originals\ Mar 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

Week in Mobile: Okabu dev explains why upcoming game Seabeard isn’t an Animal Crossing or Zelda clone

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Take one glance at Seabeard, and it might remind you of Animal Crossing or even The Legend of Zelda. Clones are easy to come by on the iOS App Store, but London-based developer HandCircus has no interest in making Seabeard one of them.

“There are definitely games that we've fallen in love with over the years that have influenced us, but after spending a few minutes with Seabeard, you can see that it's not like anything else out there,” Simon Oliver, the founder of HandCircus, told GameZone. “If we're going to spend a couple of years working on a game, we'd much rather work on something innovative and new!”

The cute characters and colorful, lovingly crafted art style are HandCircus’s very own, but similarities between the games do exist: the way you proudly hold up a fish you’ve caught is a scene out of Animal Crossing, and the ocean-faring looks ripped out of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, just like Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was for iOS last year.

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Seabeard’s take on those experiences is much different, however. “We wanted to provide a great deal of variety to your seafaring activities as you upgrade your boat,” said Oliver. “It’s not just about using your cannons — you’ll be feeding dolphins and whales, catching fish, rescuing shipwrecked sailors, and smuggling mysterious cargo.”

Oliver said most activity in Seabeard is focused on trading and adventure. “On the adventure side, you’ll be helping out the many characters that you encounter as you explore the world, from stonemasons and park rangers to celebrity chefs and even royalty. These characters will ask for your help completing a wide variety of quests, from simply foraging for berries to defeating monsters in a nearby dungeon.”

Each crew member you recruit comes adds to your skill base: the fisherman unlocks the fishing ability, and the warrior lets you engage in combat with the monsters in dungeons and caves.

“On the trading side, your goal is to develop trading routes between islands, forage for rare and exotic items, and sell them back at your home island."

HandCircus took inspiration from history’s great explorers — Marco Polo and Walter Raleigh, who set up important trade routes. The developer thought it would be interesting to re-create that experience in a game, which it’s been working on for two years now.

“It’s really important to us to make sure that Seabeard feels super-tactile, so we’ve spent a lot of time refining the basic things that you’ll be doing all the time — such as moving and sailing — to make sure that they feel really rewarding and fun to do thousands of times,” said Oliver.

“In terms of experience, we want players to feel that the world of Seabeard is a living, breathing place — somewhere that behaves in interesting and charming ways and is filled with surprises to discover.”

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HandCircus’s experience developing its PlayStation 3 title, Okabu, helped with creating a deep, substantial world in Seabeard. A day-night cycle ensures that the game players wake up to in the morning is different than at night. “For example, the farmer might be hard at work in the fields at 9 a.m., having a drink in the tavern after work at 6, and having dinner with his family at 8 p.m.,” said Oliver.

“Our experiences from the early days of the App Store really helped us learn about the unique aspects of mobile games creation — how people actually play mobile games and what kind of interactions worked best on these buttonless sheets of glass,” he said.

“It also taught us how important experimentation and prototyping is and that no matter how much you feel a given idea might work, it doesn’t mean anything until you’ve put it in front of a player to validate it.”

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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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