Sea of Thieves, the big pirate-themed shared world adventure game (SWAG, as Rare likes to call it), isn't that far off anymore as its scheduled release window is due to expire in early 2018.
With the game being so different from what we've been used to see from the studio, you would be forgiven for wondering where they came up with the idea. Well, apparently Dean Hall's DayZ mod for ARMA 2 was a major source of inspiration for Rare's Executive Producer Joe Neate.
In a huge featured article on Sea of Thieves appeared on GamesTM (issue 193), he recounted his brief but powerful experience with the following story.
I only ever played DayZ once, but that was enough. About five years ago I started playing DayZ after reading about it. I remember reading all of these stories and going 'I need to play this game'; because these players had been given this world, this freedom, and they decided to do whatever felt right for them.
The stories were so compelling that it just pulled me into the game. I remember encountering a few people who didn't kill me... But eventually I triggered a bunch of zombies who started to chase me, and I was like 'oh shit'. So I run up this church spire, all the way to the top; the zombies got stuck on the stairs because their pathfinding wasn't very good and, after about an hour or so of being up in this church, I had managed to fight my way back to the bottom. It was such a relief, but then as I came to the door I could see this thing off in the distance...'What is that?' I thought, but just when I realized that it was a guy lying down with a rifle aiming at me, I heard this click and then it was like 'You died' and I was like 'Fucking hell'. But for me that was enough. I got this amazing, memorable story out of it. I knew that that permadeath might not be right for me, whether I wanted to start all over again and everything else, but it's a game that has such memorable stories from player encounters - it was a massive inspiration for what Sea of Thieves would eventually become. That type of game has stuck with me ever since I played DayZ, ever since I read about it. I think it is, honestly, the one game that has inspired me the most in my career recently, because of the power of those player-created stories.
At this point, you might not be that surprised of Neate also being a fan of how EVE Online - a leader in the sandbox online game genre - does certain things. It certainly sounds like they're taking a cue out of their playbook for Sea of Thieves.
If I look at a game like EVE Online, it's amazing. Everybody knows who the famous players are and that's not necessarily game mechanics recognizing it. It's videos and stories. I think now we've put the legends stuff in, we'll see how it plays and see what are players asking for.
Are they asking for a system that allows them to put out bounties versus actually just going and finding out as they play or from who they're playing with? Just doing it and finding it themselves, filming it and putting it online and then we as a team will reward and reflect it, whether it's in a pirate newspaper or whatever it is.
But there's something from Rare's recent production that seeped into Sea of Thieves as well - their experience with Kinect making games like Kinect Sports. Design Director Mike Chapman elaborated:
For me as a creative working on those games, they are the most creative games to make even though you're basically making a sport where people understand the rule set and trying to move it to an input device, that is hard work, very challenging, very fulfilling work.
Even though it might seem like we're just doing the same thing, each one was a challenge, so for me, it was still extremely rewarding to work on Kinect.
I think if things function the way you expect, you're off to a winner already. It's so fun when you come to shows and people put water in the bucket and we've seen a few times people bail it and just throw it away and the water is going back in the hull. Other games have taught them that it's an abstracted mechanic and they're like, 'What do I do with the water?' And my response - and I feel really bad every time I say it - is, 'Well, what would you do in real life?'
You could draw parallels there [with Kinect], in that if you make it intuitive, make it believable, not realistic, I think that's where we want to use that creative license and push in any direction. So long as it's believable. Sails can be angled into the wind and the more they're billowed the faster you go.
You don't need to explain these things. People learn it and we've always seen that.
It's an interesting tidbit of information, particularly in light of the recent official news that Microsoft finally stopped manufacturing the device. There might be some solace in knowing that something potentially very, very good somehow came out of that experience.
We'll know for sure whether that's the case when Sea of Thieves launches on Windows 10 PC and Xbox One early next year.