Holy shit, Ubisoft heard me. Look at this bad ass pirate game!

skullandbones

#1

Back when I played Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag I kept saying to myself “Ubisoft, just make a god damn pirate game. Kill the stupid Assassin’s Creed storyline.”

Boom. Look at this shit. It looks so awesome. A pirate-themed multiplayer game called Skull and Bones.

Ubisoft Singapore creative director Justin Farren took the stage. He revealed that Ubi Singapore was the developer behind Black Flag’s naval combat. Since then, the studio has focused on breaking those mechanics out into their own game.

Trailer

Skull and Bones will be a multiplayer-focused experience, with players competing to become the most notorious pirate. Farren introduced a video showing off loot hunt, a five-versus-five mode where the team with the most loot at the end wins. Each player gets their own ship, rather than all working together on a single ship.

Sailing will take into account wind usage, how sails are set and other real-world factors. The demo also showed off a return of one of Black Flag’s beloved features: sea shanties that crew members will sing as you sail.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, release date is fall 2018. :frowning:


#2

unfortunately again, that’s after the release of Sea of Thieves.


#3

I don’t know what that is but I feel like I should be excited about it.


#4

they showed a bunch during the xbox showcase.

the art style is vastly different, but conceptually it doesn’t seem very different. being first is pretty important these days.


#5

I may or may not know of someone that may or may not be me who may or may not be playing the beta (the NDA doesn’t make it clear what I/someone may or may not share).

Rumours are it’s good fun with friends.


#6

Looks very cool. I would say that one thing Ubisoft has going for it is that they’ve already made a really great pirate game inside the Assassin’s Creed story. A lot of people loved Black Flag.


#7

I see people talking a lot about Sea of Thieves, however nothing about it really captured me. I admit I didn’t watch everything about it, but it just didn’t engage me.

Skull & Bones certainly has my interest… it is Ubisoft though, so no preorder here.


#8

I think the art style of Sea of Thieves is more hit or miss. Higher risk but potentially higher reward for longevity.


#9

Sick trailer…but is it just ship on ship crime?


#10

Looks like just ship vs. ship at least from what they’re showing so far.


#11

FYI: Beta sign up is open now https://www.ubisoft.com/en-us/game/skull-and-bones/


#12

How did I miss this new trailer at E3?


#13

Everything we know about Skull & Bones

Developers’ Vision

  • Creative Director Justin Farren (get used to that name, it’ll show up a lot) emphasized that the game’s focus is all about robbing people blind on the high seas. This emphasis on “loot acquisition” was a recurring theme across all of the interviews during E3.

  • Game is set in the twilight of the Golden Age of Piracy (1720s) in the Indian Ocean.

  • Developers want each ship to have a distinct playstyle, and they take inspiration from classical RPG roles (e.g. Tank, Support, DPS, etc.) so that the roles feel familiar and distinct to players.

  • The game’s story / campaign is not a “consumable” one that you play once and finish and move on from (i.e. it’s not like, say, For Honor’s Story Mode). Rather, it’s an ongoing narrative that the player is part of and that is interwoven in the game’s procession from season to season.

  • Devs want even your losses to feel like somewhat of a victory, so that even if another player destroys you, you aren’t left demotivated or disappointed.

  • The world is supposed to be as sailors at that time perceived it. That means that “supernatural” events and creatures may in fact be in the game, but they are supposed to be very rare. They’re envisioned more as rare random encounters rather than farming opportunities or “hunt areas.” The intention is for these rare encounters to become somewhat legendary within the community (“Yesterday I was attacked by a frickin’ kraken!” “Pbbt I’ve played 100 hours and never seen a kraken, you’re full of it.”)

Character Creation and Customization

  • Players can create their own custom pirate captain from scratch (edit: This doesn’t necessarily mean TES or Sims-style customization where you’re determining their entire bone structure, just that you are locked into prebuilt captains.)

  • Captain customization includes gender, models, pants, jackets, hats, etc. There are no limited presets.

Ship Customization (Combat, Cosmetic, and Crew)

  • Ships have both cosmetic-oriented customizations and combat-oriented customizations.

  • Combat customizations focus on your ship’s equipment. We saw options for bow chasers, broadside cannons, and mortars/artillery.

  • Cosmetic customizations have no statistical impact. We saw options for figureheads, wheels, and “helms” (unclear what this is, since the ship’s wheel is the helm). Customizing colors / paint and sails has also been confirmed.

