Hearts of Oak: Conquest of the Seas is a non-commercial PC game being developed by PiratesAhoy!, and is to become the historical seafaring game to end them all! Fun, realistic gameplay on land and at sea, set during the Age of Sail, will provide extensive free play, exciting scripted storylines and intense multiplayer scenarios.

Post news Report RSS PiratesAhoy! Year in Review: 2015

It's that time again! We've had a great year at PiratesAhoy! developing Hearts of Oak and our other projects, so join us as we celebrate all that we have achieved in 2015.

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2015 is now behind us, and it was certainly an exciting year! The development year on Hearts of Oak has been no less interesting and has seen quite a few changes, both in team members and game assets, while the New Horizons mod team has been tirelessly working on new and improved content for PotC.

Let's take a look back at the highlights of the year at PiratesAhoy!...

A Promising Start

Cast your mind back to the beginning of the year, and this is one of the first development videos released in 2015. In the video, Captain Murphy talks about some of the issues we had with the Suimono water system, shows off some the Ultimate FPS features, and fires the first flintlock pistol to make it in to the game.



A couple of weeks later, he shared some of the lessons he's learnt from using the Oculus Rift VR headset. If you haven't seen this video, it's well worth the look, as it got us all pumped up!



Watching the video is a bit disorienting, especially if you're not wearing 3D glasses, but you can tell by the excitement in his voice just how immersive an effect it is.

Changing of the Guard

Unfortunately, soon after that video, Captain Murphy chose to step down as lead programmer and moved on to work on a new project full time. Although this took us by surprise, he hasn't actually gone very far from our project, and continues to graciously offer us his support and expertise, both of which are very much appreciated.

We wish him and the rest of the development team at Wolfpack Games the very best of luck in their endeavours. Their project is Letters of Marque, an arena-style multiplayer naval combat game that looks incredible so far! You can learn more about the game on their website.

Needless to say, Captain Murphy's departure left us wondering just where we were headed, but we certainly weren't going to let that setback stop us! Before long, as luck would have it, we found a new lead programmer almost immediately in JohnSilver.

A screenshot from our July demo, the first publicly playable release of the game.


Since taking over, JohnSilver has done an outstanding job of getting Hearts of Oak back on track. The team got to work refining the design document and refocusing our efforts on getting a playable tech demo out to you all as soon as possible. This was both to reassure ourselves that we could actually do it, and to give a little something back as a thank you to all of you who have followed the game's progress over the years.

In the past few months, you have seen those demos go live, which proves at long last that we weren't just talking about making a game, we ARE making a game!

Here's a selection of screenshots from our various tech demos:

Our August demo saw the return of the St Albans, replacing the placeholder galleon.

In the first of two September demos, we introduced firing stations to allow for finer control of the guns.

The October release featured new AI and damage effects, including destructible rigging.

The damage effects were further improved in the November demo with hull damage decals.


We also saw a video from JohnSilver showcasing a recent build, and we're hoping to have more videos next year.

Fast forward to our current release, and the player can now walk freely around on deck.


Unwavering Support

Towards the end of the year, something incredible happened. The Indie of the Year Awards came around once more, and to our amazement, Hearts of Oak made it into the Top 100 for the second year running! This is in spite of the fact that we didn't make a push for support, on the grounds that we felt there were more deserving titles out there at this stage.


Nevertheless, you still made your support known, and for that, we can hardly express our gratitude enough. Thank you all again for the support and encouragement you have given us throughout the game's development!

For so many of you to have the confidence to vote us in, even though our demos are still a little rough, is tremendously encouraging! That confidence helps us work that much harder to deliver on our promise, and goes a long way in driving us to meet our ultimate goal. It also proves that we are on the right track with Hearts of Oak and that there IS a demand out there for this type of game!

Maintaining Momentum

Where are we headed in 2016? Well, we can't reveal all our secrets here, but we can tell you that it will be an exciting ride! We have some incredible things coming up for the new year that we hope will really set Hearts of Oak apart from anything that has come before it. Here is a sneak preview showing some screenshots from the current work-in-progress build:





The last few demos have concentrated almost exclusively on getting ship physics and basic controls set up to a good standard. Now we feel it is time to expand the world a bit, and we really think you will enjoy exploring a bit more in the next demo!

The Journey Ahead

Where will the game be by the end of 2016? That is a tough one to answer; we have a long way to go before we get Hearts of Oak up to the standard of game that we all want, and it will take feedback from all of you to help us get there.

That is why we recently created a new QA Tester group to help track down bugs and to get quality demos out more quickly. So far, the response we've had is pretty good, with quite a few applications and a good team of testers now under our belt.

As a result, for the time being, we are no longer accepting QA applications for the team.
Please do not apply for this position, as you will not be given the role.

If, however, you'd like to help the team by other means, remember that we're still accepting more artists, programmers and sound designers, so feel free to apply for any of those roles in our Recruitment forum as usual.

Double the Progress

While progress on laying the foundations for the Hearts of Oak base game continues, that is not all that has been happening this year. PiratesAhoy! is about more than just one game after all, and we could never forget the reason we are all even here.

