Sea of Thieves - A Week at E3
Cameron from the Rare Community Team recounts his impressions of E3 2016.
E3 is an event that many game enthusiasts mark on their calendar as soon as the dates are announced. An event where the industry descends upon Los Angeles like a flash mob to show their latest and greatest technology and videogames on the world stage. Naturally, it’s an event that’s always been important for Rare throughout its rich 30-year history, and this year we planned to show up in a big way.
This would also be my first E3, so despite spending years going through the religious process of locking myself away for a few days armed with obscene amounts of unhealthy food and ready to soak in the festivities via multiple Twitch and YouTube streams, going as an exhibitor promised to be very different. Fast-forward to June 11th, and after spending an 11-hour flight adjacent to a man who seemed to find the last 20 minutes of The Revenant so good that he watched it on repeat nine times (I counted), we’d reached LA. It was time to get this show on the road.
Sea of Thieves team, assemble!
At E3 2015 we introduced Sea of Thieves to the world, which was met with as much curiosity as there was excitement. Since then we’ve been pretty quiet, only sharing whatever our resident skeletal pirate, Captain Bones, could pry from the hands of our hardworking dev team. From artwork and riddles to GIFs and soundbites, we had a crescendo of content that would gradually build to the finale that would be E3 2016.
On Monday morning, with the Xbox Briefing looming, a group of us went to the Convention Center to watch the conference from the Xbox booth and check out how progress on the Sea of Thieves booths was going. After getting a feel for the place, we sat on the floor below the giant screen amongst the tools and cardboard shipment boxes, waiting for the Briefing to begin. Ignoring the occasional shuffle to make way for the forklift, it was surprisingly comfortable.
Lights, camera, action! Oh, and we had smoke machines too!
The Briefing started and at the back of my mind all I could do was think about when our game would show up. Finally, the time came to lift the lid on Sea of Thieves with two trailers: our Cinematic Trailer was strutted out first, showcasing the grand vision for the game, complete with all the pirate paraphernalia you’d expect. A rum-filled cocktail of ship battles, cutlasses, pistols, krakens, mermaids and the odd shot of a ship’s cat were used to show players that we’re going for a fantastical tone, while not forgetting all the beloved pirate tropes many of us grew up replicating shoddily in school playgrounds across the globe. You’d think that after weeks of seeing the trailer over and over again in its work-in-progress forms I’d be used to watching it, but I still felt like a kid at Christmas as it went up on stage for the world to see.
Next up was up was theSea of Thieves Gameplay Trailer, starring our awesome fans and winners from the Play It First Contest. Instead of taking the approach of a live demo, as is customary at many E3 Briefings, we wanted our players to be at the helm for our world premiere of Sea of Thieves gameplay. Why? Ultimately, our players will be the ones telling the stories and so having them introduce our game through their very first hands-on just made so much sense. It also allowed us to give a lot more context to the demo that E3 attendees would be playing when the show floor opened up on the following day.
The rest of that Monday was spent taking in reactions to our trailers on the internet and, most importantly, preparing our booth for the opening of the show floor. By the time it was done we’d created a veritable beacon of buccaneering bliss, complete with statues of our Skeleton Lords, wooden flooring and of course treasure chests and barrels loaded with swag. We were ready.
As you can probably guess...we didn't pack lightly.
The first morning of the show was a weird juxtaposition of excitement and nervousness. Save for our fans who’d visited the studio just three weeks prior, this would be the first time anyone outside Rare would be playing the game we’d been working on for months. So when the doors opened at 10am to a stampede of show attendees darting in more directions than a compass has points, it was pretty thrilling to see so many of them crowd around our booth, ready to play.
Our Skeleton Lords on guard at either side of the booth. Guess which one Rare's Adam Park dubbed, "Flamey Boy".
We very quickly saw that many people experienced the same reactions as the fans in our Gameplay Trailer. One group even spent their whole play session speaking like pirates! This set the tone for the rest of the week. What were meant to be long days passed quickly due to the sheer volume of people coming through to play, to learn more about the game and generally chat with the team. It was a great feeling finally being able to be a bit more open about just what our game is and what we’re trying to achieve. What also struck me was the great response from the Twitch and YouTube communities. It goes without saying that we’re interested in working with both of those quite heavily in the future, so if you do have a channel, don’t hesitate to say hi to us on Twitter or Facebook!
Whether it was the round of applause after each play session, the general smiles and laughter from players or the awesome performances by professional pirate band The Skullduggers, the fun atmosphere at the booth was infectious. This had the knock-on effect of attracting even more people, and given our aspirations for the community we hope to see the game build, this was a great start.
After a whirlwind five days of meeting, greeting and eating, it was time to pack up and head home. While it felt like a night at the tavern that we didn’t want to end, with a great response from the press and our community as well as several awards and nominations, we definitely accomplished what we set out to do at E3 2016.
The calm before the storm.
Funnily enough, a passenger on the shuttle bus back to LAX to catch our flight home watched the trailer for our game on his phone and, noticing our T-shirts with a not-so-subtle Sea of Thieves logo plastered on the front, he let us know how great he thought the game looked. It was a small moment at the end of a week where there’d been so much to take in, but this short exchange stuck with me.
Building excitement gradually over the past year and setting a uniquely Rare tone for how we showcase the game were top of the Captain’s orders at E3 this year, and it honestly went even better than we’d hoped.
We wanted to take a picture of the whole line, but we ran out of screen!
So, before I wrap this up, on behalf of the team, thank you to everyone who showed support for Sea of Thieves throughout the week! Sure, E3 is behind us, but nothing stops this ship. We’ve also launched an official forum, merchandise store and released a shiny new fan pack for all to download. So check those out if you want to indulge in all things Sea of Thieves. From here on we want to keep being transparent and communicating with players more regularly, so don’t forget to like and subscribe to our Twitter, YouTube and Facebook channels if you don’t want to miss an update!