This article was prepared during the development of the “Corsairs Legacy” – a 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.
Ukrainian Mauris studio head Volodymyr Bondarenko is interviewing Avrelii, the key developer of Tempest: Pirate Action RPG.
Volodymyr: Avrelii, hello!
Volodymyr: You created the Tempest Pirate Action RPG project, which is well-known in the circles of fans of games about pirates. It is available both for mobile devices and on desktops and has a large audience. In fact, you created Tempest game from scratch almost by yourself. And I would like to know, were there other people who took an active part in the development?
Avrelii: To create something like this, you need to be a bit of a fan of the theme yourself. My scanty gaming experience started with the Sea Dogs, which are the benchmark for everyone. I played them as a child, and I always had a fad to do something similar. About 20 years of my life went into learning all this. You can slowly do it all by yourself, but of course, it's easier if you have help. Tempest Pirate Action RPG was originally developed by me, then my wife joined in, and then HeroCraft, which is still promoting the game. They had a lot of programmers and designers involved in the project. Well, here it is, like a snowball, everything is developing.
Volodymyr: Tell us about meeting your wife. How did she get into the Tempest Pirate Action RPG project, and what kind of specialist is she? Are you working together now?
Avrelii: Now we are working together even more closely, as we have already worked together over the years. We met at an art university, where we studied together, however, in different majors: she was engaged in modeling clothes, and I was an interior designer. While we were dating, we were engaged in training: we watched Adobe Photoshop courses, I taught her how to work in Blender, and before that, I studied it myself. Models of cities and different towers in Tempest definitely belong to her. I was dealing with ships because the form is more complicated and the more requirements.
Volodymyr: So, in the end, what did your wife do specifically in Tempest, and what is she doing now in your projects?
Avrelii: Now she is an integral part of our team. She mainly works with graphics, rarely with sound, and is currently studying level design. In the last project, she will be engaged in the construction of either elements of levels, or levels as a whole.
Volodymyr: Tempest: Pirate Action RPG is your second project on the theme of ships and the Caribbean. Tell me about it, please.
Avrelii: Yes, this is the second project. The first was Sea Journey. It's a match-3 game, and at the time it was great too. There already, as I could see, it was impossible to succeed using just a pure theme. And from the Sea Dogs, I remembered an episode with a ghost ship, some kind of artifact that could destroy a ghost ship, and it seemed to me that mystical elements embellish well, and in Sea Journey, I already introduced some talismans, shields, barriers, underwater strikes, octopus calls. Basically, all these developments were transferred to Tempest.
Volodymyr: Many Sea Dogs fans believe that all these magical elements that formed the basis of Tempest Pirate Action RPG were superfluous, and many add-ons that came out later tried to exclude any unrealistic themes: skeletons, talismans, and otherworldly things. Please tell me why you are so interested in this and why do you think that the players are also interested in it?
Avrelii: From the point of view of the concept, creating dry historical content is boring even in terms of development. If you want to implement and if there is an opportunity to bring something that has never been seen before, then you should do it. Someone condemns it, but for someone, it may be exactly what the Tempest game has made different and more unique among other projects.
Volodymyr: Tell me, please, what other parts of the Sea Dogs did you play?
Avrelii: The second Sea Dogs game (Pirates of the Caribbean), several times and at different times. But that's where my experience ended.
Volodymyr: Are you playing now?
Avrelii: The last games I played were Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Ryse: Son of Rome and basically that’s all.
Volodymyr: You said that at the beginning with the first pirate game Tempest Pirate Action RPG you worked with one publisher, however, with the second pirate game there was another. Now I know that you work by yourself, without publishers. And after I found out that the first publisher no longer exists, I have a question: do you think that today the concept of “publisher” is a relic of the past, and in fact, the most effective marketing can most often be done by the studio itself who releases the game?
Avrelii: All this was done in different eras. The first publisher was necessary, otherwise, it was impossible. They took care of various connections, and promotions, and made contracts with different companies at different sites. HeroCraft is another era. Our industry has developed rapidly. HeroCraft — they and the developers included — could already directly assign people from their staff to help in development. Of course, the history of our cooperation is long. When I started working with HeroCraft, early access didn't exist yet. Greenlight was still there. So, the intermediate Tempest Pirate Action RPG did not even pass it. By myself it was difficult. However, there is a new phenomenon now: bloggers and lets players who play, tell and thus serve as a kind of PR. They are interested in playing, the audience watches and, if they are also interested, they buy the game. As such, I did not invest much in promotion, or advertising, at least in Cliff Empire. And then, early access gives you a great opportunity to work on the feedback of the players, which is better than any game designer, and better than a team of testers. It's just that the players say what they want, and if the developer is good, then he will take into consideration all these things. Basically, in Tempest, we did just that.
Volodymyr: So, in the end, it's better now without a publisher?
