By Adam Smith on August 9th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.
Caribbean! is Mount and Blade with pirates, or at least that’s what I’d be telling everyone if I was making it. To learn more about what the game will actually include, how naval combat will be implemented and what kind of rum cocktails should be consumed while playing, I buried a list of questions in a treasure chest and gave a map marked with the location to producer Alexander Souslov. His responses, stuffed in a bottle, were floating in my bathtub this morning. Among other things, I found out that the governor’s daughter isn’t quite the catch I’d been led to believe.
RPS: Hello. Let’s get straight to the important issues. Is the exclamation mark in the title an intentional reference to Sid Meier’s Pirates! or are you just incredibly excited about the game?
Souslov: The excitement we feel about pirates and the very institute of piracy is next to impossible to overstate. Thus, we were going for three exclamation marks at first (the PR guy’s note: disregard the “we” part, all this is written by our producer Alexander who always tends to present his silly ideas as our collective opinion). Then we realized that wouldn’t be fair towards Pirates! – if Sid Meier himself settled with one exclamation mark, who we are to claim the whole three of them?
RPS: Does the title of the game have to be shouted?
Souslov: That’s not necessary. The long, rolling “Rrrrrr”, on the other hand, is mandatory!
RPS: What other games would be improved by having an exclamation mark at the end of their title – I find it hard to say Doom without implying one, for instance.
Souslov: Good question! Really, we have just spent the entire two hours thinking of titles that would benefit from one (the PR guy’s note: actually, Alexander did. He kept distracting us yelling “Tetrrrrrris! Rrrred Alert! Marrrrrioooo!” while laughing maniacally. He must be impressed with his own sense of humor, indeed). Which leads us to a massive problem in the modern game industry – that is, the prevalence of sequels. Fine, you can add an explanation mark to Doom. But how about Doom 4? “Doom 4!”, no? “Far Cry 3!”, “God of War 5!”? Now add those horrible subtitles supposed to explain something or add a touch of mystery: “Spec Ops: The Line 3!”, anyone?
RPS: Why pirates?
Souslov: That must be obvious, pirates are almost communists, and we here in the former Eastern Bloc just love anything communist. Perhaps we were ought to call it Caribbean Comrades!, but that would make an impression of a game about Che Guevara and the Castro brothers, and we’re pretty concerned about the US market.
In all seriousness, we have to blame the old boy Fenimore Cooper. After the performances given by Johnny Depp, getting involved with the pirates would be what Dostoevsky and Nabokov referred to as “poshlost” – thus, no pirates ever, that’s what we decided after With Fire and Sword was out. Let’s make our next project a game about the Great Lakes, about the trappers and the Iroquois, about Indian massacres and the scalping of the stupid palefaces. That was our plan.
Naturally, if we’re going Great Lakes, the game has to feature pirogues. We’ve built a level with the Iroquois assaulting an English fort across a lake, but the redcoats had some cannons and kept sinking the poor Americans (the native ones, that is) to a man. Just for laughs, we then put some cannons on the pirogues, allowing the Indians to fire back. One thing led to another, and we ended up with a 40-cannon frigate sailing in this lake. After that, coming to a thought of “well, maybe it will be the pirates after all?” was only a matter of time.
RPS: Do you want to present pirates as fun-loving booty grabbers, or are you interested in exploring the murderous criminal aspect as well?
Souslov: We hope to stick to the historical aspects of mid-XVII century buccaneer activity in the Caribbean and avoid the cinematic clichés, so, both extremes are highly unlikely. Then again, some of them did represent a murderous criminal par excellence.
RPS: What is Taleworlds role in development?
Souslov: TaleWorlds’ role is very important; the project wouldn’t be possible without the massive engine tweaking done by the Turkish side. We exchange ideas on interface, gameplay and visuals daily, and take TaleWorlds’ critique to heart.
RPS: Will historical pirates and/or other characters feature in the game and, if so, what role will they play?
Souslov: A plenty of them. Morgan, L’Olonnais, de Grammont; if he left a mark on the Caribbean, chances are high he is in. Same applies to the governors and captains of England, France, Spain and the Netherlands. We even model them all after their authentic, or at least widely recognized, portraits. You can also expect to meet a few famous fictional characters from that time and place. Their role in the game is essentially the same as the Mount & Blade’s kings and their vassals – they govern their towns, sail about on their fleets, do battle one another on land and sea, and from time to time band together to wreck some English colonies for the glory of Spain. Or the other way around. Or tell their respective Viceroy or Governor General to bite it, and go join the Brethren of the Coast.
RPS: Is it possible to marry the governor’s daughter?
Souslov: Christ, what’s this with an obsession to marry none other than a governor’s daughter? Why never a humble offspring of a plantation owner, or a fun-loving officer’s widow? We were asked this so many times we start to think it is something actually important. Did anyone ever consider the implications this wonderful marriage ceremony would have on his future life? You’d think somebody would let you go out into the sea, to slash pirates in twain and sample portside brothels? Yeah, right. How about, you spend the rest of your life ashore, attending receptions at your daddy-in-law’s palace and oppressing slaves on your sugarcane plantation. And you are still in luck if your governor of choice is French or Spanish, but how about an English puritan, with missionary sex once per month strictly for the purposes of procreation?
Fine, we will consider this feature.
RPS: Is the game a sandbox or is there a plot to follow?
Souslov: Sandbox all the way! Frankly, making a plot-driven campaign wasn’t really our cup of tea. Considering how much time and efforts it eventually consumed, we wonder why didn’t we dump the idea straight away and implemented siege artillery instead. So, adventures in the Caribbean are fully open-ended. We do plan to implement a few short story arcs involving several quests each though, to flesh out the world.
