Sea of Thieves

Upgrading Your Ships | Sea of Thieves Designer Diaries #5 with Sherwin Matthews

Here again, Shipmates?

It must be time for the next article in our Sea of Thieves™: Voyage of Legends designer diary series then! 

So far we’ve covered several topics, including how our team begin the design and development process for our games, and extract the core DNA of the source material; our aims and objectives for Sea of Thieves™: Voyage of Legends; basic game and turn structure; and most recently enemies and combat.

If all of that sounds exciting but you missed any of those articles, no need to worry—you can find them here.

Back with me? Great—because now we’ve covered the rudimentary rules of combat and hinted at the importance of the size of your ships and crew, it’s time to discuss how you can go about improving those elements by upgrading your fleet.

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

As I alluded to last time around, having a larger crew is always a good thing in Sea of Thieves™: Voyage of Legends. To start with, having more shipmates allows you to perform more tasks during a ship’s turn, whether that’s unfurling the sails and steering the ship, making repairs, bailing water, or giving injured crew time to revive.

This continues into a ship’s main actions, where the importance of crew rolls is really felt. Simply said, having more crew allows a ship to be more efficient—whether that’s how far it moves during a full sail, how many cannons it can open fire with, how many skeletons it can defeat in combat, or how much loot it can plunder.

So, how do you employ more crew for your ship? Well, that’s easy—you grab a hammer, some nails, and a plank of wood and make a bigger boat.

There are three classes of ship in Sea of Thieves™: Voyage of Legends; the sloop, brigantine, and galleon. Players start with a pair of sloops, but soon enough, they’ll want to upgrade. Upgrading is simple. Once the player has sufficient gold, and resources enough to patch up any holes the ship might have from its journeys around the islands, they can sail to the Outpost and pay the shipwrights to do it for them.

Larger ships afford several advantages. For starters, they have more space for crew as mentioned above—and as a special bonus, the Outpost will even foot the bill of hiring those extra crew during construction. They also have larger hulls, allowing them to take on more water before they sink, and by extension, sustain more damage.

Finally, building larger and more impressive ships gets you closer to winning the game; not least because of their impact on the playing area and increased ability to take on larger and more complicated foes and voyages (more on that shortly), but also because larger ship classes are worth more reputation. 

After all, what Pirate Legend sails about in anything less than a mighty galleon?

(I have no doubt we’ll see some answers in the comments)

Of course, that’s not the only way to customise your ships…

Celebrity Crewmates 

As I mentioned in a previous article, you won’t just find eager shipwrights and sage emissaries from the trading companies at the Outpost. Look hard enough and you’ll soon see a host of potential shipmates lounging around, some familiar faces and names, some yet to make your acquaintance. 

With a promise of (mis)adventure and enough gold when that fails, you’ll be able to hire them to sign on to your ship, replacing one of the existing crew.

Each special crewmate comes with their own dedicated token and card, detailing their special rules. 

As you might expect, these crew affect a wide variety of gameplay actions and situations. Getting the right special crew member for the way you’re playing the game can really help you build towards dominance in one area over your rivals.

Want to claim completed commissions (and all the gold and reputation that come with them) faster? DeMarco Singh or Nine-Cat Nura can help you.

Looking to specialise in combat, as you hunt monsters and bounty skulls? Make sure you speak with Bombardier Betty or Osgar Seamark.

Worried about natural hazards instead, or looking for someone to direct repairs on the ship? Try Chester or Sudds.

And… tired of playing fair? Well then, Deadshot Charlotte will be more than happy to sit in the crows’ nest and snipe crew on rival ships, almost as much as Boone will be running your gunnery crew.

As you can likely tell, there’s a lot to choose from. In addition to their abilities, special crew add to your reputation in the same way as a larger ship does, getting you closer to winning the game. 

But, two words of advice in your ear, shell-like. 

Firstly, if you see a crew member that you’d like to entice to join your fleet, don’t leave them waiting for too long. Not only might one of your rivals lure them away, but they might also simply get bored and move on somewhere else.

Secondly? Special crew aren’t quite as dedicated to your cause as your normal crew. If a ship they’re on sinks, they’ll consider your contract terminated, and swim back to the Outpost. A tough break for sure, but look on the bright side… at least the normal crewmate they replaced will return to fill their shoes.

Load the Special Ammunition!

Don’t worry—as promised way back when, I haven’t forgotten to mention the final way you can upgrade your ship, with specialist ammunition. 

Specialist ammunition (amongst other things) is earned via the fortune deck, a series of cards from which each player is dealt a hand at the start of the game to provide an asymmetrical start, and also at the end of every round.

Unlike ship classes and special crew, specialist ammunition is more transient in nature… i.e., once you’ve fired it at someone, you won’t have it any more, and will have to go back to normal cannon balls, so make sure you choose your moment well.

Like special crew, there’s a wide variety of specialist ammunition waiting for you to discover, typically as it crashes through your decking.

Now, that brings me nicely to the other fortune cards, and the final topic I wanted to discuss with you—trading companies and voyages. But that can wait for the next time.

I’ll be back this time next week with our final Sea of Thieves™: Voyage of Legends designer diary!

Until next time!

Come and chat with Sherwin and the rest of the SFG team in the comments below, and on the SFG Discord servers here.