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For anyone who’s been playing Sea of ​​Thieves since its release in 2018, the Captain Update is a legend. Originally intended to be the first post-launch update for a multiplayer pirate adventure, it will give players the opportunity to acquire their own persistent ships at sea, and – in a proposal that still excites me to this day – begins their session with a A dramatic way to dash to the world through the giant waterfalls of the legendary hideout. But then Sea of ​​Thieves’ launch was slightly erratic, with Rare shifting its focus to fleshing out the game’s sandbox after criticizing its limited core. So far, the captain update has been put aside, but it has not been forgotten by the player base, and has gradually become a legend over time.

But, earlier this year, it came back. As Microsoft announced in its June showcase, captain and ship ownership resurfaced after this time. Now, the wait is finally over, and Sea of ​​Thieves’ nearly five-year-old captain update is rolling out later today. It promises a well-thought-out new framework for the upcoming adventure – minus any shenanigans of ships wrecking the waterfall, unfortunately – and before it arrives, Eurogamer got a chance to chat with Rare about what it hopes the captain will bring to Sea of ​​Thieves .

“I think, even before we released Sea of ​​Thieves,” explained creative director Mike Chapman of the update’s origins, “we all knew that the idea of ​​being a captain in the game was about delivering the ultimate pirate fantasy — the captain’s idea, and the identity of the captain is personified through a ship – that’s what we’ve always wanted to do.”

Sea of ​​Thieves Season 7 – Official Content Update Video.

Inevitably, Rare’s original plans evolved with Sea of ​​Thieves, and Chapman said today’s Captain update is “much deeper than I thought we originally envisioned in 2018.” In fact, it goes beyond saveable cosmetics to introduce a fusion of systems that, as lead designer Shelley Preston puts it, is designed to create a “player with their ships and their adventures.” A framework for deeper meaning and deeper emotional connection”.

Captains in Sea of ​​Thieves span a number of new features, including a new progression system that is essentially much like last year’s seasonal progression model, and to a lesser extent, 2020’s messenger system is a way to rebuild the game Ways of existing and future mechanics to provide new incentives for players to interact with them. But first, it starts with a ship—more specifically, the ability to buy your own ship with in-game gold.

Initially, players can own and name one of each ship type (though more ships of that type can be purchased once the ship reaches legendary status) and all of these ships’ contents – unlike regular ships – persist between sessions. A ship’s name is permanent and will be told to other pirates from a distance through a spyglass; its cosmetics will still be used at the start of a new session, as will battle scars reflecting your previous adventures unless you choose to repair the ship. Customization is now even more in-depth, with the overhauled captain’s cabin offering not only new opportunities for self-expression (you can redesign everything from tables to curtains), but also new trinkets and trophies that are unlocked through the game and represent you A family-renowned achievement.

Trinkets and trophies provide a way to further personalize your ship and show off your achievements.

Preston explained that the idea was to take advantage of Sea of ​​Thieves’ rich existing content and “[wrap] It somehow gives extra meaning to the captain and crew…it makes your boat stop being your party home – maybe you set it on fire at the end, that’s all, you won’t see it again – permanent rep [your] travel. ”

If you’re wondering if the ability to save a ship’s state between sessions brings us closer to the much-needed ability to save a pirate’s personal cosmetic, here’s some pretty good news. “It’s something a lot of us want to do,” Chapman said. “And it’s been coming out a lot lately because we’re really pushing it with this ship. So that’s very important in the roadmap going forward… We love the idea of ​​people having little cosplay costumes that they make, to save different”

Although Sea of ​​Thieves’ captain update introduces a number of captain-exclusive perks – the ability to refill barrels for gold at the shipyard, new one-stop drop-off points at outposts run by new sovereign factions, and options The extensive range of sailings is directly on board, giving players more control over the type and length of adventures – it’s the new milestone system that’s at the heart of everything. According to Preston, the simplest milestones serve as an ongoing adventure record — designed to directly appeal to players who like their stats — but it goes beyond that, combining it with a new progression system, Enables captains to pursue a specific play style, intentionally or organically, called alignment.

Captain-exclusive perks include access to the Sovereign at Outposts, a faster way to turn in treasure.

By reaching certain milestones, captains can unlock revealable rewards and cosmetic items that reflect their preferred playstyle and their achievements in those factions – some are permanently locked to the ship they’ve acquired, while others, such as the Shroud’s Ghost Trophy, with separate pirates so that crew members can continue their progress while serving under another captain.

