Ron Gilbert is not a game designer prone to letting grass grow beneath his feet. Just one week after announcing his departure from the cultishly adored Double Fine studios, Gilbert has already announced his new game and who he’s collaborating with. Trading in the gloss of working on a console and PC game like The Cave, which he developed with Double Fine and that was published by Sega, Gilbert has turned his eye back to the world of mobile games with his new game, Scurvy Scallywags. As the title suggests, Gilbert is at least returning to one of his favorite subjects: Pirates.
Scurvy Scallywags in the Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG is a title as thorough as it is long. Gilbert’s new game will be out on iPad and iPhone sometime in the next few months according to the designer. An Android version may follow, but Gilbert hasn’t decided one way or another just yet. The game is actually a riff on his unfinished match-3 puzzle game experiment Realms of Gold. Rather than a Bejeweled type game where three identical shapes are lined up to make them disappear, making way for more blocks at the top of the screen, Realms of Gold brought pieces in from the sides and bottom for a cramped feel. In Scurvy Scallywags, you control a pirate swooping around seas and islands, and how you approach enemies dictates which direction the match-3 puzzles fill the screen.
“Self-publishing should always be the goal,” Gilbert tells Digital Trends. Having just finished a large project with the backing of a publisher like Sega, you’d think the lack of resources could cramp the development process. Not so. “You have so much more control [self-publishing] than when working with a publisher, even a good one.”
One possible drawback though, is that games like The Cave are easier to promote. Not just thanks to the backing of a publisher, but because of the platform. There are plenty of games on Steam, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 competing for attention against The Cave, but that is compared to the thousands of games released on iOS every month. How do you find an audience for a funny little pirate puzzle RPG?
“A lot of people are down on the mobile space due to the large number of games released, but I take a very difference stance,” says Gilbert, “While it’s true there are far fewer titles released on consoles, they are tightly controlled by the console manufactures and it’s near impossible for small Indie devs to get on there. Personally, I love the mobile space because it’s an explosion of creativity that reaches a true mass market. Being successful is about building a fun game and doing good PR. I’d rather have that problem than a heavily curated space where only the big publishers get to play. It’s also what I play these days. I don’t spend a lot of time on the consoles or even PCs playing games. It’s all on my iPad and iPhone. As they say: make what you play.”