Scurvy Scallywags

Mar 18, 2013 five to four pm

Here are some screen shots from Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short. It will be coming out for the iPhone and iPad in a couple of months.  I might have found a way to get xcode to build objective-c for Android, if so, we'll port it there.

I've always loved match-3 games, there is something zen-like about playing them.  Seems like whenever I'm testing out a new engine or code base, I always create a quick match-3 game.

A few years back, Clayton and I made a match-3 game called Realms of Gold that had a interesting way the board collapsed.

In traditional match-3 games like Bejeweled, when you match three shapes they disappear and the gap is filled by pieces falling in from the top.  In Realms of Gold, the piece could come in from the sides or even the bottom depending on the type of match you did.

It was fun, but it was also a little confusing.  The game was a RPG, but we were told by the publisher that no one wanted to play a match-3 RPG, so that part of the game was watered down.  Of course, a year later Puzzle Quests comes out and sells a billion copies.

A little over a year ago I pulled a match-3 prototype out of the closest and started working on it.  There was something about the way the board collapsed in Realms of Gold that I really liked.  Clayton and I screwed around with it for a bit, then he hit upon a way to make the collapsing work a lot better.  Rather than the type of match you made dictating the direction the board collapsed, have the board collapse in the direction you swiped.  I made this change and it felt fantastic and very intuitive.

An odd side effect of doing this was you could move pieces around the board.  So unlike Puzzle Quest - and just about every other match-3 RPG that sprang up after it - in Scurvy Scallywags you actually move your hero/pirate around the board and position her/him next to enemies to do battle.  It creates this new layer to the matching that is a lot of fun.

We have close to one hundred different hats, shirts, heads, swords, etc you find and use to dress up your pirate.  There are also ten different ships to build, plus a sea shanty you collect that is sung by real life pirate singers (they work for grog, quite inexpensive).

With any luck, it will be out in the next month or so.

You can also follow @ScurvyGit on twitter to see my live git commit messages.

Other people's comments:

Posted by Squinky on Mar 18, 2013 quarter past four pm

ever since PQ (and before then, with Tetris Attack on Snes) I've really had a lot of light, easygoing fun with these match-3 games. PQ had great music (always helps) a kind of crappy but still charming story/stock fantasy locale and setting; and it just played well with the spells and RPG leveling.

Taking the formula and messing around with it sounds cool; and I already like the art style chosen, must be mostly Clayton I assume; incorporating the sea shanty (loved Dem Bones and later the barbershop song - 'A pirate...' - in Curse) is a nice touch.

I actually enjoy the MI references in games like the Cave and Deathspank. It adds, I guess, some kind of tie-in theme, though that would perhaps be overstating what I guess is just a cool little hint at past projects like MI. Of course, probably Maniac has more relevance in terms of pure development, whereas MI is just a damn good pirate fantasy, and deserves reference/homage from pretty much everyone.

So I guess my rambling ends with a positive; I do not own a compatible iOS device, and if I got a tablet/phone style thing it'd be an Android. There are a lot of things like Middle Manager (free-to-play of course) which I'd love to goof around with; unfortunately I don't own a platform that's compatible. Though I'd snatch a $14.99 copy of this on Steam. Of course it would be a lower price than the Cave, but I'd pay that much for a puzzle 3-match. No way I'm waiting for a sale either. that's for, like, the new Xcom or something.

Steam PC... I'm thinking of maybe Linux at some point but PC has more of a chance of seeing the light of day, so I'd be more likely to get that short of springing for a secondhand Android; I can't really afford such expense atm, but if I was a thousandaire I would.

Posted by brawsome on Mar 18, 2013 half past four pm

Objective-C eh? The only way I know that would get onto Android would be through a Java wrapper around a C++ wrapper using the Android NDK. Though I haven't delved into this tangled web too far, because it would give me nightmares.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 18, 2013 twenty five to five pm

You can program the Android in straight c, right?  If so, then it shouldn't be too hard. I already have a skeleton project up and compiling that uses none of the Apple frameworks or includes.  Even ARC works if you provide the right functions to link with.  I also found this today: CLICK ME

I'm optimistic.  I'd love to support Android, but I love objective-c and xcode.

