Feature Article

Sea Of Thieves Dev Doesn't Want New Biomes To "Just Be A Palette Swap"

In a two-hour chat with Rare, GameSpot asked about new biomes, crossovers, spin-off games, private servers, and more.

Sea of Thieves is five years old today, but Rare has no plans of slowing down. Speaking with studio head Craig Duncan, creative director Mike Chapman, and lead designer Shelley Preston, GameSpot managed to learn the story of how Sea of Thieves came to be, including its trailblazing launch on Xbox Game Pass. You can read about the team's wider view on its pirate adventure game here, but we'd be remiss not to also update fans of some of their most-requested features, such as new biomes, a solo or private server mode, and more.

We asked the team about several such features and whether players should hold their breath for them or not. Their answers varied according to the specifics, but in some cases, it was what the team didn't say that seemed revealing. Here's what Rare shared about a variety of subjects as the team looks ahead to more years at sea.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: Sea of Thieves: Voyage of a Lifetime | Official Documentary Trailer

On the possibility of new biomes:

Mike Chapman: Absolutely. [With the volcanic biome The Devil's Roar] it was very much that idea where you go there, you get more reward, but you're taking more risk. I think we've done that now. So another one like that, I don't think we'd go there creatively. You don't want it to just be a palette swap. There's experiences in Sea of Thieves that you could probably only deliver by adding a new kind of biome, giving you a whole new type of world experience.

"But I think our focus would be on how we can bring something to the game that you haven't seen before. Beyond it just being snowing out. Like, you'd have to fundamentally kind of mix up the gameplay. And that's what we'd be looking for. So I think it'd be relatively simple to add a new biome if it was just a palette swap, but I think it [needs] the gameplay and the mechanics to support it. That would be our focus.

Shelley Preston: I think one thing we kind of learned from Devil's Roar was that we made it this intentional [destination]. It's off to the side of the map. You have to make an effort to go there. And it kind of had an unintended side effect of being less on the core path, being a bit more out of the way than then we'd hoped in terms of getting players to go and experience it and enjoy it as part of a core session.

It worked for Devil's Roar, because that was kind of the point of it. But when we then brought Sunken Kingdom in, it's a kind of expansion below the waves. That was why we brought that in, in between the islands with the shining lights on the surface. So as you're sailing you can see it as well.

On the potential for more crossovers:

Mike Chapman: I think there are other IPs, outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, that I think we could tell an interesting story with. But I think it would start with, 'What's the seed of a story that makes sense and complements the Sea of Thieves world?' And I think that's the main thing, you never want to leave the story and feel like Sea of Thieves has been diminished and you'd rather be playing the other world. We believe in our world. And it's about putting the Sea of Thieves world and what it stands for on a pedestal. And there are IPs that [allow for] an interesting, playful way to expose that. So there's a small number of IPs I could probably count on, I can definitely count on one hand, but I won't list them now.

On some fans' request for private servers or a solo mode:

Mike Chapman: I think there are a million ways you could probably accomplish that and meet that expectation. I think, you know, never say never to anything. Sea of Thieves is 'the pirate game' and we want to give everybody a great pirate experience. I think it'd be [about] doing it in a way that doesn't detract from the core magic of the game, which is that shared world. You know, we've got no plans there. But who knows where this game will take us? But the main thing is the shared world to Sea of Thieves is always at the heart of this experience. And that's what we create experiences for.

With islands featuring volcanoes, tremors, and superheated water, The Devil's Roar is essentially Sea of Thieves' hard mode.
With islands featuring volcanoes, tremors, and superheated water, The Devil's Roar is essentially Sea of Thieves' hard mode.

On adding a photo mode in a future update:

Mike Chapman: We would love to do that. Last year, we expanded our internal tools for our video team so that you can kind of--you can always detach the camera when you're kind of playing in the debug version of the build--but they've got a really cool set of cinematic tools now where they can change the framing and FOV on the fly and position the camera in lovely ways and set up multiple cameras. Like, every time I see that tool, I always think about [putting it] in players' hands, the type of content they'd create. You'd see more wonderful memories and stories being shared. So I'd love to do that. Not on the roadmap, but we'd love to do that.

On creating Sea of Thieves spin-off games:

Craig Duncan: We have had teams come and pitch us game ideas within Sea of Thieves, like I think Sea of Thieves is kind of big enough and prominent enough as a franchise that it happens. And I don't think you'd ever say never on these things. And yeah, maybe if you're a Sea of Thieves fan, you'd want to play a different genre or type of game in the same universe. Like we've done the novel, we've done comics, we've done the world-building outside of that. But definitely no current plans for genre spin-offs. And I think if people pitch to us, which they have, I think we'd go, 'Probably not, but if you want to, you could work on some Sea of Thieves features[...]We've got a backlog of things.'

On how future updates may affect Xbox One players:

Craig Duncan: I wish I could answer that question, because then I'd be really smart and have loads of foresight about the future. I think we just kind of figure that stuff out as we go. There's no doubt, the more things we put in Sea of Thieves, the more pressure we put on the Xbox One version. We've seen a lot of players play through cloud gaming, so that's a means that we're seeing grow.

But honestly, I can't predict the future on that stuff. We will always want people to come in and play Sea of Thieves and I don't mind whether they play on PC via Steam, via PC Game Pass, via cloud streaming, via Xbox One that, you know, was a hand-me-down from their brother. Because if that's the only game console, they've got, I think we'd want to give players an option to play in that way. Because not everyone has a brand new Series X or S.

But you know, that's one of the very real challenges; when we add more things to the game, we have to go make memory and resources and [determine] how Sea of Thieves fits those new things. And that is much easier on higher-end hardware than it is on on the OG Xbox One that it still supports.

Rare has revealed Voyage of a Lifetime, a documentary about Sea of Thieves' development and first five years. You can watch it here for free. In-game, Sea of Thieves has recently kicked off Season 9, featuring new loot items, commendations, and another 100+ rewards to unlock in the seasonal Plunder Pass.

Mark Delaney on Google+

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Mark Delaney

Mark is GameSpot's guides editor, meaning he tries to keep his backlog short. His favorite genres are battle royale, sports, and horror, but he'll play pretty much anything other than fighters. In his spare time, he likes biking around Portland, listening to Circa Survive, and advocating for animal liberation.

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

Back To Top