30 minutes with Rare on Sea of Thieves – Interview With Mike Chapman and Joe Neate

we’re happy to bring you an exclusive interview with Mike Chapman and Jon Neate on Rare’s latest epic pirate adventure – Sea of Thieves, Many questions asked and many questions answered – enjoy!

Transcription below:

Leonid Melikhov: Hey guys, welcome to Gaming Instincts TV and today we have a special surprise for Sea of Thieves with…

Mike Chapman: Mike Chapman, design director at Rare.

Leonid Melikhov: Awesome man, it’s so good to see you again.

Mike Chapman: It’s good to see you again, it’s been awhile right?

Leonid Melikhov: It’s been awhile, but you know me and Rare have a pretty good relationship with Nick Burns starting in 2015 and then you in 2016 and now again in 2018!

Mike Chapman: Yeah, we’re here again.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, I wasn’t here last year so, I’m sure we would have been if I was.

Mike Chapman: Absolutely.

Leonid Melikhov: So with that being said man, Sea of Thieves has come out. Talk about it to us, how’s it been for you?

Mike Chapman: Yeah it’s been absolutely tremendous so, like, I think by every measure of success it’s been an incredible launch. We’ve seen four million players since launch, average play time of 22 hours per player.

Leonid Melikhov: Are you guys still growing?

Mike Chapman: We are absolutely still growing, we can talk about that in a moment. So like, some awesome stats like 1.5 million friendships made, so friends made through playing Sea of Thieves.

Leonid Melikhov: One of those relationships is also, I made a lot of friends too.

Mike Chapman: Oh fantastic, that was always like really special to us, the idea that being on a ship in this pirate world, having these like incredible adventures. It was a great way to meet friends. Really proud of that. Like, you can come play Sea of Thieves and even if you don’t have already made a bunch of friends, at least there’s things in the game to inspire those friendships so it’s been wonderful to see that. But, our approach now is very much around building on this awesome first start that we’ve had. We’re really proud that, that core vision of Sea of Thieves of its a new IP doing things different. It’s a new take on multiplayer, you know you truly feel like you’re working together with people. You know, you can have experiences in the game that no other game can give you. We want to build on that awesome foundation now and adding new content across the game. So, we’ve already had the Hungering Deep launch, which has added the megalodon, its added the speaking trumpet, this cool new tool in the world. Also added the drum and the flag system. That team had a relatively short space of time, they only had two months to build that content.

Leonid Melikhov: Wow.

Mike Chapman: But at the same time we had the Cursed Sails team start and they deliver in July and the Forsaken Shores team in September.

Leonid Melikhov: So obviously you have a little more lead time.

Mike Chapman: Yeah, so each team is having an increasing amount of lead time.

Leonid Melikhov: Which is good for you and everybody else.

Mike Chapman: Absolutely, it’s great for players because players are going to get these bigger content releases. And what’s great as well Hungering Deep is finished now, that’s been released to players, so that team is moved on to the update after Forsaken Shores in September. And when the Cursed Sails team delivers in July, they’re moving on to what’s after that, and we’re also setting up a fourth team to go deliver awesome content.  

Leonid Melikhov: Oh, I’m excited!

Mike Chapman: So we’ve actually realized recently there’s actually more people working on Sea of Thieves now than before launch.

Leonid Melikhov: How many would you say, off the top of your head?

Mike Chapman: Oh I mean, you’re talking upwards of two hundred people actively working on the game.

Leonid Melikhov: Two hundred people? Wow.

Mike Chapman: A lot of people working on content.

Leonid Melikhov: That’s combining the entire team that’s separated into smaller teams.

Mike Chapman: Yeah, so focus teams building out content. And as you said the lead times for content is getting larger and larger, so they’re leapfrogging over each other so the team gets many months to deliver the content.   

Leonid Melikhov: So it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Mike Chapman: And from a players perspective, they are getting new content every six to eight weeks, these big drops of content.

Leonid Melikhov: Plus weekly events.

Mike Chapman: Plus weekly events, yeah.

