From Concept to Cosmetic: Ravenwood Set
The time has come once again to take a peek behind the curtain of one of our latest in-game cosmetic collections. After shedding light on the Snowbound Ship Lantern and unpicking the punk biker aesthetic of the Islehopper Outlaw set in previous instalments, we thought that this time we’d head in a slightly more… sinister direction. Enter the assassin-inspired Ravenwood collection, available through the Season Eight Plunder Pass!
As well as a corvid-themed ship design, the Ravenwood collection features our latest evolving costume with three stages to be unlocked through the Season, reflecting your progress. But how did the whole set come into being? Let’s find out…
Pirates and dagger-wielding assassins might have no real historical relationship to one another, but it’s fair to say they scratch a similar cultural itch for the ‘high adventure with swords’ genre of fiction. With that in mind, it was inevitable that we’d bring the two together sooner or later.
Unsurprisingly, both the Ravenwood ship set and costume are filled with raven motifs, favouring the blacks, blues and purples of a pirate who prefers to keep to the shadows. It was the costume that came first this time, as Senior Concept Artist Ine T'Sjoen elaborates:
“The Ravenwood set started out as part of a concept jam. This is when the Concept team have a few days to come up with as many ideas as we can for future cosmetics. The idea of a raven was tossed around until one of our talented artists created the costume, combining it with an assassin theme to evoke a raven in a way that was less like a literal bird. The costume then inspired the rest of the ship set and other items. As we worked on these, we thought of how we could make the ship feel like the lair of an assassin who uses ravens as a calling card.”
The assassin theme really comes into its own with the evolving Ravenwood Costume. With three stages to unlock, the outfit consists of a maskless version, one with a white mask and a final variant in which the mask turns black. Designing these evolving costumes isn’t as simple as it might first appear, however. According to Ine, creating three unique but equally appealing designs can be a tricky balance:
“Costumes are designed as part of a set that, from the Art team’s point of view, may at some point appear in the Pirate Emporium. So when we design the additional two versions for the Plunder Pass, we always try to find the balance between making a new version that feels like a step in an evolution, but has as much value as the other two costumes. It is at times tricky and some sets lean into the evolving part, whereas in the Ravenwood set, we put more emphasis on making sure players had three different roleplay options.
“We had the idea to add a bird mask to the costume early on. From a role-playing aspect, it made sense to give a mysterious character something to hide their face behind. But we also wanted to give players the chance to remove the mask and equip their own hairstyle, beard and hat. So even though not much else changes between the three costumes in this case, it gives more freedom to players to choose how they want to use their cosmetics.”
Once the corvid aesthetic had been nailed down, the team got to work bringing the collection to life in-game. First up, Principal Environment Artist Andy Betts describes how the team developed the ever-shifting colour palette of a raven’s feathers:
“Once again, the challenges involved in the 3D creation of the Ravenwood set were similar to those we face when making any set, in that we first need a new shader from Tech Art to convey a special element or feature found on the items. This can be anything such as a new type of glow or transparency, or in this case the oily reflections seen on the materials to replicate that sheen found on raven feathers. We already had the tech available to achieve a similar look on the ship’s sails.
“Senior Environment Artist Sophie Ingledew and I handled the creation of this set both internally and externally. When we had the cannon, wheel etc. viewable in our in-game lighting and almost finished, it gave us a good opportunity to work alongside the Character and Tech teams to tweak the shaders some more, adjusting the colours used to get the right look.”
Fortunately, the team didn’t have to start from scratch when it came to perfecting the signature raven feather shimmer. Emmett Green from the Technical Art team explains how pre-existing work was able to offer a helping hand:
“We had an iridescent material used for Kraken ink already, so we decided to use that as a baseline and adjust the look from there, using an alpha mask for intensity. The iridescent look uses the normal map on the feathers and cloth.
“We often separate materials for props and characters, which makes it important to pay extra attention to how characters look next to the rest of a set. Our props and character materials were slightly different this time – one material had the ability to use custom roughness and metallic values while the other didn’t, so I needed to add those options to balance everything and give our artists more control. We ended up using a greyscale metallic map for visual interest, as full metallic gave us darker values with too much contrast, whereas no metallic felt too washed out.”
While one part of the team focused on making sure they could replicate the unique colours needed, others set to work creating the 3D model. With so many customisation options for pirates’ appearance available in the game, Principal Character Artist Lorenzo Melizza explains how they account for players’ different styles:
“Starting from a great-looking concept, the translation to 3D always poses a threat. We have to be faithful to the original idea but make sure the model will still work within our system and look good with all the different pirates’ shapes. Keeping a good silhouette and maintaining good colour was vital here to keep the original mean look of this concept.
