Sea of Thieves started life as spy game

Sea of Thieves
(Image credit: Rare)

Long before Sea of Thieves let you pal around with Jack Sparrow and customize your own pirate ship, it was being planned as a spy game inspired by the card game Werewolf and built around "verbal communication, social dynamics, player psychology."

It's pretty common for games to go through dramatic changes from their conceptual stages to launch, but the idea that would eventually become Sea of Thieves is particularly unrecognizable - so much so that it could be its own distinct game. And, come to think of it, a multiplayer spy game with the aforementioned social elements could be really cool.

In an interview with Xbox Wire, Sea of Thieves creative director Mike Chapman recalled the early conversations that would culminate in an original idea, which would soon after be reskinned as the pirate adventure we know today.

"The earliest germ of an idea came out of us playing a party game called Werewolf, which is all about subterfuge," said Chapman. "It's about a game that showcases soft skills: verbal communication, social dynamics, player psychology. We were thinking: Is there a game that could showcase things like that?"

“And we actually started with, 'wouldn't it be cool if it was about secret agents' Wouldn't it be cool if I'm there completing my mission with you, but then you get a voice over the intercom saying, 'Drop him.' And you've got players tearing each other apart."

The developers would ultimately scrap the spy game idea but carry the same "players creating stories together" mantra to the drawing board, where an idea for a multiplayer pirate game stuck and eventually became Sea of Thieves. From that point on, the game's core vision remained unchanged and most of the features pitched in those early stages made it into the full game. 

Nowadays, Sea of Thieves is one of the best Xbox Series X games you can play.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.