Pieces Of Eight
 
Interview with Eric McConnell 
by Danyboy
February 6, 2007

 

The story:

Following the crackdown on piracy in the Caribbean during the late 1600’s, eight of the most notorious cutthroats forged an alliance and plied the New England coast. After decades of amassing unimaginable wealth, they suddenly vanish in 1722. Rumors of an elaborate labyrinth filled with treasure on one of the islands off the coast slowly fades from memory…undiscovered. Nearly 300 years have passed and the stories have all but been forgotten. That is, until you receive a package with cryptic clues about a mysterious island off the coast of New Hampshire…

Introduction:

Eric McConnell: After nearly 10 years of programming in the corporate world, Eric McConnell formed Hidden Sanctum in 2006 as a full time independent developer. In addition to Pieces of Eight, he has developed the casual game Rune Rescue and also working on the upcoming horror adventure game Raven’s Hollow.

Questions:

“Pieces of Eight - what a strange and mysterious name. Where does it come from? ”

There is actually a double meaning behind it. Pieces of Eight are traditionally the name given for Spanish silver coins during the golden age of pirates during the 1600-1700’s. In the game it takes on the added meaning of the eight pirate leaders who each hold a piece of the solution to obtain the final treasure. While each enjoyed their share of the loot, they also put the majority in a community chest so to speak. The only way to access that area was to have each of them provide their piece, which was their way of making sure no individual from the group could steal from the others. In a nutshell, that was their security measure. The only way to access it was if they all agreed.

Can you elaborate more on the story?

In addition to the above, expect to solve the mystery behind their disappearance, learn about the personalities involved, and prepare for a scare or two.

Why were we chosen to receive that mysterious package ? (If answering this question could spoil the game, can you tell us if it will be answered during gameplay?)

The package you receive is from a retirement home. Your grandfather has just passed away and in it are his personal belongings and an old locked box. You’ll get to rummage through the pieces of his life, learn how he acquired the box, why he never opened it, and follow the clues to obtain the solution for getting into it.

Is the story based on real historical events?

No. There is a bit of real pirate history thrown in to give it some flavour and the locations and historical timeline are accurate. Beyond that it’s all fiction.

Can you give us some details about the characters we will encounter during the game?

Characters encountered during the game? Not many, it is a solo exploration game.

Will we be able to learn more about those eight mysterious pirates?

Definitely. Each one had a distinct personality that is loosely based on bits and pieces of some real historical pirates.

What were those eight pirates expecting to accomplish when they joined forces?

Security for themselves. When the lawmakers in the Caribbean started to crack down on piracy in that area, naval fleets of the colonial powers hunted them down. That area had developed to the point were legitimate businesses and trade had advanced to where the economy no longer needed the pirates – and thus was no longer considered a safe haven for them.

When most people think of Pirates, they think of the Caribbean and warm Tropical shores. Not too many associate the cooler waters off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire as a haven for Pirates. How did you possibly come up with such an original plot?

Same here, but a road trip to New England and a visit to Salem Massachusetts and the Pirate Museum there changed my perception. It's pretty much tied to historical events. While the Caribbean had advanced economically, the American colonies were just starting out. Some pirates headed north to avoid being executed. The British had a tight grip on the colonies with heavy taxes and controls; so many of the colonists relied on goods from the black market – which was provided by pirates. That freedom they originally had in the Caribbean, they now had in New England. People looked the other way and let the pirates do their thing. Unfortunately for them, history repeated itself. Once the economy grew, they were no longer needed or welcome. That is the background that I used to come up with the idea for Pieces of Eight. .

In real life, Portsmouth is a major shipping port for the Northeast - will this have any impact on the game environment?

Not really. That area is heavily built up now, but you will never see it. Once you leave your apartment, you’ll get a traveling cut scene and find yourself on the island itself.

How many locations will we visit during gameplay and can you describe some of them for us?

There are 10 distinct areas in the game - your apartment, each of the eight pirate groups’ areas, and the final area.

In the description of the game we read that the majority of the game takes place underground, does that mean will we be in the dark for most of the game?

That is definitely a challenge from a design aspect, so there are several elements added to locations to brighten things up and give it more color. Exploring with a flashlight gets old real quick!

“Music and sound are very important to build the atmosphere in a game; what kind of atmosphere did you plan for Pieces Of Eight?

