How the Mermaids made their way back into Sea of Thieves

“I feel like you can lay the blame at my door.”

Not long after Shrouded Spoils arrived, Rare coder James Thomas hinted that he’d tell the story of why the Mermaids were removed from the game for Forsaken Shores, and how they made their way back in.

Later that week James dropped some fantastic behind the scenes info, which gives some great insight into how the team at Rare are developing Sea of Thieves. We’re reproduced the thread here:

James Thomas (@BIGsheep):

As Paula Cole once asked, where have all the mermaid statues gone? Up until this week those aquatic forms had been absent from Sea of Thieves and I feel like you can lay the blame at my door.

Back when we were preparing to release Forsaken Shores we ran into memory issues. We had [run] out. Too much stuff had gone into the game and we couldn’t fit any more in without clearing space.

We went on a crusade. I cleaned up some NPC data – including an invisible test trader trapped in the locked room above the Order of Souls representatives on every outpost – and optimised some island assets to give my team some wriggle room.

Scanning the logs I also found I could save a few megabytes by removing the mermaid statues from the game. It was easy enough to justify, as a dedicated player I barely ever saw them plus they had near zero gameplay benefit at the time. They were just there.

So Forsaken Shores shipped and the whole team started clawing back memory to give us room for future features. “So, can you put mermaid statues back now, please?” came the request from design. I saw my opportunity. Not until they served a purpose.

Mike and Shelley were very accommodating of my ransom demand, if probably a little shocked. It would have been oh so easy just to let them drop a chest, but after a week or two they instead came up with the unique jewels and I couldn’t be happier.

Feeling a tiny bit smug my tactic had worked […] we reinstated them into the world… even if we accidentally made them twice the size and appear a kilometre away from where they were supposed to initially. But, hey, we fixed that.

It’s one of the reasons I love working at Rare and with our fabulous design team. They listen to and accommodate ideas or suggestions from everyone. Sea of Thieves concepts may be lead by them, but they are influenced and tweaked by the whole studio.

I couldn’t be prouder of my team for what they’ve done for Shrouded Spoils. A series of new toys mixed with reinvigorating existing toys that flesh out the world. I’m looking forward to Sunday when I can finally sail into the fog and find myself a mermaid.

There’s a couple of short follow-up discussions on the question of managing memory in the game (both server side and client side). If you’re interested you can read more here and here.


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