Sea of Thieves team talk improved skeleton AI in latest developer diary

If you're looking forward to Rare's pirate shenanigan sim Sea of Thieves then it's worth keeping one eye on the game's YouTube channel, which posts regular developer diaries, gameplay videos and explainers of the games features. The latest talks about the way that the AI of skeletons will work—they'll be one of the main enemy types you'll face in the game. 

The team wants to make sure they're not just bony grunts with guns. A lot of their AI will revolve around hearing the player, and the game models sound in a fairly realistic way to make that feasible. If you're nearby a skeleton and digging into sand, they're unlikely to spot you. But if you shove the spade in at the wrong angle and catch a rock it will make a loud clang, and the skeleton will shamble after you. Similarly, if you snipe them, they'll know from the noise roughly the direction you're in, but won't be able to lock on immediately. I reckon using audio as a distraction could work a treat.

In the video, the developers talk about giving skeletons all the capabilities of a player: they'll eat bananas to restore health when injured (will you see the fruit drop through their body?), run away if badly hurt, and carry a variety of weapons, from cutlasses to blunderbusses, while some will just swing their gnarled fists. Their equipment will improve as you progress through the game and their abilities will vary, so one skeleton might have great aim while another is particularly speedy. 

It sounds like Rare is determined to craft a proper backstory for the skeletons, to make it feel like "they have a history and they live there", so I'd expect some environmental storytelling on that front. Post-launch, the developer will dedicate a team to further improve the AI and respond to player feedback. 

Skeleton AI was one of the things Steven was least impressed with in his early look at the game last year, so hopefully these improvements will make a big difference. 

The game is out on March 20.

Samuel Horti

Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play.