You are reading an article prepared during the development of the pirate life simulation game Corsairs Legacy by Ukrainian Mauris studio with the aim of popularizing the marine theme in general and pirate games in particular. You can follow the project news on our website, YouTube channel, and Telegram.
The story of World of Sea Battle is quite interesting — its creator started planning the development of a free online game about sea battles at school, subsequently acquiring the necessary skills graduation release, and step by step approaching the completion of the project.
The success that the developer has achieved almost alone can not only serve as a motivation for indie studios but also teach something in the field of game creation.
Volodymyr Bondarenko, the head of the Ukrainian Mauris studio, is interviewing Sergey, the key developer of the World of Sea Battle game.
Volodymyr: Sergey, hello!
Volodymyr: I learned from the comments under our Skull & Bones video about your game. And I was surprised that you have been developing it alone since school, from the 6th or 7th grade, and in fact made an analog of Naval Action, only a little more casual. Please tell us how the World of Sea Battle game was created and how did your parents feel about the fact that you created a project at school instead of spending time with friends, and how did this affect your studies?
Sergey: Well, during my school days there was only the study of programming languages, and I started to make something like my own game engine. In my opinion, the creation of such things is only a matter of diligence and desire. I had a lot of free time, which I managed to fill well with this business. Well, there are still many ambitions and prospects. I can’t say that it was to the detriment of learning since in those days there was more of a learning process. And the actual development of the World of Sea Battle began after graduation.
Volodymyr: But on vc.ru they wrote that you are a 9th-grade student who has already created his own game. Or am I confusing something?
Sergei: It must have been some kind of mistake. Yes, I have been thinking about this since the 9th grade, but at that time I did not have the necessary skills. I just learned to program graphics and shaders. But the prototype of World of Sea Battle appeared in 2015, just when I graduated from high school.
Volodymyr: Your development was inspired by Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and PirateStorm. Can you please tell me why exactly these games and what successful basic mechanics are so interesting for you?
Sergey: Yes, there were interesting mechanics, but now I feel that I grew up from such games, although I recently went there to remember my youth. It was the same as with the Age of Pirates. But those aren't the only games that have inspired me in some way. Seafight is the game I played the most, it's the same developer as PirateStorm. I've been playing it for over three years. For the most part, I was attracted to some kind of atmosphere. There were no specific mechanics that would have hooked me, but the desire to create something similar in the same setting came to me while playing Seafight.
Volodymyr: You mentioned Age of Pirates. Tell me, what version of Sea Dogs did you play and what is your favorite part?
Sergey: My favorite part is the Sea Dogs: To Each His Own. When I finished playing it, I started looking for similar projects and realized that this niche is quite available. So I started to make some plans for the future.
Volodymyr: Why MMO? Do you believe MMOs are the future of game development?
Sergey: An interesting question, because the latest various projects show that the single-player genre is reviving. In my understanding, MMO projects allow you to create more interesting and deeper mechanics in the face of limited developer opportunities because single-player games require more in-depth development. Although the World of Sea Battle project started as a single-player game and later became an MMO game.
Volodymyr: World of Sea Battle had moments of ups and downs in terms of the game's audience volume, related to the news stories that came out about you and about the project itself. You said that the number of people who played online increased, and then they left. Did you measure the average lifetime of a player in a game? And do you think that an MMO project is the type of project where people should stay longer and play for years?
Sergei: Yes, people come and go, it's natural. I measured various indicators, including the average player's lifetime in World of Sea Battle. In any game, if you spend a lot of time, it does not always mean fascination. However, the opposite is also true: if the game is exciting, then it is not necessary to spend a lot of time on it. It's a very common practice in MMO games to stretch out the progression and some moments of gameplay to maximize player retention. I don't think it should be aimed at. It is much better to increase the variability of the game, its situationality, and similar things.
Volodymyr: What was the average time a player was in the World of Sea Battle game in 2017 and what is it now? Has it been possible to increase this time? And, if so, how?
