Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones has been a mystery since it was first revealed. The hyper-realistic nautical pirate adventure looked intriguing, but the silence about its development was strangely telling until Ubisoft announced that it now has a release window targeting between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023, with years of work on this one Game, it appears to be in a playable alpha state now, but a new report suggests that time has been far from smooth so far.
A new report from Kotaku talks down the path so far, including the fact that Skull & Bones was originally intended as an expansion to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the first entry in the franchise that was heavily focused on nautical warfare. According to the website, more than 20 developers who worked at Ubisoft were involved Kotaku anonymous to talk about the Skull & Bones journey. Originally planned as a multiplayer expansion for Black Flag, Ubisoft eventually became an MMO link to the Assassin’s Creed game called Black Flag Infinite. That obviously didn’t work, but the idea was eventually turned into its own IP, though even that had some obvious growing pains.
One aspect of the new information on Skull & Bones is that there were several different locations in mind for this seafaring adventure, including the Indian Ocean and a completely fabricated new world called Hyberborea. When direction was finally set, Skull & Bones made its first appearance at E3 2017 with a deeper dive the following year focusing on the PvE elements rather than the PvP. However, it has reportedly made a few more changes of direction since then. While this may sound scary, the important thing to remember is that this isn’t as unusual as one might think. It often happens that key ideas are suddenly thrown away, features are left on the cutting room floor, or the narrative has started its journey to a new and interesting location. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but game development is complicated and nuanced, which means things don’t always go according to plan.
That being said, a developer on the site announced that Skull & Bones would have been completely scrapped if it was a different publisher. Ubisoft’s reported deal with the Singapore government kept the game alive regardless of how the hundreds who work on it felt. According to the developer, who has opened up, Ubisoft Singapore is contractually obliged to bring original games to the market in terms of subsidy payments. With production costs in excess of $ 120 million, the report said, and changing goals for what it will be, many Ubisoft employees have left the company and referred to the site as something of an “exodus”. This point was also spurned by the reported toxicity in the Singapore studio, which you can find out more about in detail here.
The original launch date for Skull & Bones was expected to be published in late 2018. Numerous pushbacks delayed the start of the game. Now we have a glimpse of the possible reasons why this was the case.
A Ubisoft spokesman told the website, “The Skull & Bones team is proud of the work they have done on the project since the last update as production has just passed alpha, and are happy to release more details when the time is right. That being said, any unsubstantiated speculation about the game or the choices made is only demoralizing the team, which is working very hard to create an ambitious new franchise that will live up to our players’ expectations. “
The statement went on to say, “Over the past year we have made significant changes to our policies and processes to create a safer and more inclusive workplace and empower our teams to create games that reflect the diversity of the world we live in . “
One developer added that the concept of Skull & Bones is easy to create on paper, but the reality is far from public perception. From Sid Meier inspirations to a “cathedral on the water” concept, one can only imagine what this game will ultimately be at launch. At the time, a current developer at Ubisoft said the game is “still in development” and the design “just isn’t there”.
To read the full report, check out the long timeline explored here.