Leonid Melikhov: Talk about that a little bit. So what are you guys doing for this week? I believe it’s starting this week?

Mike Chapman: Starts tomorrow. So first one tomorrow is first of what we call Bilge Rat Adventures. So these new characters have come to the world and they bring with them new objectives, a new currency for players to earn and new rewards to earn.

Leonid Melikhov: Are they actually a new faction?

Mike Chapman: They are a kind of faction, so the Bilge Rats are like these, they consider themselves the true pirates. They’re almost like a little bit renegade, they’re all about the freedom of the waves, so they will challenge you through these various thrill seeking activities. So the first one is called Skeleton Thrones, it’s a little bit goofy. So the idea is we’ve hidden these skeleton thrones all around the world in hard to reach places. We’ve got this great mechanic, as you know like flying yourself out of cannons. And this is almost like if you remember Monkey Target? Its like Monkey Target in Sea of Thieves, you’re flying yourself out of cannons to land in these thrones. What’s special about it though, half of those thrones you get rewards for sitting in with your crew, but half of them also reward you for sitting in them with another crew. So again, inspiring that social play.

Leonid Melikhov: Interesting.

Mike Chapman: So the idea is that, you’ve got these big content releases happening every six to eight weeks, and then you’ve got these regular events happening in between. So the idea is that there’s always something new to come back to, coming in Sea of Thieves as you build up to these big releases. But the whole game is just going to get richer. So we’re introducing new ways to play, we’re adding new quest types, increasing kind of quest variety. We’re adding new goals for players, goals for everyone and goals for pirate legends. And then lastly what we call the Journey, so enriching like the toys and the tools you’ve got in the game. Like we saw that in the Hungering Deep with the Speaking Trumpet.

Leonid Melikhov: And the drum.

Mike Chapman: The drum, cool things you use in the quest, but also enrich the whole game.   

Leonid Melikhov: Of course.

Mike Chapman: And Forsaken Shores introduces the rowboat.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh wow!

Mike Chapman: So a new tool, so it kind of makes sense right? So Forsaken Shores, if we talk a little bit about that, Forsaken shores introduces a whole new world region. So players have been asking us for new areas of the world to explore. And what we wanted to do, I mean especially after you know we added the megalodon, a new threat. We’ve added skeleton ships, another new threat for players in July. When it got to September for Forsaken Shores, we want to make the islands a threat. So the idea is that the new world we’re adding is called Devils Row, and you can seamlessly sail into it. And the idea is that its geologically unstable. So when you’re on the island you’ll feel little earthquakes and you’ll stagger around and you’ll look towards the crater on the island and you’ll see black smoke and at any moment you can get these volcanic eruptions that can erupt these kind of hot rocks into the air.

Leonid Melikhov: Quick question on that, can there also be a storm during that time or probably not right? Can the volcano and storm happen at the same time or no?

Mike Chapman: So, I think we want to ensure that like the key identity of that region is kind of the geological activity, there’s a contrast to the existing world.

Leonid Melikhov: Ok so if you go in there you’re going to get hit with lava, if you go back to the other world you’re most likely going to get hit by lightning strike. Makes sense, yeah.

Mike Chapman: I guess the key difference is in the main world the storm is something you can actively avoid, whereas when you go into these islands in Devils Row these things can strike at any moment, and that’s why we brought in the rowboat.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh ok. That’s pretty awesome, I cannot wait to try it out myself.

Mike Chapman: We’re actually prototyping it now. We got to a great place with it, it is so different. It obviously looks spectacular, but its a key part of the gameplay. And the idea of the rowboat is that because these volcanoes can spew out these hot rocks and it can damage the ships and you could take shelter in a cave, the idea is that you can anchor your ship far away and you can row into the island because your ship is safe. And what’s great is it that it makes sense in that world region, but then that rowboat enriches the whole game. So imagine if you’re a solo player, you can then fill up the rowboat will all your treasure and then row back to the ship in one go instead of making several trips. So it can enrich the whole experience.  

Leonid Melikhov: Right, so now there’s different ways of thinking for players to get around as well.

