Interview with Hidden Armada

When having a quick play through the plethora of indie titles being showcased at this year’s EGX and Play Expo conventions, chaotic pirate brawler-cum–party game Mutiny! was one of the games that caught our attention, and imagination, the most. An eight-player (soon to be expanded to 16) ostensibly co-operative game, at first glance it seemed very much the typical couch multiplayer title. However, with a cursory look at the tagline, “battle enemies and betray friends”, our interest was very much piqued; our intrigue for treachery heightened.

It soon became clear that we were playing something truly special, even in its current pre-alpha state. With vibrant cartoony graphics, chaotic action and the ever-satisfying opportunity to get one over on our friends, Mutiny! looks well-placed to become a favourite here at Power Up Gaming HQ.

Developed by Dundee-based developers Hidden Armada, Mutiny! is currently seeking £25,000 in funding via Kickstarter, with a Steam Greenlight campaign to boot. The project certainly isn’t lacking in ambition despite its indie tag, with promised features including a unique ‘dual screen experience’, in which players can use their smart phones to interact with the game.

We sat down with design director Will Wright to talk more about the swashbuckling title, its release schedule, and the challenges of independent gaming development.

Chris Mawson: Firstly, beyond the frenetic gameplay trailers and skull and crossbones, can you describe what Mutiny is all about?

Will Wright: Mutiny is all about treasure and treachery, as you form a pirate crew with your friends to defend your ship and gather gold as a team. But if you want to win, you’ll have to watch out for any opportune moments to stab your friends in the back and steal their gold, as the winner is the richest pirate at the end of the round.

CM: Described first and foremost as a ‘pirate brawler’, how does combat work in the game? Is it a case of cutlasses, daggers and cannons galore?

WW: Pretty much! Right now, combat is all about what weapon is in your hand, as you can pick up a variety of items to pummel your opponents with, and they have different ranges and attack power. In the future, we’ll be adding combos based on timing, as well as power attacks to each weapon to keep things varied. Cannons and bombs are more for sinking ships than taking out pirates, but they’ll do both quite effectively.

CM: The game’s concept of betrayal – leading to simultaneous multiplayer co-op and versus gameplay is one we’ve seldom seen before. Where did the inspiration come from?

WW: The idea of a game of betrayal, or “simultaneous co-op plus versus play”, is central to the world of pirates, and we felt it captured the most fun of each approach. There’s a lot of fun to be had fighting with friends, but it’s also hugely entertaining to try and collaborate, especially when the game is so chaotic and decisions need to be made quickly. It’s what gets people shouting at each other, which is half the fun of a couch multiplayer game.

CM: We were particularly intrigued by the talk of Mutiny being a ‘dual screen’ experience. How will that work, exactly?

WW: Mutiny is indeed a dual screen game; the first screen being the TV where the action takes place, and the second screen is your phone. If you download the app then you can sync your device over wifi to turn your phone into a controller and additional display. You’ll mostly be looking at the main screen, but glancing at your device to view secret information the other plays don’t have, which you can choose to share with the team, or keep to yourself to try and get an edge over the others.

CM: How are the Kickstarter and Greenlight campaigns for the game coming along? What does the roadmap for release look like?

WW: The Kickstarter and Greenlight are ticking along, but moving slowly. Mostly because we didn’t contact the press ahead of time and create more of a buzz for the game. That said, we’ve been at public shows like EGX and Insomnia and the response has been amazing. Momentum is building and hopefully it’s not too late to make our goal.

The release roadmap is to get an early access Alpha version out in December, a feature-complete Beta by May, and the finished game (and app) should be done by August of 2015.

CM: Tell us about [pirate metal band] Alestorm’s involvement in the game’s official soundtrack. How did you manage to get them onboard?

WW: It was pure chance really! I met Dani [Evans, bassist] in the pub in Dundee and I told him about Mutiny. He’s a huge gamer and got really excited about it. I asked him if he’d be up for doing some music and he said yes. Many weeks later it got cleared by his management and now it’s official!

CM: What was the reception like for Mutiny at EGX and Play Expo? Do you have any other events lined up in the near future?

WW: EGX was phenomenal, on a completely different scale to any of the other shows we’d been to. There were lots of groups of friends, which was great for getting the most out of a local multiplayer game, and the response was overwhelmingly positive both from players and our fellow developers which is really encouraging. We’ll be at MCM London in a week’s time and straight on to GameCity Nottingham for a few days after that. It’s a busy week!

CM: How many people make up Hidden Armada and how did your crew come together? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced with regards to development and promotion as an independent studio?

WW: There’s three of us in Hidden Armada, and we met at university many moons ago. We separated and got jobs in the industry, but always remembered how much fun we had working together, so when our contracts all ended at the same time we decided it was now or never.

There have been endless, ongoing challenges to every aspect of being an independent studio, and lack of time is the biggest factor. There’s so much that needs to be done, and it all needs to be done last week. There’s been a steep learning curve for all of us here in terms of learning how to run a business, learning how Unity works, learning how Blender works, and working out the development pipeline. Finding the time to promote the game, and create interesting content to promote it is difficult. All of this pressure is amplified by not having any money, and spending time trying to get money enough to continue.

That said, I think we’ve done well as we’ve just had our first birthday as a studio and we’ve done a hell of a lot in 12 months. We’ve gone from nothing to having a playable demo of a great game and the beginnings of a following for it. Whatever happens with the Kickstarter, we’re well prepared for the future.

CM: Thanks for your time, Will, and congratulations on what you’ve achieved so far. You can follow the progress of Mutiny and Hidden Armada via their Kickstarter page, and download a playable demo of the game via IndieDB.

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