We were rushed off our feet at GamesCom 2009 a few weeks ago and, while the whole event passed by in a blur, one thing which did stand out to us was Ship Simulator Extremes at the Paradox Interactive booth.
It wasn't something that would normally catch our land-locked eyes admittedly, but chatting to VSTEP's Frank Dolmans while he demonstrated some of the game's more impressive features left us strangely wanting to know more. The game was beautiful and obviously had high production values, but the target audience we guessed to be quite small (though we were later proven wrong on that).
We wanted to know more about what it takes to make a realistic nautical simulator, how such games carve out a place in the market and how VSTEP thought the simulation genre might have changed in recent years.
We wanted to know these things so badly in fact that we felt compelled to follow up with Frank after the show and find out more about Ship Simulator Extremes. Here's what he had to say...
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bit-tech:Hi! Let's start simple – who are you and what do you do?
Frank: My name is Frank Dolmans, Chief Marketing Officer of VSTEP and part of the design team for Ship Simulator Extremes.
BT:It would seem that simulators of this type are a bit of a niche genre and are very much focused on hardcore sailing fans – is that fair to say, or are a lot of your fans new to boating? Without meaning to be rude, a lot of newcomers are often amazed that sims of this depth even exist!
Frank: I think it is fair to say that simulators are a niche genre, but they are still a popular one. Ship Simulator has sold over 450K units to date.
While the Ship Sim series have a fantastic fan community of core players, there are regular and casual players in there as well. The reason is that, besides hardcore fans and actual sailing fanatics, Ship Simulator caters for anyone that likes boats. This means there’s quite a big audience out there because – you have to admit - some of us still dream about piloting a huge ocean liner or a fast powerboat, but never get the chance in real life.
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The good part of a simulator is that you can choose your challenge and make it as realistic as you want it to be. Ship Simulator games gives all core and regular players a good virtual experience of what it is like to be a virtual captain.
BT:A problem that a lot of hardcore sim games have though is finding a way to sell themselves to the wider market. In brief, what do you think would make Ship Simulator Extreme interesting to a newcomer and puts it above the competition?
Frank: Well, there are the titular Extremes, of course - by that we mean extreme weather conditions, huge storms, very cold environments like the Antarctic and very hot environments like tropical Bora Bora.
Another thing is the fact that while we still have a wide range of single missions, there will be several storyline campaigns integrated in the game as well. We also have a cooperation with Greenpeace and a Greenpeace campaign will be one of the available storyline campaigns in the game. In this campaign players will play the part of a Greenpeace captain taking on ecological missions like saving whales. All missions are based on existing Greenpeace missions and will feature exclusive Greenpeace vessels.
Besides Greenpeace action there is a lot of other stuff to do, with players taking the helm of anything from a tug boat and luxury cruise to a powerboat.