Mike Chapman: Exactly, and like another tool that can change players emergent adventures in the world, so seeing players rowing gunpowder kegs and sneaking them and then blowing them up or blowing up other ships or coming across people in the world that speak to you in the speaking trumpet while they are in the rowboat. It’s going to add more to players creativity.

Leonid Melikhov: So I’m going to tell you a story, cause you know Sea of Thieves is all about telling stories. So like, I’m going to tell you our story. The Gaming Instincts story. So it was, you know, me and a couple of my friends or whatever. I think one of them was just like a pug or whatever, and we’re just sailing around and we see a skull fort and we are just doing a voyage. I was like oh crap dude there’s another galleon coming up here and this is not good, and I’m like, do you want to ask them, like, if they want to go and help us out with that fort so we don’t get killed? And they are like ok, so I’m like ok guys this is what we are going to do, if they don’t fire let me go on their boat and I’m going to talk to them. This is before Hungering Deep so we don’t have the trumpet. So we are very close in proximity and are passing by us and they don’t fire but we got kind of scared. And they’re probably thinking the same thing cause they know they are there for treasure and so are we. So I’m like ok, and I get on the boat and I’m like hey guys wanna party up and just go take out that galleon over there over at the fort and take it away from the loot? And they were like, yeah ok lets go do that. We’re like ok, and while that is happening they’re not in our party chat yet. I’m telling my guys, this is what’s going to happen actually. We’re going to go in there, we’re going to help them out clear the fort. We have kegs up on the crows nest.

Mike Chapman: I know where this is going.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah exactly. So i’m like, you guys are gonna just basically help them out fighting the forts and I’m going to tell them I’m standing here to watch out for both of the ships, when in reality that’s not what I’m going to be doing, but its smart tactically right?

Mike Chapman: Sounds pretty piratey.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, so they’re like ok. And I’m like, tell me when you’re on the last boss, basically that’s going to be the signal that while you guys are fighting the boss that I’m going to go put up some kegs. So, you know we get there, they’re all happy. They’re fighting, and you know they get to the last thing and I’m just putting in one keg, and then putting in another keg.

Mike Chapman: You open the door? The door opened, you got the loot?

Leonid Melikhov: No no, we’re building up to that.

Mike Chapman: Ok we’re building up to that.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, so they kill the captain and they hear this super loud boom. We all start trying not to laugh so hard. These guys are like, what just happened? And we’re like, we have no idea. Then one of my guys just shot him in the back of the head, the ship completely sunk, they all despawned and the whole party chat went silent, cause they know they got played. And one of our guys could not resist laughing he had to mute himself. It was the best part right? So we’re like cool and we were successful. We were having a laugh of the day, that made my night. This is why I play sea of thieves.

Mike Chapman: All those kinds of stories, right, players using their own creativity, their own ingenuity to have these awesome stories, and that sounds pretty piratey that was pretty cut throat of you but I mean we see that all the time. People saying the first time I played Sea of Thieves I’ve had an experience like no other game has ever given me, and I think thats whats special about the game. And then building on that by adding more opportunities by adding more tools like the rowboat, cursed cannon balls as well which we haven’t talked about, giving you more tools to go out into the world.

Leonid Melikhov: Actually, what do the cursed cannon balls do? Can you talk about that a little bit?

Mike Chapman: Yeah, so these get introduced in July with Cursed Sails and it’s almost like the skeleton ships have emerged and they’ve brought this new ammo type to the world and its a fantastical take on the cannon ball. So right now you’ve got like the standard cannon ball, you can put holes in the ship. But these, you find them in the world and they bestow status effects on players and ships.

Leonid Melikhov: Debuffs.

Mike Chapman: So, and example would be you come across another ship and you choose to use the rudder ball against them, and that curses their ship and it locks their rudder in place, so they cant turn so they could crash into a rock. And then you’ve got things like balanced ball. So you know when you do a load of damage on the middle deck? And it doesn’t take on water until the ship sinks below? Balance ball makes the ship heavy and it forces it down into the water so those holes..

Leonid Melikhov: That’s an interesting tactic now.

