Anger Management Adventures in Crews of Rage
The second free content update of 2020 reached Sea of Thieves on February 19th, as Crews of Rage swaggered onto these mean straits loaded down with an arsenal of new additions. Chests of Rage, new Bounty Voyages, Ashen Skeletons overrunning Molten Sands Fortress, the final set of Ashen Tomes and rewards, more Pirate Emporium and Black Market marvels – it's all happening over the course of this speedy three-week update. Let the official trailer reveal all...
Given the name, it's unsurprising that the Chest of Rage forms the centrepiece of the update; what is surprising is that it's the first new Cursed Chest to be added since launch. Cosying up alongside the blubbering Chest of Sorrow and the balance-buggering Chest of a Thousand Grogs, this new addition brings in more opportunities for gold, rep and crowd control on one hand, and property damage caused by shipbound negligence on the other.
We wanted to find out more about both Crews of Rage and the Chest of Rage (beyond the furious dedication of our Audio team), so what did we do? We disregarded HR's warnings and once again set man-sized snares for passing Sea of Thieves designers. As luck would have it we caught George Orton, who was on the team gestating the Chest of Rage over the past few months, and Josh Mitchell, who's been beavering away on the Crews of Rage update.
While George struggled to free himself, we demanded to know how his team brought that angry wooden boy into being:
"The Chest of Rage is something we've wanted to do for a long time. Players (mostly!) love the Chest of Sorrow and the Chest of a Thousand Grogs, but we knew we could push it further. The goal with this new, angry chest was to give players something they could more easily use as a tool, as well as having another way to show off our fancy fire mechanics. A group of engineers actually made the first prototype for a flaming chest during last year's Game Jam! This gave us a headstart, as well as quickly proving that it was something fun to interact with.
"Communication is key with mechanics like this one, so we spent a lot of time ensuring the stages of the Chest of Rage are visually and audibly identifiable. The last stage before the chest explodes is affectionately referred to as the 'kettle whistle', as it's a crew's final warning that things are about to get very fiery. It was only after prototyping a little further that we added the ability for players to deliberately damage the chest in order to speed up its rage.
"We wanted players' ingenuity to be rewarded in a quick and satisfying manner, while giving them time to get out of the way before it all blows up. To do this, we based the average values on the damage output of the pistol. We quickly found that the sweet spot was two shots to make the chest enter its 'kettle whistle' phase, then one more to make it pop. There's a sign you look for on players' faces when you're balancing things, and this setup was the one that resulted in a nice little smirk."
Josh had his own Chest of Rage testing experiences too, especially in the context of the wider Crews of Rage update:
"The Chest of Rage was always going to play a role in the upcoming Heart of Fire Tall Tale, but as the chest itself was ready ahead of the Tall Tale we thought we'd get it out there in advance and give players a chance to get hands-on with it this month. While iterating on the chest we'd run playtests where we'd spawn skellies, jump over the chest and shoot it to ignite it, and work to get that feeling and the timing just right. Then we designed Duke's latest set of Voyages around just those kinds of fun moments.
"The Bounty Voyages that Duke offers in the Crews of Rage update are based on giving players opportunities to experiment and find the best uses for the Chest of Rage. In fact, the overall theme for our team this month was 'use fire', as firebombs were also introduced recently so we took the opportunity to make more use of those too. We knew there'd be more fiery adventures coming up in The Devil's Roar next month, so it all felt like it tied in nicely. Who doesn't like playing with fire in Sea of Thieves?
This month's update also focused a lot of attention on Molten Sands Fortress, just to concentrate the crispy chaos in one place and maximise the impact of those hot-tempered boxes. Josh explains:
"Molten Sands Fortress is the only active Skeleton Fort during the Crews of Rage update, mainly because we wanted Ashen Skeletons to be the primary enemies and The Devil's Roar is where you can find them running around. Ashen Skeletons have all but taken over the Roar at this point! You can get a Chest of Rage from the Fortress vault or from the Bounty Voyages, but one thing players might not notice at first is that we specifically made the starting points for the Bounty Voyages the islands nearest to Molten Sands. So if the Fort is up when you set out, you immediately have the choice of taking on the Voyage or the Fort!"
Clever business, game design. That feels like a decent amount of behind-the-scenes goodness, but George has a few last insights into side-effects and subverted expectations before we release our captive designers back into the wild:
"Building the Chest of Rage allowed the team the chance to expand on mechanics that players were already used to. To prevent players transporting the chest too easily, we knew it had to superheat any hull water it was placed in. This gave us the opportunity to allow players to scoop up and keep superheated water in their buckets! Punishing troublesome crewmates just got a little bit easier. Jokes aside, the bucket has always been one of my favourite Sea of Thieves mechanics and it was awesome seeing this little detail added to it.
"It's been amazing watching players discover and react to everything the Chest of Rage can do. During playtests, we got to watch them set up traps and chain reactions in order to clear whole waves of skeletons with ease. Now it's out in the wild, they've taken this to the next level! We've already seen some brilliant outside-the-box uses of the Chest of Rage, from rinsing those skellies to protecting the usual spots from sneaky tuckers. They are definitely sources of great power. Who knows what else they could be used for?"
All that experimentation still awaits you in Crews of Rage, and we've barely touched upon the brand new stock in the Pirate Emporium and Black Market: a bumper month for the Emporium has brought in spooky Reaper's Heart pets and weapons, sunshine and rainbows in the Viva Piñata-inspired Paradise Garden Ship Collection, a new set of charity sails, a knowing mix of new emotes for all situations and the long-awaited Pirate Appearance Potion. If it's your in-game gold or Doubloons you're looking to spend rather than Ancient Coins, the Black Market has teetering stacks of new clothing, instruments and ship cosmetics in the Wild Rose, Fearless Bone Crusher and Deep Ocean Crawler sets.
And even that's still not everything in the Crews of Rage update, so if you're in it for the minutiae, the official release notes are what you need – everyone else can skip that step and go steaming straight into the game while everything mentioned above is still the centre of attention. March's update will be here before you know it, so go and get all that anger off your chest while you can!