  • You can also customize / handpick your crewmates, who have different roles and provide different bonuses to your ship, so there are a lot of opportunities for mix-and-match synergizing. Per Justin, crew customization is a big factor in “where the meta is.”

  • The crewmates we’ve seen in the gameplay demos seem to be focused on boosting reload speed, sail speed, repairing, looting, boarding, bracing, and hull health.

  • Hitting specific areas of an enemy ship will allow you to disable an enemy’s special crew members and prevent them from benefiting from those buffs.

  • You can name your ships and design your flags, but it’s unclear how much leeway this customization will have. Justin has mentioned wanting to maintain the integrity/immersion of the setting. (Update: We don’t know for sure at this point whether or not players will be able to name their ships. There’s been a lot of discussion about the importance to the devs of immersion, and the tendency of gamers to name their avatars things like XxX_ThotDestroyer69_XxX seems to be a pretty driving force against freedom of ship-naming.)

Hideout and Fleet

  • You start each sequence in your hideout, which serves as an on-land base of operations. Yes, you can walk around the hideout with your captain and visit the various points of interest there.

  • Players can have multiple ships in their fleet, but only use a single ship at any given time. You can switch between ships in your Hideout.

  • It also looked like it was possible to switch ships when you respawn during an “outing,” but that may have been something unique to the “Demo” at E3.

  • Ships seem to have both a general type and a subtype. The only three player ships that have been shown are the Frigate “Royal Fortune,” the Brigantine “Black Horn,” and the Brigantine “Jaeger.”

  • Known ship “hull types” that will be playable in the game are Frigates, Brigantines, Sloops, and Schooners. There will be multiple sub-types for all of these.

  • The devs experimented with a dedicated repair ship (idea being to restore health to other ships), but found it was too problematic from a balancing perspective. They’re still going to think about it, but it sounds like right now that repair ships aren’t on the table.

  • Player can get intel on a “target” / various objectives in the Hunting Grounds (e.g. a target to rob) and plan their armament, crew, and ship selection accordingly.

  • Hideout contains all of the access points for customizations, upgrades, crew, fortune-telling, etc.

  • You cannot send “idle” ships out on their own missions (like you did with Kenway’s Fleet in Black Flag).

  • Justin has mentioned being able to meet historically-inspired pirates in your hideout. Unclear what this entails, or what purpose it will serve. You can also meet other characters who are part of the game’s ongoing narrative, visit your tavern, interact with crew, listen to shanties, etc.

  • Per Justin, the hideout is a place for pirates to further their ambitions, not a kingdom for them to manage. Pirates are out for themselves; they aren’t “trying to create a utopia.” No pirate republics of Libertalia here, folks.

Leaving the Ship and Cutscenes

  • Notwithstanding your Hideout, there are currently no options to leave your ship out in the open world. Interaction events such as boarding an opponent, salvaging a shipwreck, or exploring a coastal area are handled through quick, activated cutscenes.

  • Boarding becomes possible if a ship is below 25% Hull Health. That includes the player’s ship, so be careful if you fall to low hull health. A ship that is at Boarding Risk cannot initiate a boarding action itself. Once activated, the boarding is an automatic success for the aggressor and plays out in a short cutscene. The total time to activate and play out the cutscene is about 7 seconds. At least in my opinion, this is a good thing.

  • The following is a direct quote from Justin: ”Right now boarding is a finishing maneuver and an opportunity to make a tactical decision when you do board. (Maximize loot and repair kits) and as of now it’s not going to be a full swashbuckling gameplay. This isn’t from a time concern but an actual gameplay and design decision. Boarding can be further developed and the reference to For Honor is a good one as I would love to see personalization have a part to play in the boarding maneuver.” Here’s some context for that quote, for you.

  • When encountering shipwrecks and coastal interactions, you can use a decision wheel to pick which “benefit” you want from the event. The three choices that have been seen so far are gaining Loot, gaining a Repair Kit, or applying a disguise to your ship (“Deception”). (All three choices are not necessarily available from every interaction.)

Known Modes

  • An official blog post about the two known modes—Hunting Grounds and Disputed Waters.

  • Hunting Grounds

    • Official Gameplay Preview

    • A PvPvE shared, open, dynamic world. This is not just a one-off mode—the shared world is “the essence of what the game is.”

    • Up to ten players in each “instance” simultaneously.

    • The open world is full of AI factions (see below), with the dynamic constantly changing.

    • Use your Hideout to gather information prior to each “hunt.”

