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Sherwin Matthews – Lead Writer and Game Designer at Steamforged Games – discusses his experience-led approach to design.
Sherwin, it’s great to catch up. Before we dive into Steamforged’s Sea of Thieves board game, were you a fan of the brand before starting the project?
Absolutely! It had been something I’d dabbled in casually, just in terms of enjoying the experience with a few friends. For me, there’s something especially compelling about losing myself crashing through the waves with no real direction, or picking a direction to explore simply to see what’s beyond the horizon.
Talk us through how Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends plays?
Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends is what we’d call a 4X Lite – a type of game where the player needs to head out and explore to find and gather resources, then use them to upgrade their fleet and gain reputation (victory points). This also lets them better pressure the other players, either by attacking their fleets or stealing their resources… You know, very pirate-y things! Ultimately, the whole game is a competitive race. Who can gain enough reputation first to become a pirate legend?
Not all video games lend themselves to the tabletop treatment, so why did this feel like a good fit?
The Sea of Thieves video game is such a lavish and rich experience; there’s a whole world of elements that translate beautifully to the tabletop. Travelling around in ships, completing commissions for the trading companies, hunting sea monsters and fighting skeletons on islands are obvious examples that come to mind, but there’s more… Moving away from the game mechanics, the vibrant artwork and characterful presentation really leap out and grab your attention in a way that I’ve seldom seen in board games.
Were there any elements you feel integral to the experience of playing the video game that you wanted to capture in the board game?
When creating a tabletop adaptation of any video game, we always try to capture the simple experience of playing the game — what we call the ‘core DNA’ of the source material. For Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends, alongside the elements described above, it was the feeling not only of steering the ship and knowing what your objectives are, but also zooming in to make crew interactions feel important. Reviving defeated crewmates, adjusting the rigging, repairing damage and bailing water… That creates resonance with the audience in a very specific way that feels instantly familiar to the video game.
The studio behind the video game is RARE. What were they like to collaborate with?
RARE have one of the most talented teams I think I’ve ever encountered. There’s so much creativity and passion for the video game, and it’s been extremely exciting every step of the way – from initial concepting all the way to reviewing the final production copy with them. I’m immensely proud of the game we made together.
Sherwin, this has been great. Before I let you go, away from Sea of Thieves, what are some other recent highlights for the Steamforged team?
That’s a tough question to answer – there’s so much! Personally, I have to say the upcoming retail launch of Resident Evil: The Board Game. It’s been a real passion project for me, having loved the game series since the very first release way back in 1996. Now that the board game’s earliest supporters, our Kickstarter backers, are starting to receive their games and feedback how much they’re enjoying it, it’s not only insanely rewarding but also extremely humbling to see what a dedicated community we have.
Great stuff. Thanks again Sherwin; let’s tie-in again soon!
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