Sergey: Yes, of course, we managed to increase this time. So far, I don’t have data to compare with 2017, but if compared with the previous year, the average number of hours spent in the World of Sea Battle game has increased by one and a half times. This was achieved by introducing new mechanics, and new content, for example, some economic opportunities that change due to the actions of the players themselves.
Volodymyr: You said that the average amount of time spent in the World of Sea Battle game has increased by one and a half times. What was the average time a year ago and now?
Sergey: I measured not the average time, but the pyramid, which shows how many percent of people spent more than 10 hours in the World of Sea Battle game, more than 100 hours, and so on. And in this percentage, I saw an increase. By the way, the highest number of hours a player has that I have seen is 5200 hours.
Volodymyr: Yes, it's a lot. What was the maximum number of people online and how many people play the World of Sea Battle game every day?
Sergey: On average, 500 different visitors come in a day now. There are about 150 people online in the evening. As far as I remember, the record was 235 people. Usually online increases after World of Sea Battle updates, advertisements, or after active wars.
Volodymyr: Is there any way to monetize the World of Sea Battle audience and how do you bring in new users?
Sergey: Mainly through targeted advertising on YouTube and VK. Everything depends very much on the audience settings because people seem to come to World of Sea Battle from advertising, but they turn out to be absolutely uninterested in this topic, for the sake of the experiment they install a game and then leave. The monetization of the users themselves is mainly in the game, there is the possibility of buying premium ships, premium subscriptions, and, well, some other packages with resources for fast pumping. This is the standard Free-to-play model with microtransactions within the game itself. As for the cost of users, with my VK, with the best settings, the cost of a hobby for one user is about 40 rubles, but, of course, a lot depends on the rejection rate.
Volodymyr: If we take the average price of a user in World of Sea Battle as 60 rubles, have you calculated how much income you get from this user?
Sergey: Of course, I calculated, but such things are very rough and at the moment I do not use such statistics.
Volodymyr: But if you globally calculate the amount of money spent on advertising per month, and the number of payments received subtract taxes and commissions, does this audience pays off?
Sergey: Yes, the audience pays off. But apart from that, advertising costs are not the only existing costs, they represent only 10% of the total World of Sea Battle spending budget.
Volodymyr: Is the World of Sea Battle game the main type of employment and earnings for you now?
Sergey: Now I have two projects. The second is railroad software, but ships take me a little longer time. Therefore, I would not call it a hobby, but I would not say that this is the main source of income.
Volodymyr: And what are your future plans for the World of Sea Battle game? Have you thought about entering the Western market? You said that you advertise on VK. This is a Russian-speaking audience, it does not pay very well. Perhaps if you enter the American market, everything will become much better?
Sergey: Of course, there are already thoughts for the future related to World of Sea Battle entering the foreign market, but there, too, everything is not so clear in terms of payments. There it is all connected with the cost of attraction and other nuances. In general, I concluded that first, you need to gain a sufficient audience in the CIS segment and then enter the foreign market in the future. But technically, everything is ready for this, including the back end and the ability to translate the game. As for other plans, I have them. A completely new and cool world is in development. But I definitely do not see the future in being a game for a narrow circle of people or following some existing standards and expectations. And I want to create a certain novelty in this segment.
Volodymyr: Were there any offers from other development companies or publishers for collaboration and work on World of Sea Battle game?
Sergei: No, there were no such proposals.
Volodymyr: World of Sea Battle is sometimes compared to Naval Action because it is similar in a general setting but very different at a hardcore level. What do you think, how are these games similar and different, and how is your game better than Naval Action?
Sergey: As far as I know, there is no full-fledged open world there, that is, there the battles take place on loadable locations.
Volodymyr: What technologies is the World of Sea Battle game based on?
