I've always held a deep respect for the gaming modding community, these are people who create content for existing games in their own spare time and release to the public freely. Some mods are total conversations where every assets of the game are completely made from the ground up, Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 happened to be one of those mods.
I've been playing PVKII ever since it was released several years ago and continue to do so up to this day, there is something so exhilarating about playing a Heavy Knight and luring three Pirate Skirmishers in a tight corridor and using my special ability which involves spinning my huge claymore in a 360 degree spin and sending the three pirates ragdolling away.
Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 is a first-person Half-Life 2 modification featuring an engaging melee combat system and pits 3 teams from times past locked in a never-ending battle for wealth, dominance and power. It has been my favorite Half-Life 2 mod alongside Neotokyo, Minerva, Obsidian Conflict and Black Mesa which I have not played but I am confident I will be blown away when I get the chance to play the mod.
You can view the gameplay trailer of PVKII Beta 2.0 (the older version of the game) here:
I've had the opportunity to talk with Bobby Speirs from Octoshark Studios regarding the current state of Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 and the formation of the new company.
Nicholas: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us Bobby Speirs.
Bobby: It's my pleasure!
Nicholas: Lets start this off by introducing yourself to the world- what is your role in Octoshark Studios, which is your favorite faction and weapon in PVKII and what is the absolute most dominant type of food you enjoy?
Bobby: Well, my name is Bobby Speirs and I am a co-founder and director of public relations for Octoshark Studios. We are still new to the scene as a game studio, but our mod, Pirates, Vikings and Knights II has been around for several years. I would have to say that my favorite class in PVKII is the Gestir, because I play him the most. There's something about throwing a javelin 100+ feet to skewer your enemies that drives me wild. It's especially fun when they get stuck to the wall! As for my favorite food, I would have to go with the parrots I devour every time I play as a Viking! Making them explode in a puff of feathers is too much fun to pass up.
Nicholas: Can you tell us what drove the direction for the PVKII team into starting a company? Is Akz still at the helm of the project? That is a pretty company logo by the way, kind of reminds me of Cthulhu!
Bobby: Our original plans for PVKII were to create the best game we could in our spare time. It was only ever meant to be a hobby that would also provide content for our resumes. But then we saw other mod teams joining the fray of commercial gaming and decided we had far too much talent on our team to let it go to waste. Though PVKII will always remain free, we feel the commercial world will provide us opportunities to continue doing what we love and to expand our player base substantially.
Akz has played an integral role in our team since the beginning and continues to do so. We wouldn't be where we are today without him. I'm amazed every day at how many talented individuals have joined our team even before we ever decided to look toward commercial possibilities.
Thank you for the compliment on our logo :) We have some other designs working right now too that we look forward to presenting when our website fully launches.
Nicholas: Tell us a little more about Octoshark Studios, where it is located, what is the office and people like and how many MacDonald outlets are close by?
Bobby: Octoshark Studios has locations all throughout the world! Technically they aren't studios -- we just all currently work from home. With a few commercial releases under our belts, we hope to build a full studio from which we may all work. But that's in the future.
Nicholas: The mod has been in it's development cycle for 6 years and counting, that is a lot of commitment and dedication to a project which you are willingly releasing for free. Does the formation of Octoshark Studio change any of that philosophical mindset?
Bobby: The formation of our studio has definitely had some effect on at least my mindset. The commitment and dedication to PVKII was always as a hobby that I did in my spare time. With a full time job and school, I sometimes had to put PVKII on the back burner. But once we get fully going with our game studio, we'll be able to dedicate our time to the games we develop. Octoshark will become a full-time paid hobby, which is anybody's dream!
Nicholas: Does that mean we might see Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 as a standalone product in the future similar to what Torn Banner Studios did with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare?
Bobby: Pirates, Vikings and Knights II will remain a Half-Life 2 Source engine mod, and will also remain our main focus until we're happy with its state. However, we do have future standalone commercial projects planned.
Nicholas: PVKII has been one of my favorite multiplayer Half-Life 2 mods in the past and present, will there be any inclusion of a campaign mode or AI for offline practice?
Bobby: Thank you, we always love hearing people's admiration for our work! I do not expect there to be a campaign mode, but I would like to see a tutorial for beginners. AI is also a possibility, but details on that are not yet available.
Oh, look at the pretty sky!
Nicholas: PVKII is also on Steam as a source mod, has including the project on the Valve's platform helped the mod in any significant manner? Has there been any obstacles the team faced while creating the project using the Source Engine?
Bobby: Converting to the Orange Box engine, which is what a mod needs to do to become featured on Steam, was not an easy process. I believe it took us a full year to get the game fully converted. This included stomping out all the bugs, and implementing new features like achievements, etc. But it was well worth it, because being on the Steam engine has made the process of downloading, installing, and updating the game easier. Before we were on Steam, sending out updates to various download sites was time consuming, and it always took more than a week to get people to update their servers and players to update their clients. But now, we upload the new version to Steam, and everyone's game updates itself automatically.
