SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


You, too, can be a virtual Bering Sea crabber
Anchorage Daily News


July 02, 2008

VIRTUAL DUTCH HARBOR -- Minutes into your new career as a crab-boat captain, the crew is already a headache.

"Captain, you've got to help me. I've got a girl in my bunk and my girlfriend just showed up. Can you keep her busy?"

Do you help your crewman trick his girl, or tell him he's on his own? Choose wisely. Keeping your crew happy is a big part of "Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm," a new video game based on the wildly popular Discovery Channel series.

Recently released for Xbox 360 and planned for personal computers, the game is a crab-fishing simulation set in the Bering Sea. Players step into the chairs of real-life captains made famous by the show -- Northwestern skipper Sig Hansen gives you advice throughout -- and compete for crab while docking at computer-generated versions of Dutch Harbor, Akutan and St. Paul Island.

Between late-night slogs from pot to pot, fixing broken hydraulic hoses and mending bruised crew egos, gamers will break to pilot the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon in pursuit of whale poachers or navigate the icy Yukon River.

The game kicks off with a little "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi, then players spend hours chasing a virtual payday to the sound of seagulls and engines.

Crew members get hungry. They bicker. The boats steer like locomotives and break down.

Pretty much what you'd expect from real crab fishing.

"We tried to go for the real stuff," said Laurent Coulon, CEO of Liquid Dragon Studios, the Bellevue, Wash., company that developed the game. "We spent hours with Sig and (Cornelia Marie Capt. Phil Harris) and people like that, asking them about fishing strategy and, you know, how crab really behave."

In an interview, Coulon described how you make a game about boat-deck diplomacy and hauling crab pots:

Q. What does the player do?

A. So you start by selecting your boat. It can be one of the famous boats from the show, or you can customize your own boat. You can name it and paint it the way you want.

And after that, you have to go hire your crew ... there are 20 crab fishermen you can hire, and all of them are real-life crab fishermen.

They are all good and bad and different things. And most importantly they all have their own personality. And they have relationships between each other, so it's quite important that you pick a crew that will work well together.

Just an example -- you have some older or very hard-core fishermen ... who are very experienced, but they're still very old-school and very superstitious, and will have a very hard time if you hire a woman to work on deck.

Q. How do you deal with the danger element?

A. Your decisions always impact the safety of your crew, basically. ... It's up to you to pick safe areas to go fish. If you find out the best crab are in the middle of a storm, it's your choice to go and put your crew at risk to get it.

... We made sure that everything we could think of could actually happen as an injury. We have about 40 different ways your crew members can get injured in the game. And that goes from the basic -- "I just cut my hand open while prepping bait" -- all the way to, well, actually the crane collapsing on your back and, you know, breaking your spine.

And, of course, falling overboard.

Q. What's the goal of the game?

A. It is mostly a simulation game. So the possibilities are open-ended. ... What we do have is milestones. So at regular points in your career, as you accumulate pounds of crab ... you will have videos of Sig Hansen appearing and commenting -- rewarding you basically for this milestone. And the ultimate goal is to try to beat Sig Hansen's lifetime achievement, which is 20 million pounds.

Q. Does the player get to spend the money they make in the game?

A. Yes, you can upgrade your boat ... from the very obvious, get more powerful engines, stuff like that. To more subtle things like have better crew amenities. You know, like buy a better TV. Buy a washing machine. Stuff like that to try to keep the morale of your crew up.

Q. Can you take your boat to Alaska towns?

A. When you pick career mode, you always start in to Dutch Harbor. That's where all careers start, where actually all seasons start.

You basically go to bars to hire your crew, that's where you find the guys.


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