Sea of Thieves is a game about pirates, so if there’s one thing developers Rare need to get right, it’s the water.
I have a thing about video game water. Whether it’s waves lapping the shore in Total War or the rolling seas of Assassin’s Creed IV, I’ve always been fascinated by the work that goes into recreating the sea (and the tech behind it).
When you think about it most objects in video games are hard, cold things. Rock floors, steel doors, vehicles, guns. Sure, there are exceptions—as hardware gets more powerful we’re able to see things like fluid hair, trees blowing in the wind and a character heaving for breath after a run—but for the most part the worlds you play through and over in games are static and lifeless.
Not so the ocean. It’s always in motion, always heaving, surging, moving. Getting that right can be a challenge, but when you nail it, it looks amazing. And Sea of Thieves looks amazing.
I don’t care if the game itself turns out to be complete trash. I’m not here to preview it. I just want to talk about this water, going through every look at it we get in the game’s lengthy E3 playthrough.
This looks lovely! A nice roll to it, it looks organic—rather than just a series of tiles pasted over and over—and, best of all, you can jump into it and swim under the waves!
A closer look shows that as the surface of the water bobs up and down, it laps against the hull of the ship, and the player rocks accordingly. Which might make a few folks queasy on release if they’re as prone to seasickness as they are motion sickness, but nobody ever said the life of a pirate on the high seas would be easy.
Here’s a more distant shot. See how the water rising and falling affects the accessibility of those two lil’ islands, in a very Wind Waker kind of way? That’s neat.
Onto less sedate weather now, and get a load of those high seas. But with all that smoke and battle going on, it’s a little hard to catch the full effect and-
-oh. Oh. Wow. That is gorgeous. This is the good shit. This is some video game water.
Rare even made a video all about how the water was made, and it is excellent:
Thus concludes this chat about Sea of Thieves’ water.