Posted by Luca Redwood on Mar 19, 2013 twenty five to four pm

these guys emailed me about 10000000 , didn't use them so I can't vouch for them but supposedly you can use Obj C and the iOS apis on android -

Posted by AK on Apr 5, 2013 ten to three am

I love objective-c and xcode

As a longtime fan, that is also working for Apple on developer tools, you sir made me smile :-)

Posted by Noah Falstein on Mar 18, 2013 quarter to five pm

Ron, you probably don't remember, but the initial music for PHM Pegasus was lifted from Gilbert&Sullivan's Pinafore - but then Stewart Bonn (our EA producer) rightly pointed out to me that it was way too cheerful and silly for a naval military simulation.  But I'd like to think that exposure planted a subconscious seed...

Posted by Brushtooth O'Thatguy on Mar 18, 2013 twenty to six pm

I'm not going to ask that question. Ok, I am. Any chance to see this on a Nintendo platform? 3DS perhaps? Or in gorgeous HD on WiiU? I love The Cave...

Posted by Mo on Mar 18, 2013 five past eleven pm

Ron, I too am a big fan of Objective-C. Writing iOS apps made me fall in love with the language pretty quickly. However, I've always done games in C (with some lightweight C++), so I'm kinda intrigued by this.

Biggest concern: How's performance? Obviously won't be as bad as a garbage collected language, but how does it compare to C/C++? In particular I'm thinking about the impact of spawning/freeing lots of objects at once.

What do you do for standard libs? Do any of the NS* objects exist on non-Apple platforms?

I'm also interested in the techniques behind keeping the code portable. Hope you can find the time to write about it at some point.

Oh, and the game looks great!

Posted by aubilenon on Mar 18, 2013 ten to midnight

ZOMG. This is so amazingly right up my alley, and I have so much to say about it!!!  Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and Monkey Island are two of my favorite games!!!   Squinky, did you know that the "stock fantasy locale and setting" for PQ was actually a long-standing world from the Warlords series of turn-based and real-time strategy games?  The world is bland and forgettable enough that I didn't realize it was the same place until I played the bland and forgettable Puzzle Quest 2. But I do think the story is pretty good in PQ:CotW - involving more nuanced moral decisions than most video games (which tend to be more like "save the puppy or burn down the orphanage?").

But the thing where the stuff falls in the direction you match?  That makes me nervous!  Puzzle Quest: Galactrix did that, and I feel it wasn't very successfully.  There were a lot of other things about Galactrix that made me wonder if they even knew what made CotW any good (if you care about, what I wrote about it in 2009 is here: - though the match-3 mechanics stuff is rewritten here in), but yeah:  The actual match 3 mechanism is the heart of the game:

Galactrix modified the standard match-3 mechanism from CotW in two ways. One is that it's in a hexagonal grid, which is basically irrelevant to this conversation, but the other is that "gravity" moved in the direction that you swiped, like you mention doing too.  My feeling is that this didn't work that well.

First of all, having "swap A and B" be a different operation from "swap B and A" felt kind of unnatural to me from a UI point of view.  Because swapping is an intuitively symmetric operation.

Even after you find a match you like, you still have to decide which way to swipe to make it.  This allows you to plan pretty far ahead, effectively giving you way more control in the flow of the grid, but that also means you basically have to plan that far ahead.  This would certainly have been less bad if it weren't also on a hex grid.

The other thing it did was make the board much more homogenous.  In classic bejeweled, the top, bottom, sides, and middle all naturally feel like different "terrain" - tactically you need to treat these different regions in different ways.  Doing stuff on the bottom is more likely to chain, but it's also more likely to mess up other already existing potential matches. And the sides were less fertile than the middle, chain wise.  But in Galactrix, there was only central and uncentral.  This felt like it lost some of the richness of play that naturally emerged from the classic mechanism.

