Black sails on the horizon

by Mex

 Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying. 

Terry Pratchett

Ahoy there!

Another busy week comes to an end. We have been focused on reworking the combat system, in order to have more depth and variety, and soon(ish) I will be able to show you all the result of these efforts. In the meanwhile, I’m going to carry on the discussion started in my past post, speaking about dangers at sea while sailing in Nantucket.


We are going to start with the most direct threat: pirates, always looking for some good old whaling ship full of precious goods. When a new pirate rises, a portion of sea will become his hunting playground and this means just one thing for you: troubles. Pirate ships are dangerous and, especially at the beginning of the game, much better equipped than yours. So, what are your options:

  • Avoid them: this is the most safe and basic option. Just try to sail far away from pirate areas. If you keep updated with the newspaper you will be informed about pirate activity around the world and it should be much easier to avoid them. In any case, remember that they are usually hunting close to the coasts (where they are based), so a good solution could be picking longer routes to reach your destination. Eventually, pirate will be defeated by the militia and you will be free to sail that area of sea again. I know, it sounds cowardly right.
  • Bribe them: they are looking for money, so you could just bribe them to let you go. I guess it sounds like a B plan if the one above blows, but if you have enough money to bribe your way home, you can avoid taking longer and safer routes.
  • Outclass them: invest in good technologies and a fast ship and forget about them. Outclassing their ships, you put yourself in a safer spot. You know that you can likely escape a chase (and then a wild “no wind” area appears to vanish all your efforts). If you cannot afford all these upgrades (or you prefer to upgrade something else), you can still rely on an expert man behind the steering wheel. Clearly, this is a mid-late solution, but it’s something to build on from the beginning of the game.
  • Fight them (at sea): a more aggressive solution to the pirate threat is to install a cannon on your ship. It is good to slow them down while they are chasing you and you can even sink their ship, also if it is probably not the most efficient thing to do. Sinking a pirate ship make you impossible to loot them and if forces you have to fight against a war ship probably better equipped than yours, at least at the beginning of the game.
  • Fight them (aboard): finally, there is your last chance; repel their boarding. When your ship and their ship are close enough, they will try to take over your ship. Fighting pirates aboard your ship is not easy at all, probably a suicide mission if you are not ready for it. Having at least one man-at-arms (a branch of the hunters class) in your crew would make a huge difference, but you have a limited amount of crew slots and maybe you prefer to have a different profile on your ship.

As you can see, there are many ways to deal with pirates, embracing different playing style. What you will have to do is to pick yours!

Next week we are going to keep discussing dangers at sea. Till then, keep following us on our social pages for more news to come.

Have a nice weekend folks!



Fair winds and a fallow sea

by Mex

If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends.

Enoch Powell

Ahoy there!

Hope you are all doing well. Here we are doing a bit of reworking on the combat of Nantucket and preparing for the next event we are going to attend soon, but I’ll give you more information about both another day. Today I’m going to give you more details about a core part of our game: sailing.


In my past post, I’ve introduced you to the crew tasks management, done by assigning your men to specific spots on your ship. Now it’s time to set sail. Nantucket allows you to sail around a big part of the world, all the waters involved in European and American whaling during the 19th century. The reasons to set sails are many, such as quests, whaling and story lines, but your main focus is always the same: optimize your movements.

Sailing is a really wearing activity. Your crew needs food, water and booze, and your ship needs constantly to be fixed in order to be efficient. Every day at sea costs you money and, on top of that, the general mood of your crew will tend to decrease. The crew morale lower each day at sea, so you have to find a way to keep them busy and happy. It could be stopping in a city you are passing by for a visit in a tavern, being gentle with them when something happens on board the ship, or simply keeping the hold full of precious blubber. Planning ahead is the right approach to avoid resources’ dispersion and maximize your work.

In addition to the high level planning, there is a second layer of strategy, based on the current position of your ship. As I wrote in my latest post, every ship has a field of view, determined by the quality of your ship crow’s nest and the ability of the sailor put in it. Your reaction to “things” entering your ship field of view is part of this second layer.

