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Pirates of the Caribbean has nothing to do with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  There are similarities in the way that role-playing games share similarities, but Pirates of the Caribbean is not Morrowind with pirate ships.  Pete Hines, Director of Marketing and PR at Bethesda, sets the record straight on that and many other topics including how the project got rolling, the ups and downs of a movie license, the accuracy of the ship-to-ship battles, and the possibility of expansion packs.  Thanks for your time, Pete!

 

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Preview: Pirates of the Caribbean (PC, XB)

Review: Elder Scrolls III - Morrowind (PC)

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Pete Hines (Pirates of the Caribbean) Q&A

Conducted by Omni

 

Is it unfair to define Pirates of the Caribbean as “Morrowind with pirate ships”?

This is a completely different game by a completely different team. Akella wasn’t trying to make Morrowind with pirate ships, they were trying to make a really fun pirate game…and that’s what they’ve done. Certainly it has things in common with Morrowind in that it’s an RPG, it’s open-ended, there’s a lot of freeform stuff you can do, etc. Again, the goal was to make a beautiful, really fun pirate game that let you do what you wanted to do, and I think Akella’s done that.

 

How did Pirates of the Caribbean come about?  Who approached whom to get the project rolling?

We had some conversations with people at Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films and found out more about the movie project. We then showed them the kind of technology we had and the game we wanted to make. They liked what we had to say, we liked what they had to say, and away we went.

 

Was E3 a valuable experience in terms of gauging how Pirates of the Caribbean will be received when it, ahem, ships?

I think so. In general, you can tell by people’s initial reaction what direction they might be leaning, but really into folks get to sit down and spend time actually playing it, there’s no real way to know what they really think. But based of what people have said so far, both from E3 and in their hands-on previews, it looks like Pirates is being received very, very well.

 

Is it a big deal to snag a movie license?  Does it place added pressures on the development team?

Certainly there’s added pressure simply because you’ve reduced the margin for error. At the same time, this is different than most movie games in that it was designed first and foremost as a fun game. Everyone was in agreement that it was very important for Pirates to stay true to what it was about, and not go running off into the weeds trying to be as much like the movie as possible. It’s more about capturing the spirit of the film and the kind of action you’ll be seeing than letting you play a specific character that does the same things he/she does in the film.

 

As far as the other side, it certainly helps raise awareness for the game. The amount of promotion being done for the film is simply huge, and so lots of people are seeing and hearing about Pirates of the Caribbean. The game only benefits from that, so certainly that’s a big bonus for us.

 

Did the team have much exposure to the film?

The studio was very helpful in providing whatever resource materials we asked for in the development of the game. We pretty much got anything we needed. They were great to work with. Again, since we weren’t trying to replicate everything taking place in the movie, our needs were more for reference materials.

 

How accurate are the ship-to-ship battles?  Was there an effort to make it as realistic as possible (without sacrificing fun)?

Well, that’s the big challenge. You’ve got to make sure it still feels realistic, but the pace and action has to be such that you feel like things are moving along fast enough. We don’t want sea battles that take hours. So we spent a lot of time in testing playing at different speeds to find what felt right. And, just to make sure we covered our bases, the game comes with two gameplay modes. An arcade mode where things are sped up in ship battles, and a realistic mode when speeds and rates are slower and a little more realistic. So you can decide which one feels right for you.

 

Will Pirates of the Caribbean feature the same expansion possibilities as Morrowind?

Well, anything is possible but what determines things like expansions is whether or not the original game is good and sells a lot. So our main focus has been to work with Akella to make Pirates a really good game that people want to buy and play.

 

What has been the trickiest part about developing Pirates of the Caribbean?

No different than any other game, the trickiest part is finding the balance and squashing the bugs. With open-ended games you know folks can go anywhere at any time, so it presents more problems than a linear, level-based game where you pretty much know where the player will be and what they’ll look like at any give point. So that’s a challenge from a testing standpoint. In addition, the process of going through and making sure that quests are fun, and make sense, and combat feels the way it needs to, and the pacing is right…so we go through those things over and over again.

 

Will players be able to be anything other than a pirate?

Well, technically when you start the game you’re a captain. If you want to play by the “rules” and sail for one of the big powers in the game (England, France, Spain, The Netherlands, or Portugal), then go right ahead. If you want to sink everything in site and have everyone trying to kill you, you can do that too. The game will react to the way you play.

 

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Will there be much sea life to interact with?  (At least a kraken or two, please!)

No, there’s no fantasy sea creatures to fight (Pirates left fighting krakens to Persius ala Clash of the Titans). You will see creatures out at sea, like birds and sharks and stuff.

 

There is a definite story in Pirates of the Caribbean but how closely will players have to stick to the main plot?  How many subplots are there?

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If you don’t want to play the main story, don’t. There is plenty of gameplay out there to find in the form of side quests, random quests, and freeform gameplay (just heading out to trade goods, sink ships you come across, or explore land and fight bandits). How much you choose to play the main story or build up your character through freeform roleplaying is up to you.

 

Who has final say on what is included in Pirates of the Caribbean?  Disney?

Ultimately, Disney has the final say, although from the beginning they told us to go out and make the game we wanted to make. Throughout this process they’ve done nothing but help us make the game we wanted and provided whatever info and support we needed. They’ve been great to work with. Their impact on the game has been 100% positive.

 

Is getting a Teen rating from the ESRB important?  Although the IDSA has stats to indicate a larger percentage of Mature games are being made and sold over the last couple of years, Teen rated games still make up the majority of games on the market.  Were there sacrifices made to ensure a Teen rating?  Or was that the target rating?

We always figured that was the rating we’d get because of the violence. Much like in Sea Dogs, the violence isn’t gratuitous and there isn’t any gore, so we didn’t expect to get a high rating than that. And it works out well because the rating for the game and the rating for the film (which was just announced as PG-13) end up aligning very well with each other.

 

(July 2, 2003)

 

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