Rare's 'continuous delivery' aims for rapid Sea of Thieves updates

Rare's Sea of Thieves has been polarizing. While the game focuses on multiplayer mayhem at its core, players have been disappointed with the lack of cosmetics, enemies, and, well, things to do. I somehow I got the impression that Sea of Thieves would have more meat at launch, and I think the way Rare described the developmental process to me, in part, triggered some of those expectations.

In interviews with Rare at its headquarters in the UK, the studio described how the company would be able to manually toggle new features, tweak settings and more on the fly. Certainly, since launch, we have seen a fair bit of tweaking. For now, the studio has been focusing on bug fixes and addressing some of the game's biggest annoyances, like small respawn distances.

Rare gave a presentation at GDC 2018 (Thanks, The Red Dragon) describing its processes for rapid updates, and how we should begin seeing more content hitting the game sooner rather than later.

"Continuous Delivery" (opens in new tab) is a developmental method that aims to maintain overall code integrity while developing new features. Each team will be responsible for a small batch of features, while everyone works on the same developmental pipeline.

Rare compares the complexity of a "traditional" development cycle to its own linear pipeline, where features are built and merged in parallel to the main code, rather than separated and merged later. Rare says this reduces code conflicts and costs, making the game more sustainable over time. Additionally, it should lead to implementing feedback from players much faster.

Just this week, Sea of Thieves producer Joe Neate noted how the studio plans to alter its roadmap based on player feedback, with the aim of revealing future features as early as next week. The only reason Rare is able to adjust that roadmap so easily is due to the nature of Sea of Thieves' code, which was designed from day zero to be "modular" and more easily updated than some of the larger, more complicated online games. When I visited Rare, I noticed how every studio was set up with large monitors to inform the game's various teams of the current state of the central code trunk.

Rare notes in its presentation that it aims to release updates on a weekly basis, with the hope to refine its processes moving forward to increase velocity.

Whether Rare achieves its aims of speedy content updates remains to be seen, but at the very least, it looks as though we should get a glimpse of the future very soon.

Microsoft can't afford to scuttle its Sea of Thieves opportunity

The game is currently available at retailers for $59.99 or as part of the monthly $9.99 Xbox Game Pass subscription.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • The first update after release was gigantic. This game feels like it was rushed with tons of small bugs and very little content. The visualization of "trunk-based development" looks like a way to excuse themselves for not implementing all the "features" before release. This game could be good in a year if enough is added to it, but it just feels like a base right now. In a year who will be playing this?
  • These cycles are very interesting. But the problem here is they got it wrong at the start. You only get one first impression. This is the sort of thing that would work nicely for a game in early access.
    There were so many promises made that turned out to be let down for many people. I mean the Kraken was kind of a lie. [SPOILER ALERT]Pirate legend turned out to be more of the same.[END OF SPOILER]. Will consumers listen to them after all the early promise and hype? I understand that right now they are trying to fix things but the problem is I think the damage is done. This is NMS all over again. The difference here is that Rare will introduce microtransactions along with their updates...