What if your ship enters an area with no wind or a stormy one? Will you stick with your original course or  change it to have a safer sail? And then, of course, there are the worst case scenarios, like discovering an area with pirate activity or running out of essential goods in the middle of the big blue, with no city in sight. Again, it’s in the difficulties that the true captain makes the difference. Clearly, the game offers you tools to face this harsh situations, buy those are going to be the topic of my next post.

See you next time.



What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

by Mex

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Allen Saunders

Ahoy there!

Last week we started introducing the navigation phase, discussing about crew management and ship compartments, and I’ve explained to you how each spot on your ship has a direct gameplay effect while sailing, such as speed, field of view, morale, etc…

So, we have taken a look to choices related to “numbers”, but today I’m going to introduce you to the events system of Nantucket and we are going to see how every little choice can affect your game in a deep way. I have recently had a “round table” with Johannes Kristmann (The Curious Expedition) and  Martin Nerurkar (Nowhere Prophet) about this topic and I invite you all to take a look to the video if you want to have a more general introduction about the topic:

Every little choice you make during the game is recorded by our events system in order to give you an immersive experience in what was the life on a whaling ship in XIX century. Did you put an alcoholic carpenter to fix your hold and a barrel of rum disappeared? Did you put a maimed sailor on the crow’s nest and he fell off  during a storm? Are you alone on the ship with a cabin boy and he decided he wants to become just like you? Hundreds of events will push you to make choices, some trivial, others with terrible consequences.


The system is based on reading every gameplay aspect of the game and filtering the events database according to their prerequisites. In this way, we can always trigger an event related to something you have done or you are doing. An example of this is the situation in which you have run out of water and you see a storm close to your route. If you decide to sail in it, an event will allow you to collect the rain water to fill your barrels.


As you can see it is a system that allows you to approach problems in a smart way. Our goal is not to reward/punish your choices, but to enrich your experience and make you shape your story and the captain you want to be.

That’s it for today, have a nice week end and see you next week!



Action stations!

by Mex

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Douglas Adams

Ahoy there!

We are back! I hope you all had a good time during this summertime. We actually kept working on Nantucket, adding content and making few changes to existing features. Things are coming along nicely and I hope we will be able to give you more information about our release plan soon…soonish…

Now, back to our features presentation. Today I’m going to start a series of posts related to the navigation, a key aspect of our game. Every thing you are going to do (hunting whales, quests, chilling out…) you are going to do it by sailing the oceans with your ship. Before raising your anchor, you have to assign your men to their tasks, and this is the topic of today’s post.

You have picked your crew in a tavern, filled your hold with everything you will need in the weeks to come so, now, it’s time to assign every man to a task and set sail. The sailing interface will allow you to easily set a default compartment for each of your men, including yourself. The amount and type of compartments available on your ships depend on the size of your ship and the technology developed. Each compartment is related to a specific attribute, so they “work better” if you assign a man with a class related to the attribute used by the slot.

For example, it’s useless to have a harpooner behind the wheel or a carpenter healing patients in the sick bay.


What are the compartments and what do they do? Here is a list:

  • Forecastle: the forecastle is the part of a ship with the sailors’ living quarters. You can let them rest there to recover some health points.
  • Quarterdeck: the quarterdeck is a raised deck behind the main mast of a sailing ship where the navigator “drive” the ship. The man behind the wheel affect the sailing speed of your ship.
  • Hold: the hold is placed in the lowest part of the ship and it’s where all the barrels are kept. You can put a man there to fix the ship wearing during your travels.
  • Caboose: the caboose is the ship kitchen. By placing a man cooking  here, you can improve the crew morale.
  • Sick bay: the sick bay is a compartment used for medical purposes. A doctor can heal injured or ill men.
  • Try works: the try-works is where the try-pots are placed. Try-pots are furnaces of brick, iron and wood where whale oil is rendered from the blubber of whales.
  • Crow’s nest: the crow’s nest is a structure in the upper part of the main mast of a ship or a structure that is used as a lookout point. Placing a man here increases the ship field of view.
  • Captain’s cabin: the captain’s cabin is the captain’s living quarter, where ledgers are kept to maximize your hunting revenues.
  • Cannon: the cannon can be used to fight incoming pirate ships.


