EGX 2019 feels like a lifetime ago now, held back at the ExCel Centre in London from October 17th to 20th 2019; and now, sitting on my sofa at home watching another games livestream, laughing into my phone turned controller I find myself loving an indie title I was introduced to in October all those months ago. It’s been a regular occurrence on my Saturday nights, sitting with Twitch open and tuning in to play Paper Pirates along with some of the developers and other fans of the game tuning in across the internet.
The one thing that is on everyone’s minds right now is lockdown and COVID-19. How has working from a distance changed how you interact with your team?
Paper Pirates released very shortly before the lockdown really started so we were lucky enough to all be together to get the final push done in terms of having the game actually out there. Since then we’ve already released 5 fairly content heavy updates to the game (even moving to version 2.0!), that may have actually been slower to come if not for the lockdown. We share ideas in our group Discord and then try to commit anything we like to a shared repository so that it’s something we can look back on whilst working.
We also stream at least once a week which is always great fun, and that came out of a want to share the game with others, but also just to have a bit of normality of having some time each week where we can play just games together!
While playing the game it brought to mind elements such as Ultimate Werewolf, and the trying to convince people of your allegiance. Was there any specific influence?
The game originally had a lot more of everyone shouting commands at each other, similar to Spaceteam, but we realised very quickly that it was really difficult to keep track of what you needed to do alongside telling everyone else what to do so that disappeared quite quickly in playtesting. In terms of the social deduction elements, you’re exactly right! Tabletop games like Werewolf, Secret Hitler, Avalon, all fed into that idea of: what would it be like if everyone had a common goal, but some players were working against it? One of the things we were keen to avoid from the very start was that feeling where, if you get voted out, you’re out of the game, and that’s where the mechanic of returning as the stowaway came from. We love that the game is never over for you, so being thrown overboard is more like an exciting new opportunity to think about how you can get back into a winning position.
Paper Pirates was showcased at EGX 2019 in London; how did people receive it? Were there any pieces of feedback that you’ve since implemented into Paper Pirates?
We had an absolute blast at EGX, and it’s always great to show off the game and to get feedback from players! It was great to see groups of people coming together, and really getting into the spirit of Paper Pirates. Most impressive was when people didn’t know each other at all but really got on board with the ‘social’ aspect of social deduction.
Perhaps the most important thing we learnt, and honestly something we’re still iterating on, is how to explain the game to someone really quickly and get them ready to play in a short space of time. When you’re demoing the game at something like EGX, you really need to get someone in and playing as quickly as possible, and with something like Paper Pirates where there’s a lot of rules that sometimes take a while to click, it’s important to get to that “aha!” moment as quickly as possible.
There is the opportunity to customise your pirate during the game – with anything from coloured beards to peg legs and the most absurd hats – but what’s your favourite customisable item that you’ve introduced so far? What would you like to add in?
The game originally launched without hats so we were super excited to add those, especially since they add so much personality to the individual pirates and it’s such an awesome feeling to unlock new ones each time you get an achievement. I think a personal favourite is simply the stowaway’s barrel outfit, especially since you don’t get to choose it yourself! We’ve always talked about adding parrots but we don’t really have a proper animator/artist so that’s a long term goal, maybe!
How has the opportunity to host weekly streams of the game on Twitch impacted the interactions with the game? Have you seen a rise in people wishlisting the title on steam or talking about it on social media?
This is really interesting, because shortly after launch we saw a few people streaming Paper Pirates, and it actually steered the direction for those first few updates. We tried to add some new features that made the game more convenient to play online, instead of face-to-face as we’d always playtested it, and then obviously we needed to try them out ourselves, and that’s really where the streaming came from! I guess really, the way the game evolves and the features that we add are still to a certain extent informed by the needs and wants of streamers, especially in light of the current situation, since so many people are looking for games they can play with their friends and family remotely.
In terms of people talking about the game, we have a great community on the Iteration Games Twitch channel, but if you like the game please shout about it! The more voices that are out there then obviously the better for us, and we love hearing from anyone who’s played the game.
What would you like to add to the game in the future? Any challenges or additional features that you think would bring something new and exciting?
We’ve just released version 2.0 which includes a new game mode which can completely change how people play the game, with ghosts acting like humans, humans acting like ghosts, and people even going out of their way to try to get thrown overboard! We’re always looking for new things that can bring something exciting to mix up the game for players who have already gotten a hang of the rules, so there’s definitely that!
We try to listen to the feedback of the players too, so we look for patterns in reviews, and if there’s a commonly requested option or feature and we think it sounds feasible, then we’ll try to see if we can make that work somehow. We heard a lot of people were looking for ways to speed up their games, so 2.0 introduced Fast Mode, which reduces the dialogue messages on-screen and makes games much faster if you already know the rules!
Paper Pirates is available to purchase on Steam now, with weekly streams of the game on Twitch.