This material was prepared during the development of the Corsairs Legacy pirate life simulator game in order to popularize the marine theme in general and games about pirates in particular. You can follow the project news on our website, YouTube channel, and Telegram.
Volodymyr Bondarenko, the head of the Ukrainian Mauris studio, is interviewing Mikhail, the key developer of the game Sea Dogs: To Each His Own, representing BlackMark Studio. You can read the previous part through the link we have provided.
Volodymyr: Part of your hardcore is related to the tight timelines that were in the quests. They stopped me in the game as well. I would like to know why they were made, and why did you not change them after some part of the audience was slightly “burnt”?
Mikhail: Firstly, most of these rigid time frames migrated from the Sea Dogs: City of Abandoned Ships, in which somewhere 70% of the generators were time-bound. As far as I know, people are more outraged by the time frame in the Regatta quest, the speed quest. Many people want to do it at the beginning with a low level, and of course, they often fail, but at the highest level, it is easy to do. This is a side quest, it is not woven into the main plot, and you can skip it if you can’t or don’t want to. There were many more questions about the time for our plot: to go through the saga, you need a year (game time), and for many, it is a very long time, although there is nothing complicated about it. Many people miss freeplay. But, again, let's collect feedback and maybe come up with something else to make it more convenient for the guys to play.
Volodymyr: You voiced the idea that many people go through the game first to get a more powerful ship, and only after that do the Regatta quest.
Mikhail: No, you don't need a powerful ship to complete this quest. It's just that when you complete a quest at a high level, you get much better rewards as a gift. Accordingly, the lower the level, the worse the rewards.
Volodymyr: It turns out that a person should know that, having reached the 25th level, he will receive more goodies from the fact that he completed the quest at that time. And, therefore, he should read the forum?0
Mikhail: No, he doesn't owe anything. What's the beauty of role-playing - you don't know it at all, you just gradually go through it. Somewhere you took something, somewhere you missed it. The fact is that the quest is best of all to complete when you got it. And about what I said earlier: this is how guys play, who play not for the first time. They have gone through all this and know how to do it better the second time, but this is a completely different feeling.
Volodymyr: Do you think that Sea Dogs: To Each His Own can be fully completed without reading the manual or the BlackMark forum?
Mikhail: Yes, you can. Perhaps not at the last level from the start, as the guys like to choose. If you go through the initial levels that the game offers, and now the second level is the default one, then it’s not at all difficult there. Speedrun in the game will not work, because you need to be attentive to details. If you carefully read all the dialogues and do not rush anywhere, then the game goes well. And yes, it is possible and quite easy to pass.
Volodymyr: You said that the audience of Sea Dogs: To Each His Own and sales on Steam are not very high. Did you think that if you made a simple start, let's say if the first 3 hours of gameplay were clear and easy for any player, then the number of players and fans would increase dramatically?
Mikhail: Maybe, of course. When we released, in the first place, we had no idea how it was supposed to happen, that is, what kind of game would have to be on Steam in order to appeal to a large number of players. Second, we didn't have any marketing from us or the publisher.
Volodymyr: And how is Akella doing now? As far as I understand, you continue to work with them.
Mikhail: Yes, we continue. Akella, on the other hand, sells Sea Dogs: To Each His Own on Steam and periodically makes us some kind of deductions.
Volodymyr: It was believed that in 2009-2010 there was a crisis, Akella went bankrupt and ceased to exist. How is it that the company still exists?
Mikhail: I didn’t stick my nose into their documents, so I don’t know for sure. Yes, they had a crisis, there were difficult times. They have reduced the number of staff, but the person who supervised us from the very beginning continues to do this and still pays us royalties on sales. In addition, "Akella" is listed as a publisher on Steam, and they are actively selling a good number of games there now. Maybe they just continued to exist in some modified format.
Volodymyr: Tell us about your participation in Corsairs: Black Spot. Many people associate BlackMark, Black Spot, and Black Sun. Was there any basis for these connections? Did you take part and what do you know about this project?
Mikhail: I know the guys from Black Sun very well since 2011, they also worked with Akella. And then they left Akella and opened their own company, called Black Sun. And once they made a game about the Corsairs, they did crowdfunding on qiwi. But I didn't know about their plans. And, of course, I did not take part in the development. What they are doing now - I really don’t know, since I haven’t communicated with them for a very long time.
