Sea of Thieves gave us one of our more memorable goofs from E3 this year, when our own Griffin McElroy became obsessed with the oddity of eating a banana stem first, without taking off the peel. He then attempted to do so himself, and the rest is history.
A pirate shoving an unpeeled banana into his mouth is a ridiculous image, and so is the multiplayer online game in some ways. Speaking to developers from Rare at Gamescom, it turns out that the “cronch” meme — that’s the awful sound the banana makes — is emblematic of something else, too: how Sea of Thieves’ growing community decides what stays and what goes.
How to eat (or not) eat a banana according to Sea of Thieves. pic.twitter.com/KS3jWT45It— Polygon (@Polygon) June 12, 2017
A lot of that goofy spirit comes from the Sea of Thieves team themselves. Executive producer Joe Neate said that the banana started out as an even weirder fruit.
“Originally it was a coconut, and you were eating it like an apple, and I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’” he told Polygon. “‘Your teeth would explode.’”
Instead of adapting the animation, though, Rare’s animation engineers just replaced the fruit. Out with the coconut, in with the ... banana.
“I don’t even know if he put it in as a joke,” Neate said of the culprit, who’s known around the studio for his sense of humor.
Sea of Thieves is the kind of game that Rare is developing in stages; it’s constantly in flux, as its ongoing alpha tests prove. When the company showed its latest demo at E3, it hadn’t gotten much external feedback yet on little animations like stuffing a whole banana into a pirate’s off-screen mouth. Even strange little features like this are the kind of thing that PC design lead Ted Timmins told us is up to the fans to weigh in on.
“If we were building Sea of Thieves in the older traditional space” — as a product insulated from most outside impressions — “you would pull a ship up, take out a banana and it would peel,” Timmins said.
“When no one gives you feedback that the banana is weird, [and] everyone is like, ‘This is cool,’ OK, that’s now the law of the game.”
The law of the game is something Rare takes literally with Sea of Thieves. Neate and Timmins considered having all players even sign a contract agreeing to follow a set of rules of conduct, designed and agreed upon collaboratively with the various alpha testers who are already playing Sea of Thieves.
We see what you did with #BananaChallenge @Polygon and we're impressed. But we see your banana and raise you this coconut... pic.twitter.com/GiiLJDPK8A— Sea of Thieves (@SeaOfThieves) June 14, 2017
The banana is here to stay. And Rare is taking the joke farther.
“Let’s get more stupid things that we can eat!” Neate said as the “cronch” meme grew in popularity throughout E3 week. (A lengthy joke thread on Twitter that claimed pirates actually ate bananas peel-on and stem-first particularly struck a chord with Rare.)
There are plenty of other ways to joke around in the game, too, as we discovered during our hands-on at E3. Neate and Timmins emphasized how much fans guide these jokes and their design decisions — a process they consider unique to this evolving multiplayer online game. Anything that people respond positively to is a go; anything players revolt against, Timmins and Neate want to retool.
The whole point of the game, after all, is this: “Be the pirate you want to be,” said Timmins.
Sea of Thieves launches on Xbox One and Windows PC next year.