Lil’ Pirates Hands-On Preview and Video

In an intriguing partnership, Capcom and IUGO are teaming up to deliver their first-ever online social game. Similar in style to games like Farmville and We Farm, Lil’ Pirates is a pirate-themed game where you can import your Facebook friends, send them on missions, and then deck out your ship and outfit with their bounty. At GDC Online in Austin, we had a chance to try it for ourselves.

Lil’ Pirates is free to play, but there will be opportunities abound to part with some money. Like Ngmoco’s free farming games, you can earn coins easily through missions, and there is also a premium currency called dubloons which are rarer. You can customize your ship and avatar using both currencies, and IUGO told us they were hoping to make these virtual items so compelling that people would be willing to pay real money for them. Some examples we saw included flame-graphic ship sails and rubber ducky crow’s nests.

Your lil’ pirate starts out with a basic ship only, but you’ll be able to invite your friends from Facebook to join your crew. Then, you can send them on a mission, which have timers ranging from a few minutes to several hours. When they’re done, you’ll collect some loot, plus a bonus if you send them on a mission that they specialize in, like fighting or robbing.

One other interesting aspect of Lil’ Pirates is Treasure Island, which introduces an element of gambling into the mix (as if online social games were not addictive enough). On Treasure Island, you can bury any item in the ground to make it more valuable over time. However, your friends can dig up your treasure and steal it for themselves. Since this would normally lead to you making them walk the plank, there is a potential upside: Your item will randomly be replaced with an item that could be of greater or lesser value.

The combination of these different factors, including simple minigames for restoring your crew’s energy that can be skipped with special currency called root beer, make Lil’ Pirates a little more complex than other social games we’ve seen lately. In any case, we think that the pirates theme is a winner, since everyone knows that pirates are irresistibly fun, more so than farmers. Look for Lil’ Pirates in the App Store in November.