Every slot can be improved by researching better technologies inside the various shipwrights around the world, increasing their effects, but a good sailor knows how to take the best also from an outdated ship. Since upgrading your ship takes time (and money) you will have to understand your priorities and develop your ship (and crew) according to your necessities and style. It is not an easy task.

Once every man is placed, you are ready to set sail, but this is something we will look at the next week!

See you next time.



Summertime, and the livin’ is easy (sort of)

by Mex

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Ahoy there!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Yeah, maybe if you have an air conditioner. Here in Italy we are back to the Saharan climate experience and I’m just glad I live close to a wood, so there is a nice breeze at night letting me enjoy a cold beer without sweating it right back inside the glass.

As I’ve anticipated you in my previous post, today I’m not going to present you new features, but I’ll just take the chance to wish you a happy summer holiday on behalf of the entire team of Picaresque Studio. So, enjoy the sun and have fun, we will be back in two weeks with fresh news and more information about Nantucket.

Keep following us on our social pages, there are news to come soon. Good news.



Have some quest

by Mex

Not all those who wander are lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Ahoy there!

Here I am with my last post before holidays. I’m not going anywhere, but I guess lot of you will be doing something during these weeks. So, today we are going to speak about quests.

While speaking about the newspaper, I’ve already introduced minor quests, errands you can take in all the cities to make some money or increase your prestige as a captain. They are randomly generated and they are always available during the game, but they are just a part of the quests available in Nantucket. In fact, there are two further quests categories: Side quests and Main quests.


Side quests are four short story lines related to historical characters:

  • James Cook: famous explorer and cartographer
  • George Bass: explorer and naval surgeon
  • James Knight: explorer and director of the Hudson’s Bay Company
  • Kahekili II: warrior king of Hawaii

Each side story line includes different quests to be completed even if they are not fundamental to complete the game. Apart from pushing you around the world, looking for information about these characters, the completion of each side story line will unlock a unique object to be assigned to your crew during the navigation or combats, a quite powerful one. So, whether you are looking for new adventures or simply some powerful tool to “beat” the game, side quests are a good alternative to hunting whales during your time at sea.

Main quests are instead strictly related to the main story line, so the great hunt for Moby Dick, and they are fundamental to complete the game since your final goal is to kill the White Whale. I will not spoil the story, so I’ll just tell you that we tried to be faithful to Herman Melville’s masterpiece as much as possible, even if we have introduced new narrative elements to enrich the gaming experience. You will enjoy the story also if you didn’t read the book, maybe missing some cameo. Considering how many people die in Moby Dick, putting some of them in the game has been quite hard. Don’t worry, no men were resurrected during the development of this game.

Finally, like the side quests, also the main ones unlock unique objects to help you in your adventures.

That’s it. After this summer pause, I’m going to give you details about the navigation gameplay, so ship and crew management at sea. As usual tell your friends to follow us and keep in touch with us via social media.




Be safe or be dead

by Mex

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

William G.T. Shedd

Ahoy there!

This week is been a quiet one and, since I’ve also managed to survive my birthday party, I can say it was a good one. I hope you are enjoying your holidays or preparing for them.

In my previous post I’ve introduced you to the newspaper, concluding the presentation of all the buildings available in cities, so this week I’m going to complete the harbors discussion. In fact, cities are not the only harbors available in Nantucket and today we are going to present you the safe docks.


Safe docks are small harbors you can stop in during your travels in order to get vital resources for free. At the beginning of the game, there will be just two safe docks available: Galapagos and St. Helena, but you will be able to create as many safe docks as you want during the game. All you need is a good sailor with the right skill to find the right place to build it and some wood to build the actual dock.

