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Journal #14 – Boats, boats, boats! 2 May 2024

Each month we take a moment to talk with you about the development process and progress from the past month, while also highlighting contributions from the Ahoy community.

This month we take a look at some of our new fleet additions, and an update on our crowdfunding plans.

Boats, Boats, Boats!

That’s right, more boats. Big boats. Small boats. We have them all!

As work on the various trailers and previews are underway, we’ve taken this opportunity to expand the range of boats present in Ahoy. It should be noted that most of these new additions are not completed to the same level as our ‘sailable’ ships.

The Three Merchants

Immensely important later in Ahoy’s development (as we reach ‘Open World’ territory), but still massively important to the overall look and feel of any Caribbean port, these boats are the workhorses of the West Indies.

Yellow Jacket

“Yellow Jacket” is our Bermuda sloop. These boats are nearly synonymous with the West Indies at this time in history. The iconic sloop excelled in speed and manoeuvrability, particularly in shallow coastal waters favoured by pirates evading larger naval vessels.

These boats will initially be populating the space around ports for a purely cosmetic, visual benefit. That said, however, they are made to the same standards as our existing ships, and so it’s very possible these smaller boats become fully sailable personal crafts or civilian vessels in the future.

But that’s not all…

Crowdfunding Plans

As work continues on preparing for our crowdfunding campaign later this year, we have some more news relating to our plan of action!

We’ve decided that Kickstarter will be the home of our crowdfunding campaign. We’ve taken a look at the alternatives (IndieGoGo, etc.) but we feel that Ahoy will sit much better on the Kickstarter platform, and it is generally the most well known of the bunch.

As soon as we’re ready, we’ll be sharing the preview page with you so that you can help us by sharing it with friends and on social media to build up the pre-campaign following. You’ll have to forgive our incessant mentioning of this page in the coming months, as we need to be sure as many eyes are on the Kickstarter page when it eventually launches in August of this year. (At least, that is the current date!)

So what work is going on behind the scenes to prepare? We’re preparing a few different videos for the campaign itself. We’re aiming to present two trailers at the time of the Kickstarter campaign’s opening. First, a story-driven introduction to the game for those who haven’t come across Ahoy before. Second, a narrated introduction to the history of the world of Ahoy. Finally, along with those two videos, we’ll have what we’re calling the “talking heads” video, which will explain the project in depth to those potential crowdfunding contributors.

It’s a LOT of work, and a lot of pressure on the team. We’re entering into territory we’ve not yet explored, and pretty much everyone on the team is working at maximum capacity to get all of this ready in time.

Why August? Well, we can’t explain exactly why yet, but there will be an opportunity to introduce Ahoy to many new faces around that time, and so we’re maximizing the potential impact from that, along with other preparations, to ensure Ahoy has the best chance to succeed on Kickstarter.

We appreciate that we’re keeping you a bit in the dark when it comes to the Kickstarter campaign, but we will attempt to share more and more with you over the next three months (and beyond, of course). To reiterate to those of you supporting us already via Ko-fi and Patreon, your existing contributions are helping us in funding this ongoing work towards Kickstarter, without which, we would really be struggling to get the additional work done in time.

We really appreciate your ongoing support, and we will be speaking with you all about what Kickstarter means for existing contributions soon. Needless to say, we feel that those who have support the project in the past and today should be rewarded during the crowdfunding campaign in a completely fair and transparent way. More on that soon!

Answering Your Questions

As has become tradition now, we’re answering a few more of your questions submitted since the last Journal. You can ask us questions about anything project related here.

On Ship Decorations:
– Respondent, Community Questionnaire 2023.
Absolutely! Ship decoration is one of the areas we feel players can really make a ship their own. Our goal is to offer a wide array of options for decoration, allowing players to tailor their ships to their liking without being confined to predetermined or assembled sets.

Starting with the separation of figureheads from the rest of the ship's adornments, but perhaps also separating the stern, bow and anywhere else on the topsides. This way, each player can theoretically choose a section of a particular set in each of these places (with mirrored symmetry along the keel for a certain sense of consistency).

For example, perhaps you have a dolphin figurehead with suitable wave-like carvings along the bow and stern. Well, swapping the dolphin figurehead out for one of the Greek god Neptune would still preserve a sense of common theme, but adds that slight variation to the overall image. Combine this with the ability to tint/paint certain parts of your ship differently, and each ship should remain fairly unique.

