City every February! Before heading to WC, we are making a stop at Pirates of the Spiral! An interesting fact about me is that I am not only a wizard, but a pirate too! :) You may ask what Pirate class I am? Privateer at heart, with a little touch of Witchdoctor power! [Where do you think the Charm spell comes from? ;)]
    The piggle next to me is my special pet, Cupid. He loves being a pirate too! I have brought with me a whole bunch of goodies and throughout the next couple of days there will be some charming events! Take a look at them below, when they open I will make sure to announce it!
I brought along with me a bunch of piggles! They have been roaming around the site and need to be found so I can bring them to Wizard City! They could be on any blogpost, or page, those sneaky little things! If you find one, click it and it will bring you to a code! 5 of them have gone missing. Each day starting tomorrow at 6:00 PM eastern, one will show up. The winner will recieve a code for 5,000 crowns when clicking on the pig, act fast!
 1- This piggle was on the Boochbeard Bundle Stats post. @Wizard101Source found it first!
2- This piggle was on the Stupendor-X post. ??? found it first!
3- This piggle was on the "P101 adventure page" (tab at top of the page). @Real_Fireball44 found it!4- This piggle was on the "El Dorado" blog post! @dannywizzy94 found it!
5- This piggle was on the Jeff Toney Interview post! ???? found it!
During a couple of days in February Johnny may ask a Trivia question on twitter! Make sure you follow him - @Jcentral1 . There will be 5 questions, each winner will recieve a code for 5,000 crowns! (You cannot win twice, these codes only work on one account once.)
1 - How many golden coins are scattered on the dock @ select screen?
Answer: 9 Winner: @Hayteman22
2 - What was the name of the ship wreck in Scrimshaw near the jaw of the whale?
Answer: Pequod Winner: @Talkintheplank
3 - What 3 members of the Magnificent 7 joined you while breaking into the Frogerale Jail Compound?
Answer: Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Peacock and Jane Canary! Winner: @SGriffinsong
4 - Name Captain Bloods hand of cards in his card game with death, (#'s and symbols).
Answer: 9 horseshoe,8 knife,8 skull,Ace knife,Ace skull Winner: @korgre2
5 - Who are the current Magnificent 7 after the Magnificent 7 storyline?
Answer: Timmy,Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Peacock, Jane Canary, Bat Masterson, Duck Holiday. Winner: @tabithasword
Johnny will post a few riddles on Twitter of a poem written by a character in the game. You will have to correctly tweet who wrote the poem and who was it to?
Answer- Mustang Sally to El Toro; Winner- @Clevercolecrow
Answer- Lucious Fox to Bonnie Anne; Winner- @MarissaPetal
Answer- Finn Dorsal to Sarah Steele; Winner- @JordanSeaWiz
Answer- Pirates Father to Pirates Mother; Winner- @Swordroll
Answer- Ratbeard to Bonnie Anne; Winner- @Sundreamwiz
Good at Poems? Here is your chance to show Valentina your writing powers. Create a Valentine Poem Pirate101 style. Send these to . (If you are under 13, please get permission from a guardian first! Thanks!)
There will be 5 winners chosen and their poem's will be showcased on the site. Each winner will recieve a code for 5,000 crowns!
1. By Richard Sharpe~
My love is like a brand new boat
   That’s launched at high noon :
My love is like a white throat
   That’s freshly cut in June.
As fair art thou, my bonnie fox,
   So deep in love am I :
And I will love thee still, my cox,
   Till a’ the skyways die.
Till a’ the skyways die, my love,
   And Skull Cave melts wi’ the heat :
And I will love thee still, my love,
   While Death is at my feet.
And fare thee well, my soon to wed,
   And fare thee well a time !
And I will come again, my red,
   Thou’ it were a skyway climb.
2. By Boris Ghostgarden~
There was a lovely maiden who lived near Avery Court
Who all throughout the day would see Pirates of every sort
Then one day came a brigand who did catch the maiden’s eye
Thought she, “throughout the skyway, there is no one like this guy!
I must devise a plan of sorts to make him notice me
And this yellow exclamation mark, might just be the key!”
Gingerly, she placed the mark atop her wind-blown hair
In hopes she’d catch the notice of this dashing young corsair
He skittered over to her, riding on his lobster steed
Said he, “good evening, madam, is there something that you need?”
“In deed there is, young pirate,” said the maiden all aglow
“I’d like to make you dinner, is there somewhere we can go?”
The pirate’s eyes grew distant in the gentle evening breeze
Said he “I’m sorry, madam, but I don’t date NPC's!”
3. By Stubborn Duncan Freeman~
On the horizon, in a big convoy,
with Jolly Roger, high above,
We met a friendly ship and said Ahoy!

Our lovely Lass, Bonnie Ann,
across the deck saw a Lad,
Fearless Jo was his name,
and love on first sight happened.

They've bought a ship,
"Fair winds" we said,
couple made a final leap,
and the boat continue ahead!
4. By Katherine De Bouff~
One sunny day, on a blue windlane,
I saw a ship and on a deck a scary man,
with parrot on his shoulder,
Captain Avery was his name!

I heard some tales, about this pirate,
fearless and gruesome, and a really great shooter,
he send all bad guys to Davy Jones Locker,
so I was shocked, when he asked me to a date.

At first I trembled in fear,
but under that rough surface,
he was really dear,
so in my heart love took a place!
5. By Reckless Heather~
Arrr! Th' love month
finally here.
filled with love an'
O' what I seek
is fer me t' keep.
Get ready t' be
shot by me
arrow of
    A big thank you to One-Eyed Jack for letting me have the opportunity to host these contests for you all!