RPS: How complex is the integration of naval combat into the Mount and Blade engine?
Souslov: Too complex. Actually, we spent a year and a half doing just that. Might have to do with our limited brain capability, but even the unlimited capability of the modding scene couldn’t solve the issue adequately yet. In the end, we’ve got some priceless assistance from the Turkish team, and the desperation of our own has pushed us forward. There was a time we were almost about to cancel the project, but eventually the solution was found and the bloody frigate started sailing and ceased neighing.
RPS: Will the player character age and therefore have a limit on his career, or can a player continue for as long as he likes?
Souslov: It would be fun to have a precise time scale, add marriages (even if with governor’s daughters, okay) and an ability to build a pirate dynasty. Kind of Mount & Blade meets Crusader Kings. But then the game would remain in development until 2017 or so, the Windows disks will only be sold in curio stores by the time. So, our character doesn’t grow old, and we can play him for as long as it remains fun.
RPS: How many types of ship feature in the game and are they customisable?
Souslov: There are over 30 ship types represented by nine base models – a sloop, a fluyt, a brigantine, different kinds of frigates and galleons, and so on. For customization, you can purchase bigger and better guns and train your crew. And, of course, pick your flag and rename your vessels.
RPS: How do you deal with damage and repairs? Is it possible for a ship to be crippled and then taken back to port?
Souslov: A vessel can suffer damage to its hull and its rigging and sails, depending on the ammunition used by the enemy. If you’re out of luck, the damage may trigger a massive fire, wrecking the ship further, while grapeshot will devastate the crew. You can repair your vessel right away if you have stored enough cloth and wood planks in your cargo hold, with a special character skill responsible for the speed and quality of repair works. If the skill is low and the supplies gone, you’ll have to employ a dry dock in a port.
RPS: What about crew, are they recruited as individuals or as generic members?
Souslov: As per M&B, we’ll have both unique characters to hire as officers, and hordes of nameless grunts. The soldiers under player’s command and the crews of his ships are separate entities, though. Moreover, the additional vessels in your fleet would need a captain you have to hire first.
RPS: Do they have skills that the player can develop?
Souslov: The officers possess the same kind of skills as the player’s character.
RPS: How does interaction with settlements work – does the player dock and then interact with buildings/people to access various functions?
Souslov: Yes, the settlement interaction is implemented via the town menu and conversations with professionals such as the shipwright or the garrison commander. For player-owned ports, there is going to be a kind of development tree, but not an overly complex one, we’re making a combat game rather than an economical simulation after all. New buildings are used to grant access to elite units, for instance.
RPS: Are sieges possible and if so what is the purpose? To extort money or to gain control?
Souslov: Both ways are available, if you have enough forces to handle them.
RPS: How do the mechanics for commanding a fleet work? Are captains selected and then allowed to act as they see fit during combat?
Souslov: In a naval battle, you only control your flagship; the rest of your vessels are controlled by their captains, that is, by AI. You can only give them some indirect commands, such as changing formation, like scatter or line of battle. Sometimes you can transfer command to another ship in the midst of battle though – for instance, having boarded an enemy vessel, you can select it as your new flagship while scuttling your old.
RPS: Will you implement various types of shot for cannons?
Souslov: Naturally, there will be chainballs to wreck the rigging and grapeshot to decimate the crew in addition to cannonballs. The artillery is available in wide selection of calibers as well, from humble sakers to mighty culverins.
RPS: Will land battles work as Mount and Blade veterans expect or are there changes there as well?
Souslov: Field battles won’t change that much. The only thing we consider is an ability to use field artillery if the player possesses it – in this case, a static battery will be deployed on the battlefield. Mobile artillery is probably out of the question. Obviously, the artillery can be used during sieges as well, to destroy walls and gates or to fire at the attackers.
RPS: Is it possible to become a privateer or pirate hunter or is freelance piracy the only role?
Souslov: Yes, it is possible to purchase a letter of marquee that permits you to attack a designated faction on behalf of another one without actually joining the later yet avoiding being branded a lawless scum universally hated by every power in the region. You don’t need one, of course, but attacking everybody left and right is a difficult path to success.
RPS: How about the different nations; will they fight each other and will the player be able to influence relations at all?
Souslov: Absolutely, the region is a battlefield between France, England, Spain, the Netherlands and the Brotherhood of the Coast. The player can assist any of them, with or without joining their ranks; or start a kingdom of his own.
RPS: At what point did the Pirates of the Caribbean films lose the plot, or jump the kraken?
Souslov: Well, that three-way fight in a wheel near the end of the second movie – that was a friggin’ circus.
RPS: What’s your favourite pirate movie?
Souslov: The 1991 soviet film adaptation of “Captain Blood: His Odyssey” (turn off the music though, it’s… weird). We like Master & Commander too – it’s not exactly about pirates, but the theme of wooden ships and iron men is dealt with splendidly.
RPS: Who is your favourite pirate?
Captain Kidd – he had the balls to drop a comfy life in New York and went freebooting, he honored the Codex, and ended up being hanged pretty much for no reason whatsoever.
RPS: And, finally, what is the official rum of Caribbean and do you have a preferred rum cocktail that you’d like to share with us?
Souslov: I guess we’re expected to praise the Cuban rum, but we’re above ideological prejudices and choose Mount Gay Eclipse. As for pirate cocktails, I suspect these gentlemen preferred their swill pure. Okay, here’s a simple one, the Caribbean Crisis: 30 grams of rum, 10 grams of Stolichnaya vodka, a slice of orange on the edge. Scream “Na zdorovie” before imbibing, gulp it whole, bite the orange.
RPS: Thanks for your time.