When Harebrained Schemes launched Crimson: Steam Pirates earlier this month on the App Store, we were blown away by its great turn-based gameplay and alternate history storytelling. And it seems like we weren’t the only ones – the game hit the #1 spot for free iPad downloads on its first day, and managed to hold on to that position for nearly a week. We recently had a chance to talk with Mitch Gitelman, Director of the Studio’s Projects Teams, about Steam Pirates success. Here’s what he had to say;

In less than 24 hours from the time of its launch, Crimson Steam Pirates shot to #1 overall spot for iPad. How does it feel to know you have such an instant success on your hands?

It’s very gratifying to be #1, but the player response is what’s truly rewarding. Crimson’s average player review score is 4.5 out of 5, with nearly 5,000 people taking the time to let us know what they think of our game. We make games to entertain people, so it’s really satisfying to hear they’re enjoying it.

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Crimson Steam Pirates takes place in an alternate 1888. Crimson Skies, a game Jordan had previously developed, takes place in an alternate 1930’s. Is it safe to assume these two games exist in the same alternate universe?

I can’t say they exist in the same universe, but I can definitely say that they sprung from the same world view–one in which romance, villains,daring-do,and two-fisted-adventure can exist.Of all the wonderful game worlds out there, we want to live in ours.

Were there any particular games that Crimson drew inspiration from? I sensed a touch of Sid Meier’s Pirates in there…

Genius is never admitting your sources. Or Deniability. One of those.

The freemium business model is still in its infancy, and Harebrained Schemes seems to have taken a unique approach to it – offering the first chapter of Crimson: Steam Pirates for free and charging for additional chapters. In essence, you’re giving half of the content that’s available at launch away for free. Can you tell us a little about why you settled on this pricing structure?

The business model of Crimson: Steam Pirates was heavily influenced by our relationship with Bungie Aerospace. Bungie products represent more than just high quality fun to gamers. They are also known for the high value of their games– there’s a TON of game modes, challenges and replayability in Halo Reach, for example.
We took the same approach with our iPad game. We believe in our gameplay, our story, and the polish we put into the game, and we wanted as many people as possible to experience it before we started asking them for their hard-earned $.

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Are you seeing good conversion numbers on installs vs in-app purchases?

We’re all excited about how the game is doing. :)

The game is teasing a third chapter that will be available at some point. Will that be the end of the story? Or are there more chapters in the works beyond that?

The third chapter will conclude this Saga in the Tales of Thomas Blood, but the word “Tales” is plural for a reason. Throughwriting this story, we’ve come to really enjoy travelling with Captain Blood and we’d love to spend more time together, if possible.

The multiplayer modes included at launch are terrific, but the lack of online play sticks out like a sore thumb. Was there a reason you decided to keep Crimson local multiplayer only? And can we expect to see it go online in the future?

You have to stop somewhere and online gameplay done right takes time. We’d love to add online multiplayer in the future.

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You seem to have a real knack for alternate history storytelling. Other than your own, are there any particular alternate history stories out there that you really enjoy?

Since we’re Hornblower fans, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire holds a special place for us. It takes place during Napoleonic era, where dragons are used like flying ships.The Lord Darcy series by Randall Garrett is also favorite.The hero of the stories is Lord Darcy, a Sherlock Holmes type, who is assisted by a forensic sorcerer/Watson.Fun stuff. And finally,Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son series is worth checking out. It’s about magic during colonial times. Fun.

What’s next from Harebrained Schemes?

Just like our website says, we’ll make whatever cool thing inspires us next. In the immediate future, we’ll be announcing our young children’s title soon.