Blockbuster pirate game in the works here

In the Skull & Bones game, players can helm a warship and lead a crew into sea battles to vie for the title of pirate kingpin.
In the Skull & Bones game, players can helm a warship and lead a crew into sea battles to vie for the title of pirate kingpin.PHOTO: UBISOFT SINGAPORE

French Ubisoft's Singapore arm leads development of AAA game, due next year

French video-game developer Ubisoft of Assassin's Creed fame announced on Monday (yesterday, Singapore time) that its Singapore studio is working on a big-budget, multiplayer online pirate sea battle game called Skull & Bones.

The game is slated to be released for the PC, and PlayStation and Xbox game consoles, next year.

A new intellectual property, the title was a surprise reveal made to the world's video-game press at an Ubisoft event on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, one of the largest annual gatherings for the video-game industry globally.

Ubisoft said it is the first time its Singapore arm has led the development of a triple A (AAA) game, in other words, a big-budget, blockbuster title. "Skull & Bones has been designed, created and developed here in Singapore. Every aspect of the game, from the very concept to the execution, was done here," Ubisoft Singapore communications director Sylviane Bahr told The Straits Times yesterday.

Two other Ubisoft studios, Blue Byte in Germany and Ubisoft Chengdu, also helped with the game's development.

Game industry observers here said that the announcement on the back of E3 was a major development for the local industry.

"The fact that, for the first time, an AAA title like Skull & Bones is led by the Singapore team is a big step for the games industry here," said a DigiPen Institute of Technology spokesman.

"Having a big-budget game led by a Singapore studio and announced at E3 is quite a rare affair. For such a game to receive considerable media attention is no mean feat."

MAJOR INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT

Having a big-budget game led by a Singapore studio and announced at E3 (a major US expo) is quite a rare affair. For such a game to receive considerable media attention is no mean feat.

DIGIPEN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY SPOKESMAN

Mr Daniel Tan, director of Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Interactive and Digital Media, said the game "would be an inspiration for other Singapore game companies". Still, the game development industry here has space to grow.

"The challenge to create an AAA title requires a certain studio size - around 200 people - and in Singapore, we have only three to four such companies," added Mr Tan.

"So, we still need to incubate and seed more game companies and allow them time and space to keep creating games and accelerate their growth progressively."

The Ubisoft Singapore team, based in Fusionopolis, played a hand in co-developing entries in the popular Assassin's Creed games. In 2014, Ubisoft Singapore also released Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Phantoms, an online tactical shooter said at the time by industry observers to be Singapore's first big PC game made from the ground up for a global market.

That game's online servers closed in December last year, effectively ending the title.

There are more than 300 developers at the Ubisoft office here, half of whom are Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Ms Bahr said yesterday that the idea for Skull & Bones started with the good reception to the pirates battle segment of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Those naval battle sections were done by Ubisoft Singapore. "The team wanted to push the pirate fantasy and the naval battles a step further," said Ms Bahr of Skull & Bones' development.

Skull & Bones introduces a wind system that gives gamers tactical opportunities to navigate more quickly, and shoot farther and harder to destroy their enemies.

Gamers can also look forward to helming a powerful warship and leading a crew into sea battles to vie for the title of pirate kingpin, whether on their own or as part of a pirate gang. They will also be able to build their own fleet of ships that specialise in different battle conditions.

One local gamer who is looking forward to the game is software engineer Sean Saito, 22. "The combat mechanics of the pirates part of Assassin's Creed IV was pretty cool, such as invading fortresses using the ship, so I'm looking forward to this new game," said Mr Saito, who has spent about 40 hours playing the fourth numbered title in the Assassin's Creed series.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Blockbuster pirate game in the works here'. Print Edition | Subscribe