    • Objectives featured so far have included knocking over a merchant convoy, finding ways to steal loot from a regional rival / weaken the rival’s position, and raiding trade routes.

    • Gameplay videos have suggested that completing certain types of objectives can strengthen the player’s position / weaken a rival in a region, and allow players “to influence trade routes and rival factions in the open world.”

    • Currently, the Hunting Grounds mode has exit points at various locations of the regional map, which you can use to return to your hideout and keep all of your loot. You can also apparently leave the Hunting Grounds without using these exit points, but doing so will cause you to lose a percentage of your loot. Note that with the Hunting Grounds still early in development, this is subject to change.

  • Disputed Waters

    • A 5v5 PvP multiplayer mode in which two teams fight over a map full of treasure. The goal is to escape with as much loot as possible before getting caught by the Pirate Hunters.

    • This mode was not on display this year at E3, but you can see its earliest stage in the 2017 gameplay preview (back when it was actually called Hunting Grounds).

Fortunes

  • Before you load into the Hunting Grounds, you have the opportunity to learn your “Fortune.” You get a new fortune each time you go on an outing. Fortunes reveal details and changes about the game’s factions, weather, trade routes, AI activity, etc.

  • The two Fortunes that have been shown so far are Favorable Winds and Hostile Takeover.

    • Favorable Winds results in strong winds, water “rife with merchants,” and large amounts of floating loot (floating loot works similarly to Black Flag, where you can sail by and pick it up).

    • Hostile Takeover results in “Open War” between AI factions, strong military presence with lots of warships, and seas littered by shipwrecks.

  • Fortunes were teased called (or at least referring to) “Conflict,” “Weather,” and “Cataclysm.”

  • Part of the fortune system will include changes in wind and storm intensity. Justin has specifically cited things like waves pushing ships around and having to exert effort to navigate stormy conditions.

  • Fortunates have been strongly emphasized as a key element of replayability / making each experience different.

Ambiance (Shanties, Environment, Fauna)

  • There will be tons of sea shanties, all of which are being done “fresh” (so even if some of the shanties are the same songs as from Black Flag, they’re being redone). In some of the gameplay videos, you can hear some shanties.

  • Shanties have been recorded with different numbers of singers, so that shanties sung by the full crew of a frigate will sound different than those sung by the crew of a sloop, etc.

  • Players will encounter myriad wildlife and creatures, “including feared predators no sailor would want to meet.” However, the game does not current include things like hunting, fishing, or whaling.

  • There are lots of subtle visual clues in the game. For example, the direction of blowing flames and tell-tales attached to the ship’s rigging show you the wind direction without having to look at the windex.

  • There seems to be evidence not just of a day/night cycle, but of the possibility of different AI behaviors depending on the time of day/night.

  • Weather conditions can change from place to place within the same map / region.

Factions

  • Factions are present in the open world as ships on the waters as well as coastal forts. Known factions in the game include Great Britain, Portugal, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the British East India Company (EIC), and Kilwa (a regional faction in coastal southeast Africa).

  • Forts can be attacked and taken down. They are tough challenges, and it’s unclear what benefit this offers.

  • Factions can also include the AI Pirate Bosses. The only known Pirate Boss at this time is Olivier “La Buse” Levasseur.

  • We’ve also seen a notification regarding the existence of smugglers. It’s unclear if smugglers are their own faction, or are considered pirates, or are an entirely unaffiliated “neutral” group.

Areas/Regions, Maps, Intel

  • It seems that regions will have AI “Rivals.” It’s not clear if each region has its own rival, or if the designated Rival can change within a region over time. It is also unclear if the “Rival” is limited to a pirate boss, or if “imperial” AI factions can be considered a regional rival.

  • The game menu contains a regional map with a number of sub-regions. The map shows information on wind direction in each area, the “protection level” of the areas, how “alert” the factions there are, what the dominant faction in the area is, what commodities can be found in the area, and what trade routes are in the region (as well as characteristics of those routes).

Importance of Information and Decision-Making

  • Devs want information to be as valuable as treasure, emphasize importance of information in players’ decision-making.

  • Players can disguise themselves as a ship belonging to a different AI faction. It seems that this is usually done as one of the options from salvaging a shipwreck on the open map. In the official preview, the player disguised themselves as a Portuguese merchant ship.

  • AI factions will react to you as if you belonged to the faction that you’re disguised as. From what I’m told, other players are shown information about you as if you were a member of that faction as well.

  • Attacking while under the effects of “Deception” will break your disguise—but only if you attack a member of the same faction you’re disguised as!

