Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Upgrade Time and an Old Pirate's Dream Come True

After years of waiting, I finaly got into the open beta test of Pirates of the Burning Sea a few days ago. Anyone who knows of my old crusade to get ships and sailing fixed in Ultima Online knows how badly I've wanted to play a fully realized, state-of-the-art pirate MMORPG all these years.

After an overnight download session, I was able to play the other morning, trying out a pirate character and going through its tutorial. Character creation was very nice, with plenty of options, but nowhere near that of a game like City of Heroes. I was able to name my character Ruffie Windjammer, the same name as my pirate character in UO.

Once in the tutorial, I was able to move and talk to the NPCs okay, noticing only a few graphical glitches. The controls were standard WASD keyboard movement, with hotkeys on the bottom for sword fighting moves that I used to take out some enemies that had boarded my ship.

Once that part was over, it was time for ship combat, which is done from a zoomed-out view of your boat in the water. The controls here are just amazing. Using WASD again, with W and S raising and lowering the sail. In the upper left corner of the screen is a represntation of the ship with a left-right slider for the rudder, and up-down slider for the sails, and cannon status indicators. I quickly grasped the controls and dispatched my NPC opponents.

After that I was put into a town, and at this point the game became a bit unplayable. My graphics card, it seems, was below even the minimum specifications, and it showed. There was plenty of lag, and my character's avatar was glitchy. He had no jacket or arms. I saw only his upper torso, head, legs, hands, and sword. Any pirate can tell you that it's not a good idea to walk around a pirate port town armless.

And there was unplayable lag. I walked around the town as best I could but finally logged off. Clearly, it was time to upgrade my video card. So, yesterday, I took the plunge and picked up an ATI Radeon HD 2400 Pro. The guys at Best Buy were amazingly helpful. I also picked up a DVI cable for my monitor to get a better picture out of it. And I cannibalized a little additional memory from Monique's recently departed computer.

Well, it didn't help that much with Pirates of the Burning Sea. I'm still armless, and there is still quite a bit of lag when walking around port. I didn't have much time to test it, though, so some improvement may still occur in later sessions. A quick check of the official message board revealed that other players are experiencing similar glitches with their avatars, and yes, the lag too. It wasn't just me.

The upside of all of this is that the new card has made Ultima Online : Kingdom Reborn look and play a hell of a lot better. I'm actually spending a little time now messing with it, and although I'm ready to yet ready to adapt it as my client of choice, I could see myself leaning that way with more improvements forthcoming from the developers.

Upgrading my PC is never a worry-free experience for someone like me, who's not that big of a techie. Although it went well, I didn't get the results I'd hoped for in Pirates of the Burning Sea, but it seems that it's up to the developers now to fix a few things on their side. I've done my part. I can't wait for a chance to really dig into this game, and I anticipate plenty of peril and plunder ahead. Arrrr!

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