Community Spotlight - Aidan McKellan

Coming soon to a tavern near you? We talk to a pirate poster-maker extraordinaire!

While in-game photography is a common pastime for certain corsairs, one bold Sea of Thieves pirate has taken his love of film to the next level. Through custom film posters and portraits of other player pirates, Aidan McKellan has created some truly stunning scenes – including some based on the Tall Tales that make up Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life.

In this Spotlight, we sit down to chat about combining this passion for graphic design with a love for Sea of Thieves, resulting in posters that wouldn’t look out of place in your local cinema!

[Q]: Can you tell us a little about what got you into gaming?

[A]: I was put in front of a screen when I was as little as two years old. I began by playing mostly educational games on a computer and the Sega Mega Drive. My first game was Sonic the Hedgehog and I remember watching my mother play point-and-click video games a whole lot (especially Monkey Island) and it became something that has always been part of my life. Video games have always allowed me to escape the bounds of reality and to set my imagination free.

[Q]: Were you a Rare fan before Sea of Thieves? Do you have any favourite Rare games?

[A]: I didn't know much about gaming companies until I reached adulthood, and then they caught my interest. When I started playing Sea of Thieves, I realized that the games created by that Rare company were some of the coolest I’d played when I was younger. Games such as Banjo-Kazooie, Conker and GoldenEye were some of the games that thoroughly entertained me during those years.

[Q]: What other games are you currently playing? Any favourites?

[A]: At the moment, when I'm not playing Sea of Thieves, I play Hades from time to time, Darkest Dungeon because I obviously like to suffer, and Conan Exiles for roleplaying a pirate with my fiancée.

My other favourite games besides Sea of Thieves would be the Dark Souls series, the Monkey Island series, Goblins 3, the Uncharted series, Fallout 4, Dying Light, BioShock and the late MMO WildStar to name just a few!

[Q]: What brought you over to Sea of Thieves and its community?

[A]: I discovered Sea of Thieves through the video game press. I have always kept an eye on new things and when it was announced, I watched a lot of videos. When I get obsessed with a game to this extent, I tell myself that I have to buy it and try it. From my first session, I fell in love with it!

As for the community, I initially spent a lot of time playing the game with my girlfriend and eventually began playing alone more often. Because of that, I didn’t properly participate in events like The Hungering Deep and even worse, I was not able to get the cosmetics from Cursed Sails. I had no-one to play with and that will always be my greatest regret playing Sea of Thieves.

After a while, I decided to join the Sea of Thieves France Discord community and from there, I gradually began playing with strangers who eventually became friends. I started making photo montages for a Christmas Discord contest, followed by showing my first very posters.

It was then that I joined the creative folks of Sea of Thieves France and began involving myself more deeply within the community. Once I started to have a little more visibility on social networks, I became twice as interested in the non-French speaking community, but my English is still a bit rusty.

Aidan’s posters perfectly capture some of the adventures you can have on the Sea of Thieves.

[Q]: Your pirate portraits go down wonderfully with the community – why did you decide to start creating them?

[A]: I wanted to embark on less complex montages for fun and to feed my gallery. So I started on portraits to please friends at first. It had success with people, and they started asking for portraits in direct messages on social media platforms or in the comments.

I admit I wasn’t prepared for it at all, but I took some time to pick some of my followers and offer them their own portraits. Due to the success of these, I offered the ability to ‘order’ for those who wanted their own portrait.

[Q]: You’ve also created some stunning movie-style pirate posters, including one for the launch of Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life – what’s the inspiration and process behind these?

[A]: Indeed, posters are some of my biggest jobs. They take me twice as long to complete, sometimes taking days to finalise. I take my inspiration directly from Sea of Thieves, along with visual and pop culture. I can’t say exactly what or how, it comes naturally in the moment.

For the concept, I first choose a theme that inspires me and then I will take several screenshots based on the atmosphere I have in mind. I then create the background that will give me the general tone and continue by adding the characters, objects and title, and finally I create my composition. All the while, I keep in mind how I want the story to transpire through the poster and how it can be illustrated.

Originally, I wanted to tell the story of my pirate and my fiancée via book covers/movie posters and have it accompanied by a synopsis in the description. I wanted to share, little by little, his more recent adventures in connection with the monthly updates as well as the Tall Tales.

My main goal was always to have people look at one of my posters, observe the different characters, the action, the mood and atmosphere and allow them to imagine the adventure behind the art. A picture can really tell a thousand words when done just right!

