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General Thoughts on Puzzle Pirates

I first began playing Puzzle Pirates in March 2006. Although I've taken breaks from the game for much longer than I've played it, I have still followed its growth and history over the years. Out of all the MMO games I've played, it ranks only behind RuneScape in terms of the total amount of time and effort I've invested.

Puzzle Pirates was never as immensely popular as, for example, RuneScape: although the latter had at its height somewhere around a quarter of a million players online at once spread out over roughly 160 servers, Puzzle Pirates at its height never had more than a handful of servers (i.e. the oceans), each with several hundred to a few thousand players at most online at the same time, for a grand total of about 10,000 or fewer players online simultaneously across all oceans. This is perhaps both a benefit and a drawback, but one benefit I see is that, with a smaller community, the developers of the game see no need to overhaul the graphics or core gameplay in order to retain or attract a large playerbase.

Quite remarkably, the entire game, including the core mechanics, the graphics, the menus and interfaces, the sounds, the in-game navigation, the chat system, etc. are today all virtually unchanged from when I first started playing; I even recall seeing screenshots taken from the game's alpha testing phase back in 2002, and noticing that the graphics and menus were almost exactly the same. Unlike RuneScape, which today would be utterly unrecognizable to somebody playing it back in 2007, Puzzle Pirates today is largely the exact same game at its core as it was in 2007, but with a few more puzzles, activities, ships, and cosmetic items added. Hell, in terms of graphics, at least, it is precisely the same game as it was back during alpha testing in 2002.

The developers of Puzzle Pirates also seem rather fond of saving dates, such as the date on which a pirate, crew, or flag was created, a portrait was taken, a house or building was purchased, a stall was established, and even the date when certain trinkets were acquired, among other things. The extent to which the game officially records dates (as opposed to unofficial recording done by the players) is greater than any other online game I've played so far, which certainly helps anybody interested in the history of a crew or flag, for example, or, in the case of portraits, a particular pirate's activity and growth over time, since portraits also save a snapshot of a pirate's crew and flag membership, puzzle experience and standings, etc. when they are taken.

These two things together mean that, for me, a nostalgic who is largely skeptical of change and who tends to look towards the past, Puzzle Pirates is a game that has much in common with my worldview—a fact which, over the years, I have increasingly become aware of. The game has stayed largely unchanged at its core and seems to appreciate (to a degree) its history, and I very much commend it for these things. Over the years, as I have witnessed other games I've played either change immensely to the point that they're pretty much unrecognizable from their golden era (e.g. RuneScape), or shut down entirely (e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean Online), Puzzle Pirates stands out as a notable exception: it has preserved its core spirit while managing to stay alive. Though some may point to the moribund state of most of its oceans for the past several years and claim that Puzzle Pirates is a dying game that has not seen new puzzles or activities in years, I say that such a state of affairs—that a game should wither away slowly, but do so largely pure and unchanged—is far more preferable than one in which it each day mutates into something more foreign and incomprehensible. It comforts me to know that, even in January 2020, I can return to playing Puzzle Pirates at any time and still feel like I am playing (nearly) the same game I played in 2006/2007.


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This page last modified on 7 January 2020.