In life opportunities present themselves and we have a choice: take a chance and see the possibilities, or do nothing and dream about them. In Sea of Thieves being able to earn this treasure is hard. One gamer was able to fight through the swash buckling and find something that was truly Rare.
Learning to speak Pirate
In the summer of 2015 Abstractacas was just an average gamer at home in North Carolina watching E3. A stay at home father of 2 he had plenty of responsibilities holding his ship down with little ones running around and his wife at work. He was a huge fan of RARE, since the days of Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong. “I was watching Microsoft’s press conference when Craig Duncan got on stage, the Sea of Thieves trailer dropped, and a spark was ignited.” Abstractacas had always been a fan of pirates since he was a kid, he was itching to find his voice in the gaming industry, and this was it.
The question for him was what could he do, and how could he accomplish it? He began forming a plan. He was looking to get into podcasting anyway and the focus on a single passion would be just the thing he needed to get this done. The plan was starting to form for 2-3 months and he and his now partner Paladin Topaz had settled on Sept 20th, 2015 as the date of their podcast launch. They would name the podcast Pirate Port Radio (PPR) and it would be a venue for them to discuss their passion for not only RARE, but specifically Sea of Thieves. They chose the 20th, because of the day prior being national “Talk Like A Pirate Day”, however what they weren’t planning was RARE running a contest in which the best display would win a t-shirt and posters–and he won. With the podcast geared to go, and the Sails raised PPR was born and had its maiden voyage.
The PPR show was dispersed on YouTube every few weeks. This was done in part due to the slow release of new content as well as wanting to display and show fans the art that was being distributed by RARE for the game. This distribution for the cast would allow for visual and meaningful discussion, and they felt this was vital. Things for the podcast had been going well. They had been in contact with the developers through social media and an awesome thing occurred–RARE was listening. Receiving feedback from the very people you had grown up admiring as a kid was awesome, but this was only the beginning.
Deckhand to SUPERFAN
On March 9th RARE ran a “Play it first fan contest” open to the public. They were giving the lucky winners an all-expenses-paid trip to England to visit RARE as well as the opportunity to be the first to get hands-on GAME PLAY with Sea of Thieves. RARE left the contest open to creativity: shanties, paintings, stories, and even Pizza’s? They were just looking for people to be creative and show why they were excited and deserved to be the first to play Sea of Thieves.
Abstractacas saw this and decided to get creative and entered with a “Pirate Language Lesson”.
He taped himself speaking in English and then repeating each scene speaking in Pirate tongue. He knew that there would be tons of entries, but he figured it was worth a shot. He has a PPR podcast, he loved the game, and they would surely see that.
At the end of March/April he hadn’t heard anything and was beginning to think that while it was a great effort, perhaps it just wasn’t his time. Then an email came across from Emma Bridle (RARE’s Social Media Manager). It stated that he wasn’t one of the six contest winners, however RARE considered him a SUPERFAN and wanted him to be included in this and come anyway. Abstractacas said,“I was excited beyond words. For them to hand pick me to be considered a SUPERFAN meant a lot.”
He was now part of a special group who would get not only an opportunity to fly over seas, but also visit a studio whose games are legendary, and see a game that fans since the previous E3 had been buzzing about. After receiving the initial email a week or two later he was invited to have a group discussion with all of the winners and SUPERFANS, twelve in total. Each was from North America. This time was set up so they were able to get to know the people they would soon be sharing time with, as well as their passion for RARE games and specifically Sea of Thieves.
Permission to board
Rare thought of everything, and each person was flown out Friday May 20th to Wednesday May 25th all expenses paid including hotel. On Friday he flew into Heathrow Airport and started his journey to a hotel in Birmingham. There he and the 12 others would have an opportunity on Saturday to recuperate from jetlag and enjoy the city. He finally had an opportunity to meet each of the contest winner and SUPERFANS in person. “It was kind of surreal, like am I really here, they really picked me?”
After relaxing on Saturday they woke up Sunday morning to go to a brunch and hang out. This wasn’t just your average hangout there were a few special guests including Cameron Thomas (Community Manager), Bobby Lamirande (Engagement Manager), and Emma. This was just the beginning, they were given the run down of how the next few days would run and just to talk and get to know they people that they had hand picked.
Things got even better adding Joe Neate (Executive Producer), Mike Chapman (Lead Designer), as well as Shelly Preston and Andrew Preston (Lead Designers) to the lunch. The person he was most excited to see didn’t deal with any of the design, but rather voice acted and led the Incubation Team that was adding ideas as well as accepting them: Louis O’Connor. It was in these conversations that he learned they would be teaming up to do a scavenger hunt in a tour of Birmingham. The pirate themed scavenger hunt would take them throughout the city and allow them to bond and get to know each other, but mostly just have FUN.