Avrelii: Yes, to me. If someone is new, then he can get promoted with a publisher, and it will be better.
Volodymyr: I just wanted to ask a question about Tempest Early Access. Do you think it was right in terms of popularity and financial indicators? Did early access provide any benefits? And how long did it take for you to get the full release?
Avrelii: Well, firstly, the fact that you immediately get a profit from the project, from sales. Early access is a huge benefit for a developer who is open to feedback. The stage when we went out was more planned by the company than by me. I “head-first” went into Tempest Pirate Action RPG development and no longer thought about deadlines and dates. I remember that they carried out some kind of analytics, when it was better to release, some projects, so as not to “sink”, not to become invisible. Apparently, they knew better, therefore they did things, and I just listened.
Volodymyr: So how long Tempest Pirate Action RPG has been in early access and why did you decide to go into full access?
Avrelii: I don't remember exactly, but we were in early access for at least six months.
Volodymyr: How long was the Tempest: Pirate Action RPG game in development before early access?
Avrelii: In total, before me leaving the project, approximately 5 years.
Volodymyr: Can you please outline the chronology, when did you create the project, when did you start working with HeroCraft and at what moment did you leave the project?
Avrelii: We worked with HeroCraft even before Tempest, it was a Crazy Soccer project. Therefore, we already had established connections. After completing the previous project, I already had an outline, even a more mobile-oriented ship project. I made a project in a couple of months and posted it to them with a proposal to develop this topic together. It's like a game of collecting coins: the boat moves left and right and collects coins. But in this case, it is epically made: it slowly unfolds with different effects.
Enemies float up to the left and right, and it was pretty static gameplay with no freedom of movement, and no open world. This was the first assembly. Then they suggested doing it on a larger scale, and about six months later a prototype with an open world was made. In general, I had the concept of navigation without a map and fast travel, I made remote beacons on different islands. On the map, you could see more or less where everything was, but in general, it was necessary to navigate by the cardinal points, by the sun, and by the stars. And then, like a snowball for convenience, for the mass consumer, such simplifications as fast movements, time acceleration, and so on were introduced. Early access was from 3 to 4 year approximately, from 4 to 5 year, it seems, were DLC. What I wanted, I did. They have a team, and they support the project further.
Volodymyr: In your interview that I watched, I heard a clear position that you do not plan to do DLC for Tempest.
Avrelii: I didn't plan, but the company planned. We actually added a lot of things in early access that people usually do through DLC. They expanded as much as they could: three whole maps, boarding was also redone not as part of the DLC, but as part of the game. The Tempest DLC included another map with quests and new ships. It's been about 4 years since I left.
Volodymyr: Why did you leave Tempest Pirate Action RPG?
Avrelii: I did everything I wanted. Psychologically, it was even hard to continue. Moreover, as a lead developer, there was nothing for me to do there. We have created different editors, and schemes so that people can already finish the content themselves. It was also part of my exit program — to leave behind a good toolkit for Tempest.
Volodymyr: Why did you decide not to continue cooperation with HeroCraft and not to work on new projects together, as you did with Tempest?
Avrelii: Early access became more accessible, and I decided not to waste any more time. Because 5 years, in principle, was too much for Tempest. The project changed its essence 3 times, on the fly. There were especially many changes when a game designer was appointed. He made changes, and for about a year I was engaged in alterations to his vision. Now, in my understanding, if you do it, then you need to do it once without rework and keep everything under your control.
Volodymyr: I completely agree with you, because the alterations really slow down the project very much, call into question the possibility of its release, and also increase the budget.
Avrelii: It turned out that early access appeared in the process of how we worked on Tempest Pirate Action RPG. Steam was released, and we took advantage of this opportunity. Maybe, without early access, it would have been possible to continue to the finish line and make a release using the classic method. But with the advent of early access, we took advantage of it, and it was a good decision.
Volodymyr: What is the current state of Tempest? Does it continue to evolve somehow with HeroCraft, or is the game on hold and just being sold?
Avrelii: I saw in the news that there is still some movement, some contests, DLC. And I, personally, have not even played yet, just do not have time. The only thing I tried was to poke at the mobile version of Tempest, looked at the interface changes, and also found some bugs — I wrote to the producer. Well, the project is actually being supported.
Volodymyr: Was the mobile version of Tempest: Pirate Action RPG released while you were still there, or was it after you left?
Avrelii: With me, yes. I remember builds on the iPad. Tablets appeared — we learned there for the first time to make the interface for the fingers so that it was comfortable in the hands so that the column did not close, it was necessary to try horizontally and vertically. Now I have chosen for myself that the next project will not be on mobile, purely on the PC. In the future — on the console, but there is a lot of room for research.
Volodymyr: After you finished working with HeroCraft on Tempest, there are a number of games in the HeroCraft profile with very mixed reviews and a fairly small purchase base, at least that's how it looks from the outside. The only project that, plus or minus, “shot” quite well is Space Wolf Warhammer 40000. Please tell me, why do you think, after the end of your cooperation, the games were not as popular as they were under it?