We have spent the past twelve-and-a-half years working on the New Horizons mod for PotC and we have every intention of continuing on it. A separate team of enthusiastic modders have been hard at work experimenting, squashing bugs, and adding tons of new content.

While these people are not directly involved with the progress on Hearts of Oak, PotC makes for great testing grounds to try out various advanced game concepts. So while HoO is still in a relatively basic state, we can already find out what works and what does not in advance. It is all part of a learning process to make both games as good as they can possibly be.

A new release of New Horizons should be ready for public release quite soon.
Some of the new and improved features to look forward to include:

  • A huge amount of fixes
  • Brand new storyline "The Gold-Bug", based on the famous short story by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Free Play storyline with many custom start scenarios and a wide variety of predefined characters that are fully customisable
  • Distinguished between different play styles, allowing play as merchant, privateer, navy officer, pirate and smuggler and allows you to mix and match between them
  • Completely redone Levelling System that applies equally to all player and non-player characters
  • Many improvements to many storylines, including an improved, extended and finished Hornblower story and several unique fixes to Jack Sparrow
  • Completely redone Nations Relations, now finally fully functional

For a full run-down of all the new features and bug fixes, stay tuned for the news article accompanying the mod release early this year.

Before the mod team can consider the new build release-worthy though, they need as much input from players as possible.
If you have the original PotC game and you'd like to help out, please do give the latest internal build a try on our forum. Our modders will be extremely grateful!

Closing Comments

Alas, as the year draws to a close, we can look back on all that we've achieved together in 2015 with pride. Through highs and lows, we have persevered and come out as strong as ever, with a fledgling game that shows great promise and a legendary mod that gets better and better.

We hope to build on our successes and see just how far we can go from here, with the support of everyone on our team along with all our dedicated fans out there. Let us hope that 2016 holds much more to get excited about!

From everyone at PiratesAhoy!, we hope you had a great Christmas and wish you a happy New Year!

:pirates

Comments
***Geroj***
***Geroj***

Why the hell you dump cryengine for unity? Thats like the worst commercial engine, everything looks like running on dx9
Huge downgrade

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dunadan101
dunadan101

I mostly get a lot of stuttering in Unity games.

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Jhonny44
Jhonny44

Easy there.. Cryengine is a big pain to code. It's unstable and the back end (support and future upgrades) is nearly dead. Yes it produces beautiful scenery but there is a very good reason why most indies choose more stable and more supported engines like Unity or Unreal. The only high leading title releasing right now on Cryengine is Star Citizen. And guess what, they have a massive team of experienced programmers who are constantly working on rewriting most of the engine code. I mean they basically tore that engine apart and rewrote it to suit their needs. This great team of volunteers doesn't get paid, can't work 40+ hours a week on this projects and don't have the full support of the Crytek team (or what is left of it) to aid them with bugs and problems. And before you talk trash about the Unity engine, go have a look at Rust and educate yourself.

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***Geroj***
***Geroj***

Well as mere mortal I can only rate finished thing or visuals so I had no idea about how working/coding is hard on what engine and its quite surprising for me that cryengine is that bad and thought you just dumped perfectly fine engine for another, worse one
Anyway there is something really wrong with Unity lightning or shaders or something, I can tell just from looking on game that its made in unity and they generally look really "unrealistic" even with high polygon count and high res textures

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MrEmjeR
MrEmjeR

The lack of visual beauty in this game is not the fault of the engine, as with swords, an engine is as good as its user. Up until now, the creators haven't had any focus on the shaders yet, because they have been focusing on other stuff. That's why there is no ambient occlusion, a blue sky, no interesting lightning, no color grading etc. I suppose when the time is right they will work on this.

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Thagarr Creator
Thagarr

We tried several different game engines, including Cryengine, Unreal and several others. At the time we switched to Unity, Cryengine could not handle weather changes the way that we needed it to, and a couple of other minor things. Both engines are pretty comparable today, however. I don't see any issues with the look of either engine, they both can be made to look outstanding.

Reply Good karma+5 votes
Armada_ Author
Armada_

The engine change is old news, but you can read our reasoning behind it in this article: Indiedb.com

Reply Good karma+4 votes
OJeskulke
OJeskulke

Nice wrap up, it is really coming along niecely. I like the lighting a lot, it feels totaly like the burning sun in the carribean :)
Good to hear that your setback has not led to abandoning the project. All the best for 2016!
One question though regarding the water, do you use some plugin for that or how did you achive that realistic look and feel?

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Thagarr Creator
Thagarr

We are using a plugin. We started out using the Suimono water system, but had issues with a couple of things, we are currently using the Ceto water system.

Reply Good karma+1 vote
OJeskulke
OJeskulke

Thanks for the hint!

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Armada_ Author
Armada_

Thanks for the kind words! The water and lighting do look quite nice, but in future we'll add proper sky textures and clouds to improve it further, as well as time of day and weather effects.

Reply Good karma+1 vote
Guest
Guest

Cant wait for this game to be finished

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