Rare, Give Me a Little Control in Making My 'Sea of Thieves' Character


#1

There is a lot to like about Sea of Thieves, Rare’s new multiplayer pirate game: the sunsets, the rolling motion of the sea, the utter shenanigans you can get up to with your friends. There are also some design decisions that I’m not quite convinced by, but I’m willing to give the game a few more hours to capture me. But one thing I’ve already made up my mind about is the game’s character creator. Or rather, the lack of one.

Eurogamer first reported on what would be later announced as the “infinite pirate generator,” a system that takes the place of a more traditional character creator. At the start of the game, instead of designing your pirate through a selection of various bodily and facial features, you are presented with a carousel of eight different procedurally generated pirates. You can pick one of those or roll the dice to look at eight more (or you can select one as a “favorite,” locking it in place while you continue to scroll through your options).

In the video announcing this “infinite pirate generator” approach, Sam Chester, the game’s lead character artist, explained why Rare made this decision. "We always knew we wanted a way to get cool characters into the game without having a million sliders and toggles.” He said, and he’s right. The pirates created by this generator are cool as hell. Seriously, I’d be happy to have any one of them crew my ship.

But Chester also goes on to say that the system is “kind of a way for everyone to have a cool character that represents themselves even if they have no artistic skill. And I think we've got a good system.” And that’s where there’s a disconnect, because there’s a difference between pirates I think look cool enough, and pirates I actually want to represent me for my however-many-hour tour on the Sea of Thieves. And that’s actually a little more complicated of a thought than it might seem at first blush.

Within a single roll of the character roulette, you’ll see men and women of various races across numerous body types, none of which are presented as grotesque or comedic. It’s a clever way to build a world that is inclusive and diverse from the get go, and it encourages players who would normally just hit “default” and wind up with a sort of square jawed white dude to step out of their comfort zone a bit.

All through the game’s beta, I was impressed with how the characters looked, and was eager to get my hands on a real character creator so that I could, for once, play as someone who looked like me—albeit an idealized, pirate-y version of me. Unfortunately (and ironically), this system that is meant to ensure diversity actually made that much harder for me.

I spent nearly an hour Monday morning spinning the roulette, starting and restarting characters after I decided I wasn’t happy with them. The most frustrating moments were when a character was 80% of the way there, but had some major, unchangeable feature that I really didn’t want. Take a look as I do about 20 minutes of that character browsing live on stream:

Once you pick a character, that’s it. You can customize their clothing, hair style (but not color), and accessories throughout play (in fact, earning the coin to do that makes up pretty much the entirety of the game’s “progression”), but you can’t ever change your base features. This wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t totally unable to affect the pirates the generator spits out. But you can’t: the only way to get a new base look is to delete your character—and all of the progress you’ve made—and start over.

I’m not asking for full control here, I think it’s great that Rare has made such a diverse character generator and I think the core idea of letting players quickly find a unique character to play as instead of sticking them in a character creator with sliders for an hour is great. But there are lots of ways that the game could let you hone in on a character you want to spend time as without giving you total control. Look at The Sims 4, which lets you take a base model and “lock” certain features before randomizing around the rest, for instance. Or even do what Dark Souls does, and let me just randomize around one of the models I’ve set as my favorite.

Or, honestly, just let me reroll what my character looks like whenever I want to. What’s the harm? Rare did a great job of building a system that lets every piece of clothing in the game fit nicely onto every body type across gender, and letting me reroll my character’s look whenever I want would only show that off more.

The character creator isn’t the biggest problem in Sea of Thieves (that'd be the general repetitiveness), but it’s an early game sticking point and one that I hope Rare remedies in a future patch. They’ve done so much work selling the game on the fantasy of becoming your own pirate legend, but until there’s more character customization, I’ll always feel like I’m playing the story of someone else.

If you’re playing Sea of Thieves, how do you feel about the infinite pirate generator? Otherwise, what’s your your favorite character creator of all time! (A tough one, I know.) Let me know over in the forums!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/9kg5ny/rare-give-me-a-little-control-in-making-my-sea-of-thieves-character

#2

The procedurally-generated nature of character creation definitely sounds off-putting, but real talk: the fact that there’s real body diversity, and that the beefy body types actually look good has made me at least 50% more interested in playing Sea of Thieves, which I’d otherwise written off as Not For Me.