Avrelii: To be honest, I don’t know what is going on there, we don’t communicate so intensively. But I know that they hit more on long-term support.
Volodymyr: Tempest: Pirate Action RPG was your last project on the theme of ships and the sea. Tell me why. Tired of the topic? Were there any other hobbies that you would like to pursue?
Avrelii: There is such an interesting moment with the game development. I always take a mug as an example: if a mug is a ceramic product, then the developer is a person who has looked at this mug up close for several years, day and night. However, after finishing, this mug wants to be thrown away. Therefore, the style of the next project has nothing in common. But after a few years now, the theme certainly beckons and, in order not to “bike”, I still expect to play Skull & Bones. Therefore, sometimes it is better to replace the desire to do something with the desire to play something of high quality.
Volodymyr: There are big doubts that we will see Skull & Bones. I made a video on this topic, where I analyzed the current state. The studio has trapped itself, as they want to make a super high-quality game on the one hand, and on the other hand, they are faced with the problem that the mechanics do not attract players, and therefore they went into deep thought. Also, information from their official website indicates that the project manager herself does not fully know what a good game should look like. So don't expect too much Skull & Bones.
Avrelii: If you take the Steam page, there is a release date for "Soon" in Skull & Bones. Maybe there is hope. Maybe someday Skull & Bones will come out, and if it doesn't, then I'll have to do something else to please the players who already have their appetites. Because really now the graphics are developing a lot with the release of RTX cards, which I really wanted to buy, but were not available. Unity has upgraded its rendering. I have even been transferring my current project to their new rendering for the third week already. I got an increase of 20 frames per second even more than what I had. I see that in Unity in the settings you can already turn on this notorious RTX, look at the real ray tracing, but we haven’t managed to get video cards yet. I have ideas to make another game in this setting. It would not be a continuation, Tempest 2, it would be something separate, something darker, hardcore, with elements of mysticism, but with a blow to beautiful graphics. However, nothing is planned for the next few years.
Volodymyr: You said you were expecting Skull & Bones. Have you played Naval Action or World of Sea Battle?
Avrelii: No, I didn't play.
Volodymyr: I recommend trying it. These are diametrically opposed games: one is completely casual, and the other is hardcore. But in fact, both games are about sailboats, and about both games, we already had a video on our channel: an interview with the developer of World of Sea Battle and a series of videos about Naval Action.
Avrelii: I didn’t like Naval Action just visually, I didn’t attract it. World of Sea Battle, apparently, too. For me, graphics is one of the key components. The only thing I enjoyed was Assassin's Creed.
Volodymyr: Tell us about your plans for the future and the projects that you did after Tempest Pirate Action RPG.
Avrelii: After Tempest, I immediately started developing Cliff Empire, which is an economic strategy. In addition to Sea Dogs, I also played economic games as a child, there was Caesar III, and even recently I played Nebuchadnezzar, which, let's say, is a retrospective on this topic. I have always had a lot of developments and attempts to make an economic strategy, and for the first time, it turned out completed. The development was about two years: a year locked up and another year in early access for Cliff Empire, about half a year of support. By the way, I plan to return to it a little more, a lot of feedback has accumulated, and a lot of things need to be corrected. And now we are making a third-person shooter in the Cliff Empire universe from 50 to 100 years after the events. Our strategy is again the same trick as with Tempest: if we continue in the same setting, then we would just do at least another genre or another era.
Volodymyr: When can we expect a new game on Steam?
Avrelii: Perhaps by the end of this year we will enter early access with at least half the game or a third. In a shooter with a story, it turns out that you can’t make game mechanics and then finish something. There is a plot, and we linearly write it from the first mission to the end, and it turns out that only a piece can come out in early access, no more. And then new missions will be added in updates. I don't know how players will accept this. The competition in general in the shooter genre is quite high, and for an indie team, this is quite a challenge.
Volodymyr: And how many people do you have in the team now?
Volodymyr: You, your wife, and...
Avrelii: And a mysterious person.
Volodymyr: It turns out that one person for sound, one person for graphics, and your program, right?
Avrelii: No. We also have a composer. He seems to be part of the team, he is in the credits, however, on a permanent basis, we have the third person according to working with graphics.
Volodymyr: Avrelii, thank you very much for the interview. It was very nice meeting you. It was interesting to learn about the development path of Tempest and the path of your development as a publisher of yourself and your indie studio. We wish you good luck with your new projects.
Avrelii: It was also a pleasure to meet you and chat. Until we meet again, apparently?
Volodymyr: See you soon!
We hope this material was useful to you!
Learn more about the Corsairs Legacy – Historical Pirate RPG Simulator project and add it to your wishlist on the game page on Steam.