The inclusion of Cellar of Rats into this project changes things dramatically. We discussed the plot and locations, I gave him an idea of what I had in mind but told him if he had his own ideas for it, he is more than welcome to have at it. He’s the expert in that area and damn good at what he does – the last thing I want to do is get in his way. He went ahead and took the PoE trailer I had released, stripped the sound and put his own track over it, then sent it to me to see what I thought. Well, I sat there and watched it 10 times in a row with a huge grin on my face. It was much better than anything I was thinking of. I wish I had gotten together with him BEFORE I released that first trailer! Live and learn… Its ironic, but Cellar of Rats music and sound effects are already having an influence on the final visuals of the game. While I had initially planned on a somewhat creepy game, it has become a wee bit darker now… In a nutshell, he has a free hand to do what he wants, so be prepared to wonder if that noise you just heard was coming from the game or your closet…


Is Pieces Of Eight a scary game?

Let’s see… Eight notorious pirates and their crews suddenly disappear without a trace. Something bad must have happened so I think it would be safe to assume there’s a restless spirit or two lurking about….

What kind of puzzles will we see?

It varies, but they should all fit together and make sense within the context of the situation. There are some inventory based and well as logic. The best comparison I can make that most people would be familiar with would be the Nancy Drew games in terms of puzzle mix – in terms of story and atmosphere, this is no ND game.

Will we find clues along our way that will help us to know what our next step should be, or that will help us find the solution to some of the puzzles?

Yes. There is a planned built in hint system that will hopefully eliminate a lot of the players needs for a walkthrough. I really hate reading a walkthrough and ending up seeing a clue for a puzzle I haven’t encountered yet. It really spoils the experience. Likewise, going online and asking for a hint on a forum can be just as bad because while you wanted a little nudge in the right direction, someone invariably posts the entire solution. So the hints system we are looking at is more like the UHS system where you decide how much of a hint you want, but the only ones you see are the ones you have encountered and haven’t solved yet..

What part of the game are you most proud of so far and what is your favorite location?

The pirate ship - tucked away for centuries in a sealed off cavern. There was the moment when I ran the game and got to see that skeleton at the desk within the game interface for the first time and a chill went up my spine. That was one of those highly motivating moments and I couldn’t wait to play it. I can only imagine what it will be like once the sound is added..

On your website we read that there will be very little dialogue, does that mean that we will have a lot of reading to do?

LOL, just like I don’t like long dialogs, I’m not too crazy about having lots to read either. I’m much more of a visual person. I prefer giving visual clues and letting the players imagination fill in the blanks. With Cellar of Rats doing the sound for the game, I think there will be more than enough information hitting the players senses without the need for lots of words.

What do you mean when you say that Pieces Of Eight is a solo exploration game?

You are on your own and, for the most part, alone. LOL, was this supposed to be a trick question?

Can you give us some details about the Pieces Of Eight team?

Right now it’s Cellar of Rats and me, but the door is always open if a friend of mine wishes to throw his weight into the mix or contribute.

What will the Pieces Of Eight game have that any other game doesn’t?

That’s a tough one. There are thousands of adventure games out there and it seems like no matter what you do that you think is unique, someone has already done it or it can be compared to a previous game. I would like to think that this is the first pirate adventure game with a dark theme as opposed to the Disney inspired versions, but I could be wrong.

You have stated on your Web site that your next game, Ravens Hollow, was inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Is there a connection with the acronym of Pieces of Eight (POE) and Ravens Hollow?

None whatsoever. It’s an unplanned twist of fate…and pretty cool. I didn’t even realize it until someone sent me an email and referred to it as PoE. At first I thought they were talking about Raven’s Hollow! Of course I’ve been exploiting that ever since…

We already know this game will not be a Download. Can you tell our readers how and where they will be able to get their hands on Pieces of Eight?

The initial plan was at least to self-publish and sell it via my website and the JA Store. Before that though, I was going to feel around to some publishers and see if there was any interest. My intent with the first press release and trailer was to get the word out and put the game on people’s minds. The reaction I got far exceeded anything I had planned at that stage. It was the equivalent of opening a store with 100 items to sell and having 200 customers show up all wanting to buy one. I was totally unprepared for it. It was obvious to me that I was thinking too small and had to make adjustments. It was a nice surprise, but at the same time I had to quickly change my thinking. Hopefully PoE will be published and sitting on store shelves, but it’s too early to tell. My main focus right now is creating the best game we can.

Is there anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about?

Nothing I can think of..

Thanks Eric for the time you spent answering our questions. You were very generous with your answers

Official Website:

Pieces of Eight

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