As a new year dawned over the Sea of Thieves, the Festival of Giving went skittering off in a delicate snowy whirlwind to make way for Legends of the Sea, our latest free monthly content update.

Released on January 15th, Legends of the Sea combines Umbra's formal lore-hunting game debut with the ongoing saga of Duke & co., with Gilded Voyages on offer to all and sundry as a surprise post-holiday present. Everything you need to know is in the trailer! But read on after watching it anyway because we have WONDROUS INSIGHTS.

Legends of the Sea: Official Sea of Thieves Content Update

Duration 3:50

We asked Sea of Thieves Design team member Aaron Nielsen, who started out in the SoT community before earning his own player immortalisation and eventually landing a Rare studio internship, to tell us more! To start with, how exactly do we define player immortalisations?

"Probably the easiest way to describe what a player immortalisation is would be to compare them to that age-old gaming trope – Easter eggs! For as long as Rare has been working on Sea of Thieves, the studio has been actively celebrating the deeds and stories of the players. That celebration comes in many forms, and player immortalisations are just one way.

"They have evolved over time – a lot of the earlier ones were for things like 'Ate the most bananas' or 'Swam the furthest' to couple with the inclusion of new features being added to the seas. Whereas now we prefer to immortalise moments that our players have shared or experienced – standout achievements and things we believe are just plain cool."

These immortalisations are scattered across the Sea of Thieves, and as exploration is still a big part of the game, integrating their discovery into a content update felt like a natural way to encourage players to get out there and see more of the world. It also sees Sea of Thieves' unique brand of player immortalisation rolled into the core game as this wealth of tales formally becomes part of the world's history, each one granting a Commendation.

Another upside of seeking out these Legends of the Sea is their bite-sized nature: they provide an activity that crews of any size can enjoy, in smaller and more digestible bursts than some of the other more demanding Voyages available to pirates. Solo sailors can tackle them at their leisure, while we also wanted to expand the range of options open to members of larger crews with time to kill while waiting for their crewmates to join them on the seas.

Back to Aaron to pick up the Legends of the Sea development story!

"Diving into the design, we had three major goals: highlight player immortalisations across the wider community who may be unaware of them, deliver an experience of (re)discovery for our players and bridge the gap between the players' history and the greater game lore. It was important that we presented these in a way that made sense thematically, so that it truly felt like these players had once lived on the Sea of Thieves.

"As things developed we quickly realised that a perfect way to deliver on these goals would be to bring back Umbra, unseen since the Quest for the Golden Bananas, whose own motivations made sense for Legends of the Sea. She wants to see every tale, every legend across the Sea of Thieves documented.

"This little passion project took some months to get established, slowly developing in the background, but now that it's out in the wild, it's been all worth it. It was definitely a team effort with many folks contributing to finally bring this to players. But in some ways, this is only the beginning! We plan to uphold this tradition and continue to celebrate the Sea of Thieves community. Stay tuned!"

Check out a behind-the-scenes image of a dev scene used by Aaron to set up and group together all existing player immortalisations in one place...

Away from the Lagoon of Whispers and back at the Outposts in this month's update, Duke's returned to tavern life and his old Bilge Rat duties. No sign of Stitcher Jim, just as the Black Market regulars were getting used to him – typical. Duke himself was last seen haring off in search of answers following a rapid rise in skelly activity, and his investigations seem to have left him somewhat the worse for wear. Did he consult with fellow Bilge Rat Larinna? Did he even make it that far? As of yet, only Duke knows and he's not forthcoming with the answers. Or he's struggling to remember...

Let's find out what Senior Designer and regular interviewee Chris Davies has to say about Duke's return and the Voyages on offer this month!

"Gilded Voyages were a real holiday crowd-pleaser when Duke dished them out back in December 2018, one-off Voyages with serious spoils at the end. We wanted to bring them back to mark the new year, and this time there's a choice to be made – they can either be taken to the appropriate Trading Company as usual and cashed in for gold and rep, or to the Masked Stranger for no rep but double the (already high amount of) gold.

"Duke's come back at a busy time, taking new Tomes of Fire off players' hands as well as handing out his Gilded Voyages, but it's clear from his appearance and twitchy behaviour that he had a tough time of it while he was away. Whatever happened has affected him psychologically as well as physically, so we'll have to see how that unfolds in the coming months.

"Meanwhile, over at The Reaper's Hideout we definitely wanted players to pick up a sense that the mood was changing, from December's giving of gifts to a much more confrontational atmosphere where crews are now basically encouraged to battle through and cash in chests for double gold. The Masked Stranger only seems to be interested in accepting high-value loot, but what's it being used to fund? The only way to find out is to join in, but of course you have no way of knowing what you're contributing to. At least not yet..."

Legends of the Sea was released on January 15th and, like all our previous monthly updates, is free to download for anyone who owns Sea of Thieves or plays via Xbox Game Pass! You still have plenty of time to get involved, and we'll be taking a look back at some of the most striking player stats and accomplishments just before February's update arrives to heat things up even further...