As For Honor heads into Year 6, a new hero is sailing into the game’s roster. Available now, the Pirate is the first fighter from the new Outlanders group, and she’s joined the battle wielding a cutlass and flintlock pistol. Representing a new class of Heroes, The Pirate is an adventurer seeking treasure and artifacts in Heathmoor, an outsider among factions. For Honor’s Associate Narrative Director Elise Trinh and Game Writer Ian Cardona sat down with us to share insights into the inspiration behind The Pirate, her backstory, and how she fits into the For Honor narrative.
How did the idea for The Pirate come about?
Elise Trinh: That Hero has been a long time in the making. The dev team wanted to approach new cultures and types of fantasies. Many wanted to have some sort of pirate included in the Hero roster we already have, and this seemed to be a good window for us to achieve that. We also didn't want to make the usual pirate, like another Jack Sparrow, because it's less exciting to us. We always want to put our own twist on things – to use the opportunity of the game to bring new cultures to the platform. So when we brainstormed ideas about pirates, there’s a very iconic figure in Chinese history called Ching Shih. That inspiration came super early in our brainstorming processes, and is something that we kept looking towards throughout the development of the character.
Can you tell us a bit more about The Pirate’s inspiration, Ching Shih, and why call her The Pirate?
ET: Ching Shih was a “pirate queen” of her time in the 1800s, and was one of the key inspirations for The Pirate character. Though not much is known about her personal history, she brought that sense of a very buoyant type of figure, but still legendary. There are some hypotheses that she is from a specific Hong Kong community living on the sea as fishermen who were sometimes treated as outcasts. We wanted to pay homage to that in For Honor, even in the way The Pirate speaks – she’s speaking Cantonese instead of Mandarin like the Wu Lin faction. The voice actor is from Hong Kong as well.
There was also the Age of Exploration that was not exactly piracy, but Chinese explorers. Zheng He was one of the big commanders who traveled the world not to conquer territories, but to distribute goods or make trades. China in the 1400s also had the Ming treasure fleet, which were these massive boats exploring the world to discover and learn new things, and that's been a key inspiration for The Pirate.
Lastly, “Asian piracy” at large, especially from medieval times to the 1900s, was always a combination of things. There's a word being used, “Wokou,” meaning Japanese pirates. We've read stories about them, but those accounts are always from people who hate the pirates, so even the word itself now has a very pejorative connotation in many Asian languages. Historically speaking, pirates navigating on the seas and oceans were of a mixed culture. The common knowledge is most of them were Japanese at some point because they were invading China, but then at different times in history they were also known to be more on the Chinese side, and sometimes on the Korean side. Grounding piracy in a specific time and place is hard, because you don't necessarily know where they're coming from, or where they were born. We try to pay some sort of homage to that in The Pirate’s backstory.
Ian Cardona: The name “The Pirate” is a long story, because it's important to remember that there's a difference between the character’s identity and the archetype. We did create a pirate character, and her name is Bou Yin, which translates to “precious swallow” in Cantonese. But there's also The Pirate class, and that's who people play when they fight as The Pirate. We brainstormed a lot of different names, and tried creating some new terms that captured that spirit of sea travelers – but ultimately, by using “pirate,” most players know exactly which character you're playing and why.
What can you tell us about The Pirate’s backstory and how she came to be an Outlander?
IC: The backstory I wrote for Bou Yin, leader of the pirates, is that when she was a young girl, she lost her entire family during the Wu Lin civil war, and because of this she has no allegiance to Wu Lin. That’s why she's not a Wu Lin character, but an Outlander. When she lost her entire family, her mother sent her away on their family ship, so alone as an orphan she had to fend for herself. She learned to survive on the seas, thieving where she could, crossing paths with other travelers, strangers. She picked up some different fighting styles, gained a tough edge, and she was really driven by that need to survive. But along the way, and inspired by her mother who saved her, she had that motherly quality to her. She wanted to give other people the home that she lost. That's why she found other like-minded individuals – lost souls and people like that – and gave them a home, and that's how she built her crew: by offering them this family unit.
If players are really interested in the lore of the of the character’s backstory, they can look at the names of her weapon sets, because I gave them names according to adventures that she had before she came to Heathmoor. There is a progression of how she went from this lone survivor to a queen to an adventurous seafarer. There may be some hints as well to things that may be coming.
Outlanders aren’t loyal to any faction, so what motivates The Pirate?
IC: The way we saw pirates in the game, their primary motivation is treasure. That's their language. They brought with them that they've collected throughout the years, but they're also on the lookout for more, right? That’s how we will segue into Year 6. They’re searching for new treasures which will lead to lost relics that are tied to the past of Heathmoor. Their drive is not necessarily about riches but more about collecting, I would say.
