Sea of Thieves takes inspiration from DayZ, EVE Online, and Kinect Sports
Emergent storytelling is the biggest common denominator.
Inspiration is the core foundation for every new game, and Sea of Thieves is chalked full of it. Developer Rare is taking a bit of a leap of faith in the idea of creating a shared world adventure game, a genre that is not only relatively new to gaming but also one the studio has never attempted to work with before. With the slow burn of the on-going Technical Alpha, the developers are surely learning more than they ever thought they would, but there were a few games that helped shape the vision for the game's scope, and you might be surprised to learn that not one of them has anything to do with pirates.
In the latest issue of GamesTM, Executive Producer Joe Neate and Design Director Mike Chapman talked about their experiences and work on other games, and how it helped shape the direction of Sea of Thieves.
The first game talked about is DayZ, which comes from Neate's own personal game time. What's interesting is that he only ever played the game once, and it had quite a dramatic effect on him.
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.
Neate also references EVE Online in how the player community, rather than the game recognizes who the big names are. "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," he said. "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."
Chapman references the studio's work on Kinect Sports, in how they try to draw parallels with real-world logic to make players behave in intuitive ways.
"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."
Sea of Thieves launches in Early 2018 for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.