Anyway, I'm quite sure that I don't have my finger on the pulse of the casual gaming market at large, but even so I'm confident that between my love of pirates, match-3, rpgs, and music games, you're making something that I quite enjoy, and won't make me cross-eyed with nerd rage at all.  I do love nerding out about Match-3 games though.  A year or two ago, a friend and I spent a while brainstorming how to do a match-3 roguelike, where your character is in the grid just like you have here.  We never got as far as prototyping anything out, but I'm super curious to see how your version plays.

(I also played a some Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, but I still believe that a good pirate themed puzzle rpg is possible)

Posted by Squinky on Mar 19, 2013 ten past one am

to be honest with you, I'd only played the CotW one, on PSP, and really enjoyed it. I had no idea any of the games were tied to any other franchises in any way. most kind of generic/pulpy fantasy a la Forgotten Realms could more or less apply to something like this.


I like the idea of added strategy. However I wouldn't get too worried, once we play the game the pieces will fall into place. Ron has a pretty solid grasp of most genres, definitely ones he lends his hand to, RPG/match-3 and so on. I would imagine that, even though more strategy would mean more enjoyment for me (I enjoy chess a lot, for example) Ron is less likely to make it counter-intuitive or overly challenging, and definitely will not design a broken dynamic (it appears this sweeping thing you speak of may well be both of those things. Not that a broken facet of gameplay necessarily breaks a game to begin with in any case).

I don't think we should judge until we play the game; even with more info via Twitter and so on, essentially a lot of good games get a bad rap before release, and vice versa of course.

indie developers have enough challenges to face already without us secondguessing them. you could say... tis a Challenge of Warlords.


but even triple AAA companies don't deserve pre-emptive critique. I'd say Ron is somewhere between the poles; or maybe neither.

definitely makes good games. looking forward to this.

Posted by Diduz on Mar 19, 2013 quarter past one am

Hey Ron, check this out:

I've ordered one! :-)
If you do an Android version, do you think one could play the game on a horizontal screen?

Posted by Fuz on Mar 19, 2013 quarter to three am

Do want.
I'm hoping for an Android release.

Posted by shiftyweb on Mar 19, 2013 twenty five to five am

Hey Ron, looks like we have the same idea

Posted by Sentimental on Mar 19, 2013 twenty past noon

I guess gone are the days ron gilbert used to make real games.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 19, 2013 half past noon

These are real games.  I'm sorry you don't agree. I like to do lots of different things and explore new ideas, not get pigeonholed into a one type of game. That's boring.

Posted by Leonard on Mar 19, 2013 five past three pm

Yeah, I had always wished that da Vinci made about 20 versions of Mona Lisa paintings and did nothing else...  :)

Posted by Squinky on Mar 19, 2013 twenty to seven pm

20 versions of Maniac Mansion perhaps?

every room has a different Weird Ed portrait

Posted by Sentimental on Mar 20, 2013 quarter to three am

Sorry, I didn't want to step on your toes with this one. Maybe I should replace "real" by "heavily story driven" on second thought.

I somehow feel that since deathspank an overarching deep storyline becomes less and less important in your games. I respect your choice of games of course and I'm glad that you're able to make more of them, but it feels like Michael Jordan switching to baseball, you know?

Posted by Squinky on Mar 21, 2013 ten past nine pm

sometimes you can say more with implication; saying something mysterious or otherwise evocative of - something!

some of the best moments of Lechuck's Revenge fit that paraphrase to a tee!

the cave leaves room to explore and interpret

this is a departure for the more in-your-face exposition of deathspank, and might well be a sign of maturity in development, story, characters, and just plain emotional power

some games don't get out of Japan, like the most of the 3 Mother games, that could knock the socks off a lot of the highest praise heaped on some big story titles of this genre and some others

i'd like to contest the need to be beaten over the head and beaten down by empty rhetoric and melodrama in the place of a less open and obvious concept

the intelligence required to assimilate this data more or less dictates the extent of thought generated after you're finshed the game once. then you play it again! with MI, with Grim Fandango, yes, even the Cave and Deathspank, it takes time to ripen and bear fruit in your expectations, which may well be flawed or limiting

i made the mistake of undercutting Brutal Legend before seeing more than some art and a quick trailer

it's still not my favorite title ever

but it tells a damn good metal story

and more or less that's what it set out to do

we don't need a lot of background lore in a match-3 pirate game, but this is Ron. he invented piratey adventures remember? gave guybrush his name and underwater talents? how can he go wrong with a sea shanty simulation?

i rest my case.

aye, tis a case of grog. yarrr! (gotta match em all!)