Mike Chapman: But the point is you pick your moment of when to use them. And when you hear that sound of the cursed cannonball coming in, it’s like oh my god they found something in the world and they are using them against us. But there’s also, like as you know, a sense of humor in Sea of Thieves is so important.                        

Leonid Melikhov: Quirky and funny.

Mike Chapman: Exactly, and that’s a part of it as well, so we’ve got things like the Jig Ball which make the opponent crew dance, or the Grog Ball which makes them drunk.

Leonid Melikhov: So it’s completely troll.

Mike Chapman: Yeah and then they’re being sick over each other. But the idea is that they’re fairly infrequent that you find them, they’re fairly rare, they’re special so you pick your moment when you use them.

Leonid Melikhov: So do you throw them, how does that work?

Mike Chapman: You fire them out of the cannon.  

Leonid Melikhov: Fire them out the cannon, so it’s another ammo type.

Mike Chapman: Yep.  

Leonid Melikhov: So we’ve got regular cannons, and now we’ve got cursed cannons and we’ve got the other one, what’s it called, the one that makes them dance?

Mike Chapman: Oh that? I mean that’s a type of cursed cannonball.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh that’s a type of cursed cannonball, ok. So wait a minute, there’s multiple cursed cannonballs?   

Mike Chapman: Yes.

Leonid Melikhov: I see.

Mike Chapman: Yeah like Rudder Ball, there’s Balance Ball, Jig Ball, there’s Grog Ball there’s a whole range of them.

Leonid Melikhov: Ohh, I see.

Mike Chapman: So you find them in the world and you’re like, oh, if we come across a skeleton ship or if we come across a player ship lets save this, we’ll use it selectively.

Leonid Melikhov: Question, can you use these for merchants or no, to turn them in? Cause you know like how you get a crate of cannonballs? Have you guys ever thought about putting those in?

Mike Chapman: No, it’s more like, we call it in session progression. So we’ve already got an example of that with, you know the gunpowder keg, its an awesome tool.

Joe Neate: Hey I just saw you here, I’m Joe. Joe, executive producer on Sea of Thieves, I’m not sure we’ve met before.  

Mike Chapman: Have you guys met before?

Leonid Melikhov: I’ve met him through YouTube videos, guys I watch your stuff every day, every week man.

Joe Neate: Can I come join?

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, awesome! This is a great surprise, you came out of nowhere!

Mike Chapman: Leonid was just telling me the most cut throat story.

Leonid Melikhov: Want me to tell it again?

Mike Chapman: Oh please tell him, it’s absolutely brilliant we can riff on that.

Leonid Melikhov: Ok, if you guys got time I’ll tell it. Ok so this is what happened, it was me and a couple of buddies and I think we had a pug and we were just doing a voyage and we’re like, oh look there’s a skull fort and we’re like ok after this voyage let’s go to the skull fort. As we’re doing this voyage, we’re on an island and we see another galleon coming out around the corner of the island and we’re like, oh crap we’re probably going to get hit.

Joe Neate: Yeah yeah.

Leonid Melikhov: So I’m like, ok guys this is what we’re going to do. Listen to my strategy we’re going to be really sneaky about this, be quiet don’t say anything and just let me handle this. They were coming on, they didn’t shoot us which was good for us. They were probably scared, we were scared too. And then I just climbed up their ship and was like, hey guys just wanted to say hi. Do you guys want to just do this fort over there? They’re like, yeah there’s a galleon there we can take it out and share the loot. I’m like ok cool. So I told my guys, ok this is what’s actually going to happen. We’re going to go down there and we’re going to help them out and clear the waves out, and when we’re on the last boss signal me that you guys are on the last wave. I’m going to tell them that I’m going to stand here back at our ships to look out for enemy ships coming to the skull fort, while in reality I’m just going to put down a couple of powder kegs.

Joe Neate: Ok (laughs).

