James comes from a distinguished group of former British MUDders currently busy pushing the envelope - KFR from RedBedlam and Paul Barnett from Mythic being two more - and I wondered if there was something in those old MUDs that encouraged experimentation. "Maybe it's because we got our goblin-bashing grinding out of our systems back in the mists of ye olden times!" he cracked, but it is undeniable that Three Rings is chasing a different sort of player than most MMOG developers.
"We set [out] to make Puzzle Pirates for the classic U.S. 'casual gamer' audience, that is, mostly women in their 30s and up. We also thought we'd do well with the MMOG players, but we didn't want to aim for that audience. This has worked out - we attract about 50/50 male/female, and a very broad spread of ages. We've got a lot of teens playing. It can be hard to integrate the two (or three) audiences."
As for the typical MMOG crowd, he describes them as "absurdly over-catered-to. There's a plethora of free MMOGs, along with gorillas like WoW. The publishers who are investing tens of millions of dollars to compete by making yet another whack-a-goblin game, in my humble opinion, are crazier than us. I believe that MMOG players are looking for new and innovative experiences like Puzzle Pirates," though he adds, "We probably would've made more money from a men-in-tights game, so perhaps we're the crazy ones."
Speaking of crazy, the Three Rings crew - James included - has been known to indulge in little bits of madness, be it making a casual puzzle MMOG or, well, dressing as a crew of pirates. While he won't name a favorite in-game swashbuckler, saying, "Cleaver can't be playing favorites. The wenches will get upset," Calico Jack Rackham is his favorite real-life swashbuckler, "because of the Tintin books and his fraternizing with two legendary female pirates." He's forthright about the reasons for his occasional outing in the rags of an old sea dog. Why dress like a pirate in an industry that can be very serious business? "Because we can! Yarr!" And if there's anyone who can get away with the unexpected, it's Three Rings.
[em]Shannon Drake is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist and changed his name when he became a citizen. It used to be Merkw