Sunday, September 18, 2005

Puzzle Pirates

So there's this online game called Puzzle Pirates. Basically, you do puzzles, and you're a pirate. You're in a big world full of other pirates (people from around the world) doing piratey things. I suggest you download it and start with a doubloon ocean (these basically require cash to get items, but are free to play indefinitely).

This devilishly clever game makes activities like bilging a pirate ship and firing its cannons into games of Dr. Mario and Bejeweled. The better you play, the better the ship performs. As time goes on, you can captain your own ship, join the commodities market, or become president of an island, all involving mastery of puzzles. Beyond that, you can blockade another group, start wars against the other players, play politics. On your break, you can get into fights and drinking games at the inn.

The interesting thing is that every ship is a set of interdependent systems: get hit by a cannon, then the bilge comes faster into the ship, and you can't sail as fast; fix the hole with carpentry and the bilge problem goes away; sail faster and you can navigate better in battle. It's possible to have computer pirates take over some of these systems, but the best ships have real people working in concert. And of course, the higher-level battles and blockades require intense coordination.

It's fascinating that a bunch of people can conjure this kind of game, but really this kind of community, out of thin air. It's also fascinating that the people who excel at this game can do puzzles really well; it's a pre-built social structure for the chronically shy.

Check it out.

No comments: