“If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.” – Jules Verne

So it’s mid June and long overdue for another Ships and Scurvy game developer diary. It’s interesting actually… when you first come up with a game idea, you’re bursting with ideas about it and just want to write down as much as you can, sketch everything on paper, tell the whole world about it and so on. I was entirely sure that once I started Ships and Scurvy, I’d write a developer diary at least once a week with updates.

One week becomes two, which becomes a month, and now it’s been six weeks. The further along I get into developing the actual game, the less energy I seem to have for doing everything else around the game – the promotion,  the myriad internet forums you’re supposed to be engaging the community in and so on. More on this in a little while. Anyway, there’s only so much energy to go around , but rest assured, the less frequently I’m updating these developer diaries, the harder I’m actually working on the game and the more I have to show.

So… since the last major update I’ve knocked off a stack of new features for Ships and Scurvy. The biggest addition of all is …. drumroll… FINALLY a game trailer has been added. This took an inordinate of time to get around to doing and to put together. It’s still pretty rough because obviously the game is only 50% complete and I’m not a video editor, but it at least gives a taste for what the game’s all about – which can be hard to do until you actually see it in action. Anyway, without further delay, here ’tis!


I’ve written up over 44 of the 60 or so island adventure scenarios now. They take a huge chunk of time, because you have to come up with an interesting adventure, 4 possible outcomes and the associated bits of data telling the computer how to reward / punish the crew accordingly. One of the things I noticed while playing through an early prototype of the game was that these adventure scenarios were very entertaining but a little ‘text heavy’.

To alleviate that, I decided they probably needed a little eye-candy in the form of a hand drawn sketch. I used to draw all the time on paper, and thought it might be fun to get a sketchbook and a pencil and actually draw up some of these scenarios and add them to each adventure. Each one takes 5 to ten minutes to draw and then I run a photoshop ‘Oil Paint’ and ‘Linear Burn’ filters over a parchment background. I’m no great artist but I’m pleased with the results as they make the game feel very hand-crafted.



So, next up, I’ve also built the ‘Tavern’ section of the game. The crew , after long days at sea, can visit taverns to get a hot meal, buy a drink or even hire new recruits. I remember a classic Sega game, Wonderboy in Monsterland , had little taverns the hero could visit – buying a drink would often give the player hints and rumours. I added these into the game. You talk to the barkeep and he picks a random fact from the world to give you. How this works is kind of interesting:

  1. I pick an island in the game to give a fact about, then give the bartender a prefix comment such as ‘I’ve heard sailors talk about [ISLAND NAME]
  2. I find where the island is relative to the player and allocate a procedurally generated string such as ‘far to the north-west’
  3. I then choose some random fact about the island , such as the fact that gold or berries might be found there.
  4. Certain proper quest hints can also be found here by talking to the game, these will appear in a different colour such as [TO FIND THE NEXT SEA CAPTAIN, VISIT ISLAND X]

After the player’s had four or five drinks, the bartender cuts you off for the day – so you don’t get unlimited hints.



Related to the tavern, but on board your ship, you have the ‘Crew Quarters’ screen where you can dismiss the crew you’ve hired by tapping their portraits, or feed them a meal from the cargo hold. Food , morale and health is a pretty important part of Ships and Scurvy. You have to keep the crew from mutinying and free from disease – here’s where you do it. As you can see below, there’s four different meals the chef can make the crew that will either see them happy and healthy or at death’s door and plotting against you. I’ve kept it fairly simple, you don’t have to peel every potato and boil every vegetable!




Other additions in the last six weeks include a whole bunch of refinements and changes to the UI, a proper day/night cycle (allowing you to rest and gain experience at night ….levelling up comes next!) . I’m almost at the point where I have a fully working game prototype that allows you to create a character, hire a crew, explore the world, die in battle or whatever, and get resurrected on Coconut Island and try again.

There’s still a few major sections of the game that need building including 1 vs 1 sea-captain duels, the level-up character stuff, as well as a ‘dungeon/temple’ exploration thing I’m trying to flesh out in my head, seeing how well it would fit with the game, but that’s yet to come.

I’m in talks about getting a publisher for the game at the moment so hopefully I have some exciting news for next update – as well as a longer ‘Let’s Play’ gameplay video of the game. Until then though, thanks for being along for the journey – I appreciate all the great feedback I’ve received so far.

Cheers and happy journeys!

Oliver Joyce
Whiskeybarrel Studios