“The feathers on this costume are key to its design, so we had to be very careful while working on them. Our Tech Art team always comes through and helps us achieve the best look possible with every material we use, and this is another good example of our teams’ collaboration.
“The mask was a task of its own, as is often the case with these more complex costumes. We went through several iterations, initially allowing the mask’s shapes to follow every possible pirate face shape, but that proved impossible in the end. This just shows how much variety we have in terms of pirates’ face shapes, as accommodating all of them with the mask gave us some real ‘monsters’!”
Over on the animation side of things, we couldn’t have a costume set this cool without giving it an equally exciting emote, could we? To that end, the team put together the suitably threatening In for the Kill Emote. You might not have anticipated its humble origins, however, as Lead Animator Andrew Burt lets us into a secret:
“The emote was actually based on me twiddling dinner knives in my misspent youth. Our outsource team then made it look better!”
With the collection taking shape, it was time for a little bit of wordsmithing from the writing team to bring everything together and flesh out the lore with item descriptions. Editorial Lead Leigh Loveday goes into a little more detail:
“When a new Plunder Pass launches, that means a whole new Season is launching too and there’ll be a lot of cosmetics to cover in the combined text tracker doc, from Emporium additions and Outpost shop stock to Seasonal progression rewards and Emissary Ledger exclusives. So it was a bonus in a busy month when the Ravenwood set fell into our laps pretty much fully formed.
“Usually the name is placeholder and we start by brainstorming new ones, but in this case Ravenwood felt perfectly fitting (others on the table were along similar lines like Raven Wing, Ravenbone and Raven’s Trail). And the ‘raven assassin with a ship as a lair’ theme offered plenty to work with – we used the descriptions to formalise the Ravenwood order as an actual mysterious institution, one that regarded the costume’s birdlike masks as a system of rank and prestige. As for the ship set, the figurehead descriptions were probably the most entertaining to write as you can’t really go wrong with something that manages to cram in birds, skulls, coffins and daggers.”
When all the pieces came together, the end result was the wonderfully gothic, intimidating Ravenwood set we see today. Andy Betts sums it up:
“I think everyone was really pleased with how this set turned out, and it’s another good example of how pushing that unique element or feature can make a set that little bit more special.”
With the models polished, copy locked in, assets prepared and everything ready to go, all that was left was to set it loose. As a Plunder Pass exclusive, the set was revealed with the announcement of Season Eight, and arrived in-game as we kicked off the Battle for the Sea of Thieves in November.
The response to the Season release as a whole was hugely positive, but happily the Ravenwood set didn’t get lost in the noise. Olivia Arnell from the Production team was pleased with the reaction:
“Players really seemed to enjoy this set, with the bonus of it being an interesting break from the colour schemes of sets we've released in previous Plunder Passes. Many of them loved the built-in mask and the option to wear the costume without it, we saw some great screenshots shared of crews wearing the costume and getting into some roleplay!”
Social Media Lead James Bowden agrees: “We saw lots of players, including Kit on our official Discord, noting the dark colours as a cause for their affection – while others, like Surprise (also of Discord), took the time to let us know that they’re outfitting their ship with its pleasingly angular cannons.
“The option to wear the costume without the mask so players could leave their pirate’s scowling mug in full view was a hit (one example being SaltRageJoe who expressed a simple declaration of love for the feathered outfit on Twitter, while others like Fiensonix were happy to keep the mask on and brood in the shadows), and it’s always fun for us to see so many players across social channels having fun with the built-in emote!”
While the collection included a full ship livery and evolving costume, any well-equipped pirate will know that leaves certain things conspicuously missing, begging the question: are we going to be seeing Ravenwood weapon or equipment sets any time soon? We pressed Olivia for info:
“For fans of the Ravenwood cosmetics, we definitely have something exciting coming to the Pirate Emporium in the future. We have indeed created weapons and an equipment item to go with this set, you’ll just have to wait a little longer to get your hands on them!”
And that’s the story of the Ravenwood set! Thank you as always to all the different teams for walking us through the work that goes into developing these cosmetics. If you’re interested in acquiring the Ravenwood collection for yourself, be sure to drop into your local branch of the Pirate Emporium and pick up a Season Eight Plunder Pass before the Season ends a little later in March! After that, the masked assassins and their ships will sail back into the shadows – and while it’s likely they’ll re-emerge in the Emporium in future, there’s no telling when…
For more behind-the-scenes insights, you can find the previous entries in this series in our News section, as well as a range of other content covering everything going on with Sea of Thieves. To hear new announcements as they come, you’ll want to be following our social channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok or getting involved in our official Forums or Discord server. Feel free to let us know which recent cosmetic sets you’d like to see covered in this series too!