His team was the first to finish (but lost by points) and they landed in a bar called the BrewDog. This is where the highlights of Sunday occurred. They got to meet Leigh Loveday–a legend at RARE. He was the Creative Writer for the Donkey Kong Country series, and a man shrouded in mystery to the point that there are almost no internet pictures of him. “He was amazing and was super interesting to talk to”, said Abstractacas. “The room was chatting at dinner and we’re are all having a good time, and then there was silence. Craig Duncan walked in.” Craig Duncan is the head of RARE studios and is “extremely nice”. They had tweeted back and forth, but this was different “he was actually there, and cared about what we had to say. They all seemed to. And that was the coolest thing about the day in general.”
Amazing Gameplay is Rare
Rare had set aside Monday and Tuesday for gameplay. They were all to receive 4 to 5 one-hour play sessions. They had rebuilt their studio for events specifically like this with twelve soundproof booths that were connected up for a good old-fashioned LAN Party. Each of the booths was connected to a central hub to record gameplay and live reactions of the players while playing. RARE’s Twitch studio is similar to that of Bungie’s where they could work and produce their own material according to Abstractacas. He thought this was all being done for RARE’s YouTube channel.
The sound proof booths consisted of a TV, video camera, a controller, and a chair. The groups were divided up in to three teams of four and each team was told nothing of what they were about to play. “When we took the controllers we weren’t given any instructions (tutorial), it was basically figure it out yourself.” Figure it out they did. They were dropped right into the game with two items in their inventory: a Tankard of Grog and Wooden Planks. The Grog they quickly found out would make the screen go blurry as well as make you stagger, the planks they would learn about later.
“You realize right away to work as a team or things won’t get accomplished,” Abstractacas said. “Each team was given the same vessel. To help you the ship does prompt you to interact with it when you come up to something. It took us about seven and a half minutes to get our ship running and out to sea.”
“In running a ship you realize that its more then just steering; someone has to take the helm, anchors have to be raised, and the sails length and angle have to be correct to catch wind.” The game isn’t without a few visual hints, but teamwork is key. “There are lines at the top of the screen to give you an idea of the wind direction. The helm is blind though, the crows nest has to help guide that person directionally, and there is a lot of communication going on.”
In this process the only communication he had was with his fellow shipmates, so that when you are in the middle of battle you have no idea what the other team is doing or planning. To help with gameplay they were given infinite cannon balls to shoot as well as planks to help patch up the ship. He stated “you can feel the ship sinking and you can see the water rising. The panic of helping the ship not sink is real.”
At the end of each play session they would meet with a group from RARE and discuss the game. The developers wanted to know the things they liked and the things they didn’t like. They were craving real life gamers and their responses to something that they had poured years of time into. The main sentiment from the developers was that they wanted honesty. Once the gameplay sessions of each of the 12 was completed they sat through presentations by RARE about Sea of Thieves and a few other things for which they were required to sign an NDA.
At the end of their five days Abstractacas wanted to show his appreciated to eleven of the developers for having him there, and so he presented each of them with a PPR mug that included their “Pirate name” (that each had been given by the dev team) for them to remember him by that they could drink grog or coffee from. He thanked each for their time and for having him in what seemed like a whirlwind five days.
Two weeks later, Monday June 15th, part of the group who had spent all this time together hopped into a Skype call to enjoy Microsoft’s E3 press conference. A couple of the RARE employees hopped in as well as they sat through preview after preview until Sea of Thieves came up. Up until this point everyone knew that RARE would be talking about SOT, but there wasn’t any guarantee of an on stage demo. A roar could be heard throughout their Skype call when they realized they were a part of this press conference! All of the yelling and laughing that is seen in the E3 demos was actual footage caught during their play sessions for those five hours. Little did anyone know that RARE was going to use these true reactions to incorporate into their presentation to give us a sense of what it was really like to play SOT. “I just kept playing it over and over again, it was like–that’s me on the TV, I had no clue. They never said a word to us”, Abstractacas said. “Imagine like the best time that you have ever had, and not being able to share it, and then the whole world sees it.”
Setting sail with a Sea of Thieves
A few months have past since his time at RARE and E3, but the feelings and the positive energy remain on this amazing experience. Pirate Port Radio is about to leave port and set sail on another adventure this time into podcasting through SoundCloud and Itunes; with plans of diving even further into the lore and feel of Sea of Thieves. Friendships with those at RARE as well as those who went on this adventure with him remain strong and will be bonds that last a lifetime. When thinking back to the guy sitting on a couch, just wanting to do something different, now following his passion to make it happen with friends across the world, just one word comes to mind….RARE.
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TwoWolvzz is a contributing writer for Mulehorn Gaming. You can follow him on Twitter.