Skull and Bones may have been delayed but its developers at Ubisoft Singapore are still hard at work on the game including the game’s Lead Technical Director Kris Kirkpatrick.
Kris has been working at Ubisoft Singapore for the past 11 years developing games like Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Flag, and Syndicate. He’s managed various projects over the years and particularly specializes in the development of water tech simulation and rendering, making the water of the AC world look as good as it does in the real one. Needless to say, he was a good choice for the technical director considering Skull and Bones primarily takes place on the Ocean.
We should also note that, while we did ask Kris about the recent delay of Skull and Bones, he is not a general manager on the project and does not have a deeper insight into the decision. He instead told us more about the detailed water effects of the game and how they’ll affect your sails on the high seas.
There were industry rumors near the end of last year that said the game had gone gold yet the game has gotten delayed, do you know more about the reason for the game being delayed?
I’m afraid that’s out of my scope. I’m the Technical World guy but I can say that the delay is allowing us to incorporate a lot of the player feedback that is coming from the technical tests so we’re really using that time to make the game better.
There are a lot of people writing about the game. I read the comments and there are people typing things like, “Is the game even real?” Or “I’ll believe it when I see the game” or things like that.
Haha, the internet is a dangerous place. Yeah obviously we are working hard, the game is real I can promise that. It is coming, we’re just using the extra time to make it the best it can be.
A big part of Skull and Bones is the water effects and sailing on the open sea. What was it like developing the water effects for the game and how will they affect the gameplay?
My main area of focus has been water technology. For Skull and Bones, we focused on not just having realistic visuals for the water but also physics. What makes our water special in Skull and Bones is that what you see is what you can feel, so if you see a wave, you can sail with the wave. The bigger the waves, the faster the waves, and the size of your ship, the physics, all of that is going to affect your navigation. There are all these elements that will make sailing feel special and real and fun.
Because a ship is a huge object, are there any differences in shaping the physics of a huge ship and small droplets or things like that?
Absolutely, we’re very proud of this. In Skull and Bones, we actually have quite a variety of ships of different sizes and of course, for the size of the ship, the physics have to be completely unique. A small ship is going to feel quite dangerous, maybe storms will be bad for the small ships. The bigger ships, however, have so much more mass so they’re lower in the water, they have more drag since they’re heavier which means they’re more suited for storms. We spent a lot of time making sure the ships don’t just look but feel distinct.
Speaking of ships, did any of the local ships in Singapore inspire any of the animations for the ships in the game?
Our world is fictionalized historically in the 17th century based on what kind of ships were available but that’s just our base. We still want to add our flavor, and our spin, and make them distinct but we are still basing them on that time period.
Are there any unique ships in that time period that you felt inspired you the most?
Yeah, without giving names to the ships, I know there’s a lot of diversity in our Indian Ocean so there are different cultures with their own ships. There are some really cool ships in the East Indies that look very distinct from Africa or what The Dutch Company ships would have. So there are very distinct silhouettes of all the ships.
Skull and Bones were moved to the next-gen consoles. Do you think the move to next-gen hardware has enhanced the game even further, especially with the naval combat since there are so many different assets moving on screen at once?
It’s not a decision we took lightly. Of course, we want as many players as possible to play the game but the vision for Skull and Bones has always been quite big, bigger than the consoles we were originally developing on. As such it was quite a straightforward decision we think. On the next-gen consoles, we’ll be able to come closer to the vision without sacrificing quality, it allows us to have bigger waves and more ships, and more of everything without sacrificing and hurting things. In the long run, it’s definitely a good thing.
Could you tell us more about the game’s framerate and resolution?
So on the Xbox Series X and PS5, we have the performance mode which will be at 60fps and there will also be a quality mode that will have 4K. For PC, we will offer more options that can be tweaked from the settings.
Just now you said you were incorporating a lot of feedback from playtests. As the technical director, are there any aspects of the game are you primarily hoping to polish based on the feedback?
So we can’t comment on the specifics of what we’re doing today but we really need to make sure the performance is good. It’s a multiplayer game so there are a lot of things going on. We’re always polishing and optimizing to make sure that the framerate is solid and the game looks the best it can be.
As a game developer for Skull and Bones do you have anything to say to players about the game?
Well, I hope you like the water, it was a lot of work and a lot of talented people were behind it. There’s an amazing team that worked really hard on this game so we hope that it’ll be worth the wait and we’ll catch you out on the ocean I guess.
When we think of the standout elements of a video game, water isn’t what most people go for yet developing convincing water effects has long been one of the trickiest parts of environmental design but also one of the most important. You can’t have an open-world game about pirates if the seas themselves don’t look stellar.
We wish Kris Kirkpatrick and the rest of the team at Ubisoft Singapore the best of luck as they keep sailing to the end of Skull and Bones.
Skull and Bones is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
For more information on Skull and Bones, check out our previous interview with the game’s director Ryan Barnard.