Ubisoft's long-awaited and much delayed pirate adventure Skull and Bones has been elusive not just in terms of its release date, but in what kind of game it actually is. First it was a match-based, multiplayer exclusive affair, then it was going to feature multiple game modes including single-player, and now it's supposed to be a shared-world experience similar to Sea of Thieves. It's changed direction more times than a sloop stuck in a whirlpool.
But a new report by IGN lays out the whole, twisting saga of the game's development in step-by-step detail, along with the reasons behind its multiple changes of tack. As part of this, former creative director Elisabeth Pellen reveals the fate of the game's touted single-player campaign, and why Ubisoft Singapore opted to ditch it.
Skull and Bones was originally revealed in 2017 as a multiplayer-exclusive affair. But by E3 2018 Ubisoft had announced three modes for Skull Bones – the 5v5 multiplayer mode called "Loot Hunt", a cooperative shared world mode, and the singleplayer campaign. In reality, however, the game was still in its prototyping stage, with none of these modes fully formed, and no firm direction for the game. When Elisabeth Pellen replaced the previous game director, Justin Farren, she looked at the project and decided "it would be safer and maybe more interesting for other players to fully focus on the open world", Pellen said to IGN.
As a consequence, both the solo campaign and the 5v5 multiplayer mode were ditched. "We didn't have the full team to deliver a full solo campaign," Pellen said. Moreover, Pellen felt that a significant part of the pirate fantasy was creating your own destiny, and that a narrative-driven solo story didn't really fit with that. She stated, "We really wanted to give the opportunity to the player to write their own story.
"Instead of working on a solo campaign that would have prevented the team from creating a really deep open world, we built lore that can be consumed like a puzzle in the order you want."
The report also details other reasons behind Skull and Bones' numerous delays, such as figuring out how to build a shared PvE and PvP world, and the decision to make the game exclusive to the newest generation of consoles, the latter of which meant that "part of the team [couldn't] work" while the game was ported from the previous generation.
It's worth noting that Pellen hasn't seen the game to its conclusion either, having left the project late last year. More recent delays have been due to Ubisoft Singapore making adjustments based on beta tests of the game, with the developers adding new elements like tutorial characters, and changing the process of boarding other ships from a cutscene to a real-time action that uses grappling hooks. "You need to aim, you need to have a feeling of range. It's no longer as straightforward as just pressing a button," said the game's current director, Jeun Yeow Mak.
You can read the full article here. Skull and Bones will finally, definitively launch on February 16, just under two weeks from now. Let's hope all Ubisoft Singapore's time and effort was worth it in the end.