Once created, you will be able to dock there when you want and get access to three different options (each one requiring specific skills from you or your crew to be available):

  • Hunt for food
  • Find water
  • Chop wood

The options are self explanatory and the success rate of each of them is strictly related to your crew attributes. As you can imagine, access these resources can make a difference between surviving and a terrible death at sea, especially if you are running out of money.

That’s it! Next time we are going to set sail and take a look to how you can manage your crew during your travels. Till then, keep following us on social media and have a nice week end.



Extra! Extra! Read all about the newspaper!

by Mex

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.

Mark Twain

Ahoy there!

I don’t know where you live, but here in Italy these days have been terribly hot. I’ll try to write this latest post about Nantucket‘s features without sweating (and swearing) too much. Wait, some air. Gone.

This time I’m going to introduce you the last harbor’s area: the newspaper. “The sailor’s post” is a periodical published every month and available in the biggest cities around the world. It is divided into two main areas: news and jobs.


The News page contains information about current events around the world. Some of them are gameplay related (pirate activity) while others are just historical events to immerse you in a living world. We have tracked down 1800 real events, from really famous (Napoleon’s death, for example) to really weird.

About the second category, I want to mention the story of Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson. He is the man who proved tomatoes were edible. Yes, they thought they were poisonous and he has dedicated part of his life to prove they were all wrong. He did it. How? Eating them in front of a crowd week after week in front of 20.000 people. I don’t know if it’s weirder the fact Johnson wanted people to eat tomatoes that bad or that 20.000 people were going to the city square to see him to die. I guess they were just fucking bored without internet.


The Jobs page contains instead minor errands to deal with in order to improve the captain’s prestige and his bank account. The game features 4 different minor quests’ types:

  • Delivieries between cities
  • Discovery of new whaling areas
  • Hunt of legenadry creatures sinking ships
  • Rescue missions of ships lost at sea

These minor quests are just a part of the quests available in the game. Apart from the main story line, related to Moby Dick, there are different side story lines related to famous explorer of the time, but this is a topic for a next post. So, I’ll invite you all to keep following us and I’ll take a cold beer.

See you next time!



Shipwright (aka “Pimp my ship”)

by Mex

For my mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me.

Herman Melville

Ahoy there!

After few busy weeks, we are back to our routine, working on the game at full sails and speaking about Nantucket‘s features. Today I’m going to present the Shipwright.


Every city has a shipwright, a place in which you can do different things, according to the city size. In the biggest cities you will have all the options available:

  • Repair your ship: your ship is gonna wear during your travel, so you need to keep fixing it. There are two ways to do it: pay someone at the shipwright or use wood during the navigation.
  • Buy a new ship: you are going to start with a very small ship and you will understand soon that a bigger ship is fundamental to chase bigger preys. The game features 9 different types of ships, divided into three categories: small, medium, large. Bigger ships mean more whaleboats to hunt whales, more crew and more hold, allowing you to have longer hunt travels to maximize your earnings.
  • Upgrade your ship: every ship has different compartments to use during the navigation. During the game you can upgrade these compartments in order to improve the effect given by the compartment.

Repairing and buy ships don’t need much to say, so I’m going to detail more the upgrading system. As I wrote above, upgrades are linked to compartments, ship’s rooms in which you can place your crew during the navigation in order to get an effect. Some of them are basic, others need a specific skill to be unlocked. For example, every ship has a crow’s nest, in which you can put a sailor to stand the lookout. By improving the crow’s nest you increase the ship’s field of view, a useful way to spot area of interests or danger sooner. An example of optional compartment is instead the try works, that allow you to convert blubber into oil during the navigation, increasing your cargo value and decreasing the space occupied in your hold.

Upgrades are not related to a single ship, so you are not going to start back again every time you buy a new one. They are technological advancement you need to research and they follow you till the end of the game. Since they require time (and money), the order in which you are going to develop them shapes the way you play (and vice versa), especially combining them with strengths and weaknesses of your ship. Maybe you prefer fast ship to dodge pirates and decrease your time to reach a destination or maybe you prefer a solid ship with a spacious hold. Or maybe you want both, so you can buy a ship with a big hold and spend all your time researching upgrades to speed it up.