(Unsurprisingly, my other favorite character creator is Saint’s Row’s, which is basically perfect and has the best support for larger bodies that I’ve ever seen, along with that gender slider and maybe the best V/O options of all time.)


#3

The article echoes my thoughts on this exactly.

They did make one single positive change and that is the ability to bookmark pirates you like while browsing for more… But that only highlights the weakness of the system. The only reason for the bookmark system to exist is to acknowledge that it won’t give you a look you’re 100% happy with and so you bookmark something in case you have to settle for one.

I really liked the character creator in the later Saints Rows. Lots of body diversity and even voice options.

It bugs me when a character creator only lets me create a character somewhere between toned and ripped. I will always make a character that’s shorter or rounder or… less like a generic protagonist where possible.


#4

Incredible, Rare have developed a character creator which is 100% McElroy-proof.


#5

Its absurd to me favoriting several pirates doesnt quietly skew the results to be more like whats favorited. I wound up with a pirate im extremely happy with but only after like 40 minutes of rolling. Having half my slots be taken up by 70-80% good enough pirates that all shared the same general look just hurt my chances because i was rolling less options each time so eventually I had to keep it down to one or two that were closest to what i wanted. The vast array of designs went from rad to tiresome every time i had a roll that didnt serve up anything close to what I wanted.

While i wouldve loved to properly fiddle with the sliders (especially every time i got served a comically squashed head) i wouldve been satisified with any way to just skew the rolls closer to what i had in mind.


#6

@Waypoint hey, I’d love to see a byline on this new forum-publish format. Thanks!


#7

Monster Hunter World allowed me to make a cool half cornrows, half long hair over one side, orange hair, tan lady who felt fitting in my MH canon. That and other character creators allowed me make characters that either reflected me or open to other character types. What makes it work is allowing me do small changes. Sea of thieves generator, while sounds cool at how it makes different characters, lacks the fine tuning you want.


#8

I never understood why most games with a character creator don’t let you completely change your character at any time. Something more “serious” or story focused, like say Mass Effect, I sort of get, but there’s no reason a multiplayer game only let’s you change clothes and hair. Imagine how much easier it would be if, after spending an hour making you perfect character that looks great in the creator you realize they look weird in the world or at certain angles, you could just hop back in and tune them up.


#9

Even in story focused games I’d appreciate the ability to do a tune-up. I spent a good chunk of time in DA:Inquisition making my character. I played about an hour of the game before realizing that I didn’t have the graphics settings quite right. When I restarted with higher settings I found out that my character had a massive burn scar that I’d never noticed before. I ended up recreating the character without the scar and replaying the first bit of the game again.


#10

To their credit, the 20-40 minutes I’m hearing it takes to settle on a pirate kinda sounds better than the 3-5 hours I’ve spent fine-tuning chins in other character creators, but of course the fact that the operative word is “settling” is such a deal breaker.


#11

I’m definitely more exacting than most, but I spent an hour in the creator, decided I wasn’t happy, rerolled, and then spent another hour. Doesn’t help that the generator itself can be a little slow on higher settings, but without some means of rough influence it’s hard to get something you want to commit to for the whole game.

Influencing the generated pirates based on the favorites sounds interesting, the favorites were something they only implemented after community feedback, so maybe they’d think about that in the future. I kind of like Austin’s suggestion about picking one or two must-have features – I settled right away that my pirate had to have freckles (the freckle/facial feature art is really well done!) so that meant I was throwing out around 4/5 of the options they gave me right off the bat.


#12

the best character creator will forever be spore’s to me

are the other character creators mentioned in this thread less janky and goofy-looking? yes! do they let me make the bizarre aliens i truly want to see in the world? no so they’re bad


#13

I get kind of overwhelmed by character creators in general, especially the ridiculously detailed ones (Dragon Age: Inquisition was just too much, even if they did let me get a sick-ass eye tattoo) so I had a pretty good time just flipping through all the presets, and even though I ended up on one I’m not necessarily in love with, it still saved me a lot of grief in the end.


