How Sea of Thieves Forced Rare to Make a Change from its Secretive Past

As a development studio Rare’s output is the stuff of legend, dating all the way back to the 8-bit NES. And even before that too, when you factor in early home computing. But during the studio’s time developing games for the Nintendo 64, and then Xbox, one thing was clear. It was pretty secretive in what information it revealed, and only then when it was ready.

Well, with the upcoming release of its shared-world pirate adventure Sea of Thieves that mindset has changed. Big time. In creating a world where players would shape their own stories, foster relationships, and be part of a community, this forced Rare to be more open. And engage with its fans and community during the development process. As part of our recent, and lengthy chat with studio head, Craig Duncan, we discussed Sea of Thieves’ development. And this very subject.

Craig Duncan: You know Rare’s history, which was really secretive and did everything in a bubble. So one thing was, ‘hey, we need to be building a game in this way’. Like, we’re going to go build a new IP, to do that in a very open, transparent way, and get a community involved who will actually help. [We need to] make sure we’re building a game that people love and resonates with them, but also has this really nice side effect that people go on that development journey with you. And they kind of get that passion to understand what you’re trying to do.

This is where the transparency comes in. We’ve been very open. Since we showed gameplay for the first time last E3 we’ve been very open with our community talking about, “Hey, this is some of the stuff we’re thinking about, here’s some of the stuff on the roadmap”. And, as well as that, running these technical alpha play tests, where we have people come in and play and give us direct feedback on features, give us… (obviously we survey them when they play), so give us feedback on how much fun they thought it was, how buggy they thought it was. You know, some really, really good stuff.