Professional Services
Order outsourcing

Designing A Black-And-White Action-Shooter About Pirates For Mobile

Slavik IA and Jack Kasprzak have talked about their game Pirate's Boom Boom, sharing the titles that inspired them and discussing why they chose to create it in a black-and-white style. 


Hello! We are Slavik IA and Jack Kasprzak, and we are the creators of Pirate's Boom Boom. You might not know who we are, but for the past two decades, we have worked on some of your favorite films, animated shows, and commercials. Here they are Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Tron: Legacy, X-Men, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Free Guy, Spirit Riding Free, Kung-Fu Panda, just to name a few. We have worked as key Visual Artists and Animators in helping tell those stories and bring iconic characters to life! There are many more, but our true passion lies in gaming, character development, world-building, and storytelling. 

The Pirate's Boom Boom Project

Pirate's Boom Boom began as an Arcade Shooter, we wanted to make a simple and fun game that anyone could get into, essentially a starting base that we could expand with future content and expansions. Our sources of inspiration came from two different places.

Jack was trained as an illustrator and animator, and while he did play a lot of games when he was younger, the only games that have stuck around are visually appealing ones that offer a unique voice, such as Yoshi's Island, Cuphead, and Limbo. So when the team decided to develop a children's book that Jack had illustrated, the challenge was to maintain the super graphic, black and white, hand-drawn style and port it into a gaming experience. Jack loves it when the visuals aren't just gimmicks but play a key role in the gameplay. Having black-and-white characters fall in and out of black-and-white backgrounds makes for a distinctly challenging setup.

Slavik has been playing games for close to 30 years, from Star Fox, Final Fantasy VII, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Metal Gear, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XI, to even semi-pro play with Tekken Tag Tournament and Soulcalibur II – Pirate's Boom Boom was influenced by every one of these titles one way or another.

The era that impacted Slavik in story-telling was the PS1 era, especially games that managed to achieve deep story arcs. He loves the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for its deeper and darker themes, as well as bending the line between a hero and a villain.

When it comes to game design, World of Warcraft has been Slavik's greatest teacher in terms of understanding what makes abilities or classes enjoyable. Even though he's never worked for Blizzard, he was able to learn a lot from simply playing their game.

The Black-And-White Art Style

Our black-and-white look goes far back to the initial Pirate's and Crow's books. Throughout the years of developing visuals, we uncovered a very satisfying style and look that utilizes textures, custom lighting, and a distorted perspective.

As for the graphic black-and-white nature of it, this has been present since its inception, and we feel strongly that it gives the game its unique identity, as well as a specific gaming challenge that color games would not be able to achieve. As we expand further into StoryMode, this will become even clearer as you explore new setups and environments. For it to still feel like a world but be in black and white, many tactics from Noir and old black-and-white photography and illustration have been utilized, such as atmosphere and fog. The hand-drawn aspect of the textures, 2D effects, and backgrounds come through in contrast against these more realistic foggy gradients.

Barrel distortion is something that Slavik brought in after directing live-action films with anamorphic lenses. His love for the barreled and squeezed world is on full display here, and it helps blend the line between close combat and far-away sniping, making it a lot of fun. To achieve this, we had to implement very specific techniques to mimic it by actually warping the world itself and altering the speeds of the ships as they got closer.

Designing The Gameplay

The ArcadeMode was designed to be a fun challenge for any player of any skill level. In Pirate's Boom Boom, there are times when you feel like Rambo with a machine gun and annihilate anything in your way. And then, there are times when you are still Rambo, just with a kitchen knife, and must get clever and cunning. This design constantly challenges you to make better decisions and incorporate different styles of play to reach your goals. This aspect will only expand and grow further as we add more items and triggered events in StoryMode to manipulate how and when you use your skills and talents.

Testing has been an exhaustive ongoing process to ensure the experience is challenging but still accessible and fun. Each time we would make a tweak to enemy stats or the damage/health system, the whole game experience needed to be played extensively to experience how the changes not only affect initial gameplay but the experience as levels go on and statistics change. It is a bit of a hyper-balanced math problem behind the scenes.

As for UI and menus, we fell back on our graphic design skills and looked back to the children's books as well as strategy games for inspiration. Because it's a pirate-themed game and somewhat militaristic or tactical, many of the war games and strategy games that are out there provide great insight into how to lay out menus and build accessible information.

Game Modes & Keeping Players Engaged

The ArcadeMode provides a fun, skill-based challenge all the way to level 99. Currently, level 96 and above are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, but with items acquired from StoryMode seasons, you will be able to go way beyond level 100.

Speaking of StoryMode – something we are incredibly excited about! Instead of shooting at everything in a Rambo style, imagine a deeper experience with stories, plots, and characters that are on par with the best of Netflix shows and films. We will infuse these stories with custom levels that essentially combine gaming and film in a very innovative way. Every season will have 5-6 episodes that will unlock hidden and powerful items and characters upon completion.

These items will then appear in ArcadeMode to enrich your experience there. Pirate's world is full of hidden items, treasures, friends, foes, and adventures, and as storytellers, we have a lot of ideas! If you love films, TV series, and RPGs, you will love this mode!

The Time Aspect & The Most Time-Consuming Tasks

Pirate's Boom Boom took 8 months to develop from the first day to launch. We worked alongside our development partner, Triodoxic Studios, based in India. Anukul, the project leader, and our two developers, Heinz and Atharva, helped bring our vision from Maya into Unity. Heinz's work was crucial to us, and as a token of gratitude, we named one of the most powerful artifacts in the game after him, called "The Heinz" cannonball. The daily challenge became to constantly switch from the developer's point of view to that of a user while playing the game. We wanted to keep on improving the experience, the UI design, and the fine line between fun and challenge.

Another goal that took some time to achieve was to make everything in this game feel special. Every item needed to have a tangible design – as if you could feel it with your fingers. From icons to models, every item got a dedicated amount of love from us. This will continue with StoryMode items and characters, and with every season Pirate's Boom Boom will become a bigger and deeper game.

The biggest slowdown of all is the need for funding. Currently, Slavik and Jack are working on this part-time, and we hope that in the future, we can dedicate ourselves entirely to Pirate's Boom Boom.

Slavik IA and Jack Kasprzak, Pirate's Boom Boom's Creators

Interview conducted by Arti Burton

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more