Romantic visual novel The Pirate’s Fate takes players on a transformative pirate journey, having players finding magical coins that will change aspects of their character based on the ways they talk and act. In this way, players may find themselves and the other characters shifting into wholly different people over the course of the game, learning more about the characters in these changes to become who they really are on the inside.
Siliconera spoke with Volkenfox and T.F. Wright, developers of The Pirate’s Fate, to learn more about why change was an important theme, how these shifts could create an even deeper attachment to the characters in the player, and the creative work done in making characters for the player to fall for.
The Pirate’s Fate conveys a narrative of choice, change, and consequences. What inspired you to tell this story?
T.F. Wright – I was inspired to tell this story initially based on my love of the old “Choose your own adventure” style books that I enjoyed as a kid. I wanted to create a story involving complex moral dilemmas because so many games fail at that today. Oftentimes, the only choices are merely “good” and “evil,” and evil isn’t really a defensible choice as it’s just being bad for badness sake. I wanted to show realistic, complex choices with no clear right decision and tough consequences.
The Pirate’s Fate features many varied, striking character designs. What thoughts went into creating the crew of unique people and love interests players could meet in the game?
Volkenfox – Character design is one of my biggest passions as an artist. I tried to give each crew member certain unique design elements. For example, Leeko, the cartographer, is always carrying around and armful of scrolls as a reflection of his own insecurities. Morgana’s jewelry plays into the story; her locket representing a special memory from her past, while her arm bangle is from an adventure explored in our prequel comic. For Mila, I wanted to create a design which wasn’t just typically European, so I pulled up outfits from Morocco for inspiration. Mila’s default outfit changes as she transforms, but it always maintains some individual elements of the initial design.
Likewise, what thoughts went into making these characters feel fully realized through their personalities and desires? How do you make characters feel like actualized people? How do you create people players can be attracted to?
Wright – My goal for creating the characters was to provide them each with different perspectives and goals. In other games, your crew simply offers commentary while you decide everything. In The Pirate’s Fate, the crew members feel like real people, occasionally overriding the player’s wishes, getting in to trouble, having fits of insecurity, etc. I tried to make them attractive by creating a sense of connection. Darious has a grand adventure and a dream to believe in. Leeko has painful insecurities you can soothe. Morgana is tough on the outside, but becomes more sympathetic as you get to know her better.
The characters of The Pirate’s Fate change as the player acts in certain ways. Why did you choose to do this? What challenges did you face in incorporating so many interlacing changes into the player’s decisions?
Volkenfox: We wanted to ground the transformations into the plot in a believable and non-arbitrary way so that each change would not pull the player out of the story experience. The coins were originally intended to cause characters to change into reflections of their ambitions, insecurities, and desires by exploiting the actions and words of the person holding the coin at the time they transform. The tricky part of this was trying to make sure each change was justified and fit each specific character’s conflict arc. In the end, some changes happened through unintended consequences of the player’s choices, and in others, they were influenced by how the player was cultivating their relationships with other crew members, but the results always produced something that would reveal more about the person who fell under the coin’s magic.
Why was change an important theme to explore?
Volkenfox – I have always been obsessed with character development, both in fiction and how people evolve over time. I believe that it’s change that brings out a character’s true identity, even when that character loses their way. The transformations in this games were intended to serve both as tools to reveal more about the characters in the game and to give them more nuance as the player replays and explores different facets and outcomes of each character.
How did you work to make love and connections feel believable in The Pirate’s Fate? How do you draw up feelings of connection in the player?
Volkenfox – Our biggest focus in this game was character development. We wanted to build nuanced characters whose personalities and pasts would be revealed the more paths you play in the game. To that extent, a lot of the relationships in the game are built around the player’s context about characters, and not just the events of the current path the player is on at the time. Each character in the game only reveals part of themselves in an individual path. I believe that the collective experience of learning about these characters in different contexts builds a stronger connection to the player over time, and adds a whole additional layer to the relationships in each path.
Why do you feel it’s important to explore love, in all its varied ways, in games?
T.F. Wright – Showing and celebrating non-traditional love (characters with non-traditional body types, gender roles, LGBT characters, etc.) was important to me because it isn’t often done in games, but even if such romances weren’t underrepresented, I’d still want to do them, because they’re just so fun.