I also worked on the posters as well as the visual promotion of the video project called ‘La Légende de Port Nullepart’. I made two posters that can be found on social media today: ‘La Légende de Port Nullepart’ and ‘Gatas, the Untold Tale’.

For the launch of A Pirate's Life, I had very little free time so I thought it would be fun to reproduce the cover of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest DVD and include my pirate character, as well as my fiancée, alongside Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones. The story behind this poster is a bit meagre, but its success was a real surprise!

A portrait of Aidan and his fiancée’s pirates together – we’re getting emotional already!

[Q]: You’ve created portraits for some well-known faces and names in the community – do you work with them to showcase their personality, or base it on what you know?

[A]: Most of the time, I take what I know. I will look at their socials for a while to gather more information and get started. For Voidfactory as an example, I wanted this portrait to be a little more personal. I started to create a boom microphone and a headset to surprise him, having integrated his work into the visual concept, and since then it has become the norm.

For Mr Fawlout, I knew that his Boom Boat was successful, and it was important for me that it was present in his poster. For Taaamas, I wanted to represent his avatar, so I set out to create a goose! I like to surprise people to whom I offer a portrait and I enjoy when they feel that I added a little something very personal to it.

[Q]: Is there a particular pirate that you would most like to take on for a portrait?

[A]: I don’t have one particular pirate that I would like to portray, but I would like to do portraits of more Rare employees as a service rendered for their work on this awesome game. Something that would also interest me would be to include a little more personality from the community in my posters. I have a project in mind, perhaps heading in that direction.

A selection of Aidan’s community portraits – any familiar faces from your own adventures?

[Q]: Thinking back, are there any standout moments for you in Sea of Thieves since you started playing?

[A]: There are so many! I’ve had some awesome times playing Sea of Thieves: laughter, disaster and friendship. But among all these moments, one that stands out is the filming of ‘Port Nullepart’. Being a part of this creative work was just astounding... and staying up until 3am having fun and laughing with the whole team, powering through the fatigue, those were really cool times.

Another moment that stood out to me recently was during the Tall Tales of Sea of Thieves: A Pirate's Life. When I heard the music from Monkey Island... it brought tears to my eyes. This game is linked to strong memories of video games that I shared with my mother who passed away in 2016 from cancer. Seeing this universe so dear to my memories, mingling with the world of Sea of Thieves that I love very much. It was a really special moment for me.

[Q]: What are your favourite additions to Sea of Thieves over the past year?

[A]: There are so many additions that have brought so much to Sea of Thieves: the ship damage, the new enemies, the Emissary system which really energises each session. But I would say it would be the Tall Tales that have been one of the best additions for me. They extend the world of Sea of Thieves and they give us some really exciting adventures. And of course, the emotes! Without which I would probably not be able to create my portraits!

[Q]: What are your greatest achievements in a game, Sea of Thieves or otherwise?

[A]: I can say without hesitation that it would be to find myself here, talking about my passion for video games and my creative work. This is the first time that I have been offered such a chance and I have you to thank for it!

[Q]: If you had to choose a pirate and ship name, what would they be?

[A]: The name I would choose would certainly be Captain Aidan McKellan and the name of the ship would be Le TraqueÂmes, which sounds close to the name of famous pirate Jack Rackham in French. In English, it would translate to ‘The Hunting Souls’.

Like a lot of players, Aidan has embraced sailing the seas with Captain Jack Sparrow.

[Q]: What kind of other hobbies do you enjoy outside of gaming?

[A]: Some of the hobbies I do enjoy are roleplaying, writing, photo editing (of course), photography and, when I have a little time, I focus on video production.

[Q]: Share a fun fact about yourself. Anything is fair game!

[A]: I don’t know what to share here but to tell you a little about myself: I’m Swiss (the French-speaking part) and Italian, I listen to metal, I love video games, storytelling and photo editing.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my fiancée who made me dare to show my creations to the community, and also the staff of the Sea of Thieves France Discord, with whom the collaboration is always great. And one last time, thanks to Rare for this chance to be here.

That concludes our latest Community Spotlight! Thank you to Aidan for talking to us – we look forward to seeing more of those beautiful custom portraits and unique takes on content updates and Tall Tales. We’ll try to put in a word to get some of the Rare team to send you their pirates!

We'll be back soon with another Community Spotlight, but until then, stay up to date with the latest Rare and Sea of Thieves news on our social and community channels. If you just can't wait, check out some of our previous Community Spotlights and the resources in our dedicated Community Hub. Until next time!