  • It looks like even AI NPCs can disguise themselves—in one gameplay video, a known AI NPC pirate appears to be sailing under the Portuguese flag, presumably as a deception.

  • All pieces of equipment, friendly and enemy ships, forts, etc. have “Levels.” It’s unclear exactly what this means, but the gist is “More Levels = Stronger.” You can see the levels of everything, so you can make an evaluation about how strong a potential target is.

  • During an outing, you sometimes get pop-up alerts for evolving situations in the world, such as “Portuguese Warships notice pirates in Momboa” or “La Buse Gang member Abraham Samuel sighted in Ibo!” This lets you keep constant tabs on the changing world.

  • The game also tells you about events such as AI factions sending out naval convoys, which might be an optional objective to draw players to the extra loot opportunity. Other optional “opportunities” also occur, such as a “sidequest” to hunt down a particular merchant ship and collect a reward on them.

Player Interaction and Avoidance

  • You can dynamically invite other players you encounter to your group “on the fly” while out in the open world. (If anyone has played Absolver, it reminded me of that. I’m told The Division has something similar, but I don’t know The Division that well.)

  • You can also dynamically break from your group and start killing each other to try to take other folks’ loot.

  • You can queue into an instance with a pre-made group, as well, so you aren’t limited to “in-game” encounters to form a group.

  • Devs want players to be able to form “permanent bonds” in the form of pirate gangs that fight together towards common goals over the course of entire (or multiple) seasons.

  • Friendly Fire does not exist if you are grouped up. However, running into each other may still be damaging.

  • The game is always-online, so you’re always in a shared world (one way or another). Devs consistent reinforce their focus on pushing player interaction and the need to make on-the-fly decisions about how to deal with other players.

  • Players who aren’t super into inter-player conflict will have tools to allow them to try to avoid it. The crow’s nest and spyglass, for instance, let you identify potential threats from a distance so you have time to take the necessary actions (including avoidance, if that’s your bag). You can also disguise yourself under a different flag to try to sneak past someone (or sneak up on them!).

  • Devs are aware of the potential issues of new players joining the game and encountering veterans with end-game levels of power. They are constantly looking at this to make sure the game has a strong “on-boarding” capability. They want to make sure players are going up against challenges of generally comparable level, and to emphasize the importance of skill (rather than disproportionate matchmaking) being the biggest factor in the outcome.

  • Focus should be on positive social interactions, whether competitive or cooperative, and to make sure the game has systems in place to discourage toxicity.

Future Plans for Support

  • Game will have dedicated servers on launch.

  • Want to make sure the game has depth, replayability, and longevity.

  • Post-launch game will have content “season after season” that isn’t partitioned off / doesn’t separate the game’s player base. New content will introduce new Fortunes, new regions, new ships, new gear, new crewmates, new cosmetics, new adversaries, etc.

  • Each season will have unique rewards, and you will be rewarded based on how effective you were in that season. This may include season-exclusive / time-restricted events, similar to stuff that is seen in For Honor or Rainbow Six Siege.

  • Devs are in constant contact with community, soliciting feedback and adjusting the game’s trajectory to account for that, but at the same time they know it’s important that they stick to the game’s core vision.

  • While the game starts in 1721, the plan is for each game season to push the timeline forward, possibly tied in some way to the Fortune system.

  • The game is not currently “planned” to be an esport. However, the devs are going to let the players decide on their own whether or not that’s something the game should move towards, and if that’s what the community wants, the devs will respond and adapt to it.

Items, Loots, and Lootboxes

  • There are numerous types of “Cargo” available to be plundered, including things like spices, ivory, cotton, “general goods,” and “military supplies.” These have been shown with a corresponding value in Silver, so it seems they can be sold for cash. Unclear what other uses they might have, if any.

  • You can acquire “Treasure Chests” by looting shipwrecks, exploring coasts, or by defeating (and sinking or boarding) other ships. The chests have variable levels of rarity (e.g. Common, Uncommon, etc.). You can open the chests once you return to your hideout. It’s unclear what all they may contain, but they seem to function as the game’s version of “lootboxes.”

  • Too early to talk about the game’s monetization strategy, but Justin has emphasized that everything can be earned in-game by playing the game. Devs are actively opposed to pay-to-win structures.

  • The player seems to have three main “currencies”—Silver, Metal, and Wood. We don’t currently have information about what these are used for, but expect them to be involved in the equipment upgrade process.

