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Sea of Thieves Interview With Lead Designer Mike Chapman

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Sea of Thieves Interview With Lead Designer Mike Chapman

Gaming Instincts got the chance to speak with Rare’s Lead Designer Mike Chapman about their upcoming pirate online adventure game, Sea of Thieves.

Leonid Melikhov

Hello everybody this is Leo from Gaming Instincts, the co-founder and journalist, today we are talking with

Mike Chapman

Mike Chapman lead designer on Sea of Thieves

Leonid Melikhov

Awesome! you guys finally showed some gameplay yesterday and I was there at the conference, it was a pretty good conference, what do you guys think of the conference, was it pretty good?

Mike Chapman

Yeah! I thought it was great, I was there watching it myself, I was naturally itching waiting until the game came on, it was great.

Leonid Melikhov

You know, whats funny is, they were showing Gears of War 4 and they were showing Re-core and I’m like OK where is Sea of Thieves and I thought they didn’t cancel the game did they.

Mike Chapman

Absolutely (Laughs)

Leonid Melikhov

So how long has this game been in development for, from beginning?

Mike Chapman

I think we had a core team on maybe 18 months or so.

Leonid Melikhov

18 months from pre-production or production?

Mike Chapman

Oh, I can’t remember exactly, our goal has been to get the game into a beta, that’s kind of where we are in current development.

Leonid Melikhov

Yeah, I can see it’s getting there

Mike Chapman

Yeah, what you’ve seen is pretty polished and the quality is there, but we just wanna make sure we are buliding the right experience.

Leonid Melikhov

So what made you guys make a game like Sea of Thieves and why?

Mike Chapman

We saw this opportunity in creating a shared world game where there’s a lot of opportunities for emerging gameplay, every time you play, different things can happen so you almost want to share the stories that happen in the game and then when you think about the world of pirates, I think being on a crew with other players is just a naturally bonding thing that kinda cultivates a gameplay of sailing a ship together and it just felt so perfect for us and pirates also allowed us to build this fantastical world where it’s not a dry pirate simulator, it’s not just like griddy and dark, it feels like a classic rare game.

Leonid Melikhov

Whimsical, charming.

Mike Chapman

Yeah, charming and beautiful art styles and actually if you look back at older rare games, they always had references to pirates, I think Rare has this affinity for pirates as a subject matter so to actually make Sea of Thieves at Rare it’s just an amazing privilege and I can’t wait to show more about the game.

Leonid Melikhov

Awesome, so what can you guys tell us about the game today.

Mike Chapman

What we showed yesterday at the show is only just a very small slice of the game.

Leonid Melikhov

You talked about a shared game world, how big is this world, because when you look at a game like Destiny or The Division, they were open world games, but they were not like an MMO completely, but you could still go from one place to another. is there something like a map in Sea of thieves, I’m assuming that these environments are not randomly generated, there is only a preset world that you are in right?

Mike Chapman

We can’t talk too much about that but what we’ll say is that the world is completely seamless; you can sail from one side to the other side with no loading screens, you can just pick an island and sail to that island.

Leonid Melikhov

Is there a map in the game that you can look at when you are going from point A to point B.

Mike Chapman

Yeah, having a map is like a classy pirate trait, each ship will have a map and you can use that to navigate so yes!

Leonid Melikhov

Do you always have to travel on a ship or can go like maybe you land on an island and then you just want to go through the caves or villages or something and be experiencing land based gameplay or is it all mostly sea.

Mike Chapman

The ship is the main way players traverse the world, there is still a lot of islands in the game and these islands are all ranging from small ones or like big islands, things you can imagine when you think of a pirate world like caves to explore and finding treasures, all of that will be there so there will be time spent on islands but the main way you move through the world will be on a boat.

Leonid Melikhov

So there is no progression in terms of story, it’s just you having fun in this world?

Mike Chapman

There will be a progression, when you think about Sea of Thieves, you think about this pirate world and I think people are motivated by different things, some people may just want to explore, some people will want customization and to customize their characters.

Leonid Melikhov

I’m a huge fan of Dark Souls, I don’t know if you’ve played any of these games.