Leonid Melikhov: They said ok that sounds good, so we went in there started cleaning out the waves and you know, last boss comes up. I go up the crows nest, do my sneaky sneaky, and you know out of the blue they hear an explosion and they’re like, what just happened? And we’re like, we have no idea man did you just get hit or something? And then one of our guys just shot him in the back of the head with a blunderbuss while they weren’t looking. They all died, they all despawned, we got the loot. It was the best night I ever had. One of our guys he was like so, he could not resist laughing. He had to mute himself as soon as he knew. As soon as he heard the explosion, like you know when you hear someone is about to laugh?

Joe Neate: Oh totally, yeah.

Leonid Melikhov: And it just cuts off? It was great!

Mike Chapman: Remember when we had that light to dark? We’re pretty much on the further side of the dark down here.

Joe Neate: Social, social though.

Mike Chapman: Its pretty social.

Leonid Melikhov: And another, this is a quick one. Another story, this happened pretty recently. We were doing Athena and after Athena we decided to do a quick fort with a couple of buddies. And we had three people total on a galleon, and you know a galleon can do four, and I’m going to ask you a question about the next legendary ship cause I do have a question about that. So, we come in and there were two sloops there and we were like ok lets see, lets just take them out. And we go in there and one of the guys was like, oh we’ll help you out. Obviously not. And the other guy was very smart. He asked us a good question that kept him alive. He said, how many people do you have on your ship. We said three. Can I join your party, make a bigger ship and a stronger crew? We said, yeah of course! What do you think happened to the other guy that was on a sloop by himself at that point? And then we made a friend! And the next thing you know, we got a YouTube follower out of that, or a subscriber.

Mike Chapman: Oh cool.

Leonid Melikhov: That’s how you make money on YouTube, piracy.

Joe Neate: So what have you guys chatted about so far?

Leonid Melikhov: We’ve talked about cursed cannonballs.

Mike Chapman: How we’ve set up the teams to kind of reach the game, how launch went, cursed cannonballs in Cursed Sails. We haven’t talked about the brigantine yet, the ship.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, do talk about that. Oh that’s what its called, brigantine.

Mike Chapman: The brigantine ship, yeah but that’s Cursed Sails so we should talk about that. We talked about Forsaken Shores, so is that what you wanted to ask about, the ship? So…

Leonid Melikhov: Whats going on with that ship exactly?

Mike Chapman: Yeah, so we’ve seen a lot of feedback in the community around you know, I’ve only got two other friends, and I want to have a ship experience based on you know, me and these two other friends. So you know we’ve got the sloop in there now, that was built for like one player that two players can handle as well. And also the galleon that’s like four players playing together. You know all mechanics are kind of tuned and honed for them. But the brigantine has been built from the ground up for three players that play together. So yeah its in between the sloop and the galleon.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh that’s perfect.

Mike Chapman: Two decks, two masts, something that players are asking for. This comes in with Cursed Sails, so it’s that big ship experience but its perfectly honed for three players.

Leonid Melikhov: So its like, its medium size right? A little smaller than a galleon.

Joe Neate: Yeah yeah, so a bit more maneuverable than the galleon but not quite as much as the sloop.

Leonid Melikhov: Is it going to be as fast as the galleon with all the sails going with the wind?

Mike Chapman: Its stats are pretty much in between, so we can pretty much line up the ships next to each other, put them into the wind and you’ll see kind of the sloop just taking over and the brigantine is in the middle, and the galleon is behind so it fits perfectly in between balance wise.

Leonid Melikhov: Ok cool, and this is going to obviously to add a whole new dimension to PvP and just everything in general right?

Mike Chapman: I think just being in the world..

Joe Neate: You’re quite the PvP player, aren’t you I think? Yeah (laughs).

Leonid Melikhov: Oh we are! Depends what we do, if we are doing Athena speed runs or if we just feel like killing somebody that night, it depends on how bad of a mood I am in.

Joe Neate: Fair enough.

Leonid Melikhov: So I dunno, maybe that was one of you. Oh speaking of PvP I’ve heard different people tell me different things. How many players are in the server? How many ships are in the server?

Mike Chapman: Its variable.

Leonid Melikhov: Someone told me twenty four maximum.

