Ubisoft announced the exciting and ambitious-looking pirate ship combat game Skull & Bones at E3. We played a portion of the multiplayer and enjoyed it. Fans are wondering if there is any single-player content, however. Ubisoft clarified that there will be some form of “narrative campaign,” but we don’t know a lot about it yet. We caught up with creative director Justin Farren recently, and we asked for more specifics about the campaign. He told us that the campaign elements will be woven into the multiplayer, so there may not be a distinct campaign as some would have wanted.
Farren started off by telling us that he is a big fan of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which was praised in part for its incredible, memorable, and haunting story. But for Skull & Bones, Farren said his team is looking more to the “shared-narrative” approach.
“The narrative where people can broadcast or stream what they’re doing and it’s a unique experience to that player,” he said. “So, we wanted to take that approach. Like, how do you create a systemic world where every single player’s experience is different and also tie it to a world narrative where you meet historical pirates, historically inspired characters, and that you have a narrative where you develop a bond with your crew and interesting characters along the way, taking out kingpins, all those things are part of our narrative. But we didn’t want it to be separate, that you just consumed and never looked back.”
Instead, Skull & Bone’s story will be told over the course of many months and years. Ubisoft is increasingly focusing on the games-as-a-service model, so it’s no big surprise that Skull & Bones would take this approach as well.
“We wanted to create a system that let us tell our narrative month after month, year after year, and then throw in the story elements to it,” Farren said. “So, if you’re a PvP player, you should still feel like you beat the campaign. If you’re a PvE player, or like me, I plan on sailing with my daughter a lot, I want us to be able to go through the story and become kingpins together, and be able to tell the same world narrative through the game worlds that we build.”
He added: “It’s different. There’s not a lot of games that do this, but we really think that this is where people really want to experience narrative on a personal level, where they can effectively change the world. People always say, ‘It’s a living, breathing world.’ Well, we really take that to heart. We want to create a world that actually reacts to the things that you do in it.”
Pressed to clarify if Skull & Bones has a completely separate single-player mode, Farren said, “It’s woven into it, so the story itself will be woven in to everything you do, from the time that you build your relationships with your crew until the time that you take down your first kingpin, building up your hideout, all of those things are woven into the modes that you play.”
For players who don’t want PvP, what will Skull & Bones offer for them? Farren said he hopes you try it, even if you don’t think it’s for you.
“For it to be a, you know, a one-off campaign that’s consumed, would be a shame.” — Justin Farren
“I certainly hope that people will try to do our PvP, because we think it’s pretty compelling and it’s not a different … like Call of Duty when you play campaign and you go online, [and you get something very different],” he said. “I worked on Gears for a while and the players who play Gears multiplayer, they are different some times than the players who really invest in campaign. We want to bring those experiences closer together. For it to be a, you know, a one-off campaign that’s consumed, would be a shame.”
Skull & Bones, which is coming out in 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, is an intriguing-looking naval warfare battle game where players try to sink their enemies in the Indian Ocean. Developer Ubisoft Singapore made the naval battle sequences in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The studio has contributed to many Assassin’s Creed games over the years as a co-developer; and it also made the canceled Ghost Recon: Phantoms. Skull & Bones is the studio’s first title as a lead developer since then.
Farren also told us not to expect a Nintendo Switch version of Skull & Bones. Keep checking back with GameSpot for lots more from our conversation with Farren.
Ubisoft paid for GameSpot’s travel and accomodation to Singapore and Shanghai.