Mike Chapman

I’m a big fan as well

Leonid Melikhov

Have you played maybe Bloodborne or Dark Souls, you know how these games reward you on exploring, even though you don’t know what’s behind the next corner, and this is like, personally,  why I want to play this game so bad its the curiosity that gets you, you don’t know what’s there, maybe a treasure, may a trap, I’m sure there are probably some nasty things out there too, right?

Mike Chapman

Yeah sure! there are legendary treasures, mythical creatures that you can avoid or match them when you think of this pirate fantasy world; but like Dark Souls is an interesting example in that when we think about the lore of the game, its all like told through that the treasure sites are kind of not forced on players, it’s very non linear, and I think it’s very important that we give players freedom and don’t force them on a set path, the path will be up to the players.

Leonid Melikhov

I see, so is there a story background.

Mike Chapman

Of course, in the sense that like things in the world should all make sense, one of the key things for us is that everything should be believable but not necessarily realistic.

Leonid Melikhov

As far as enemies go, I’m assuming that there is melee combat of some sorts of right?

Mike Chapman

Yes, of course!

Leonid Melikhov

Is there crafting as well?

Mike Chapman

We looked at a lot of things that we’ve prototyped, we prototyped a lot of game mechanics, and I think that the things we prioritize are one of the things that you’d expect to do in a pirate world, going after buried treasure, sword combat, shooting with pistols and all that sort of things, a whole range of things for different players styles. in the future we might look at that but the goal is to get this into real player’s hands and deliver on the core experience but shape it with the player’s feedback.

Leonid Melikhov

So for now it’s just exploring and combat, that’s what it is right now, right?

Mike Chapman

No, if you look at the cinematic trailer that you saw, which is all in-game assets, that shows the breath of the game, that shows what we are focusing on which is all of the quests, all of the range of activities that you can do in the world.

Leonid Melikhov

I see, so is there no classes or anything like that, you just make a character and you go?

Mike Chapman

We get that question quite a lot, are there roles in the game, are there classes so no, that doesn’t feel like Sea of Thieves.

Leonid Melikhov

Can you customize yourself?

Mike Chapman

You will be able to customize your character, you will be able to customize your ship, absolutely!

Leonid Melikhov

Different clothes?

Mike Chapman

Yeah of course, it makes sense right?

Leonid Melikhov

Of course, I mean I wanna have a green bandanna, also maybe an eye patch and a parrot on my shoulders.

Mike Chapman

Of course, Of course (Laughs) there are lot of cool things that will help you and your ship feel unique to you, absolutely, those kind of details are really important to us.

Leonid Melikhov

I think this is pretty good game for post content.

Mike Chapman

Yeah, I mean I know I keep referring about a pirate world, but we give the players this world and it’s kinda like a canvas for them to explore and do what they want to, but we want the game to evolve over time and it’s critical for us to get it into real players hands and get that feedback and shape the game with them, so we will be supporting this game with them.

Leonid Melikhov

Are you looking at this game as a service because that’s been a popular thinking

Mike Chapman

I guess so, I mean, the biggest goal for us is to get it into players hands as a part of the beta and make sure we got a great experience.

Leonid Melikhov

From beginning and maybe see what happens afterwards right?

Mike Chapman

Yeah, we’ve got some long term ideas on where we want to take the game, but really we want to let the players help guide that.

Leonid Melikhov

Of course, that’s good, so is the game coming out next year?

Mike Chapman

We are not talking about release dates

Leonid Melikhov

Ok (Laughs) it’s just because a lot of people expected the game to come out this year and then I guess it’s not so..

Mike Chapman

I’m not confirming or denying, but what is important for us is that we deliver on the massive potential, it’s a massively ambitious game with lots of potentials, I mean, you look at the game, how polished it is and we want to make sure we deliver on this grand vision of the game and we’ll talk more about dates in the right time.

Leonid Melikhov

Ok cool and you guys are obviously supporting co-op play between PC and the Xbox One?

Mike Chapman

We can’t outright confirm it, but if you saw the conference yesterday with Xbox play anywhere, it’s got a big drive for Xbox as a platform so it feels like it would be a good fit for the game but we are not confirming it but we are definitely looking at it.

Leonid Melikhov

I see, sounds good, and well, I’m sure you are well aware of the Scorpio?

