Here I have the interview the awesome guys and girls at Snowbird Games Studio were kind enough to let me do with them about their up and coming game, ‘Mount and Blade: Caribbean!’
I was super excited about this game, as it marries my love for the Mount and Blade series to my most adored period of history, the 18th century. The age of wooden ships and iron men is by far the most interesting, beautiful and intense period I have ever had my pleasure to experience through games, books and film, so it’s quite understandable that I – among so many others – have a deep love for pirates!
The people over at Snowbird were kind enough to let me interview them after my simply asking through email. Honestly, I thought they would’ve shut me down for being, well, a nobody! However, they seemed not to mind at all, and have been ever patient with my delays at posting the review.
So, at long last: here is my review with Snowbird Games Studio!
Hi there. Straight to the good stuff: how intricate is the naval combat going to be? How much of a focus is it for you guys? Am I going to need to close my lower deck gun ports due to adverse weather, for example?
Ahoy! When it comes to realism in our game, we’re trying to simulate a fair number of things whenever is prudent. Ships are damaged and set aflame during the fight; strong winds affect the sailing speed, etc. Thus, we’re trying to make players’ experience as rich as we can. However, we don’t want overwhelm them with too much micromanagement at the same time.
So, the answer is ‘no’ – you don’t need to operate your lower deck gun ports manually. It’s not a Silent Hunter: Now With Sailships game after all; we prefer to position it as a humble and grateful heir to Sid Meier’s Pirates! :)
How is the ship going to be controlled? Will my character be at the helm, or will I be controlling my ship 3rd-person – like in ‘Pirates of the Burning Sea’?
Naval combat uses an overhead mode. You steer it with keyboard and order to raise or lower sails as a means to change speed. The mouse buttons are used to give orders to your fleet, change ammunition and fire at the enemy vessels.
This may sound like such a small thing but… I’m going to ask it anyway: during ship-to-ship combat, will my cannons all fire directly on a target, or will they fire in an arc, like Sid Meier’s Pirates? Or, will I order my men’s cannon fire individually or broadside en masse using the function keys, like in previous M&B titles?
The cannons fire in an arc, albeit fairly narrow. Still, if you engage a small vessel in a full broadside of your ship of the line, it is only natural that your fore and aft cannons will end up firing at the blank space to the left and right of your target – or what remains of it when the center of your battery does its dirty work :) At times, it might be worthwhile to maximize the output of your broadside by sailing alongside the enemy or turning slightly during fire, thus giving more of your cannons a chance for their 15 seconds of glory.
You cannot fire individual cannons, but the cannons do fire individually – that is, the broadside isn’t perfectly synchronized, it takes a few seconds for the entire battery to execute your orders, each cannon firing on its own.
Will my trusty sailing boat be more than just a wooden battlefield? What I mean is, will boarding actions have many intricacies (jumping from ship to ship, fighting in the maintop, climbing along boarding ropes) or will it essentially be Mount and Blade: Napoleonic Wars on a floating platform?
We have already implemented the swivel guns mounted on ship railings, to be used during both the boarding action itself and the closing-up phase preceding it, and are now tinkering with the said closing up part. But swinging over ropes and wire-dancing on sailyards is not very likely due to animation, complexity of pathfinding, what have you. We consider a possibility to implement a simplified model for some of that, though.
Have you read many books that pertain to the setting? ‘Hornblower’, perhaps? Or (even better) Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series? If you have, did it positively influence your development?
As they say, in Soviet Russia the pirate novels read you. :) So, our reading background is somewhat limited to whatever was made available in our childhood. R.L. Stevenson goes without asking, Sabatini’s Captain Blood books are another all-time favorite.
What year is the game set? Can I expect the British rum ration to be half a pint twice a day, or less (and by that I mean before or after 1740?)
“Second half of XVII century” is the best estimate we may give. There is some stuff and people from 1640s and from 1690s peacefully coexisting together. We believe being particularly pedantic about this issue would diminish the experience greatly.
On the theme of the rum ration, what is the importance of historical accuracy to you guys?
The answer is the same as the one regarding realistic features – we care about historical accuracy as long as it doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. One thing for sure – there are no fantasy elements in the game. We’re working with a genuine historical period in a particular region, so there are no Krakens to fight or curses to lift :)
How will siege combat work? Will the ships be able to bombard settlements mid-battle?
We’ll bring siege artillery to the battlefield, and players will be able to destroy city walls during the assault. Otherwise, you can attempt to invade a city from the seaside, overcoming its forts and batteries in a naval battle then landing within its walls against a seriously depleted garrison.
We’re also considering a feature allowing the player to call „support fire” from his fleet during a land-based assault. Sort of like artillery and aicraft support in Combat Mission: Shock Force.
Will there be disobedience in my crew? Will I need discipline those that defy my harsh, tyrannical pirate captain ways?
Absolutely! There will be a plenty of special events dealing with disobedience and rebellions of the crew. Players will be able to choose how to deal with these issues out of several options, and every decision will lead to some consequences – sometimes pretty unpleasant for the captain :)
Can I force them onto 6-water grog, just to show them who’s boss?
Maybe :) Let’s wait for the game release – we don’t want to spoil any interesting in-game situations in advance.
Can I expect the men to mutiny if I suck as Captain? Will morale lower because they haven’t had fresh meat in weeks?
Definitely. Those tough sea dogs are terrible whiners if you think about it, they don’t like their wages yesterday, they are in uproar you’re serving them some mincemeat full of white worms (you know, the “macaroni” ones) today, they are pissed off you had saved those hapless Spanish shipwreck survivors instead of dragging them beneath the keel tomorrow. Lack of food affects morale, and so are many other factors. In fact, I am having a hard time keeping my starting party from deserting and taking along most of my starting fleet right now :)
Will scurvy be a legitimate problem? If so, will I know the solution or will I just vaguely know that I need to thrust green stuff down my crew’s throats?
Scurvy is just one of the diseases that can plague your crew, along with dysentery and a few others. The solution used to be “have a few days of comfortable rest and good food in a portside tavern”, but we’re considering reinventing the ways diseases work.
Will the parrot on my shoulder (I’m just assuming there’s going to be one) insult my evil ways, or compliment me on my dashing, piratical good looks?
The thing is – we haven’t planned to implement parrots at all initially, but in the last few months we have received a lot of questions about this ‘feature’ :) That’s why we definitely will include them in Caribbean! in some way or another. We can’t promise that parrots will be able to talk just like any other NPC, but we can guess it would be fun!
Do I need to take account of my fresh water supplies? Previous M&B games had you watching your food stores, but now that I and my crew are at sea, will fresh water now be an issue?
That’s not very likely, the Caribbean is a small pond after all, with hundreds of islands scattered everywhere providing fresh water to anyone in need. Unless someone left you behind on the Deadman’s Chest with a bottle of rum and one bullet for your pistol, you’re unlikely to face massive issues procuring fresh water.
The food management is still as important as ever, but there will be ways to somewhat circumvent it – like a perk the player may learn, granting his crew an increased ability to hunt and forage for supplies at their own.
Lastly, honestly now: do you think it’s fun? Will this appeal to both M&B vets & piratical fanatics?
Sure we do! Otherwise, the entire idea of developing such a game would be pointless. We’re huge fans of Mount & Blade concept and we always believed that it has a great potential for being adapted to other settings and historical periods. On the other hand, there wasn’t a single decent game about pirates since, well, almost forever. We know for sure that there is a plenty of pirate fans out there, and they’re craving for another game about galleons, tropical islands, treasure hunting and Jolly Roger flag. We won’t let them down :)