Through a combination of the Hungering Deep website and the recently developer update video, there's a couple of points we know about flags that will be introduced on Tuesday:
1) Ships will not spawn with a flag being flown.
2) To fly a flag one must head up to the rows nest and raise one. The flag can be changed while sailing this way.
3) The flags in the game include, but are not definitely limited to: white flag, jolly roger, red flag, hungering deep shark flag, and legendary flag.
As a bit of history lesson, flags were very important in naval circles during the age of sail. Without electronic communications and with the very common practice of stealing defeated ships as prizes of war, it was impossible to identify ships just by looking at them. Likewise flags had to be used to signal your intent to other ships, as you could not just get onto the radio and say "Hey guys, I'm just here to talk".
With the introduction of the speakerhorn of course we technically do have a radio, but it's worth noting that it's entirely likely you can see the ship's flag before you can hear them via the horn. Likewise some players don't have a mic, or will be in xbox party chat and switching to in game chat is tricky.
With this in mind I've put together a little guide as to what flags mean in serious situations. Obviously this doesn't mean everyone will follow them for sure, but I certainly intend to use my flags this way.
- Ship sailing with no flag. This is the default state for ships, and it doesn't really mean anything. Sailing without raising your colours was common if you were concerned about attacks on your vessel from enemy countries etc. Pirates commonly also did this. Anyone approaching you with no flag flying should be trwated with utmost suspicion, and the assumption must be they are probably intending to attack.
- Ships sailing with the white flag. People often think the white flag is a symbol of surrender but its not, its a symbol of wanting to talk (surrending is striking your colours, mentioned later). That talk is often with the aim of some sort of truce, but that doesn't mean unconditional surrender. A ship flying the white flag is signalling they want to talk to you. It is very bad form (illegal in real life) to fight under a white flag or to attack someone bearing the white flag.
- The Jolly Roger Used by pirates to signal to a fleeing ship that it was pirates chasing them, and their lives would be spared if they handed over their loot. Most prizes were actually taken without a fight, as merchants were inclined to not risk their lives for someone else's cargo. Pirates had an incentive to honour this deal, because if they simply slaughtered everyone they met, no one would surrender. A ship that surrenders is an easy haul, no one has to die, and your crew feel happy.
- The Red Flag What happens when a ship refuses to surrender to your jolly roger? Or they fight under a white flag dishonestly? Or you are intending to sink the ship and crew to prove some sort of point? Well, you raise the red flag. It sigmals you intend to give "no quarter" to the other crew, that is you will not accept any truce or offers to parley. If pirates lowered the jolly Roger and raised the red flag, crews were known to jump overboard.
Now the next two flags are not real flags in a historical sense. So unless rare had something specific in mind for the flags, this is my interetation:
- Legendary flag Signals the ship is flying with a legend on board. This doesn't tell you much about their intent in of itself, because they could be friend nor foe. Think of this akin to a ship flying the union jack. You can see from a distance its loyalties, but when it gets close it may change its flag.
- The Shark Flag Possibly awarded only to those participating in Merrick's quest. Flying this flag is boasting you know how to kill the new AI threat. Or maybe just you think it looks cool. Either way, it doesn't signal intent. They may change their flag as they approach.
Finally let's talk about how you actually surrender. You have to "strike your colours" which means take whatever flag you're flying down. Obviously if you weren't flying a flag you cannot take one down, but you can raise the white flag. Any ship that strikes its colours is considered to have unconditionally surrendered. Fighting while you have struck your colours is basically an international crime, and most countries would hang you. Likewise firing on a ship that struck its colours is a similar crime.
So let's cover some different scenarios:
I'm on a ship with no legend or shark flag, and while I don't mind PvP I don't seek it out – Fly no flag, when approaching ships with friendly intent, raise the white. When attacked by others, raise the red if you intend to sink them. Raise no flag if you're trying to flee. Raise a white flag if you're looking to parley.
I'm on a ship with a legend and I want to take someone else's loot – Fly the legend flag, as you approach the other ship raise the jolly roger. If they strike their colours or raise the white, board, take their stuff, leave them alive. If they don't surrender, raise the red, sink them.
I'm on my ship minding my own business and someone raises the jolly Roger – If you want a chance to stay alive and even maybe keep some loot, raise the white and raise your sails to come to a stop. If you intend to fight back, raise the red.
As a final note, it's worth saying that some people won't get the meaning of these flags and just fly them because they look cool. The key identifier in this situation is that they will just have a flag flying smf won't be raising or lowering it to signal intentions. For these pirates treat them as if they were not flying a flag at all.
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