For individuals who’ve been with Sea of Thieves since its launch again in 2018, the captaincy replace is a factor of legend; initially meant to be the multiplayer pirate journey’s very first post-launch replace, it might give gamers the chance to accumulate their very own persistent vessel on the seas, and – in a proposition that also excites the pirate in me to today – begin their classes in a gloriously dramatic style, bursting by the Legendary Hideout’s large waterfall out into the world. However then Sea of Thieves’ barely wobbly launch occurred, and Uncommon shifted its focus to fleshing out the sport’s sandbox following criticism of its restricted core. With that, the captaincy replace was put aside, however by no means fairly forgotten by the participant base, regularly turning into the stuff of legend with the passing of time.
However then, earlier this yr, it returned. As introduced throughout Microsoft’s June showcase, captaincy and boat possession have been, in any case this time, again on the playing cards. Now, the wait is lastly over, with Sea of Thieves’ near-five-years-in-the-making captaincy replace launching later right now. It guarantees to ship an elaborate new framework for adventures to come back – minus any waterfall-busting ship shenanigans, sadly – and forward of its arrival Eurogamer had the chance to speak with Uncommon about what it hopes captaincy will convey to the Sea of Thieves.
“I believe even earlier than we launched Sea of Thieves,” explains inventive director Mike Chapman on the replace’s genesis, “all of us knew that the concept of being a ship captain in a recreation about delivering the final word pirate fantasy – the concept of a ship captain, and that ship captain’s identification being personified by a ship – was simply one thing that we all the time wished to do.”
Inevitably, Uncommon’s unique plans have advanced as Sea of Thieves has grown, and the captaincy replace of right now is, says Chapman, “a lot deeper than I believe we initially envisaged” again in 2018. Certainly, it goes method past saveable cosmetics, introducing a confluence of methods meant to, as lead designer Shelley Preston places it, create a “framework of deeper that means and deeper emotional connection for the participant to their ship and their adventures”.
Captaincy in Sea of Thieves spans a breadth of recent options, together with a brand new development system that is basically – very like final yr’s seasonal development mannequin and, to a lesser diploma, 2020’s emissary system – a method of reframing the sport’s present and future mechanics to present gamers a brand new incentive to interact with them. However earlier than all that, it begins with a ship – extra particularly, the power to purchase your individual boat with in-game gold.
Initially, gamers can personal and identify one in all every ship kind (though as soon as a ship reaches legendary standing, additional ships of that kind may be bought) and every thing about these vessels will – in contrast to common boats – persist between classes. A ship’s identify is everlasting and will likely be introduced to different pirates by a spyglass from afar; its cosmetics will nonetheless be utilized initially of a brand new session, as will battle scars reflecting your earlier adventures except you go for ship repairs. Customisation now goes deeper too, with the overhauled captain’s cabins not solely offering new alternatives for self-expression (you’ll be able to reskin every thing from the desk to the drapes), however offering a house for brand spanking new trinkets and trophies which can be unlocked by play and symbolize your notable accomplishments on this planet.
The concept, explains Preston, is to take Sea of Thieves’ wealth of present content material and “[wrap] it in a method that provides that additional that means to the captain and crew… It takes your ship from being one thing that is your private home for a session – possibly you set hearth to it on the finish and that is it, you will not see it once more – to that everlasting illustration of [your] journey.”
And in the event you’re questioning whether or not the power to avoid wasting a ship’s state between classes brings us one step nearer to the very much-requested means to avoid wasting a pirate’s on-person cosmetics, there’s some extraordinarily excellent news. “That is one thing numerous us need to do,” says Chapman. “And it is come up so much just lately, as a result of we’re actually pushing on it with the ship. In order that may be very a lot on the long run roadmap… We love the concept of individuals having the little roleplay outfits that they craft with saving totally different loadouts of assorted cosmetics. So it is on the roadmap. It isn’t earmarked for a particular season, however we will try to get it in as quickly as attainable.”
Though Sea of Thieves’ captaincy replace introduces quite a few captain-exclusive perks – the power to restock barrels for gold at a shipwright, a brand new one-stop drop-off level at outposts run by the brand new Sovereign faction, and a broad number of voyages obtainable straight on-ship, giving gamers better management over the kind and size of an journey – it is the brand new Milestone system that lies on the coronary heart of all of it. At their easiest, Milestones function a form of ongoing report of your adventures – designed to enchantment on to these gamers that love their stats, in accordance with Preston – but it surely goes past that, tying in a brand new development system enabling captains to pursue explicit playstyles, both intentionally or organically, often called Alignments.
By reaching sure Milestones, captains acquire the power to unlock displayable rewards and cosmetics reflective of their most well-liked playstyles and their achievements inside these Alignments – some locked completely to the ship they have been earned on, and others, such because the Shrouded Ghost trophy, tied to particular person pirates so crew members can proceed their development whereas serving beneath one other captain.