Nicholas: Considering that Valve has yet to release information regarding Half Life 2: Episode 3, that means Octoshark Studios still has an ample amount of time to keep production going for PVKII before a new Source engine update. Are you guys anticipating another major Source engine update similar to the Orange Box Engine before finishing development on PVKII?
Bobby: We would be happy to gain access to some of the later engines that games like Left 4 Dead 2 and TF2 use, but the SDKs for those engines haven't yet been released. PVKII will remain on the Orange Box engine unless those updates become publicly available. That's something we would have to look into if and when it happens.
Nicholas: From my understanding, you guys were working on the project as a part time passion-hobby. Will the development process of the project improve now that the modding team has moved over into a studio environment?
Bobby: Once we are able to work full-time through the studio, the process will be a lot more efficient and development will be much faster. But another factor that will make the whole process better is the lessons we've learned the first time around. When we began PVKII, many of us were in high-school and were completely new to the game development scene. We have learned a lot about organization and time management that will help us in the future.
Nicholas: The most recent major patch for PVKII added the Sharpshooter, 4 new beautifully crafted maps and several changes to the game play. From a game design perspective, has creating the Sharpshooter as a character who specializes in range combat a difficult process considering PVKII emphasizes on the melee combat system? How do you balance a class revolving around dealing damage from afar to properly engage it's more melee oriented characters?
Bobby: The Sharpshooter was certainly a challenge for us. Like you said, he's a range-focused class in a mod that's focused mainly on melee combat. The Archer offered a similar challenge when he was first implemented. But we have an amazing team of testers who worked hard to test every inch of the new characters and how well they played with others. Every stat was tweaked -- from movement speed to bullet speed -- to make sure the Sharpshooter was as balanced as possible. Our main focus was making him a challenge to play, but also a challenge to play against.
Is that Bruce Wayne voicing for the Sharpshooter?
Nicholas: Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 is the sequel to the very fun and hectic Half-Life 1 mod Pirates, Viking and Knights. Is the project going to be a direct port of the prequel or will there be any innovations to the game mechanics for PVKII or new classes not previously known to PVK?
Bobby: For starters, we implemented a melee combat system that includes several directions of attacking and blocking. We've also changed our game modes to play better. Players work as a team in PVKII more so than the original. For example: in the original mod, there was a game mode called Booty Tag. There was one chest in the map, and players could hold onto it. Holding onto the chest would increase that player's score, but was incredibly boring. In PVKII, we have the game mode called Trinket Wars. Each team has a specific trinket they can carry while still being able to fight. While in range of the trinket carrier, any kills will reduce the team's counter. The first team to reach 0 wins the round. This gives players a reason to carry the trinket -- they get increased score for their kills while also helping the team win -- but also makes them a target for other teams.
Our current goal is to finish the Man-at-Arms, which is the last character to be ported over from the original mod. We have other classes planned, like healers and lords, but it's too early to know how and when they will be implemented.
'What are ye looking at ye pansy!'
Nicholas: Will there be any plans to releasing a Mac or Linux port for PVKII?
Bobby: We don't currently have plans for those operating systems. In time we may have the resources available to focus on porting the game, but for now we're focusing on finishing the Windows version.
Nicholas: Does Octoshark Studios have any upcoming projects alongside or after Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 is completed?
Bobby: We have several projects in mind, but our main focus is on finishing PVKII :)
Nicholas: On a final note, can you give us a one line pitch on how jaw-dropping amazing Pirate, Vikings and Knights 2 is?
Bobby: According to PC Gamer, “the rampant silliness and absurd title hide a remarkably robust and satisfying melee game.”
Nicholas: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us Bobby Speirs, I am always excited to talk with people who are passionate about their craft in the industry. I'm sure many people cannot wait for the upcoming updates for PVKII as well as the new website and best wishes to the future of Octoshark Studios!
Bobby: Thank you! Best of luck to you as well :)
You can start playing Pirates, Vikings and Knights 2 by following these instructions taken from the official site:
I just got in touch with PD Design Studios, a Singaporean company, for an interview regarding their Kickstarter project Dusty's Revenge: The Art of Revenge. We will hopefully be able to publish the interview as soon we can-
Occupation: Games Journalist, student, omegalomaniac nerd
Speciality: Interviews, foolish word-play, cats
Nicholas enjoys the dull monotonously infrequent rainy weathers of Singapore while listening to silky smooth eargasmic tunes of Jazz, Orchestral Symphonies and most often the endless reverberating screams of Rock & Roll. He loves singing (horribly) in the showers as he delusionally believes himself to be the next Singapore/American/Earth idol. He simply love Games.