It's been five years since Ubisoft's multiplayer pirate game Skull and Bones (opens in new tab) was announced, and it has not been smooth sailing since. Initial impressions were positive, but then it was delayed, delayed, delayed again (opens in new tab), and for the last couple of years all we've seen of it are vague assurances during Ubisoft financial calls that, yes, it is still coming (opens in new tab).
Now, after years of silence and a report detailing toxic work conditions (opens in new tab) at its lead development studio, it looks like some sort of forward progress might actually be made: Today Ubisoft unveiled the Skull and Bones Insider Program, which will enable a "selected few" fans to try out early builds and provide feedback to developers.
We are kicking off our Insider Program, a unique opportunity for a selected few to test early versions of Skull and Bones & share feedback. Apply now if you think you have what it takes!March 9, 2022
"Our main objective is to get real data and feedback. We want to see what our players do when they're free to play our game whenever they want, however they want," the Insiders Program announcement (opens in new tab) explains. "Most importantly, we want to know how they feel about the game."
The initial group of testers will be kept fairly small in order "to ensure we do things carefully, and set things up in a way that allows us to fully understand the feedback we receive." People interested in taking part should have "a keen interest in game development, [and] plenty of time to allocate to testing and reporting issues, bugs or just general feedback." It sounds kind of like a job to me, except that you won't be paid for it: You will, however, get to deal with plenty of bugs, crashes, and untuned gameplay. There's a legally-binding non-disclosure agreement, too.
It's nice that things are happening, and I'm looking forward to hearing how Skull and Bones now compares to our first glimpse (opens in new tab) from way back in 2017. But it's clearly still a long way off, and there remains no sign of a release date: The Skull and Bones Insiders Program website (opens in new tab), where you can sign up for a shot at the testing program, says that the release date is "coming soon."