Updates to the Non-Verbal System and Radials

A full breakdown of the control changes coming to Sea of Thieves players in June!

With the imminent arrival of Haunted Shores, we wanted to give an update on some upcoming changes to the non-verbal system and the radial menus in Sea of Thieves, with an explanation of the thinking behind these changes. So in order to do that, we’re handing you over to Sea of Thieves Lead Designer Shelley Preston!


Communication is a huge part of Sea of Thieves. Being part of a crew, and communicating with them, is at the heart of many Sea of Thieves experiences. Even for those brave pirates who always venture out alone, the shared world is full of other pirates that you may wish to communicate with along the way.

It is important to us that players have the freedom to communicate how they want to. While voice communication is a very efficient and powerful way of communicating, there are many reasons that players may not be able to, or want to, use voice. We want to support all our players in communicating whether they have voice chat or not.

The Non-Verbal System

From this desire to support our players, we built Sea of Thieves’ non-verbal communication system. This is a set of predefined ‘phrases’ that players can access at any time, with context-sensitive options based on items being held or interacted with (such as the ability to communicate compass directions when you are on the map or holding a compass).

Improving the Non-Verbal System

It's also important to us, with all our features, to continually assess where we can make improvements. We are wholly committed to Sea of Thieves as a live service, with regular updates that not only bring new features to the game but add quality of life changes that improve upon our existing foundations. We want to fix two key issues with the existing non-verbal communication system.

The first is the ability to Talk About Strategy. Up until now, players have had a selection of general phrases and then everything more specific has been locked behind interacting with something or holding an item. We’ve now redesigned the Non-Verbal Radial to contain a set of sub-radials accessed via buttons (similar to how Throwables are accessed in the Equipment Radial by pressing the Y button on controller or E on keyboard, Strategy is accessed whilst inside the Non-Verbal Radial using Y on controller or Q on keyboard). This allows us to have a whole section dedicated to strategy – with multiple wheels of phrases about what you want to do and where you want to go.

We’ve also reassessed the most useful phrases and ensured that anything really urgent (such as “Enemy here!” or “Repair the ship!”) can be accessed quickly from the Alerts page of the radial, which is always present as soon as you open it. This does mean that context-sensitive options (such as those about items you’re holding) are now accessed via a sub-radial, but we feel that this is the right change to allow you to alert your crew quickly.

The second issue is the ability to Talk on the Move. With the Non-Verbal Radial previously being accessed via D-pad Up on controller, players needed to stop moving in order to communicate. We came to feel that this adds too much friction, and can lead to players opting not to communicate because when trying to run away from an enemy, or repair the ship, it’s too much of a compromise to stand still in order to access the Non-Verbal Radial. This is where we’ve made the biggest change.

Moving the Non-Verbal System

In order to allow players to communicate and move at the same time, we have moved the Non-Verbal Radial onto RB on controller.

As is always the case with our approach to Sea of Thieves being available on keyboard and controller, we aim to keep the experience as consistent as possible. With this in mind, and the fact that some players using keyboard may still want or need to use the predefined non-verbal phrases, this change is matched to E on Keyboard.

Previously, Quests were accessed using RB on controller and E on keyboard. These are now accessible as a sub-radial option within the Equipment Radial (accessed using on LB on controller or Q on keyboard). We know that this is a muscle memory change to accessing Quests and appreciate that it may take some time to get used to. However, we feel that the non-verbal changes this alteration enables will be a positive change for all players, as everyone on the seas will now have better communication options.

Button Mapping Options

Because we appreciate that some players will not utilise the Non-Verbal Radial, or will prefer to have Quests on RB/E regardless, we are adding a standalone Quest Radial that players can map to any button. Quests will always be available inside the Equipment Radial, but you can also map the standalone Quest Radial to any button you wish. For example, you could map this to RB on controller and map non-verbal comms to D-pad Up in order to recreate the older version of button mappings.

In addition to this, each radial and its separate sub-options are remappable if you wish to change the defaults.

By default, we have mapped the four sub-options in the Item and Quest Radial and the Non-Verbal Radial to A, B, X and Y as this is the most intuitive set of buttons to use for entering the sub-radials, being a clear ‘family’ of four buttons. On PC, the equivalent keys are Space Bar, R, F and E for the Item and Quest Radial, and C, F and Q for the Non-Verbal Radial.

As the A button and Space Bar are used to jump, when you are in this radial you will no longer be able to jump. However, if you remap these options or your jump action, this will re-enable the jump.

Quick Select

In addition to the other changes, players will also be able to tap LB or Q to switch between their last equipped item and Quest Item without even entering the radials – you can use this to quickly change between a shovel and a map, for example. This also extends to the Non-Verbal Radial where players can tap RB or E to use their last non-verbal phrase quickly. If you have rebound the buttons/keys that open either radial, tapping that button/key will perform the Quick Select action.

We hope that you enjoy exploring all the options in our new non-verbal system with the launch of our June update, Haunted Shores!

See you on the seas,

– Shelley “Pressgang” Preston, Lead Designer