There is no right way to do it, just your own way.

See you next time.



Steam Greenlight campaign post mortem

by Mex

Ahoy there!

The past two weeks have been quite frenetic for us, following our Greenlight campaign and organizing our trip in Barcelona to attend the Gamelab. If you have followed us in those days, you know that Nantucket got Greenlit in just seven days and our experience at Gamelab has been amazing!

I’ve spent a couple of days assimilating the information collected and I would like to share with you some thoughts and data about our Greenlight campaign, hoping they can help someone else.

I’ll put a link to our page here, so you can take a look before reading about our experience.

Preparing the materials

The first step to take is preparing all the materials needed to launch your campaign. Valve tells you that your Greenlight campaign requires at least a gameplay video, four screenshots, a description and a cover image, but there is no check from them before going from private to public. I have seen quite a lot of projects with just a couple of screenshots, a teaser trailer with little or none gameplay shown and a couple of lines describing the game. This is a suicide, this is how you get buried by no votes. Take your time, care about every detail and read the Greenlight FAQ, there are a lot of useful tips.

  • Cover image: well, it’s the first thing people will see and it’s useless to underline its importance. It has to invite people to click on it and give your game a chance. It’s true that Steam generates a queue of games to evaluate every time you enter the Greenlight page, but a lot of people (like myself) just jump on the recent submissions page to see what’s new. It’s easy to say “just do it cool”, but we did try to approach the visibility problem in a empiric way. So, we took a couple of screenshots of the recent submissions page in different days and we tried to find the right color palette to stand out, testing and tuning it different times.
  • Description: if you have read the Greenlight FAQ you  know everything you need. Just keep all the info organized and clear. We added some custom banners instead of the base headings. I think it’s nice, but definitely not something fundamental.
  • Screenshots: I’ve seen quite a lot of good Greenlight pages of good games. 8-12 screenshots looks like a good range.
  • Video: also this part is covered by the FAQ, but I just want to stress one point: keep it short and show gameplay. I usually give maximum 20 seconds to a video before deciding if the game is interesting or not. I guess other people too. So, just avoid long introductions, at least on the first video (starting when the Greenlight page is opened). I suggest to create a specific trailer for your game, it will be useful to promote your campaign to media.

Launching your Greenlight campaign

Preparing the materials is the easy part. I mean, Steam FAQ and hundreds of  Greenlit games are a good reference to understand what’s good and what’s not. Now it’s time to start a guessing game.

  • What’s the best time to launch a Greenlight campaign?

The answer is difficult and Valve doesn’t help you, so I’ll share how we thought about it. Your game is gonna be featured on the first page of the recent submissions for around 2 days before being pushed away by newest games. It’s a lot of views “for free” and you want to maximize it. So, our idea was: we launch the Greenlight campaign during the Summer Sale, when the amount of people on Steam is greater.

It’s easy to say “it works” after a successful campaign, but without having the chance to compare our stats with a similar game in another time frame it is difficult to be sure. There are more people online, this is a fact, but you don’t know if they are simply taking a look to the newest sales or not.

The second point to take into account in our case is that our Greenlight campaign was launched at the beginning of E3. A lot of people told us it was a bad choice, because people were too submerged by AAA titles announcements to care about about our project, but I think it was the right choice, simply because other developers waited the end of E3 to launch their campaign and this allowed us to be in the front page more than expected.

The easy part of the Greenlight campaign

As I wrote above, the first days are easy. You just keep pressing F5, looking at those numbers increasing. You replies to the first comments and “relax”.

The only marketing activity we did was spamming our Greenlight page on our social networks and our press release to our press list. Two important things about it:

  • Press list: you need it. Really. I will share ours with you. It’s not the best one, but it’s a starting point if you don’t have one. PressList
  • Press release: a press release about a game launching its Greenlight campaign it’s not interesting. This is why I suggested you to have a new gameplay trailer for the launch of the campaign. In our case, it was the first gameplay trailer available and this was the title of the press release: “First gameplay trailer for Nantucket”. So, we were promoting our gameplay trailer, linking everybody to our Greenlight page to see it.