Mike Chapman

Oh yeah, it was a wonderful surprise yesterday

Leonid Melikhov

You guys didn’t know anything about it beforehand (Laughs)

Mike Chapman

No, that was the first time I found about it at the show

Leonid Melikhov

So Rare did not know Scorpio beforehand?

Mike Chapman

I’m here to talk only about Sea of Thieves.

Leonid Melikhov

Oh yeah I see, that’s fine but what do you guys think in terms of hardware, the things you could do with it in the future.

Mike Chapman

It sounds cool but my focus right now is Sea of Thieves, Xbox One and Windows 10, that’s all.

Leonid Melikhov

I see, but I’m sure you guys keeping in mind, well, this thing, this beast, is coming out, so you already have ideas that are going in your hand.

Mike Chapman

You can imagine as a creative, you always kinda of think about it, given the opportunity, but absolutely we are not confirming anything.

Leonid Melikhov

Oh no, I’m not asking for any confirmations, but I’m sure you guys were blown away just from the specs.

Mike Chapman

Yeah, what they showed yesterday at the brief was a great way to end the show, great way to end the conference, it was really really cool, but Sea of Thieves, Xbox One and Windows 10.

Leonid Melikhov

Will there be a lot of parrots in the game

Mike Chapman

Parrots?

Leonid Melikhov

Yeah!

Mike Chapman

Yeah of course, parrots were in the trailer.

Leonid Melikhov

Because I’ve seen some pirate games without parrots and I was like, yeah you can’t do that.

Mike Chapman

Oh, yeah we’ll have parrots in the game (Laughs)

Leonid Melikhov

Are the parrots just for cosmetic reasons, there is not going to be any gameplay involving the parrots?

Mike Chapman

Mike: Let’s just keep this as a surprise

Leonid Melikhov

So there are some gameplay surprises that you guys are holding out for?

Mike Chapman

Of course, what we’ve shown is just a small slice of the game, we’ll be showing more in the future.

Leonid Melikhov

I see, sorry if I’ve been hampering, but we are doing this for the people and myself, so I hope you understand

Mike Chapman

It’s ok, yeah, but I can’t tell you everything (Laughs)

Leonid Melikhov

That’s completely fine, what’s for you personally exciting when working on this game, as a developer.

Mike Chapman

I think the scope of the game, the scale of the game is so ambitious, the vision feels so unique and it’s trying to really change the perceptions of what a multiplayer experience can be.

Leonid Melikhov

I’m glad you guys are making a pirate game because there are no pirate games to play in the first place, the last pirate game that I played was Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag which was at the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, which was kinda funny because it was an Assassins Creed game but it was more of a fun pirate game, so I’m like why people aren’t making any pirate games, the market is so saturated with shooters and militaristic things.

Mike Chapman

Yeah, there is a place for all these genres, I think that a lot of people like pirates, think of Hollywood movies such as Treasure Island, people who played Monkey Island in the past, I think it’s a great subject matter.

Leonid Melikhov

Are you guys going to have like, I’ve seen skeletons like the enemies, I’m sure you guys are going to have something more than skeletons, are you thinking of having some sort of boss fights or some kind of like things like that, you don’t have to tell me what they look like, but will there be anything in that sense that you have join with your friends to fight this big boss or whoever it is, will there be any scenarios like that?

Mike Chapman

I’ll be deliberately cryptic and I’ll say watch the trailer we saw yesterday, the answers are there.

Leonid Melikhov

Ok that’s very helpful, I’ll look at that today frame by frame, are you guys shooting Xbox One 1080p 60fps or 1080p 30fps?

Mike Chapman

Nothing to confirm at this moment, I’m a designer, my focus is building the core experience.

Leonid Melikhov

That’s fine, could you be able to answer that question through your development team.

Mike Chapman

We are just not talking about it right now.

Leonid Melikhov

Ok that’s fine, anything else you would like to say about Sea of Thieves?

Mike Chapman

Just saying that Sea of Thieves is this ultimate co-operative adventure, what were showing today, we are really excited to show it, and we we’ll be talking more about it in the future, we’ll be much more open about it in the future.

Leonid Melikhov

Ok sounds good, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mike Chapman

You’re very welcome!

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