A Deep Dive into Season Six's Sea Forts
Season Six is here, and we hope you’re all enjoying taking on Sea Forts and uncovering the secrets stashed within! As is now the tradition around the launch of a new Seasonal release, we’re entering the diving bell and heading beneath the waves for a deeper dive into its headline features – and Sea Forts are the main attraction this time with their unique soundscapes, Phantom guards and exciting architecture for pirates to marvel at, when they aren’t busy stealing anything that isn’t nailed down.
Acting as your guides for this latest video sortie are an intrepid crew covering the disciplines of design, music and art, all eager to add detail to what you can expect when firing up this Season. Give it a watch!
With the aim of Sea Forts being to add a new, on-demand experience that helps those seeking snappier Sea of Thieves activities, the goal was to fill these derelict fortifications with as much stuff as possible in order to make each visit compelling. Some bonus background insights? Let’s do it. Senior Designer George Orton puts it best:
“Pulled through from the Sea of the Damned, our new Sea Forts offered us a chance to freshen up the sandbox a bit. We were particularly excited to build these encounters with a shorter experience in mind. Creating a ‘snackable’ combat encounter that still rewards players with a healthy amount of loot makes these Sea Forts a natural first objective at the start of a longer session, or a truly tempting proposition when you’re sailing past on your way to another adventure.”
But how do you make these spaces interesting? Tons of interactables! From opening creaky cupboards to find loot or using the Fort’s lifts to transport treasure, there’s plenty to mess around with once you exorcise the Phantom inhabitants:
“Creating environments filled with interactivity was always at the heart of the design. We’re excited to see players truly embrace the raiding of these Forts by rummaging through cupboards, crates and chests as they search for the inhabitants’ well-hidden treasures! We made sure that each Fort has a wide spread of hidden stash locations, as well as making each Fort’s placement unique, so that every raid feels fresh and every storage space is filled with potential.”
Sea Forts also provide a new sonic space for pirates, with each Fort having its own soundscape for players to get lost in. With bugs buzzing, doors creaking and the ethereal sound of each Fort’s bell, they’re great playgrounds for experimenting with new sounds, as Senior Sound Designer Katie Tarrant attests:
“Season Six has been great fun to work on – I always love adding new areas to explore in Sea of Thieves and taking those from a silent space to an environment that’s brimming with new sounds to listen to. The Forts have a very different vibe to them when they’re riddled with Phantoms compared to when the Phantoms have been vanquished, and I’ve loved adding in plenty of little details so that every time you visit one of these Forts, you’ll notice something a bit different.
“I’m hoping that players will enjoy the Forts both as a replayable combat experience and as a new social space where they can spend time together with their crew. I’d love players to have a listen to the different ambiences and ear snacks throughout the Forts, and take a guess at the audio source we used for each one!”
And who could forget the new music? With these Sea Forts having their origins in the Spanish Navy, it was only natural that the soundtrack should have a distinctly Spanish flavour, with flamenco guitars and that bright trumpet sound. Talking to Robin Beanland, Music Director and composer of the Season Six music, we found out that it wasn’t actually a trumpet that was used…
“I really, really enjoyed writing the music for this update. Not just because it uses one of the best sounds in the world (a snare drum with the snare off) but I also got to have a bit of a rinse on my Flumpet… yes, you read that correctly, it’s actually a Flumpet – a hybrid of a flugelhorn and a trumpet. But seriously, it was really nice to be able to introduce some different flavour and instrumentation to the Sea of Thieves soundtrack, while keeping it bedded in the Sea of Thieves universe.”
With Phantoms staffing the six Sea Forts, there also needed to be some keen consideration to making these highly mobile enemies fun to fight in enclosed spaces. As George explains, it took some jiggerypokery to get the combat experience to a sweet spot that’s challenging but not overwhelming:
“Balancing our Phantom enemies was an interesting challenge for this new encounter. We always aimed for these to be ‘new player friendly’, which meant making some changes to their spectral behaviour and slightly reducing their health. This has had a wicked effect on the feel of combat as players are now able to crunch through individual Phantoms like popcorn, making each victory extremely satisfying.
“We also had to be very careful with introducing Phantom encounters in such a tight and claustrophobic environment. This required careful tweaks to their teleport behaviour to ensure the right balance between being an understandable and readable enemy, and the player not feeling overwhelmed by too many rapidly approaching angry ghosts.
“We learned a lot from making these changes, and will be looking to expand them to the Phantoms out there in the wider world in some form in the future!”
Thanks to everyone for those additional insights! Season Six is out now, with an in-depth set of release notes and a heaping helping of new items in the Pirate Emporium – including a brand new Plunder Pass. If you want to know what other exciting additions are coming this Season, make sure you watch the Sea of Thieves social channels: that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok and the official Forums and Discord server. See you out on the seas, pirates!