We had some coverage, but the majority of our traffic was still Steam.

This was the situation at the end of our “front page time”:

End of front page

As you can see, the situation was good, especially the “Yes votes” percentage (in comparison with the average top 50 games).

The hard part of the Greenlight campaign

We were happy about the numbers and also the day after being kicked out the recent submissions’ front page was good enough:


That’s the moment the shit hit the fan. Our “yes vote” curve got flat.


We had two really hard days and the few votes we managed to gain were thanks to some posts in development forums such as TIGSource and Indievault (italian). Before those posts, we had like 10 visits (visits, not votes) in 3 hours.

At this point, I will add my official theory: 50 shades of green. I’ve noticed the traffic to our page died the moment we went under 50% of yes votes. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe it’s one of the element considered by Valve to push a game more into the voters queues.

We were ready for the situation and we tried our move. We knew we needed some fresh air from outside, so we decided to promote our Greenlight campaign on Reddit, in the  Paradox games’ fans subreddit

The post was a huge success. We did follow up, delivering screenshots (yes…about sex on the ship) and more info and we had a lot of yes votes. Again, the 50 shades of green theory looks like something, because after passing the 50% mark thanks to Reddit, we kept the momentum also the day after, reaching the top 100 at the end of day 6 with with this numbers:

day06 - top100

Day 7 started huge, with a coverage by Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

We kept climbing the ranking really fast, till we got Greenlit!


As you can see, our curve in the last 2 days was impressive, and I guess that was a huge part of being Greenlit so fast. I have to say at that moment I would have preferred to have few more days of traffic, since in the end, Greenlight is a powerful way to reach your future players and we were reaching a lot of people.

I wrote at that moment, because now I can tell you that people keep coming on our page and we doubled the amount of followers in the 2 weeks after being Greenlit.

That’s it.

What’s good about Greenlight

  • Free marketing. It gives visibility to your game, helping you to reach future players. We have a lot of new followers on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Feedback. You receive some feedback, helping you to understand if you are going in the right direction or not.

What’s bad about Greenlight campaign

  • Clumsy. When you reach the point to hypothesize the 50 shades of green theory, you know there is something wrong. It’s not clear the process to be Greenlit. It’s the percentage? The amount of yes? Your curve? You don’t know. I understand it helps Valve to have some control space, but it’s definitely frustrating for developers.
  • Not friendly. I don’t understand why there is no chance to order the games by votes or percentage of yes. I mean, there is no way to look at good projects. Every game is the same. Do you think is fair? Try browsing Reddit just using the “new” tab, without having the chance to see other people votes or how many people commented. It’s not fair. It’s just not friendly.
  • Dying. Greenlight is dying. I mean, we looked at older post mortem before starting our campaign and the numbers were far higher. Steam users are increasing but the amount of people voting on Greenlight is decreasing fast. I like Greenlight and I don’t want Steam to become a mess like the App Store, where everybody can upload shit everywhere, but it has to change. There is no need to put it in the front page of Steam, just to make easy to browse interesting projects. maybe something else…I don’t know…what do you think? Ideas anyone?

Too long, didn’t read?

  • Start your communication on the web months before Greenlight otherwise it will be really hard to get visibility on media/press.
  • Prepare materials with care. It’s like pissing with a morning wood, you have one shot and you get you did it wrong too late, when you have piss everywhere.
  • Have a press list and get coverage. Your Greenlight page is not a news, but you can use your Greenlight page to deliver news.
  • Push everyone to the Greenlight page during the 1st week/10 days.
  • Reach your target audience and let them know you exist.
    • Find the right subreddits and forums to post about your project. If there isn’t one for you, you have done something wrong. If you don’t  know Reddit, maybe you have a life, but your project probably not.
  • Fifty shades of green is a thing.