Mike Chapman: The way a matching works is you’ve always got people leaving and joining. The way we’ve kind of set it up is its all around ship encounter frequency. So I guess when you play you tend to see ships every twenty minutes to half an hour, the idea that you see a ship you don’t always necessarily encounter them kind of close up. So you’ve always got people leaving out and joining up and we migrate players to maintain that ship frequency.

Leonid Melikhov: But I feel like sometimes, i’ve been on a server and there’s not a single soul. Then there’s times I go on a server and I’m like, oh my god another ship.

Joe Neate: There’s always going to be variability, there just is. There’s always going to be variability and like that’s kinda cool that you don’t quite know right? Like, sometimes it feels really busy and there’s loads of ships around but sometimes you don’t see one for a while and that moment you see another ship on the horizon, that’s a really special moment. So I think generally, just in general play that’s always going to happen. But as we introduce new features, new mechanics, that’s all going to change a little bit right? And so, like the Hungering Deep for example, purposely brought players together and everyone was in the same place, the same kind of area around the map for a lot of those, for a lot of that time period cause we really like driving different social interaction and everything between players.

Leonid Melikhov: But you guys don’t have a technical number like, this is the maximum that this can hold of players in a single server.  

Mike Chapman: It’s more about that ship encounter frequency, we want it to be variable and unpredictable.

Leonid Melikhov: I see. I was just curious.

Joe Neate: Yeah, and we’ve built the game to migrate and keep stuff, keep it the right level of busyness. It’s about that so, it kind of doesn’t matter how the tech works.

Leonid Melikhov: Well it’s not that, it’s just people are curious. How many people, how many servers.

Joe Neate: We like being mysterious.

Leonid Melikhov: It is Sea of Thieves you guys have a lot of mystery in there. Oh, what’s the new threat encounter, can you talk about that or no?

Mike Chapman: Say again, sorry?

Leonid Melikhov: Threat encounter, in Cursed Sails, what is it?

Joe Neate: The Cursed Sails that’s obviously the AI ship. The AI ship is the threat.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh the AI Ship is the threat? Wait a minute, so it’s a skeleton ship now?

Joe Neate: It’s a skeleton ship, yeah. Did you not know that?  

Leonid Melikhov: I did not know that, I had no idea.

Mike Chapman: I thought I explained that, sorry.

Joe Neate: So yeah, there’s a skeleton ship. A different ship kind of model that’s been modeled around these ships. Its cursed.

Leonid Melikhov: Is it the one from the ferry?

Joe Neate: No its not.

Mike Chapman: We show it in the teaser trailer, so you would have seen the…

Joe Neate: You would have seen the outline.

Mike Chapman: Coming out of the smoke, the skeleton ship.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh I didn’t know that was a new AI threat I thought that was like the ship that you get to drive.  

Mike Chapman: No that comes in as well, so the brigantine comes in and the skeleton ships.

Joe Neate: Yeah. So the skeleton ship is introducing an entirely new threat to the world that a lot of people have been asking for. And it allows us to drive, and again it’ll be interesting to see how you play with this but um, you know like we want to give people reasons to team up almost against this AI threat. And for people who love ship versus ship combat as well its something you can really go and scratch that itch with. And then, so it’s going to be interesting how it drives player behavior. We said for a long time we weren’t sure. We didn’t really want to bring in an AI ship, we always wanted other ships to be other players but looking at feedback, looking at data looking at just sentiment it was like actually this makes real sense to bring in here and so we’re really pleased to be able to be able to change our minds really. Because it’s a game that’s always going to grow and evolve, it’s always going to be based on feedback and so, like I see it as a really cool positive that we are making decisions that change what we’ve said in the past cause it’s better for the experience. So yeah.

Mike Chapman: I think it’s nice that players can have that, that like fantasy of firing a broadside and having that ship combat experience where someone else is not always on the receiving end. You’ve got this now common foe in the world, for the pirates.

Leonid Melikhov: Right, not everyone wants to kill anyway.

Mike Chapman: Well its a reason for players to team up, right? So you’ve got galleons using the speaking trumpet to work together to take down that threat, and I think you’ll see a lot of really cool stories that come from that.

