The latest Sea of Thieves video from Rare, part of the studio’s Inn-Side Story series of developer-led feature introductions, focuses on the addition of storms to the game. The big, beautiful, and equally daunting Storms are part of Sea of Thieves‘ dynamic weather system, and are a major gameplay feature as well. Storms aren’t simply a visual and aural feature – they make steering a matter of life and death, leak into ship holds, and also offer other “shocking” interactivity.
As Senior Designer Shelley Preston and Principal Technical Artist Valentine Kozin discuss in the video, storms in Sea of Thieves are a “big, physical thing in the world.” During a Comic-Con “Art of Adventure” panel in 2016, clouds in Sea of Thieves were described as more than just floating textures. Clouds are “massive three-dimensional bits of geometry.” The word physical was used again to describe how clouds have presence within the world. Storms are the natural progression of such a cloud system, almost like floating islands of weather players can sail into and out of.
Within the first 30 seconds of the video, Rare shows just what a storm within Sea of Thieves looks like: dark, shifting, full of flashing light. Early gameplay shows a ship in sunlight sailing towards shadowed waters. The next clip of gameplay shows darkness, volatile waters, shifting winds, and lightning strikes (which reportedly can indeed hit pirates directly). It’s like sailing into a different world and the Sea of Thieves gameplay changes accordingly.
The sea is what changes the most during a storm. Waves climb higher and fall deeper in a storm, with ships riding those waves up and down the whole way through. Steering is made that much more difficult; if a player steps away from the wheel, the ship will drift towards where ever the sea pleases. Even when steering, turning the wheel will prove a more difficult challenge. The simulation goes further, as rain coming down collects on the deck, slowly dripping into the hold and filling the ship with water. Hopefully a co-op buddy has a bucket for bailing.
No storm would be complete without proper claustrophobic atmosphere, and Rare delivers exceptionally on Sea of Thieves‘ visual and aural presentation of storms as well. Through the use of “Pressure Zones,” Rare is able to pull clouds close to the water, push them around, and create openings for players to steer through. Mix that with the persistent spray of water off of waves, rain and lightning from the sky, the crash of thunder, and the threat of a rocky outcropping just beyond the player’s vision, and storms could be one of the most exciting feature additions to Sea of Thieves yet.
Sea of Thieves is planned for release on PC and Xbox One in early 2018.