  • In addition to the three “currencies,” there are inventory slots for Treasure Chests and for commodity-based Cargo.

  • If you get sunk, you lose all the cargo you were carrying… but it stays where you die. Hypothetically, you could retrieve it… if nobody else beats you to it.

UI and Ship Mechanics (Wind, Windex, Health, Etc.)

  • All ships have separately-monitored health bars for their Hull and their Sails. If Hull Health is reduced to 25%, you are at risk of being boarded. If it is reduced to 0%, you have been sunk. Reducing the health of a ship’s sails reduces its speed and maneuverability.

  • Different types of weapons will have different levels of effectiveness against the hulls vs. sails.

  • In the final game (contrast to the demos shown so far), the game will have a more granular damage model. Rather than just “hull” and “sails,” there will be more critical areas to damage, and they will be different for each ship.

  • Each class of ship has a unique special ability. In the gameplay demo, the “Royal Fortune Frigate” could anchor in place and fire an infinite barrage of broadsides; the “Black Horn Brigantine” could significantly increase its speed over a short distance to super-charge its ramming damage; and the “Jaeger Brigantine” could fire a strong cluster of shots from its bow chasers with a high critical hit chance.

  • The bottom right of the screen had a sort of “windex”-style compass so the player can constantly monitor their ship’s performance and angle to the wind.

  • Ships have different characteristics, including variances in acceleration, firepower, maneuverability, hull strength, and wind profile.

  • All ships have their own “wind profiles” that govern performance relative to all the various points of sail. For example, Frigates have a different performance profile (being fastest dead downwind but mediocre on other points of sail) than Brigantines (not as strong downwind but very fast on a broad reach and with good speed on a beam reach).

  • If you don’t already know what “Points of Sail” are, here’s a good primer

  • Players have a “Trim sails” command that allows them to improve a ship’s speed by matching the sail trim with the strength and direction of the wind. This appears to basically be a single-button toggle / hold-and-release. It seems that you cannot simultaneously trim the sails and also fire the cannons.

  • There’s a sort of “ammo counter” that dictates how much you can fire before reloading. Different types of guns fire in different configurations (one a time, all at once, etc.). There does not seem to be any limitation on total ammunition during an excursion (e.g. it doesn’t seem like it’s possible to run out of rocket ammo and need to return to your hideout to restock).

  • You can repair your ship “on the go,” but it causes you to come to a complete stop while the repairs are performed. Each repair uses up one “Repair Kit” (the players in the gameplay videos started with four), and you can salvage kits from boarding other ships or interacting with shipwrecks and coastal areas. The full repair cutscene takes several seconds. If you’re damaged during repairs, the repairs immediately stop.

  • Your primary crewmates can be incapacitated during battle, causing you to lose their buffs.

  • You can “Brace” (similar to Black Flag) against incoming fire. Bracing seems to absorb reduce damage by about 70%. You cannot brace indefinitely—it seems like you have a limited number of uses before it needs time to “recharge.”

  • Ships can catch fire, resulting in rapid loss of HP. It appeared that doing nothing allowed the crew to put out the fire. Certain types of equipment have a chance to set targets on fire.

  • Justin has mentioned needing to be able to “identify where the weak spots are on a ship.” This potentially could imply the existence of different hit locations on a ship, with different effects for targeting them.

Other Stuff

  • It seems that there will be “NPC ship types” in addition to the military-style player ships. Gameplay videos showed merchant ships such as a Cutter and an Indiaman.

  • Different AI ships have different behavioral preferences. Merchant ships, for example, maybe “poorly armed and will attempt to escape combat.”

  • Destroying ships belonging to “civilized” factions can increase your bounty. Having a bounty hunter can attract bounty hunters to the region. It is currently unclear if other players can also try to collect on your bounty.

  • At the end of some of the gameplay demos, the game showed a “Personal Performance” scorecard of sorts. It had ratings on a variety of fields (ships sunk, silver earned, opportunities completed, damage received, and accuracy). Unclear if this is going to be a regular thing for Hunting Grounds missions, for gameplay in general, or if it was just a little scorecard for the pre-alpha demo itself.

  • The hideout is the only location that players can fully interact with / walk around on; the game is focused on adventures on ship and at sea, not foot-padding around on land.

  • The “zoomed out” view similar to Black Flag’s “Travel Speed” camera angle is still in the game, and allows you to rotate 360º around the ship.

Videos and Articles


#14

That is one impressive write up. This game caught my eye when I saw it at E3… definitely something I’m keeping an eye out for.