Community Spotlight - Zookie

An iconic Aussie artist shines in the latest Spotlight as it seeks out another community star!

We have a wealth of talented artists across the seas, many of whom have been in the Spotlight already, and there’s another one that we’ve been meaning to catch up with for a while. Her style is instantly recognisable, and she even graced Sea of Thieves TV for a live stream of one of her creations last year. We’re pleased to finally sit down and talk to the wonderfully talented Veronica, better known to the community as Zookie!

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

[A]: I played some games when I was a kid and was particularly fond of Spyro, but it wasn’t something I spent a whole lot of time on until I got older. I think it was the first Assassin’s Creed game that got me properly hooked on gaming, and years later, Journey was the game that inspired my career as an artist.

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

[A]: I remember playing one of the Banjo-Kazooie games as a kid at a friend’s house, but it was before I properly got into gaming. Sea of Thieves has been my first real experience with a Rare game (and what an awesome experience it has been!) but I’d love to one day have the chance to revisit some of the old classics.

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

[A]: The last game I finished was Spiritfarer and I am eyeing off Inscryption as the next one. I have a great love of beautiful indie games that teach you something about life, so my absolute favourites are Journey, Outer Wilds and Disco Elysium. Each one is very special and I could spend hours talking about what they mean to me.

Her journey to the Sea of Thieves created a wealth of content to fuel Zookie’s creativity.

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

[A]: The year that Sea of Thieves was released, my local gaming convention had an awesome setup where you could playtest the game on a sailing ship. I remember walking past and thinking it looked really cool, but the lines were ridiculously long so I never got to try.

Fast forward to 2020 and a few months into lockdown, one of my friends suggested that we all get into Sea of Thieves as a way to connect. I fell in love with it and once my friends sadly moved on to other games, I wasn’t ready to give it up. So, I convinced my sister to get it. She refused for a long time because she hasn’t had good experiences with people in multiplayer games but she finally gave in, and, well… two years on we are still playing! Over time our Sloop duo turned into a Brig crew that I absolutely adore, with another one of my friends.

2021 saw the start of my participation in the wider community. When I posted my Servant of the Flame piece, I was not at all expecting the amazing response it got from both community and Rare, and that encouraged me to keep creating. Later that year I joined Arrt Club and got even more involved. I’m glad to be in a position where I can encourage and support others in the community and watch them grow in their skills. There are so many creative people who love the game, from prop makers to musicians to artists. It really is inspiring to see.

[Q]: Do you remember your first piece of Sea of Thieves art and what inspired it?

[A]: My first artwork for Sea of Thieves is actually not very well known as it was before my work started to spread around. I painted it back in 2020 as a gift for my sister to commemorate the time we spent sailing together. There are so many little references in it and it was painted as a love letter to our shared memories. Even though my skills have grown since then and it is far from my best work, I still have a soft spot for it.

Zookie’s first piece to celebrate time on the seas with her sister is filled with shared memories.

[Q]: Are you working on any new projects at the moment?

[A]: So many! I have been keeping a side-eye on the Mystery over the last few months and have been slowly working on a DeMarco-related piece for that. I also just finished reading Heart of Fire and have some thoughts about a new piece relating to Flameheart and a particular scene towards the end.

Outside of those two, my next focus will be on some larger illustrations. I have a love of working on huge dramatic artworks which Sea of Thieves suits well, so expect to see some interesting scenes towards the end of the year if I have the time.

[Q]: What’s your favourite piece that you’ve created so far?

[A]: I have two – the first is Flameheart. It was a concept that I thought may not work and so I was surprised (and happy) when it actually did! It definitely shaped the style for all my future character portraits.

The second is my Umbra artwork. Although I love working on the looser portraits that I have become mostly known for, for a long time I had wanted to paint something that was much closer to my typical illustration style, as well as one that embodied those relaxing moments in the game. It was a good test of my skills and one that I really enjoyed, but I will never admit just how long I spent painting those waves.

Zookie’s Flameheart and Umbra tributes rank among her favourite creations.

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

[A]: My crew and I tend to be quite nice pirates, so quite a few of the best experiences I have are of unexpected Alliances with other crews.

Anything to do with Fort of the Damned is also always great. Our first attempt was sparked by another crew asking if we wanted to join in as they attempted to tuck on the crew that had already started. We all rowed over together to go hide, only… as we got there, we lost sight of the other crew, and with no previous experience at tucking, we had absolutely no idea what to do. We died very quickly, but it was a hilarious moment of panic that has stuck with me.

There are so many more great moments – one of my crew soloing an Ashen Winds event as we led a Galleon on a merry chase; the time we ran out of supplies chasing a Sloop that had stolen loot from us and sunk them by crashing into them before stealing their supplies instead; or when we rescued a Galleon crew as their ship sunk to the Kraken after they were going to fight us. You never quite know what a session will bring.

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

[A]: I am quite a lore fan and so anything that adds to that is an instant win for me, particularly the Tall Tales. My poor crew had to listen to me screaming over the Silver Blade for a good 30 minutes as I ran around the Sunken Kingdom. Lately, I have been having a good time with the Adventures and am very interested to see how the lore progresses for the world going forward.

As a fan of lore, Zookie has been taking inspiration from Adventures alongside her crew.

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

[A]: I am not a great FPS player at all and so for the brief time I played Valorant, getting the highest score in a game was something I was very proud of. Aside from that, managing to actually finish The Witness. Those puzzles can be extremely difficult.

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

[A]: Captain Zookie of the Embers crew! We started calling ourselves the Embers early on because of our shared love of Flameheart, despite being the sort of pirates he would absolutely hate because we are too nice. Our ship itself is called the Ember Plume, a homage to the Embers and also my love of birds.

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

[A]: Outside of art, I also love to read and write fantasy stories. I occasionally work on cosplays and I’m planning one that is Sea of Thieves-related. I also play D&D and just recently finished a four-and-a-half-year homebrew campaign that I ran.

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

[A]: During my final year of university, I wrote a 20k word thesis on modern maritime piracy and how particular countries viewed/talked about it. Then a few years later… I became a Sea of Thieves fan. I guess you could say it was always meant to be.

That wraps it up for another Community Spotlight! Thank you to Zookie for sharing her story along with some of her favourite pieces. Hopefully our future Adventures will be the muse for more fantastic creations, and we can’t wait to see them.

If this has left you wanting more from the community, you can check out previous Community, Creator and Legend Spotlights and the regularly updated Community Hub to see what our wonderful pirates are up to. See you next time!