(near grog still won't fit! arrggh!)

Posted by Jake on Mar 19, 2013 quarter to one pm

Ronzo just got done making The Cave.  I guess you don't consider that a real game either?

Posted by blombo on Mar 20, 2013 twenty past three pm

For a moment I thought you said "real gems". I really wish Ron would make a game that had the same impact as Monkey Island, and as much as games like this can be fun, it's their intrinsic nature that prevents them from becoming cult games. Pity.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 20, 2013 half past three pm

It's very disappointing that people have already dismissed The Cave. I spent a lot of time on that game and it's very deep if you spend the time with it.  But I fear not.  Monkey Island was largely ignored when it came out. It sold poorly and got average reviews.  The Cave sold more copies in the first week than MI sold in a year.

Posted by Someone on Mar 22, 2013 half past eleven am

Yeah... but at that time not everybody owned a Computer... so THIS IS A CHERRY PICKING RON!

Posted by Chris on Mar 23, 2013 two am

To throw in a different perspective. I worked at a computer store back in 92-ish and even though MI and MI2 were easily some of my favorites - - which I always recommended above others - - I can't recall ever being able sell a copy.

This could attest to my poor salesmanship, but I did sell other games to those that owned computers that were in looking for a game.

Posted by blombo on Mar 23, 2013 twenty past eight am

I'm really sorry Ron, but unfortunately The Cave was not for me. I've heard you say you don't consider Limbo an adventure and I feel the same about The Cave. I did spend time with it but I couldn't feel any empathy for the characters, most probably because they don't speak. Truth be told, I also found the puzzles too easy and repetitive at times (the limited inventory is the culprit here), and the platform-like element adding to the tedium of walking round (I must add that I don't really care for platformers). There, I said it: please don't hate me. I'm sorry if I sound harsh, and I hope you take no offence. I also realise I'm in the minority, because the reviews have been quite positive (and it sold well: so it's nothing like MI! :), and that you put a lot of effort in it. It just didn't work for me. Sorry again. That doesn't detract from your being a genius in any way.

That said, I don't think any character from The Cave will ever stick in people's minds as Guybrush (or LeChuck, or Elaine, or any other, really) did: do you?

To me, MI was like the best kind of deep, funny film but with beautiful interaction added. It's one of the best experiences I've ever had, and I think that no other kind of game but adventures can be so engrossing. "But The Cave is an adventure!". I know... to me it just isn't. Sorry.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 23, 2013 half past nine am

It's totally OK that you didn't like The Cave.  Believe it or not, there are people who don't like Monkey Island and there is nothing wrong with that either.

If I made something that everyone liked, I'd see that as a failure because it didn't poke people or get under their skin enough.  For me the perfect creative expression is something half the people HATE and the other half LOVE.  Then you've done something meaningful.

The characters in The Cave are supposed to be despised, not liked, that was the whole point of the story and the game.  Some people loved that.  Others didn't.  But it's what I wanted.

Posted by Sentimental on Mar 23, 2013 eleven am

So you are claiming there are people who love adventure games but didn't like Monkey Island?

I always assumed MI is the top10 of every adventure game fan.

Posted by Someone on Mar 25, 2013 twenty to one am

The Cave is great.  It's just not the type of adventure game I think your hardcore fans were looking for.  The scale of the puzzles just seemed so much smaller due to the limitations of confining them to certain zones.  Also, the limited inventory felt as though it restricted the complexity of the puzzles.  There were moments where the one item system worked for me, primarily in the hillbilly, twin, and monster hunter levels, but the rest of the time it made the game feel a bit too easy.  I don't know if that's a bad thing, but I didn't get the same level of satisfaction out of them as i did completing the three trials in MI 1.