#14

I had one eye on this article while ferrying a couple red chickens from Shark Tooth Key to Ancient Spire Outpost.

" Have I ever had more a gleeful time with character creation greater than when goth teen me unlocked Viscera’s head in WWF Smackdown on PS1? " I pondered.

" While I’m rocking a pretty dope black dude avatar in SoT, I would be a little more immersed if I could just see this cheeks and smile combo with one more flesh tone. "

Alas, 2 hours hitting Page Down in the “Infinite Pirate Generator” is my limit.

It was right about then happy reminiscence and thoughtful contemplation were curtailed by a crushing boom as the bow of DonaldTrumpDabs Galleon ploughed into my Sloops starboard hull, sending the chicken crates plunging over the port side straight to Davy Jones Locker.

What is the virtue of fashioning ourselves into more realistic PVP content while the reward is so shallow?

It’s early yet I’m not feeling growth without progression the way Dark Souls or Tekken evoke for me.


#15

I’ve never been finicky about what my character looks like in games. I usually just see one end of the slider, see the other, then settle wherever in the middle feels right and move on until I’m finished. So, hypothetically, this system works great for me.

and yet…I still just got a character that was “good enough.” I appreciate that I’m able to play a fat dude like I am in real life without it being a jokey “lol they’re gross”, and I absolutely took that option, but there’s still stuff about my character that I’d like to change.


#16

I really wish that this game had at least a little more in terms of customization.

I love the concept of this, I really do. The sentiment of “hey, we want people to play a type of character that they don’t usually play” is great, but when there are people who routinely are not represented in games, or poorly represented in games it becomes hard to justify. Austin’s example of the general representation of fatness in games being extremely bad is a great one. I absolutely love the body types in this game, but what if you get a character that has the perfect hair, eyes, nose, everything… but you want to represent yourself, and you’re a bigger person, and finally theres a game that has really fucking good fat bodies. But the character they’ve generated for you is thin. Why not just let someone change body type? Or hair colour? Or nose size? This extends to every other thing you could potentially change in character creation, so basically, why not just let someone play with all the great parts you’ve made to get something they really love, or at the very least have specific things that are changeable, while base character models are generated?

Weirdly enough on Austin’s stream a perfect character for me popped up in his choices:


This dude is like… my dude. He doesn’t look like me specifically, but he looks like how a lot of people in my very large and very jovial Greek family look. Like it’s scary how specific this dude looks when I think about my dad, or my uncles and grandparents, and it feels so awesome that something like that is even possible in a game and I can’t help but be like “shit, Rare. You done good” when I see this.

But the likelihood that I’ll get this exact character if I boot up Sea of Thieves is slim to none. I might get a dude that looks similar but I’ll never be able to tweak the little things that make this guy specifically who he is, and by extension, who I want to be, and that just sucks.


#17

It’s almost like they said, “We gotta make sure those Monster Factory boys can’t fuck with this” and developed the exact tool necessary to do so.


#18

For me It doesn’t have to be sliders to change the cheekbone height in increments of millimetres, I even enjoy it when character creators allow you to pick from preset parts, just let me mix and match certain shapes, like how Austin more or less found his character but couldn’t give him different eyes, and thus compromising the entire look and feel.

Rare could’ve generated a pirate for you, similar to the way Sims will generate a pre-set character model for you when you create a new Sim, and have you go from there. I like the way the pirates are generated, they’re diverse in skin tone, build, and gender, but it’s a missed opportunity to not let you change some key details.

From the way Rare’s character generation appears to work, it could easily let you swap pre-set parts, that’s essentially all the generator is doing, and it looks great regardless.
Even not letting you change the hair colour seems ridiculous to me when they let you change the head-hair and beard through cosmetics.

I agree with posts here saying you should be able to change or tweak your character mid-game. Monster Hunter: World’s character creator is fantastic in that sense; I appreciate how they will let you change your hair, make-up, brows and hair colour, because those are cosmetic changes that are really easy to change in real life, and people regularly do.
(I do wish I could change things like the eye colour when I decided the canon was that she’d lost her left eye but that’s kind of a personal rp thing that’s a bit out-there compared to the other stuff)