Naval Action – An Early Preview

Weather & Battle Maps

The battle maps in game are very large at the moment. 1hr being given to complete a battle and battles often taking in excess of 30 minutes to complete. Being completed when every ship is sunk. Currently though to prevent people in PVP from simply running the entire hour if outnumbered or plain inconsiderate there is a ring that slowly closes preventing indefinite running towards the end of the match.

There are a few islands, lighthouses and other objects about to sail around.

There are a few types of weather in game for testing at the moment. Calm weather and very stormy weather. The storms are notable in that people often fire into the sea while trying to fire through a wave and the fact that your ship speeds and slows as it rides the waves. Lower gun decks are often unusable on the downward roll.

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Abstractions

I would like to take a moment to explain some of the abstractions that are almost necessary for a game like this. Consider while reading this the sacrifices made by any tabletop or board based wargame.

First of all you have the damage dealt. Far more damage is dealt per broadside than is historical for two ships of equal side against each other. We know from history that ships in battle often spent hours broad siding each other before a battle was decided. Obviously in a game you need engagements to be decided a mite faster than that. We don’t have time compression in the actual battles for this game due to it’s multiplayer support. So the time it takes to destroy something is compressed. It does not feel wrong when you are playing. Ships are still tough and take a lot of punishment. But it does not take hours to sink them.

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Second we have the fact that all ships sink. Once again an abstraction to allow players to move on with their game. Once your pumping capacity is exceeded you start to take on water and your ship gets lower where the leaks are until it is listing and untenable. When your ships hull sinks below the waterline you are out of the game and your ship sinks.

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Thirdly each ship has three repairs to use. This is where one can choose to have a proportion of sail, hull or pumps repaired by the crew with shipboard resources over a period of time while in battle. Obviously this would have happened after battle or to a limited extent during battle. But in NAVAL ACTION you can have whole masts come back within a minute of starting a repair. Once again this can be attributed to time compression and abstraction. If a battle were to go for two hours some repairs would be completed during lulls.

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Fourthly I have already mentioned the invisible boats in the case that you are in irons.

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Fifthly ships do feel a mite faster than they should under sail. Although I have had experience sailing this is something that is very hard for me to gauge in game. It feels natural to me and gives me the thrill I get from the power of the wind in real life. When two ships are beside each other close in, firing broadsides at their maximum sailing speed it feels amazing. Please don’t take away from this that the game speeds are more like motor boat, they are not. They are though probably a tad faster than they should be. Perhaps this is something that is such a personal opinion that I should not be putting it in this preview?

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Lastly boarding and capturing ships is possible but abstracted at the moment. I won’t talk about this as it really is a feature that I know will be completely changed in future. For now if a ship is travelling slowly enough and you come along side you can grapple it, although it can turn and speed up to break your grapple. When you win a boarding action you can choose to transfer to that ship with your remaining crew. I say remaining as boarding is a good way to get a lot of them killed, win or not! The un-manned ship is left with a white flag floating about for anybody else to capture!

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State of the game now. Is it playable?

For a pre-early access game NAVAL ACTION is eminently playable and very smooth. The biggest battles are pretty much the equivalent numbers you would see in the biggest age of sail battles historically. So there is no problem in that area.

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There is nigh a bug to be seen and it is improving all the time. It is pre-early access though and so caveat emptor applies. I really do not know how this “in development” game will end up and everything is subject to change at this very early stage. But everybody playing it seems to be happy and having a wonderful time. A strong community has already formed around this game.

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Currently to get the game you have to order of the NAVAL ACTION website and then wait until Friday for a key which goes into steam. Later when early access arrives it will come out directly on steam. EDIT: Since the time of writing Pre-Orders have in fact been closed due to it actually being too popular. They even ran out of steam keys and had to acquire more a short time before closing pre-order access. I am not sure when access will open again.

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Sailing Ship models as you can see from the screenshots are very pleasing to the eye and there are around 10 ships currently in game for testing. Every ship is based on all historical scraps of information possible. Often direct from the actual ships plans. This is why so many like the Trincomallee, Victory and the Constitution which exist in real life are the ones they started with.

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In fact 3D ship modellers are encouraged to submit models to be put in game and apparently get paid for them.

The seascape is the best I have seen in a game to date. I cannot say much more than the sea actually effects the way the ship moves. The game requires a Direct X 11 Capable card because of this excellent water effect.

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Plans for the future of the game

This game is headed to being the premiere sailing game currently or ever on the market.

At the time of writing the game spans from around 1700 to the end of the age of sail with scope to move much earlier in time than that. The ships we have now are mostly late revolutionary or napoleonic war era.

I hope the developers of NAVAL ACTION keep the current battle room mode that they have in addition to creating the open world but at this early stage we do not know for sure.

A lot of features such as a language filter and family friendly flag or banner are planned to prevent the community from becoming as caustic as some others become. The community so far more mature and older than most I have been in.

Features such as being able to customise your ship are planned. You will be able to decorate your ship with pennants and such. Some special ships will be purchasable with real money. This is a turn off for some who believe that pay to win becomes predominant. The price of entry however is supposed to give access to the majority of ships for free.

The open world will allow you to choose which country you were born in, which may even be a country which had almost no naval power like Germany and then join a nation such as Britain or Spain in the navy. An excert from the developers sums some of the developers plans up much better than I could:

 

Flags, Banners, Ensigns and Pennants

Some of you have asked about the flags, banners and pennants. Here are some of the flags we will have in our game.

We separate Nationality and Allegiance in our game. Nation is not chosen, but determined by a player. Player can choose to be born a German, when creating a character, and decide to join the Spanish Navy for military service.

Player actions will influence the opportunities and access to the National service. A pirate who actively participated in sinking of Spanish treasure fleets will be welcome in a British Privateer Branch of the Royal Navy, but is Kill on Sight to French fleets and players, if France has a Union with Spain.

Certain skills will allow the player to sail under a false flag, but this will be a serious criminal offence in certain ports. Capture such player and he will be judged by a player court and receive a jail time.

Players can use banners, pennants, and ensigns to show off their battle or economy achievements. Banners will be granted by National Admiralty, State Trade Company, or the government and royal court. Some of the pennants will grant extra bonuses in battle or in open map travel, increasing morale crew morale or other characteristics.

Players can also create their own flags and banners for their squadrons and trade companies, which will be allowed in the game if they are accepted by the developer and voted for by a player committee. To keep the spirit of the Age of Sail, usage of ponies, penises and other modern elements will be restricted.

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In the long term, player guilds holding significant number of ports could pledge allegiance to a new nation, for example making part of the Antilles Scottish. But that will be extremely hard and will most likely mean war against everyone.

Last of all it is not known exactly what theatre the first open world map will begin in but it is likely to be the west indies from what I have seen.

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Conclusion

NAVAL ACTION is in the very early stages of development currently but is already in a very playable state for those that are happy to test that game.

NAVAL ACTION   is unique in its attention to historical detail and battles is very satisfying with a lot to learn and see. A major part of the game in the open world is yet to be seen and will no doubt determine this games worth for a great many people. Personally I am very excited to see a new game in the age of sail genre at all, let alone one of such quality.

 

What follows are a few final screenshots and sundry:

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Damage model 4.0. Due out in the next little while for pre-order customers to test.

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Some screenshots of the open world that is being developed. Nothing concrete at this stage but there are some very interesting signs here. For instance one shot shows the stars at night and another shows shallows.

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