Shiver me timbers! Since the announcement of Skull and Bones at E3 2017, Ubisoft's pirate adventure has faced numerous delays.
But Skull and Bones has finally entered the Alpha phase and is in a playable state. But the game has taken a long, treacherous 8 years to get here.
Skull And Bones Has Finally Entered "Alpha" Phase After Years In Development Hell
In a detailed investigation by Kotaku, Skull and Bone's development struggles have been plagued by shifts in management and creative uncertainty while a deal with the Singaporean Government has kept the project afloat.
What started off as a multiplayer expansion for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag in 2013, Skull and Bones was transformed into a fully-fledged AAA project. The game has already cost around $120 million, an amount far exceeding its initial budget.
Several anonymous employees and developers detailed how the game's themes and setting were constantly shifted during production:
At one point, it was set in the Caribbean. Later, it moved to the Indian Ocean. One version was inspired by Sid Meier’s Pirates! and played out in a fantastical world called Hyperborea through branching multiplayer campaigns that lasted weeks. Another revolved around an elaborate floating base called Libertalia—a “cathedral on water,” as one developer described it—inspired by the mythical pirate colony of the same name.
Certain gameplay features created in its early phase have been removed completely. Initially introduced in E3 2018, the PVE Hunting Grounds mode was a free roam mode allowing players to traverse land and find loot and hideouts, even fight other players. This feature has been now been scrapped.
In 2015, there were initially 100 people working on the Ubisoft Singapore project. This number increased exponentially to 400 by 2019. These members consisted of employees from other studios chiming in and resulted in tinkering of gameplay elements:
It’s a classic case of mismanagement for eight years. Instead of adding layers of value, we kept running around in a loop.
One source implied that any other publisher would have cancelled the project. However, a deal with the Singaporean government, the country where the game is being developed, kept Skull and Bones going.
The deal provides extra incentives and subsidies to Ubisoft in return for hiring staff at their Singapore studio. The government is also encouraging further development of new IPs for years to come at the same studio.
A spokesman for the French publisher responded to the lengthy report, claiming that the game is now in a playable state:
The Skull & Bones team are proud of the work they’ve accomplished on the project since their last update with production just passing Alpha, and are excited to share more details when the time is right.
No release date has been set for the Ubisoft production. But don't walk the plank just yet as fans can get their pirate fix through Sea of Thieves's latest update, A Pirate’s Life, a collaboration with Disney that tells an original story involving Jack Sparrow.