Insights Into the Origin of Sea of Thieves

A simple question from Mi6 x NeRo on the official Sea of Thieves forum garnered some very interesting responses from Executive Producer on Sea of Thieves, Joe Neate.

When asked about the process Rare went through to eventually come up with the name Sea of Thieves as well as other contending names, Mr. Neate talked about the multiple approaches they took as well as giving four funny names that could have been:

We spent about a year trying to figure out what to call the bloody thing. Honestly, it’s harder than you think, especially when you’re used to calling it one thing for so long – i.e. Athena.

We tried multiple different approaches to this, from team suggestions on a whiteboard, to working with one of the marketing teams within Microsoft to source suggestions, and ended up with a shortlist of five names. Sea Of Thieves was my favourite from that list, and we ran them all past the legal team and the other four were vetoed for various boring legal reasons and Sea Of Thieves was the only one left, so I was in a happy place. I would have fought for it whatever the results, but that made it that little bit easier.

Some of the team suggestions were hilarious:

  • What’s Kraken
  • Sea ++ (a personal favourite)
  • The Rumming Man

and of course, we came up with stupid acronym ones too:

  • Awesome Roving Sea Encounters

I have to admit that Sea++ is also a personal favorite of mine.

Now we know that the codename for Sea of Thieves during early development was Athena, but it hasn’t been known why. When asked why Sea of Thieves was given the codename Athena, Joe had this to say:

The main reason for choosing any codename is that if someone hears it, they have to have no idea what it is – but I always liked this line from the wikipedia entry for Athena:

“She is noted to have only fought for just reasons, and would not fight without a purpose” – which was one of our original aspirations for the game. As we move and evolve the game forwards, we want to add reasons/motivations that whenever you encounter another ship, you don’t always fight (which aren’t really present yet).

We actually picked the codename prior to landing on pirates as the theme, but we always had that aspiration for the experience. The first ever powerpoint we put together for the game was called ‘Players Creating Stories Together’ as that was the thinking behind the game, before anything else, but pirates was the perfect theme for it.

Interesting fact: in that original deck, we actually referenced fun stories from a bunch of other games including this one:

We just loved watching people have great stories from games based on the mechanics that were available to them, and then encounters with other players.

For any fans of Rust, DayZ and ARK: Survival Evolved, the focus on players creating stories together should make you very excited. It is really interesting how the next game Rare wanted to create was focused around this core idea. Even before pirates had made their way in, Rare wanted to craft an experience-driven game where the sandbox in it would allow for countless water-cooler stories. A game where players were given tools to do with as they please and create their own stories with them. There is high re-playability in a game like this and the potential audience is great. Something that Joe has mentioned before is that by grounding the experience in the world of pirates, it makes the game very approachable. Most everyone knows what a pirate is and what pirates tend to do. The foundation of knowing a pirate has a ship and looks for treasure makes it easy for Rare to branch out while not losing the player.

With the announcemnet of the Insider Programme, I also thought this response from the same thread was noteworthy:

I believe a video in the future will speak to how we’re incorporating player feedback/ideas into our production process, so I won’t spoil that too much here.

However, I think it’s fair to say that prior to having people play, we’ve been definitely keeping an eye on the most talked about topics, what people feel strongly about, and have let that feed into our roadmap thinking, but what I’m most excited about is when we have people play so we can get their feedback on actual mechanics, and the experience all up – because we can make meaningful changes directly thanks to that.

Once bit of info I can let slip: we do meet on a weekly basis to discuss top feedback points, speculation topics, suggestions etc.

So if you haven’t already, sign up for the Insider Programme and get involved. After you are signed up the best place to start getting in on the discussion is the official forum. Hope to see you there!

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