"Tales from the Sea of Thieves" author Paul Davies on how his book connects to the game
In the new action/adventure game Sea of Thieves, the good people at Rare give you the opportunity to sail the high seas, so you can plunder and adventure to your greedy heart’s content.
Assuming you have an Xbox One or PC, that is.
As a companion to the game, writer Paul Davies has penned an illustrated novel called Tales from the Sea of Thieves, which tells the story of three experienced pirate captains.
With the book now available in hardcover, we threatened Mr. Davies with a long walk off a short plank if he didn't answer our questions about how this book came to be, and what inspired this tale of the high seas.
GameCrate: To begin, what is Tales from the Sea of Thieves about and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the game? Paul Davies:
Paul Davies:This an original story that takes place within the world of Sea of Thieves, but outside of the adventures that players encounter for themselves. My understanding is that the events occur before any of us become pirates, so there are echoes, footprints, and possibly landmarks to discover that tie in with the book.
GC: What was it about the game that made you want to write this book?
PD: First of all, the opportunity to work on something Rare-related. I was also, however, delighted that this would be a massively-multiplayer, team-based, quest-oriented affair, and the kinds of experiences I'd enjoyed in Destiny and Phantasy Star Online from way back. The game has a wonderful spirit to it, very bright and uplifting. Its positive social aspect, that Rare was so keen to protect, also made a big impact.
GC: Did Sea of Thieves being an action/adventure game factor into this decision as well? Because it seems like Tales from the Sea of Thieves would've been a very different book if the game was a cartoony platformer or a realistic simulation.
PD: From the first talks it was obvious that we needed to acknowledge the team-building nature of the game, so that the central characters were never acting alone, and very aware of their place among friends and rivals. Something else could've been written if we were dealing with a single-player journey, perhaps similar personalities more focused on mission objectives and scenarios that would not be possible in the game. For Tales from The Sea of Thieves we couldn't suggest elements that would not be available in the game, but instead emphasise the huge scope, and social emphasis — plus the allure of something fantastical!
GC: Your previous video game books were all art collections: The Art of Assassin's Creed Origins, The Art of Deus Ex Universe, etc. Did Tales from The Sea of Thieves not being an art book make you more eager to work on this or more apprehensive?
PD: Both! I had written for several in-universe projects beforehand, but nothing quite so extensive, nor widely available. However, after I'd convinced my fantastic editor at Titan, Bridie Roman, and she believed that I could do it, I set about living up to those expectations. The concept was so inspiring, I couldn't wait to get started.
GC: And did Rare already have the idea for the book when you did, or was this something that either they or you and they came up with later?
PD: When I joined, Rare had already been talking about the kind of project they wanted. Bridie had been running through some examples of how an art book with a strong narrative factor could work. The captain's log idea had become a strong favorite, and I immediately thought of Nick Bantock's novel Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence as a way of enforcing this kind of epistolary element. This was the kind of direction that Rare liked best.
GC: More specifically, where did the idea to have Tales from the Sea of Thieves narrated by three different pirates originate, and how did that impact your writing?
PD: Bridie mapped out the story, based on suggestions from Rare's Art Lead Peter Hentze and full-time writer/consultant, Chris Allcock. I think we started out with scholar, pirate, and ship's cook. We also had touchstone encounters such as Kraken, Mermaid, Shipwreck, Battle at Sea, etc. Between this I had a story to write, and characters to invent, their relationships, how one thing would lead to another. This helped a lot, knowing what to focus on, and what the boundaries were.
GC: Aside from Bantock's Griffin and Sabine, were there any other writers or specific novels that had an impact on Tales from the Sea of Thieves — both in terms of what you wrote and how you wrote it — but are not influences on your style as a whole?
PD: There is nothing specific that I could point to in literature, though I knew that I wanted the scholar to be the more earnest personality, with a very careful, and proper approach to his diary. His chapters are nod in the direction of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
For our pirate captain, however, I looked to musicians, as I needed a cool hero that was born to the lifestyle and very successful at it. This led me to Wendy Melvoin, whose father was an influential jazz pianist . And a lot of who Bel became in my head was based on what I saw and read about Wendy, and how this would translate as a terrifically gifted pirate with bags of confidence, very alive and expressive. Her style is more like Jack Kerouac, but much looser and poorly punctuated.
Finally, the ship's cook, despite being a figure of fun, is somebody who is hugely talented at anything he fancies, but has never been required to write.
GC: You obviously worked closely with the developers at Rare. What was the biggest impact that they had on the book directly?
PD: The main thing was remembering not to avoid suggesting gameplay elements. However, once the original draft was handed over, the text went through several revisions to bring it closer to the world that Rare had created. There have been new twists to the main characters that I hadn't thought of, alongside a huge amount of original content from the studio and Sea of Thieves community to add authenticity.
GC: Finally, if you could write a Tales from the Sea of Thieves-style companion book to any game, what would you chose?
PD: I find the Dishonored series to be extremely haunting, and I'd love to deep-dive into the lives of Emily, Corvo, and Delilah Copperspoon, plus the many curious locations. For a while, my dream job would've been assisting the Destiny team at Bungie, to make sense of the classes, and reasons for grinding so hard. A comprehensive, story-led lore guide would be fantastic to work on. But, I do also like that with Tales from the Sea of Thieves I was able to dream up my own themes, so anything original that a developer could trust me with would be great! Please pass my name around.
Tales from the Sea of Thieves is available now in hardcover.
You can read our Sea of Thieves review here.