“Milestones are stats,” Chapman explained. “They’re unlimited stats that you can almost cash out and hit the threshold of earning these trophies that uniquely speak to what you do. But there are other Stats that, that don’t drive anything, they’re there purely for bragging, they just go forever.” To complement the endless tracking of milestone stats, some trophies will gradually be added as those numbers get higher and higher. Evolve into prettier, shinier variants – an ongoing background goal for those looking for extra structure in a sandbox game.

At its most simplified, Milestone doesn’t sound too far from the reward-based stat tracker common in many other live-service games, but it’s all wrapped up in what Chapman calls “classic rarity and Sea of ​​Thieves style. [of bringing] Those special little details can elevate it. ”

“So I saw your ship in the world,” he explained. “I look through the binoculars; I see your ship’s name, but the theme of the banner is the playstyle you choose to represent yourself. When I board your ship, the look of your logbook will reflect it [its crew’s] Play style – you’ll see what they’ve been doing, you’ll see what they’ve chosen to put up front, their proudest achievements. You can mix and match anything but the look of the captain’s cabin reflects what you’re doing in this world…so the system becomes very personal to the person playing on that ship. That’s how we elevate the experience the real magic. ”

This is a System Rare program that evolves over time. “We’ve got the concept now,” Chapman said, “and we’re going to have this framework for the captain. So as we think about all of our ambitious plans for the future, how are we going to continue to expand this sandbox — adding more Multiple factions, more ways to role-play with your ship – we’re launching some really new ways to think about your Sea of ​​Thieves sessions.”

The new milestone progression system is at the heart of Captains.

Captain, of course, arrives as part of Sea of ​​Thieves’ long-awaited seventh season, which will hopefully resume the game’s momentum after a six-month extension to Season 6, while Rare grapples with the intricacies of the Captain update behind the scenes. That delay—though moderated by the regular influx of monthly narrative adventures—does moderate an exciting start to the year, as Sea of ​​Thieves exploded in January with the promise of a bold relaunch. Follow the evolutionary narrative and 2022 roadmap with tantalizing new features for four planned seasons. Chapman admits, however, that those plans have now inevitably changed.

“You know, we feel good, we’re done [the captaincy update],” he said, “but we’re assessing what the knock-on effects are. One of the things I think we’re prioritizing is that we don’t adversely affect the regularity of the content. It’s just trying to deliver regular content to players and it still feels like an evolving world while still doing the big, ambitious things we want to do. So we don’t have anything to announce yet. But we are changing some things. ”

“But honestly,” he said of the delay, “it’s always unpredictable, even though we were so diligent up front. Running a monolithic real-time service is such a complex job. And you don’t want to always go to Go for something safe; you want to go for an ambitious big update that really pushes Sea of ​​Thieves forward. You’re taking a little bit of a risk by doing that. You kind of don’t realize the complexity is going to take a hit until you’re late .so what you can really do is minimize the lag and make sure you’re still giving the player a sticky experience. So it just affects what and when we go for it…. I would say we probably won’t do both back-to-back An ambitious and complex season, but that’s pretty much what we’re doing with Season 7 and the next.”

Be More Captain – The official Sea of ​​Thieves season seven deep dive.

Back in the day, though, Rare is excited to see how players will respond to Captain, as its years-long release journey finally comes to an end with Season 7. “We are often on TV when [an update is] Release,” Preston said, “so we’ll jump on some streams, and we’ll see people going in, right at that moment… when you name your boat and [the Pirate Lord engraves it]…I’m really looking forward to seeing people have those moments where they’ve probably dreamed of a name that they’ve probably been thinking about for a while, see it come up, and then set sail on their adventure. ”

But as the conversation draws to a close, I can’t help but address one issue that has been conspicuously absent from all of Rare’s revelations so far. Do I finally have to give up the fantasy of traversing the legendary hideout waterfall and entering the world that I was teased about before launch? “My thoughts,” Chapman replied, “the pirate fantasy of having a hideout where you sail still sounds great to me. I’m not announcing anything, but I think we want to use the same level of attention, We want to dig into that in the same way.” So it’s not a sure thing, then, exactly, but it’s not a negative either. Now that I’m at peace, my thoughts can go back to the key question: what name am I going to call my boat? Ants on the deck? Briefcase anchor? It won’t be long before you decide.

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