Leonid Melikhov: Cool, now one criticism that I particularly had, and a lot of people had with the Hungering Deep recently, is that the megalodon was a very cool fight, thumbs up guys.

Joe Neate: No reasons to replay?

Leonid Melikhov: Yes. Exactly, no reasons to replay unless you want to walk your friends through it. What’s going on with rewards?

Joe Neate: So we’ve literally, we’ve taken that feedback and applied it to Cursed Sails. Because we literally sat there the days after release, what’s the top sentiment? What was amazing was the social stuff. It drove social behavior to change completely.

Leonid Melikhov: Yes it was.

Joe Neate: Like, so cool. But also, fair feedback about ok people want reasons to replay because they love doing that. So we’ve now taken that feedback and built it into the campaign around Cursed Sails. So like everything we’ve put into the game we’ll make sure there are reasons to replay, and everything we put into the game we’ll listen to feedback each time we put it in. So we’ll do Cursed Sails and we’ll have a slightly different campaign around it like bringing these skeleton ships into the world and the new ship for players, but then it’s like, what feedback are we going to get from that? No idea, but we’ll take it and then apply it to Forsaken Shores and then again and again. Sea of Thieves is such a game about player behavior. We can test the mechanics.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah of course, reaction and…

Joe Neate: Well yeah cause we can test the mechanics of the megalodon or the quest itself in the studio, but when you go and play it in the real world with real players you don’t know how many players are going to turn up, what their behavior is going to be. And so the whole thing becomes this real emergent mystery that you’re kind of like trying to predict player behavior and psychology. And sometimes you get it right and sometimes you just learn and get better. Honestly I think like, our knowledge and expertise around player psychology is something we’ve built up so much over the years with the alphas and everything and now, its like I swear I know more about psychology than if I’d done a degree. But genuinely, it is about behavior.  

Leonid Melikhov: It is, yeah.

Joe Neate: But we’ll keep learning as we try new things, cause we always want to try something that changes player behavior and encourages different behavior from what they are used to or what other games have taught them and so, like, that’s exciting.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, of course. And uh, I know you guys got the Forsaken Shores and you got, I think, two more updates before the end of the year?

Joe Neate: Three.

Leonid Melikhov: Oh three, so maybe like November or?

Joe Neate: We haven’t confirmed the dates yet but you can probably look at the calendar and have a good guess.

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah, October, November, December you’ve got three months left, yeah.

Joe Neate: Yeah but honestly we’re trying between every six and eight weeks, and like its, the cadence is impossible to predict, honestly. In my ideal world it would be every six weeks but then the development reality might be longer and it’s going to be finding a balance. And it might change a little bit between each one, it just depends what’s in it and the challenges of what we’re doing.

Mike Chapman: And then you’ve got the regular events in between that we talked about right, so there’s always a reason to come back and earn those cosmetic rewards.

Leonid Melikhov: So small story that’s going to lead into a question. I was on uh, I forget what it was called. One of those islands about birds. Common guys you know this, there were paintings of birds. I forget the name of the island.

Mike Chapman: Plunder Valley I believe.   

Leonid Melikhov: Yes, yes and it looked like there was a good and evil bird and something like that.

Mike Chapman: Ohh, interesting.  

Leonid Melikhov: Yeah we’ve seen many. Pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Mike Chapman: I’m just going along with the story.

Leonid Melikhov: Just going along with the story right, right. And you know, we’ve seen many skulls of creatures, and there’s been very obvious bird skulls, giant birds.

Mike Chapman: Boar skulls as well, you saw that in the pre 2016 walkthrough.

Leonid Melikhov: Crab, giant crabs possibly. Some evil mermaids turning you into mermaids, I dunno, all kinds of crazy stuff. So this bird, now this thing creeped me out!

Mike Chapman: Was this the shrine that you found?

Leonid Melikhov: No.

Mike Chapman: Was just a cave painting was it? Yeah.

Leonid Melikhov: It was a cave painting. It was like a painting on rocks..

Mike Chapman: Yeah, I know the one you mean.

