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At one point during our last multiplayer playtest, one of our players shouted “why do these pirates always have to come after me?” after having his new mining outpost raided by a pirate squadron for the third time. It was a temporary moment of frustration for him, but it made us think about why we feel pirates are so important to Beyond Sol, especially in the early phases of the game, and we thought it would make a good blog post.

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From a gameplay perspective, pirates are an effective early game enemy that can teach you about the fundamentals of our combat system and train you to become a better fighter. We accomplish this by tuning pirate ships and encounters for new players that have few ship upgrades. Our pirate ships are smaller and weaker than the ships most cities have in their fleets, which allows us to create encounters where you can take on multiple ships and you don’t need a high skill level to come out alive. We scale encounters over the course of the early game so that you can eventually find tougher bands of pirates, which teaches you basic fleet combat. By the time you’ve acquired the upgrades and the skill to handily defeat all the pirate encounters, you should be a match for the more formidable fleets of your rival cities.

In addition to teaching you about combat, pirates also teach you about the strategic aspect of Beyond Sol. You will encounter pirate bases spread around the solar system that will raid nearby cities and outposts. As you develop your city and lay claim to planets and territory, these bases will push back against you, teaching you that expanding too quickly is a bad idea.

We also think that pirates are such a common feature of space games that they give us some easy narrative experiences that players will simply understand immediately. Players generally won’t stop to wonder why pirates are raiding them in a space game, so we don’t have the burden of explaining their motivation or their origin like we would for other threats like aliens.

For more insight into our design goals for how pirates will behave in Beyond Sol, just have a look at the golden age of piracy in the early 18th century.

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