Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Online Gaming - New York Times:

But the golden age of piracy three centuries ago remains so fascinating because it hovers just on the cusp between myth and historical fact. Roaming bands of lawless men amok on the high seas, the Caribbean pirates were in some ways a final paroxysm of the premodern world before colonial governments took full control of the Western Hemisphere. It is no coincidence that the seminal romanticization of piracy, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” did not appear until 1883, after the real thing had largely disappeared.

Pirates of the Burning Sea is set in 1720, the peak of Caribbean piracy, just after the War of the Spanish Succession. The game models the entire region, from the eastern coasts of Mexico and Florida down to the northern coast of South America as far as Guyana. Users play as members of the English, French or Spanish empires or as a pirate associated with the infamous Brethren of the Coast.

Within their vast virtual basin, thousands of players can simultaneously explore dozens of towns and anchorages or freely sail one of dozens of meticulously rendered historical ships. The economy is almost entirely player-driven, meaning that rather than ships magically appearing for sale, players cooperate to harvest raw materials like wood and iron and then process and sell them as more advanced wares for a profit.