Arlesian from Ubisoft is no longer from Arlesian. The multiplayer pirate game that was almost forgotten all this time reappeared this week to finally reveal the gameplay, information and above all the release date. It looks like the end of the tunnel is finally approaching with the first new IP from Ubisoft Singapore, announced five years ago. But then, what happened during all these years?
- Skull and Bones: A Pirate’s Story That Begins Well
- 2018-2022: Radio silence on the side of Ubisoft
- Blurred vision, artistic boundaries… corridor noises
Skull and Bones: A Pirate’s Story That Begins Well
It all starts in June 2017. E3 is in full swing and Ubisoft is giving us its regular conference call. In addition to announcing newcomers to these major licenses, Assassin’s Creed Origins and Far Cry 5, The new IP makes an impression: Skull and Bones. A game of pirates and sea battles, inevitably reminds of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, this opus that allowed you to discover the life of pirates and sail on the waves.
We quickly learn that it was during the development of the latter that the project was born. During 2013, while Ubisoft Singapore teams were finalizing the title, they embarked on some experiments with the goal of producing a new game. Throughout it comes the idea of offering a hacking game to discover with friends. Particularly inspired by this new proposal (Sea of Thieves has yet to be released), the developers embark on this fascinating and long journey that will be the development of Skull and Bones.
Little by little, the concept becomes clearer. The game will certainly be multiplayer, but it will also have to provide new content regularly. In essence, the developers want to get us involved On the waves of the Indian Ocean, A story that stands out from the Caribbean story we are often told about pirates. Add to this a game that focuses on loot hunting, naval battles, and powerful customization and you have Skull and Bones introduced in 2017.
Since the announcement, a strong community has been built around the Ubisoft game, which aims to give them an important place in the creation process. Based on the collaborative development of Ghost Recon Phantoms (beta and other fan contributions), Ubisoft Singapore had already invited a group of players, The Blog Keepersto come and test the game and give their opinions during a dedicated workshop. A closed beta was launched as well, and according to the studio, it has reached a record level of engagement for a new Ubisoft license.
Thanks to these kinds of initiatives, it’s stronger than ever that Skull and Bones will return to E3 2018. During the event, we were able to play it and the game had many advantages, almost as a technical demo for Ubisoft. But now, if the game shows more on this occasion, It has also been postponed to 2019, Much to the dismay of fans. Unfortunately for them, this is only the first time in a long list of postponements. Because if everything seems to be going well on Skull and Bones’ side, the game is about to begin with a long desert crossing.
2018-2022: Radio silence on the side of Ubisoft
At the end of 2018, Justin Farren, creative director of Skull and Bones, left the ship. If we have a little bit of info on it, a survey by Gamasutra revealed in 2020 suggests that the atmosphere wasn’t really good in the studios. In fact, the man is mentioned in many testimonies pointing the finger at a work atmosphere that would be toxic and remarkably more than decent. It is impossible to say whether this caused his departure, But we suspect that the situation would not have been in favor of a quiet development of the title. This investigation prompted Ubisoft to do so Another member removed from the studio in 2020: Hugues Ricour, Director of Ubisoft Singapore and co-producer of Skull and Bones.
These departures had an inevitable impact on game development, changing teams and directions mid-project is never easy. In the end, the announcement of a new postponement during 2019 is not really surprising. But what was more than that was the radio silence that followed. For nearly a year, we have no news of the address. To reassure players, Elizabeth Palin finally spoke on Ubisoft to explain the delay. It will therefore be due to the great ambitions of the title as well as to the new vision that was to emerge over the months.
Many of you are wondering why our launch has been delayed. The answer is that we simply needed more time. We dreamed of something bigger for Skull & Bones, and those ambitions naturally came with even bigger challenges. These difficulties have resulted in necessary delays in our game. Crucial questions have had to be addressed over the past few months, such as: How is the classic pirate game being updated? How do we ensure a more immersive experience? How can we create wonderful and unforgettable moments in the game? To answer most of these questions, it was clear that we needed more development time.
After that, the studio immediately resumed its silence. In 2021, not a single tweet was posted by the official Skull and Bones account. The game page is gradually emptied of all information. Until this week’s presentation, the official website was content to redirect players to the Insider Program, without giving any details of the title itself. When Ubisoft’s financial report was released in 2021, we learned that the game had been delayed again, even without the official announcement.
Little by little, the hope of seeing this title come out one day is fading away. Skull and Bones earned the nickname Arlesian and enthusiasm about the game waned. After four years without new visuals and only one release in three years, the title has decided, against all odds, to make a comeback this year. With little information a few months ago, and above all, Ubisoft Forward and Skull and Bones this week showed us that he’s not dead, far from it. The game is already nearing completion and will finally release this year, November 8, 2022 to be exact. But then, if the development has really progressed during all this time and the project has not been abandoned as some believe, How has Ubisoft been so calm about it?
Blurred vision, artistic boundaries… corridor noises
If we don’t have official information at this level, there are still a few points that explain the eerie silence around Skull and Bones, starting with the chaos in the studio. As mentioned above, Ubisoft Singapore has been at the center of the charges against the French video game giant. So much so that in the summer of 2021, TAFEP (The Triple Alliance for Fair and Advanced Employment Practices) launched an investigation into employees’ working conditions. Again, it is difficult to develop a game calmly under the mentioned circumstances, but also in the midst of an investigation of this kind.
Note that a few days ago, a completely different type of survey was published by Kotaku. Claiming to have collected testimonies of about twenty people who worked or worked on the project, The e-journal provides a messy inventory of the development process. Judging by its streaks, Skull and Bones has not only changed its vision over the years, but has had a hard time finding one and sticking with it.
We were told about a game that would have taken place in a wonderful world of Indian Ocean investment at last. We talk about many points that would have remained unresolved for years, such as controlling only the boat or its captain, or the size and operation of the card. Others, less basic, would have monopolized team members for months, To be withdrawn in the end purely and simply.
Lack of clear decision making, constant changing of minds, very different game systems that pile on top of each other… Kotaku’s article mentioned a confusing development. We all note that some certificates conflict with each other and therefore it is difficult to fully understand the reality of this development process. What is certain, however, is that it wasn’t the most straightforward and relaxed.
In addition, various reports put Ubisoft Singapore in the face of more technical problems. We’re now in 2022 and the latest consoles to date are the PS5 and Xbox Series. Skull and Bones will also be a next-gen game, having been planned, on the console side, only in the latter. But to get there, we had to work hard and above all start from scratch several times. When the project was born, it was the era of PS3 and Xbox One. Gradually, Ubisoft Singapore teams have had to go back to their initial work in order to adhere to the technical standards of the PS4 / Xbox One era, and now the PS5 / Xbox Series. Suffice it to say that the time lost in constantly upgrading the game must be significant.
If Skull and Bones had been in a rival studio, he would have been dropped dozens of times by now
But then, if the evolution is so messy, why is the game still on the right track? Some claim that it’s because Ubisoft has already put a lot of money on the table (approximately $120 million, according to Kotaku) and that the project therefore cannot be abandoned. Others have put forward a supposed contract with the Singaporean state, Which would have allowed Ubisoft to open a studio in the country in exchange for developing a new Triple A IP made in Singapore.
Whether for the first or second reason, Skull and Bones really kept the track. See you on November 8th to see if the game is worth it. Unfortunately, the tide isn’t really turning in his favour. Because if some are reassured by this week’s presentation, the release date will be a real hurdle. Skull and Bones should already be released a day before one of the most anticipated games of the year: God of War Ragnarok. To stay the course, the pirate game has an interest in having a strong back.