Sergey: Initially, Microsoft XNA was used, it's such a small and cool framework where you can do almost anything. But now I'm slowly switching to SharpDX Toolkit, as I need to improve. The back-end is written in C Sharp, and a part of the network code is in C++. That is, quite extensive technologies are used.
Volodymyr: Have you thought about moving to Unity? Wouldn't it be easier for the development of the project, or is there already too much done to change the platform?
Sergey: Yes, it most likely plays a role here that too much has been done. And as such, I don’t see any pros, but there will be more cons that you have to deal with. Also, based on my experience with Unity, I cannot say that working in it would go much faster than it is now.
Volodymyr: Ok. I want to quote a part of the video that I saw on your official VK channel, where you said the following words: “I set out to make something interesting, and not just a mobile game or a browser toy, but something on a larger scale.” Tell me, please, do you already agree, with today's experience, that in fact, it is much more difficult to create a mobile game of this format from a technical point of view than a PC game?
Sergey: I think that with certain conventions and simplifications, it would take about the same amount of time and effort to make such a project for mobile platforms. I have some obsession with all sorts of optimizations, which would probably come in handy in this case.
Volodymyr: Well, yes, it turns out that the main stumbling block is the limited resources that the phone and tablet have, and the need to fit into them. I agree that when I launch World of Sea Battle game, I notice that, firstly, it weighs little, and secondly, it “eats up” a little of the resources on the computer.
Sergey: Yes, it weighs only 400 MB. And in general, all the content that World of Sea Battle contains — can be further optimized and made into a mobile game within 100 or 200 MB.
Volodymyr: What is closer to you: server development or client development?
Sergey: It is equally interesting for me to deal with both the server and the client side, but I consider the client side more to do with some things related to graphic content. In the beginning, of course, I started to grab onto everything at once, that is, I tried to make both models and code. But it is very important to delegate some of the work whenever possible. And just like this, the creation of such client content is the work that needs to be delegated. However, regarding working with code, it is, unfortunately, problematic to delegate there, nevertheless, I strive for this.
Volodymyr: How many people make up your team now and how are the roles distributed within the World of Sea Battle?
Sergey: The World of Sea Battle team now has two 3D artists, one administrator, and a person who manages the group and the user support center. Parallel to this, we have one intern programmer whom I train. In general, everyone does their own thing and a certain result is obtained.
Volodymyr: Would you like to work in the Naval Action or World of Warships team to develop your skills and gain experience in the development of a larger project?
Sergey: Probably, yes. Because I don't have any team experience as such.
Volodymyr: What are your future plans for the World of Sea Battle? Perhaps you are planning to do some other, similar projects?
Sergey: There are a lot of things that I want to implement, including going abroad. But first, we need to release a beta version of World of Sea Battle and build it up with content: adding new ships, developing the world itself, and so on.
Volodymyr: And what prevents the current version from being called “beta” now? And when can we expect a beta version?
Sergey: The current version of World of Sea Battle cannot be called “beta”, because key mechanics, such as the economy, port battles, etc, will still change in it. And the beta version should be expected somewhere by the end of 2021 because you need to create a working core, and then increase it with smaller, but necessary innovations.
Volodymyr: Can you describe the portrait of the target player who will be interested in World of Sea Battle game?
Sergey: This is a person who is interested in such topics. But it can be of any age and gender. Now the project’s existing audience is quite extensive and with a variety of moods: someone who loves Sea Dogs has found what he likes, someone before that was not at all familiar with the setting of sailboats and found the project quite by accident. Such a specific portrait I can not describe, but this is definitely someone passionate about the theme of sailboats.
Volodymyr: Sergey, I wish you and your team good luck with World of Sea Battle project. You are great fellows, and your project turned out to be really worthwhile. And I confess, I like to play your game more than Naval Action.
Sergey: Thanks for the feedback. I am very glad that you liked the game, we will work and develop further.
We hope you found this article useful!
Learn more about the Corsairs Legacy - Historical Pirate RPG Simulator project and add it to your wishlist on the game's Steam page.