Our challenge lies in crafting a compelling range of variations while honouring historical design sensibilities. Initially, we'll recreate existing or historically documented decorative 'sets', and from there, gradually expand into incorporating themed elements outside of historical examples, but that preserve the overall style of the time.
On ‘Pirate’ Ports:
– Respondent, Community Questionnaire 2023.

Great question! The straightforward answer is that 'free ports,' formerly referred to as 'pirate ports' in some instances, are simply not under the ownership of any nation. The primary goal is to establish these ports, albeit smaller and less established, as potential havens away from the dominance of larger nations.

Unlike national ports, which are governed at the regional level by a council of governors, free ports exercise autonomy over their policies at the port level. Consequently, their rules and regulations can be more flexible and subject to frequent changes according to the town's needs. This flexibility allows for less stringent regulation on activities such as smuggling and black market trading.

Although free ports possess resources, they are less likely to contribute significantly to a specific nation's production power. This isn't due to resource scarcity, but rather because the population tends to resist external control or influence. This is partly a balancing mechanism to enable free ports to more successfully remain 'free', but also factors into all ports and their willingness to remain part of a particular empire.
On Map Expansion:
– Respondent, Community Questionnaire 2023.
Expanding the map beyond our initial plan is unlikely. There are numerous facets of the game that could be expanded upon without enlarging the map itself (whaling, interior land/towns, more exploration of the existing ports themselves, for example).

One potential expansion that could be explored in the future would be exploring north towards New York, offering a deeper delve into Revolutionary ports beyond what the current map allows. However, the lengthy, unbroken coastline along the east coast doesn't offer as much navigational or competitive intrigue in terms of ports and sailing destinations, and so it's overall much lower on our 'dream updates' list.

The appeal of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico lies in the ability to set sail in any direction from the central space and arrive at an engaging destination. In contrast, with lengthy, continuous coastlines, this flexibility is diminished. This is a significant reason why Europe wasn't selected as the setting for Ahoy. While the Mediterranean does provide a sense of enclosed space, the coastlines of Spain, France, Britain, and the Dutch Republic are all continuous, lacking the feeling of being surrounded by potential voyage destinations at nearly all times.
On The Team:
– Respondents, Community Questionnaire 2023.
The team is really quite varied in both size and experience. Generally, due to the volunteer nature of our project, it can be difficult to find people with as much time as is perhaps necessary for any given task. We're extremely lucky to be joined by around 15-20 people at any given time. We're also not ones to turn away what would otherwise be considered 'junior' assistance. We feel that a project like ours is just as much a chance to learn as it is to demonstrate our experience.

Experience of the team ranges from having working in AAA and mobile, as well as a number of artists who don't necessarily have 'game' experience, but have worked full careers as traditional artists, film VFX artists, cinematographers, graphic designers, architects, musicians, and so on.

As for shipped games, there are a variety of games from within the team, though none of them were made together of course. To 'name drop' a few games some of the team have been a part of over the years... Humankind, Company of Heroes, Sonic the Hedgehog, Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical, Steel Rising, Ancient Cities, Banishers, etc.

It's difficult to equate experience in some of those non-game areas to experience in gamedev. We're certainly not the most experienced team in the world, and would not pretend otherwise. This is why much of our initial goal for the project ('Beat to Quarters') is more achievable within the current team, with the look to expand to the full vision ('Open World') with the support of additional funding (and by extension, additional developers).

Importantly, the team we have today are really passionate about the vision for the project, and so this means that whatever further expansion we might do as a team, the vision can remain stable and established.

As for producers, sadly we have found this role very difficult to fill in our current volunteer state. Generally I, (that is, Tyler), operates somewhere between a Project Manager and Creative Director when interfacing with the team. I won't comment on my own ability to perform that role, but from what I've heard from the team I have been successful, at least, in making sure everyone knows what is to be done next.

As the project expands, it would be very important to formalise more of our workflow and ensure more accurate planning is put in place.
On Cargo:
– Respondent, Community Questionnaire 2023.
Indeed, this is a feature on our roadmap. In the future, players will have the ability to jettison specific items, whether from within the hold or on deck. However, this process won't be one of full interactivity but rather result from 'inventory' management (via the ship's books) by the captain or officers with the necessary permissions.

Reducing weight will affect the sailing performance of your ship, and some items thrown overboard may be retrievable by yourself or other vessels for a brief period after being discarded.

Please do keep sending in your questions about Ahoy. If you have more questions for the team and would like them answers next month, please submit your questions below.

Submit your questions:

Until next time, good day!

Sincerely your most humble servant,

Tyler – Project Lead

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