Skull and Bones: a look back at a slow project

Game news Skull and Bones: a look back at a slow project

Announced several years ago, Skull and Bones, Ubisoft’s pirate game, has hardly been talked about since, except to announce postponements … And despite 8 years of development, the wind does not seem still not ready to rise and the title continues to sail towards an uncertain horizon.

From DLC to full game

This is a huge survey going back to the creation of Skull and Bones released by the American media Kotaku. And the least that we can say is that the twenty developers interviewed, old and current, are not very confident about the development of the game and the end result. let’s remember that the project dates back to 8 years ago and was originally intended to be a simple extension ofAssassin’s Creed IV : Black Flag. Internally, Kotaku’s sources therefore evoke doubts about the planned release period, with the latest news envisaged for February or March 2022. For its part, Ubisoft wants to be fairly confident about the progress of the project, at least in the face of investors .

So why not just cancel the project? Because, still according to Kotaku sources, the development of the title has already cost Ubisoft $ 120 million and that it is still far from over. By way of comparison, this sum represents as much – if not more – than a recent episode of Assassin’s Creed. The project is too big and advanced to be canceled, especially since it would go badly on the side of investors. To top it all, there is a political and economic deal between Ubisoft Singapore, the main team behind the game, and the country. The studio would thus be required to release an original franchise within a certain timeframe if it wanted to keep its advantages in the territory. The box therefore seems bound hand and foot.

Just a demo?

If you’ve been following JV and more specifically our adventures at E3, you might know that Panthaa – whose soft voice you can enjoy in the video above – had been able to play duplex and live for almost one hour under Ubisoft piracy in 2018. The game was then fully playable, but it is still not released. A particularly strange and rather unprecedented situation, but that some developers compare to the case Anthem : Skull and Bones would be a kind of technical showcase for them, bordering on demo, but with little content behind it. It is indeed difficult to arrive for lack of a clear guideline. The Singaporean studio also gives Kotaku information on the current state of the game: production has just passed the Alpha phase (8 after the start of its development, therefore) and the teams are eager to give more details.

A nebulous concept …

Still in the American media article, one of the developers explains that thethe basis of the problem actually lies in the very status of the game: a DLC based on Assassin’s IV, which was technically not the latest freshness when it was released at the end of the life of the PS3 / 360 and at the start of the One / PS4 generation. At the same time, Ubisoft was preparing Assassin’s Creed Unity, a real new-gen episode that made the technical aspect of Black Flag somewhat outdated. And so Skull and Bones. Then began a technical reboot for the one we still called Liberty project.

The main information that has come out of the many interviews with former and current developers of the studio is that the game has in fact always been sought: we went from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean; we started with a version very inspired by the excellent Meier’s Pirates !, with a multiplayer campaign with branches, before moving to a version offering an ultra-atypical central hub, a city described as a “water cathedral” by the developers. Several such tracks were studied during the long years of development, which did not really help to make the project something concrete, fixed and quick to exit.

Stack systems

In the same style, we learn that the different versions shown in the salon almost all had a different philosophy. First focused on player versus player (PvP) for its first presentation in 2017, Skull and Bones joined the following year of PvE, with players and AI, when it returned to E3. At this stage, the game includes a lot of systems: naval battle, competitive game system like a Dark Zone in The Division, loot, resource management, crafting, purchase and resale of merchandise … Ubisoft does not hesitate to attempting things. But the whole results in an indigestible accumulation of features, as well difficult to manage in game as in its interface.

Multiple round trips

Apparently, whether one embodies the boat or – nuance – a pirate piloting the boat has been reconsidered several times over the years. Faced with all these changes of course, the studio spent between six months and a year developing tools to make exploring on foot possible. The hesitations of the genre multiplied, the teams finally felt lost and obliged to bounce back as best as possible on each new decision made by the managers. Relations would have been complicated between the Parisian studio and that of Singapore, not helping the project to move forward.

According to Kotaku’s sources, the game will continue to evolve today, but this one appears to be rowing and it’s unclear where it’s headed. It is therefore difficult to plan on a release date under these conditions. Hopefully it does not completely fall into the water …

Through Rob_Bellamy, Writing jeuxvideo.com

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