In your other adventure games, I always felt as though there were multiple puzzles going on at the same time, which had the effect of making your worlds feel very rich and alive.  Your greatest success has to be the amount of puzzles that were happening simultaneously in the second act of Monkey Island 2.  Although MI 1 will always be my favorite adventure game, partly due to sentimental reasons, that second act in MI 2 is one of my favorite gaming experiences.  

I don't know how else to explain it, except to say that whichever style you would use to make a MI 3, that's what the people who are responding negatively to The Cave are looking for.  You are the master at that style of game and people want to see another one from you in that style.  By style i don't mean point and click.  It has more to do about the complexity of the puzzles, the way they are interwoven, and the amount of time it takes to complete the various puzzle threads.

Posted by Gabriel on Apr 3, 2013 five past two am

I have to agree The Cave is a bit repetitive. I wanted to see each character's story, bur going through the "generic" (the ones not related to a single character) puzzles again and again was quite boring. Actually, I gave up halfway my second run. I don't know, maybe you could've found a way to be able to go through all of them in a single playthrough, or have less characters and longer stages.

Also, the end could a bit more cinematographic (maybe some kind of "puzzle boss fight" to wrap everything up). The endings were a great moment in the old adventure games, they always felt rewarding.

These are my only complaints, ALL the other elements of the game were awesome!

Posted by funkyellowmonkey on Mar 20, 2013 six am

Hi Ron!

Will the game have game center leaderboard and achievements?


Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 20, 2013 five past eight am

I has a ton of achievements, but no leaderboards.

Posted by Someone on Mar 20, 2013 seven am

Finally a MI3 arrived ; )  frankly it looks a bit different then I imagined ; D

Posted by Squinky on Mar 20, 2013 five past eleven am

match initiative 3 - only ten shanties or your parrot returned

Posted by Dzelly85 on Mar 20, 2013 ten past eight am

Hey Ron,

Is the game written in HTML5? Would it work as a browser game as well? It looks like a great game, and I'm glad to hear you'll be bringing it to Android as well.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 20, 2013 quarter past eight am

No, the game is written in objective-c.  Also, I did not say I was bringing to Android.  When the game is done, I'll look into it.  If I can figure out how to get objective-c to compile in xcode for Android, then I'll do a port.  If that doesn't work, I woud have to recode the whole thing from scratch.  That's a lot of work.

Posted by Dzelly85 on Mar 20, 2013 five to ten am

When it comes to the Android comment, it looks like I misinterpreted something said at Game Informer. Thanks for the clarification there. Looks like a genuinely fun game.

Posted by Squinky on Mar 20, 2013 noon

it seems after every post I make the comments are deemed dumb suddenly

this is rather strange!


Posted by Squinky on Mar 21, 2013 twenty five past two am

to address those who dislike or play down the Cave

a lot of the greats (not just developers) were not that appreciated in their time, sometimes it took time for the people who experienced their work to value it. a lot of things take repeat exposure to really see much value in.

i first played Escape, I know a lot of people didn't like it, but I have fond memories of it, and it's not just nostalgia lending it a pinkish tint:

it led me to Curse, and that led me further back to the 1-2 disc that came with the box.

for many years 2 was my favorite, and it still is. but I love Curse, and Escape was pretty cool too. whatever else you might consider as a good point against it, you can't say it didn't convert some pretty hardcore fans. it's a testament to the strength of the writers who developed it from the ground up, and the people who have contributed since, even Telltale when they got the license, as to its staying power (or shelf life, if you prefer). i will have to replay Tales, as I was not ready to give it a fair shake yet.

i think ' a fair shake ' is deserved for the cave, at least for fans of good games, good adventures, and developers like Ron. and i also don't think this new sea shanty game can be given such a fair shake until it's out, we've played it, and can form a proper opinion.

so here's to Curse, here's to escape, and the Cave; also Scurvy Scallywags. play the games again, and wait for a few rounds of matching pirate paraphernalia before worrying about the genre or mechanics!

where's that cutlass? (:D)

Posted by Demetris Thoupis on Mar 22, 2013 ten past one pm

Hi Ron,
Congrats on the new game. Just a remark. does not resolve into an IP address and I need to put directly without the www. Can you confirm your DNS records you have them pointing correctly

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 22, 2013 quarter past one pm

It's the year 2013.  Are we still using www?