Volodymyr: And how did it happen that they took away the copyright for the Corsair brand? In fact, you and Akella released games. Why did Black Sun and not Akella stay with this name?
Mikhail: I don't know the essence of the conflict. But, as far as I know, according to Russian legislation, if nothing is produced under a specific brand name for 3 years, then it can be taken away. But in fact, we were not issued under the "Corsairs". From the start, our game was called "Pirate Odyssey", and now we are sold as "Sea Dogs". That is, purely legally, no one released anything under the “Corsairs”. Therefore, the guys waited three years and said that “Corsairs are ours” and “let's raise money for a design document”.
Volodymyr: Do you think the request “give money for a design document” is correct?
Mikhail: I would have come in with a design document. But the guys can also be understood, there were only three of them, and they did not have the opportunity to make this design document themselves, because it takes money. And you need to take money either from your own or from crowdfunding. They chose the second. But, apparently, this did not work, otherwise, we would have already seen some more global developments on Sea Dogs 4, and not a single video on Unreal Engine. Although, not bad for a video. If this video is inserted as the beginning of the game, then yes, it will come out beautifully, but that's it, the guys, unfortunately, stopped there.
Volodymyr: Do you believe in the future of this project? Will we see it?
Mikhail: It's hard to say. I wrote to them, but they do not answer. Maybe because everything they planned did not work out, they are depressed and do not want to communicate. I would be glad if it came out. Because in fact there are very few good games about Sea Dogs, and for me, there are only 3 of them: Sea Dogs, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships, and they came out a long time ago. We are also working very hard now, and I will only be glad if new games about the Sea Dogs appear. But now there is a big problem with financing, and this is really slowing down the process. Investors are more interested in investing in popular brands than niche ones like sailboat games.
Volodymyr: What do you think about Skull & Bones? Will they be able to release and earn money, given the niche?
Mikhail: It's not a niche, but an MMO. And if it is correctly issued, it will most likely be profitable. Now singles that pay off are much more difficult to release. This can be afforded by large studios, which “pour” as much money into the game as into a Hollywood movie. They have good advertising, and of course, cool game design, which is 90% of success. But in the indie segment, everything is much more complicated, because now games that are made very quickly and do not require a lot of resources, such as 2D, pay off well. And, let's say, the same New Horizons, which have been made for 12 years, is simply unrealistic to pay off.
Volodymyr: When I talked with Peter Boel, who is the current ideologist of the Pirates Ahoy! In the project, he said that when they opened the donation, the main funds were transferred by the team.
Mikhail: Yes, I have seen this in some small indie projects, where the guys want to raise several tens of thousands of dollars, not millions, and they succeed. Surely, some studios finance themselves. We also financed ourselves before we started selling.
Volodymyr: I know that you have bought a large number of games on Steam that you have not played. Tell me why you are doing this, how many games have you bought and how much money have you spent?
Mikhail: I can’t say for sure about the money, since I didn’t buy all this at once. My Steam account is about 10 years old. In general, I like to play. I played even before Steam, I bought or ordered different discs, I have about 300 of them. In general, I would say that I am a gamer. In total, I have about 1000 games on Steam. But I would not say that this is a lot because there are players with a lot more games. It’s not that I didn’t play most of it, but a significant part is completed. But the ones on the discs are fully completed. I calculated that if I allocated a week for each game that I had not tried, then I would have something to do for another 12 years.
Volodymyr: It turns out that you bought all the famous titles or all the games in general?
Mikhail: No, not all of them. I bought what I like. Now I buy less often, and mostly on sales or in bundles. I don’t know how much money I spent because I didn’t take some for the full price. But there is a program that calculates the amount of all purchased games, there I have about $ 5,000.
Volodymyr: Does BlackMark Studio plan to develop any other games soon?
Mikhail: Yes, of course, but for now I won't share it. We have plans and they are quite old. First, we want to finish the beta version of patch 1.7.3, there are a lot of bugs, and after that, we would like to work on Diego in order to have an alternative path. Then we’ll see what we're going to do next. We have several directions, one of which will soon be announced.
Volodymyr: Then I wish you good luck with the announcement and also release patch 1.7.3 no longer in beta, but a full release. And thanks for the interview!
Mikhail: Thank you very much, Volodymyr, for your interest.
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Learn more about the Corsairs Legacy - Historical Pirate RPG Simulator project and add it to your wishlist on the game's Steam page.