NME recently had the chance to spend some time chatting with Joe Neate, executive producer of Sea of Thieves, game creative director Mike Chapman and Luigi Priore, vice president of Disney & Pixar Games on the upcoming A pirate’s life update.
But how does the team go from the core of an idea to an iconic character like Jack Sparrow in Sea of Thievess, and how do you approach Disney with this idea?
“It all started at E3 2019 where Mike and I suggested the Disney team talk about bringing the two worlds together,” Neate said. “At the heart of it, we believe there is a cultural alignment between the values we hold dear at Rare and those at Disney, so it makes sense.
“All of this was achieved with three meetings with Disney. We met with the team in LA to discuss our initial plans. We were invited to visit the ride at Disneyland, where Mike and I were able to do it twice in a row, and then in August 2019, Disney visited our studios here in the UK to discuss it further. The deal was made in January 2020 after our final presentation, and we’ve been working on it ever since. “
“The real key for me was making sure we were telling the right story,” Chapman said. “Myself and the rest of the team are huge fans of Disney and this character in particular, so it was very important that we were right. After the first initial meeting Joe and I waited until we were out of sight and surrounded ourselves and incredulously asked if we were really going to do this. There was a feeling that we were really going to create something special.
Priore had more to add: “At Disney, we’re always keen to work with ‘best in class’, and the team at Rare is exactly that. We’re all Sea of Thieves fans, and the quality and attention to detail and understanding of both worlds and IP that the team, and especially Mike bring, made it a logical choice. In fact, after the first reunion, we turned to each other and asked if Mike had ever worked at Disney because he had such an encyclopedic knowledge of not only this character, but the ride through our park at. theme and Disney as a whole. We were really excited to work with them.
Key to the relationship has been a thorough understanding of both the world of Sea of Thieves and that of Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean. At the root of it all is Mike’s infectious enthusiasm for all things Disney and in particular the theme park ride. i asked what A pirate’s life means as part of this crossover.
“The life of the pirates was really our starting point. We started it all by asking ourselves what is the life of the pirate in Sea of Thieves? Chapman said, continuing, “What does that look like?” Then we asked what it meant to be a pirate in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean? In both worlds the answer is “freedom”, the freedom to experience an adventure and the freedom that a ship with the wind in its sails grants. “
“The world of Sea of Thieves is an eternal world where this life of freedom and adventure and the “golden age of piracy” never dies. It’s a world in which Jack Sparrow would thrive.
“There are a lot of parallels between our two worlds. In the Sea of Thieves, the Ferryman oversees the pirates there, offering them the gateway to return to the world via the Ferry of the Damned, and in Pirates of the Caribbean, Davy Jones has a similar role where he takes care of the lost pirates. at sea in exchange for their allegiance aboard the Flying Dutchman. In our story, Davy Jones follows Jack into the Sea of Thieves, but here he has no domination and we were excited to see what it looks like.
Sea of Thieves has a very specific visual style, and I asked Mike what the challenges were in bringing a character who has such an iconic and recognizable look into the world of Sea of Thieves and making sure that it corresponds to this visual identity.
“We were really in agony because of Jack Sparrow,” says Chapman. “We knew we had to do it right and he had to fit in with the world. We ended up in a feedback loop to make sure the proportions were right and in keeping with our other characters, but also that he was totally recognizable as Jack.
“We were really lucky to have Simon Newton, Jack’s stuntman in the fourth movie, come to our studios and spend a day with us. He came in full costume and really helped us refine the character’s movements. He knew the character so much, giving insight into how Jack would celebrate, how he would hold up when he wasn’t really moving, and even down to specific facial movements. We really think we’ve captured the essence of Jack Sparrow as a character.
This past year has been difficult for everyone with the global Covid-19 pandemic. With the final deal only being finalized in January of last year, I wanted to know what the challenges of this project were for a team working entirely from home.
“After the final pitch was agreed in January 2020, we started working immediately,” said Neate. “Soon after, the global pandemic struck, which was obviously a huge blow, but everyone on the team realized what a huge creative opportunity it was.
“The passion has really been the wind in the sails, there is so much love and passion in the team for what we have created with Sea of Thieves. From the start we knew what story we wanted to tell, and the team were amazing, working together to bring that to life. Collaboration is really, and has been at the heart of what it means to work at Rare, and that spirit has driven us forward.
“Our relationship has been a relationship of trust with an open and honest relationship,” explains Priore. “And here at Disney, our job has been to support the Rare team to bring their creative vision to life.
“Obviously with the natural distance between the teams, with us here on the West Coast of America and Rare over there in the UK, there is always an element of remote working. But, it got to the point that we were eagerly awaiting team updates, concept art, storyboards, audio, and music. We were looking for times when people were laughing, and there would be a time when we would look at each other and say, “We all love this, don’t we? “
I was running out of time, so as a last question I asked what every Sea of Thieves fan wanted to know after seeing the latest cinematic trailer. Is the little crab, which has featured in all of the trailers produced by Rare, finally confirmed as a pet?
Neate burst out laughing. ” No. Not yet. “
Chapman had an altogether more horrible response. “I’m going to tell you a little anecdote that I haven’t told anyone else. Originally, I wanted the Castaway, which will feature at every Sea of Thieves outpost at the start of your journey with A Pirates Life, to pick up a conch shell, including “Shelly.” [as she is affectionately known in the Sea of Thieves community] would give up. I wanted Calypso to pick up Shelly and eat her, then produce a black pearl. But after I presented this to the team, they were too horrified and upset, so I decided to give up on that idea.
“Of all the stories that take place in Sea of Thieves, Mike’s plan for ‘Shelly’ may be a tale of too far. Even though he might be a monster, I can’t wait to play A Pirate’s Life on June 22.
Sea of Thieves is now available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X. A Pirate’s Life will be available as a free update on June 22.