Posted by Someone on Mar 24, 2013 five to noon


Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 24, 2013 half past noon

I don't understand why you want the www?  It's shorter to not have to type it.  

Is there something that is automatically putting it there?

Posted by Someone on Mar 27, 2013 half past six am

WE REALLY NEED THE WWW, the same as the XXX

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 27, 2013 ten past nine am

As soon as someone explains why they need the www, I'll add it.  So far, I can't see any reasons to have it.  It's just an extra 4 characters you have to type.  Just don't type them.

Posted by Someone on Mar 31, 2013 half past eleven am

Not everyone have chrome or a decent browser! Please FIX THE WWW just for the poor and hungy people!

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 31, 2013 half past eleven am

I did fix it.  If it's not working, then it's something on your end.

Posted by Someone on Apr 1, 2013 ten to two am

It is working! Thanks Ron! =)

Posted by Demetris Thoupis on Mar 23, 2013 ten to three am

?!?!?!?!?!?! Some still do it seems :(( Google Chrome even putting without www puts www in front only when it does not resolve it allows me to enter this glorious blog!

Posted by i hate phasebook on Mar 27, 2013 twenty past four pm

The problem is obviously that piece of junk known as Chrome, don't let it turn you into an automaton and download Netscape 1.0 right now—it's fully functional, from the era when people's websites had the www. subdomain and you had to add the plus sign when making searches!

Besides, it'll automatically block all the flash BS overflowing the net with its merciful obsolescence.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 27, 2013 twenty five past four pm

I use Chrome and it does not put www. infront of this or any domain name I enter.  So, you're saying if you go to the address bar of Chrome, and type in it tries to put the www. in front rather then just resolving to the domain you entered?

Posted by Demetris Thoupis on Mar 28, 2013 ten past six am

Yes Ron that is what happens. It happens also in Internet Explorer. What a waste of land. I am certain a few months ago even with www. it resolved!

Posted by k0SH on Mar 23, 2013 half past seven pm

So here comes the next adventure-type-of-game...

Posted by Sk-F on Mar 26, 2013 five past noon

Ron Gilbert + Pirates?


Slow clapping

Posted by Rockmik on Mar 28, 2013 twenty to nine am

This game looks like very cool. I've just finished The cave with all characters, a great adventure.

Oh wait, i have a thing for you Ron... a tribute sculpture (when Wallace and gromit meet Monkey Island):

Wish you enjoy it. Next time, Donald Duck meet Monkey Island. Yep.


Posted by Ron Gilbert on Mar 31, 2013 five to eleven pm


Posted by Demetris Thoupis on Apr 1, 2013 quarter to one pm

!!! Now is working !!! :))))

Posted by Badger on Apr 3, 2013 twenty five to ten pm

If you're still looking for a way to port to Android, Marmalade Juice is looking promising. It's supposed to allow you to compile objective c for Android with minimal changes. Their regular SDK is very good, so I have high hopes.

Posted by Hazzul Bloodfist on Apr 6, 2013 twenty past nine am

Would really appreciate if you could release the game on Android... I hope it won't be left out :)

Posted by raven on Apr 13, 2013 five to eleven am

I had never been very fond of these match-3 games until a number of years ago I came across the ROM of something called "Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo" for some emulator.

Man, was it funny! It was a two player game and each could chose one Super Street Fighter II Turbo character. Each player had a match-3 board and the matches were reflected in the little guys fighting (and made more gems appear at the adversary's board).

If this is just a little like that game, but with RPG elements added, I want to play it. Too bad if it's finally only for apple :(

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