According to Rare design director Mike Chapman, the MMO could have been very different.
Rare’s Sea Of Thieves is one of the most exciting games on the horizon for Xbox. It’s a massively multiplayer online game that is pirate-y to its scurvy ridden core.
But it turns out it wasn’t always definitely going to be an adventure of the swashbuckling variety. Speaking at a recent Xbox One X preview event, the game’s design director Mike Chapmen told us the idea for the gameplay came before the idea for the peg-legs:
“Before it was even pirates, the vision for the game was to create an experience where players could share and create stories. At the same time, we always wanted to build a game that had co-op at the heart of it.
“We had an exercise at Rare, where we had a whole wall of what we call ‘one sheets’, which are one sheet ideas for how we could wrap the game. What’s the best way to represent it? What’s the right world to set it in? What’s the right wrapper for the mechanics?”
It’s always interesting to get a peek behind the curtain at the development process for a game, and we found it interesting that with Sea of Thieves, the core was so tied up with gameplay that, in comparison, its setting was more of an afterthought:
“Mechanically we knew what we wanted but the wrapping part came second to that,” Chapman continued, “We had a couple of things in mind, we wanted the game to appeal to a broad audience, we wanted it to have rare charm and magic, something we could wrap in a great art style.
“So, pirates was up there, there was zombies, and vampires, and dinosaurs, and underwater exploration, treasure hunters. We whittled them down and it felt like it had to be [pirates].
“With the vision of the game being this co-op experience, what is more the perfect expression of co-op than being on a ship together? Sailing the seas, operating a ship? Pirates was just the perfect match.”
And we’re glad that they did go with pirates. Having spent some time with the game, the naughty nautical knavery is great fun to play. And it seems that the decision to go for fun over accuracy was an intentional one too:
“For us, it was always about how can we create this ‘pirate fantasy world’ and the art style needed to support that. We were never [interested in creating] a dry historical setting where it was based on pirates from actual history.
“These are the pirates that are evoked when you think about Treasure Island, and Monkey Island, and The Goonies, all those great experiences. That’s the pirate world that we wanted to create, a pirate fantasy world.”
And the pirate fantasy world is beautiful. The world has a cartoonish style to it, but with occasional moments of breathtaking beauty. The light that you are bathed in as the sun sets over the stunning ocean is a massive treat.
We’d have loved to see what the other versions of the game could have been, but we arrrr confident pirates was the right choice. Roll on spring 2018.