Leonid Melikhov: And there was a book that was basically like riddles, and it didn’t give you a quest but I think it was basically the lyrics from the song. I don’t know if I was going crazy or I just wasn’t normal that night, but as soon as you like finish reading the book I head like a bird screech. Or maybe that’s what I wanted to hear, so I don’t know if one of you guys decided to troll us with a book, and I’m like is there a bird that’s about to pick me up and throw me?

Joe Neate: It may have been a long night.

Leonid Melikhov: It may have been a long night? Yeah ok, right. That’s a good one. Yeah had to many drinks that night, yeah. (laughs).

Mike Chapman: Yeah there’s a chance of finding those books.

Leonid Melikhov: So do you guys do those little sound cues or am I going crazy?

Mike Chapman: You may be going crazy but I love the story.

Leonid Melikhov: Thanks, at least you..

Joe Neate: There are obviously sound cues in the world and things like that to just add life, but I think that one would just be a quirk of timing and circumstance. It inspires imagination, dosent it?

Leonid Melikhov: So I guess…

Mike Chapman: So the audio team, I mean you got to give credit to those guys. Each world region they’ve made it sound so distinctive and down to the insects, the ambient sounds, the foliage and things.

Leonid Melikhov: So I guess after this conversation I’m going to have to tell my team at Gaming Instincts that their owner is going to a mental hospital.

Mike Chapman: No, I would say keep a look out for those books.

Leonid Melikhov: Keep a look out for those books? Ok.

Mike Chapman: Cuase there’s some fun kind of poems that I’ve wrote for you that you can enjoy, and there’s some shanty lyrics in there. And there are ones that give you quests as well.

Leonid Melikhov: I see. What are the new tools in Forsaken Shores? Cause you had like the drum in Hungering Deep. Or is the cannonball the new tool.

Mike Chapman: So the tool in Cursed Sails, that’s the July update that’s the cursed cannonballs and we’ve got the big tool in Forsaken Shores, that’s obviously the rowboat. And we’re looking at some other stuff as well we’re not really talking about now. We may be adding more stuff to those content releases, but nothing that we are going to share at the moment.

Leonid Melikhov: I see. Quick question, and I know we are running down on two minutes. You guys have other franchises like Battletoads, and whats it called, Banjo. Have you guys ever thought about doing events. Like maybe, what’s going on with companion pets? Could we see Kazooie for a companion pet? I mean it would make perfect sense though, right?

Joe Neate: Would it?

Leonid Melikhov: Why wouldn’t it? It’s a rare game, it’s a parrot?

Joe Neate: Sea of Thieves is Sea of Thieves. All of those games are cool and they are great unique IP’s and stuff and we understand fans love celebrating that kind of stuff but, I think we consider each thing, each idea on its own merit and would we want to do something? It’s like, I think we have to make sure it fits into the world tonally, cause you dont want some things to stick out.

Leonid Melikhov: And its just going to be like, this doesn’t make any sense.

Joe Neate: Yeah exactly.  

Mike Chapman: You know, you talk about the kind of paintings that are on the wall with the bird. Have you seen the kind of the throwbacks to some of the Rare franchise stuff?

Leonid Melikhov: Yes I’ve seen that stuff.

Mike Chapman: Yeah but when you saw them, they still kind of make sense in the Sea of Thieves world. They are in that art style. I think whatever we put into that game…

Leonid Melikhov: Is going to be in that art style?

Mike Chapman: Yeah we don’t want to break immersion. Making you feel like you’re really in that pirate world is all important to us.  

Joe Neate: Yeah, you wouldn’t have Banjo as a pet basically.

Leonid Melikhov: Awesome stuff guys, and before we leave what would you like to say to the fans?

Mike Chapman: I just wanna say thanks for, thanks for coming on this journey with us. This is just the start and the future is incredibly bright for Sea of Thieves.

Joe Neate: Yeah, yeah exactly what Mike says. We are as excited now, if not more as we have been at any stage of the project about where we can go.

Leonid Melikhov: Awesome guys, thank you so much.

Mike Chapman: Thank you.