Lucy Liu and Eloise Singer Talk Historical Accuracy in 'The Pirate Queen' VR Game (EXCLUSIVE)

"It just becomes this very visceral experience being immersed in that world," Lucy Liu said of the game.

Sara Belcher - Author

Apr. 5 2024, Published 10:00 a.m. ET

The Pirate Queen with Lucy Liu and Eloise Singer
Source: Singer Studios

Though the term "pirate" often invokes images of a peg-legged, eye-patched, scraggly man or the fictional Captain Jack Sparrow, the most powerful pirate in history was Cheng Shih, a woman who inherited her husband's ships and crew after his death.

Cheng Shih, also historically referred to as Ching Shih, Zheng Yi Sao, Shi Xianggu, and Shek Yeung, was active in the South China Sea in the early 19th century. But despite her iconic legacy, there's so little media memorializing the female pirate.

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The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is a short VR game beginning to bring Cheng Shih's true story to life, produced by Singer Studios, a new game studio created by filmmaker Eloise Singer.

The eponymous Pirate Queen is voiced by none other than Lucy Liu, and to celebrate the recent launch of the title, Lucy and Eloise spoke with Distractify about the game, including just how historically accurate the VR game is.

A still from 'The Pirate Queen'
Source: Singer Studios
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Is 'The Pirate Queen' historically accurate? Well, somewhat.

According to Eloise and Lucy, the story of the real pirate queen was used as a source of information for the VR game, but the development team tried incredibly hard to make the game as historically accurate as possible.

The Pirate Queen follows just a small sliver of Cheng Shih's life, fictionalizing a moment when she would be beginning to take her power and immersing players in a series of puzzles to put them in the time period.

"When we first designed [The Pirate Queen], our artists created these beautiful ships that were made with wooden planks and metal nails. Assuming that like any ship, it would be made with wooden planks and metal nails. And we sent it to our researchers and they came back and they said, 'Well, actually, at this time in China, they use dovetail joints,'" Eloise said. "So then our artists had to remove all of the nails from all of the chips and replace them with dovetail joints."

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A scroll that's part of a puzzle in 'The Pirate Queen'
Source: Singer Studios

It was the little details like that that the developers tried to diligently to get just right so the VR game was like a step back in time.

"We took creative liberties with her story to make it feel like you were [there] on the night that she was coming to power," Eloise continued. "So we heighten the tension in different areas to make sure that it felt cinematic and I felt like you were going through it."

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"It's activated, and there's energy imbued in it," Lucy said.

"They had researchers, they had specialists, those are things that I think we take for granted, oftentimes. But the fact that they chose to be [so detail-oriented] is also kind of wonderful because I feel like when you are in [the game], you can almost smell the room and the feeling of the temperature as well... It just becomes this very visceral experience being immersed in that world."

A look at the interior of a ship in 'The Pirate Queen'
Source: Singer Studios
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That's also part of what made the decision to start Cheng Shih's story in VR so easy. Eloise and her team plan to expand The Pirate Queen into much more than just a video game, with a film, graphic novel, and TV series, though The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is just one stepping stone in bringing her story to life.

"There was nothing more immersive than to step into her shoes and to embody this character — to row through treacherous waters and to climb up the side of ships to navigate through moonlit cabins," Eloise said. "There's something really magical about being able to step back in time and to experience life in central China in the most modern technology possible."

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is now available on Steam.

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