Just recently I was given the opportunity to speak to Erik Chiavola of Mildly Competent Games about their upcoming debut title Seaworthy, a roguelike 16bit Pirate game for PC, Mac and Linux featuring permadeath and a heavy customization system. Seaworthy is currently looking for funding via its Kickstarter page, which can be found here.
We The Nerdy: Firstly, how did the idea for a game like Seaworthy come together? What were your inspirations for the game?
Erik: Thinking back, I’d have to say books, movies, and games are what got me so interested in pirate culture to start. “On Stranger Tides”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and “Sid Meier’s Pirates” definitely make up my favorites. That fascination with pirates has long had me dreaming up how awesome it would be to make my own thrilling pirate adventure. But rather than starting work then, I instead told myself it was just a silly childhood fantasy. Making games is no small task, and I knew just how unrealistic it would be to make the large scale game I had imagined. That desire was left dormant for years until one night I played FTL and it all came rushing back. As a gamer, I felt that their ship and crew focused gameplay combined with their text encounter system created a perfect harmony between gameplay and interactive storytelling. Additionally, the game developer in me was in awe of how their genius design allowed them to create a deep engaging experience as only two guys. I desperately wanted more, and was disappointed when I couldn’t find a single game that offered that unique FTL experience. So I became inspired to go about expanding and adapting that type of gameplay to compliment the pirate adventure game my childhood self-had long dreamed of. I pitched the idea to my best friend Luis and he immediately fell for it. Together we then completed the game design and began work on Seaworthy.
We The Nerdy: Rogue-like games seem too often pay little attention to story, is Seaworthy an exception to this theory? What sort of story depth can players expect?
Erik: We would love Seaworthy to be the exception to that. Challenges that make storytelling difficult in randomly generated games come from: not knowing what encounters will occur, not feeling like your actions influence the story’s conclusion, and seeing too many of the same encounters repeat themselves. With Seaworthy, we’re going to try our best to tackle these problems.
To give the game a feeling of story progression we’re creating a world that remembers; a system that tracks what encounters you experienced as well as your decisions in them and then releases relevant locked content to create a feeling that your actions truly change the story and world around you. We’re also going to create multiple endings to experience that will depend on how you played to avoid that one story fits all feeling games often have. And finally, to keep the game feeling fresh as long as possible, we’ve created a system that records what encounters you’ve had and makes unseen encounters more likely to occur. Even with all these methods combined, it is impossible to provide as intricate a story as the Bioshock games, but we will definitely be raising the bar as far as procedurally generated storytelling goes.
We The Nerdy: The games crew system sounds great, with the inexperienced crew eventually being able to become one of five classes. Can the crew be arranged to your liking? Do different crews offer different types of gameplay experiences?
Erik: Yes, we’re making the crew essential to gameplay! The crew members you have will affect the choices you can make both during encounters and combat. Each class of crew member has special abilities you get to choose that can then be called on in battle to help shift the tides in your favor. Each class of crew might also provide different unique solutions to the decisions you make in encounters.
We The Nerdy: Permadeath is an in-game aspect that some gamers find unsettling. Should people be wary of Seaworthy’s difficulty or is the game’s permadeath something that can be avoided through smart, safer gameplay?
Erik: In general, smart, safer gameplay will lead to success. We want Seaworthy to be a deep gameplay experience intended for serious gamers. Perma-death serves as a way to get players more emotionally invested in the game. It’s kind of a double bladed sword though. It provides additional tension to every decision, but also may cause gamers to curse at their computers in frustration. I personally find roguelikes fascinating for this reason because they seem to represent the human experience better than traditional games. Life is random, you can never be certain what will happen next and you can’t rely on respawning. Life isn’t fair either, sometimes it seems the world is out to get you and other times, everything might go your way. These forces of nature are out of our control. We can however prepare ourselves for the unknown and learn from failure to tread cautiously. There is no exception to these rules of life in Seaworthy. That means failure is sometimes inevitable, but learning from your mistakes will not only help you succeed but make that success that much sweeter.
We The Nerdy: What is the one aspect of Seaworthy that you are most excited for gamers to experience?
Erik: The encounters! As big fans of role playing games, we really love when you get placed in strange unexpected encounters and are forced to think deeply about the moral, economic, and tactical consequences of your choices. Our favorite RPG’s are ones that challenge your preconceptions and cause you to take a step back and really evaluate what you believe in. We’re both super excited to be creating a pirate themed adventure that attempts to provide feelings of meaningful contemplation that we love in games.
We The Nerdy: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your project?
Erik: We need help! We’ve totally fallen in love with our vision and there is so much we wish we could give to it but we’re greatly limited with our current resources. We think we can make Seaworthy great on our own, but we know it has the potential to be amazing if we can just get the community behind it. There are only two of us working on the game and we desperately need help spreading the word and raising the funds that will allow us to make Seaworthy spectacular. We’re also hiring too! If you have a talent that can be applied to Seaworthy, we’d love to talk. Anyone interested in talking to us or participating in Seaworthy’s development please contact us at MildlyCompetentGames@gmail.com
Seaworthy poses itself as an extremely ambitious roguelike experience, one I can’t help but get behind. The gameplay elements such as permadeath and procedurally generated maps as well as the games promise of story all but ensure that this game will be one to willingly take hours upon hours of my free time. If you’re interested in Seaworthy be sure to stop by the its Kickstarter page, which can be found here