ET: We are diving into that fantasy of treasure hunters and treasure maps. You could even see that in the in the Hero trailer for The Pirate, how they are looking to collect more cool objects and artifacts for various reasons. They are arriving with some, and also maybe unearthing some in Heathmoor soon.
Is The Pirate looking for anything specific?
IC: She’s definitely looking for something, and it’s someplace, and it’s going to reveal things. You’ll have to play to find out.
How will the arrival of The Pirate and her crew affect the narrative and landscape of Heathmoor?
ET: Year 6 is going to be about the relics, and their arrival is kickstarting that search for lost treasures, lost stories, even lost legends from the world of Heathmoor. Being Outlanders, outsiders, gives them a different perspective, but they also have different stakes in it, and that's how they will discover things that the usual Heroes haven't discovered yet. The Heroes in Heathmoor were so focused on doing something else that they didn't always take the time to unearth those treasures and lost stories. In terms of physical presence, besides being able to fight on the battlefield, you will see The Pirate’s ship in the game, so they're in the world map.
IC: In the trailer, the Pirate says “Get ready. ‘Cause you’re in for a wild ride.” and this is the character in a nutshell. They're not here to fight some war, they're just here to upend everything and they want to dip their toes into a bit of everything without taking a side necessarily. They’re here to change things up a bit.
Speaking of changing things up, why does The Pirate choose to wield a pistol instead of a second cutlass or another naval weapon?
ET: Like the meme says, subtext is for cowards. The character is meant to be very flamboyant, boisterous, and explosive, and we’re going all-in on that piracy fantasy. The pirates are also playing by their own rules, so that disruptive aspect of things is really embodied by that pistol. The Pirate wants to be the most fearsome character possible on the battlefield. We want a character that doesn't care about the usual rules, but also has their own way to express themselves. The pistol, in that case, was the best idea for that character.
IC: From a narrative standpoint, she learned to survive on her own, and part of that is defending yourself with the most powerful weapons you can have. So of course, if she came across somebody who had guns, she’d be like, “Oh well, I need this on my side now, because this is going to help me a lot.”
This is the first time For Honor has had a projectile weapon, not just a feat, and the pistol is much more advanced than a lot of the current weaponry in the game. Is this new technology addressed in the narrative?
ET: We used the opportunity of people coming from afar to suggest a different continent where technology might have evolved differently. That was the starting point of whether it would make sense for us to bring those kinds of weapons to For Honor. Our game is not historically grounded in a specific time in history. We say “medieval times,” but it's a very broad area because the Vikings are from a much earlier era than the Samurai and the Knights, and we have references to historical characters from different centuries – but that's totally fine, because we are being playful and using the cataclysm as a starting point for some sort of an alternate history. Based on that, when you think of pirates, it would be hard to have fights without those kinds of flintlock guns because they’re so embedded in the piracy fantasy. The designers did a great job to not make the game a first-person shooter, but still find creative ways to have that explosive aspect, and have the character reflected in the gun.
To go back to the history of fire weapons: In China, gunpowder was something that was actually created super early. They had some types of cannons already that were available much earlier than in other countries. Over the past two years in For Honor, we’ve tried to move the story forward a little bit, for example, weapons having a Renaissance aesthetic in Battle Passes. It still works, because there are people on the team who are super brilliant and talented, and are making those things coexist beautifully somehow thanks to their magic. The gun is a mix-and-match of various mechanisms; we don't have reloading or things like that, because in the flow of the fighting game that we have, it would be too disruptive and slow the character down. Pirates are also fast swashbucklers and we wanted to own that. We made various decisions to make sure that we can have a gun; it's not a long-range type of weaponry, but it’s still something that's playful, fun to play with, and aligns with the character’s fantasy.
IC: We've had teleporting monks. We even had a big hammer that summoned the Asgardian powers. A gun isn't that far off, and it remains true to For Honor’s playful take on mythology and history. It’s not a new mechanism or anything like that. It's still true to the flavor of the game.
How are The Pirate’s feats influenced by her backstory and lore?
ET: We had many different ideas at the very beginning for that character, whether The Pirate should bring a gigantic cannon, and things like that. Over time, we took a more straightforward approach, because the character is somewhat practical. They obviously have to have flashy moves, but there’s still the focus of surviving everything. The feats were decided based on that core aspect of “I’m a pirate, I'm unknown on the battlefield, and I'm here to survive no matter the cost.” For the gun, there were a lot of iterations in terms of whether to include it only in the move sets, or also in the feats and in what capacity. As we did more research, something that worked for us gameplay-wise was using the imagery of a Swiss Army gun. We wanted a character being a jack of all trades, in a way, but also being able to survive any situation and having a quick weapon that could embody that.
IC: If the gun cemented the pirate fantasy, the feats are about maximizing the pirate fantasy.
For Honor is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, and PC, as well as Ubisoft +. For more information on For Honor, check out our previous coverage.