“Whereas Milestones are stats,” explains Chapman, “they’re uncapped stats, and also you virtually money out and attain thresholds the place you acquire entry to those trophies which illustrate uniquely what that factor is that you have achieved. However there’s additionally stats past that, that do not drive something and so they’re purely there for bragging rights and so they simply go and go eternally.” And to enrich the countless monitoring of Milestone stats, some trophies will regularly evolve into fancier, extra shiny variants as these numbers tick ever-higher – serving as a kind of ongoing background objective for these wanting some extra construction to sandbox play.
At its most reductive, Milestones do not sound too far faraway from the form of reward-based stat trackers widespread throughout any variety of different live-service video games, but it surely’s all wrapped up in what Chapman calls “that basic Uncommon and Sea of Thieves fashion [of bringing] these little particular touches to raise it.”
“So I see your ship on this planet,” he elaborates. “I look by the spyglass; I see the identify of your ship, however the banners are themed to the playstyle that you have chosen to symbolize your self. After I board your ship, the look of your logbook displays [its crew’s] play fashion – you see what they have been as much as, you see the issues that they’ve chosen to pin on the entrance, the achievements that they are most happy with. You possibly can combine and match something you need however the best way your captain’s cabin appears is a mirrored image of the issues that you have achieved on this planet… and so the system turns into deeply private to the individuals which can be taking part in on that ship. And that is actually the magic of how we elevate the expertise.”
And it is a system Uncommon plans to evolve additional time. “We have landed that idea now,” says Chapman, “we will land that framework for captaincy. So once we take into consideration all our bold plans for the long run, when it comes to how we’ll proceed to increase that sandbox – including extra Alignments, extra methods to roleplay together with your ship – we’re launching the beginning of one thing that is actually a brand new method to consider your Sea of Thieves classes.”
Captaincy, in fact, arrives as a part of Sea of Thieves’ long-awaited seventh season, which is able to hopefully restore the sport’s momentum after a Season 6 that was stretched to breaking level throughout 5 months whereas Uncommon grappled with the complexities of the captaincy replace behind the scenes. That delay – though considerably softened by a daily inflow of month-to-month narrative Adventures – did reasonably take the sting off what had been an thrilling begin to the yr as Sea of Thieves burst out the gate in January with the promise of a daring new deal with evolving narrative and a 2022 roadmap of tantalising new options throughout 4 deliberate seasons. Inevitably although, Chapman admits, these plans have now modified.
“, we’re feeling actually good that we have achieved [the captaincy update],” he says, “however we’re form of assessing what the knock-on results of which can be. I believe one factor we need to prioritise is that we do not adversely have an effect on the regularity of content material. It is simply attempting to tread that line of getting common content material out to gamers and it nonetheless appears like an evolving world whereas nonetheless doing the large bold issues that we need to do. So we do not actually have something to introduced but. However we’re shuffling issues round a bit bit.”
“However truthfully,” he says of the delay, “that is all the time unexpected, as a lot as we’re so diligent up entrance. Working a reside service as an entire is such a fancy endeavour. And you do not need to all the time go after the secure stuff; you need to go after the large bold updates that actually transfer the Sea of Thieves ahead. And with that, you tackle a little bit of threat. And also you form of do not realise that the complexity goes to hit you till you are fairly late down the street. So all you’ll be able to actually do is try to minimise that delay and be certain that you are still delivering an adhesive expertise to gamers. So it simply components into what we go after and when… I used to be going to say we in all probability would not go after two bold advanced seasons again to again, however that is just about what we’re doing with Season 7 and the subsequent season.”
Again within the current although, Uncommon is just excited to see how gamers will reply to captaincy now that its years-long journey to launch is lastly at an finish with the arrival of Season 7. “We frequently perform a little form of watch occasion on TV when [an update is] launched,” says Preston, “so we’ll bounce on some streams and we’ll see individuals go in, and simply that second of… whenever you identify your ship and [the Pirate Lord engraves it]… I am actually trying ahead to seeing individuals have that second, the place it is their identify that they in all probability dreamed about and doubtless have been occupied with for some time, seeing it seem, after which setting sail on their adventures.”
However because the dialog involves an finish, I am unable to assist however deal with that one conspicuous absence in all of Uncommon’s reveals thus far. Will I lastly must abandon my fantasies of blasting by the Legendary Hideout’s waterfall, out into the world, as was initially teased previous to launch? “The best way I give it some thought,” solutions Chapman, “is the pirate fantasy of getting a hideout that you just sail off nonetheless sounds nice to me. I am not asserting something, however I believe we would need to deal with it with the identical stage of focus, we would need to go deep on that in the identical method we have gone deep on this.” In order that’s not a sure, then, precisely, but it surely’s not a no both. For now, I am placated and my ideas can return to the essential query: what am I going to call my ship? The Ant on Deck? The Briefcase Anchor? There is not lengthy to resolve.