Grab your best maties for swash­buck­ling on­line bond­ing

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Dave Meik­le­ham

Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft Stu­dios De­vel­oper rare For­mat xbox One ETA TBC 2017

Tak­ing hearty swigs of rum. Play­ing jaunty dit­ties on the ac­cor­dion. Fleec­ing folk for their gold. These are all ac­tiv­i­ties best en­joyed with oth­ers. Rare knows this. That’s why its pi­rate MMO is pri­ori­tis­ing co-op ca­ma­raderie above all else. After all, what’s the point of pil­lag­ing ports, dig­ging up buried trea­sure or get­ting wasted on spiced spir­its if you can’t share the ex­pe­ri­ence with pals?

“Ev­ery sin­gle me­chanic has been built to be so­cial,” says Shel­ley Pre­ston, the lead de­signer speak­ing in one of Sea Of Thieves’ lat­est ‘Inn-side story’ (ged­dit?) vlogs. “We didn’t want the per­son at the wheel to sail the ship, see where they’re go­ing on the map and do ev­ery­thing all at once.”

To counter lone-wolf play­ers, Rare has en­sured that ships can only be suc­cess­fully sailed if you’re work­ing in tan­dem with oth­ers. “Split­ting it up so that the world map is on the mid­dle deck is a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion so that the line of sight is bro­ken,” Pre­ston con­tin­ues. “A crew­mate has to go down there, have a look, then shout up to the guy on the wheel.”

These com­plex ves­sels de­mand tight team­work if you want to con­quer the game’s sav­age seas, and mul­ti­ple sets of eyes are needed to steer a ship out of dan­ger. “The per­son on the wheel may not be able to see all the rocks and reefs,” says Pre­ston. “So a player in the crow’s nest will have to hang out in the front of the ship to see that in­for­ma­tion.” You hear that, you lily-liv­ered loner? There’s no ‘i’ in team, so stop be­ing a sulky sea dog and join a crew al­ready.


This team-shar­ing phi­los­o­phy crops up in one of Rare’s re­cent de­vel­oper videos, where mem­bers of the stu­dio band to­gether and hop on Xbox Live to play with the masses dur­ing Sea Of Thieves’ lat­est on­line Al­pha test. The re­sul­tant swash­buck­ling shenani­gans show the Rare devs mer­rily play­ing tunes to­gether, look­ing at maps to find trea­sure-bear­ing is­lands and even­tu­ally man­ning can­nons as they (un­suc­cess­fully) try to guard their booty from a ri­val ship.

Plun­der­ing pre­cious chests is go­ing to be the source of a whole lot of con­flict, and Sea Of Thieves’ head­line Quests shine the spot­light on all your Trea­sure Is­land fan­tasies... mi­nus the kinky peg-leg fore­play. [ That’s just you, Meiks - Ed.] Look­ing for trea­sure chests also en­cour­ages team­work. If you and your on­line chums com­bine shov­els and unite, you can dig up gold chests quicker. There’ll be other play­ers look­ing for the same loot, though, so you’ll need to be fast.

“It was a very de­lib­er­ate de­sign de­ci­sion to have the chest be some­thing that has a shared ben­e­fit for the whole crew, so that it’s some­thing you all rally around. It bonds you to­gether, and it’s some­thing you all want to pro­tect to­gether.” Pro­tect is the key word here. After trea­sure has been found, it’s only tech­ni­cally yours once you bank it with a ship­wright at the near­est out­post. If your crew gets killed by ri­vals be­fore you can cash it in, it’ll be good­bye gold.

By com­bin­ing this fo­cus on good­na­tured (if mis­chievous) co-op with a won­der­fully per­son­able art style, full of sun­sets and sea mon­sters, Sea Of Thieves looks like a re­turn to form for Rare. We’re con­fi­dent it’ll be one of the best games of 2017 when it launches later this year. So hoist up your masts, maties. That booty isn’t go­ing to steal it­self, you know.

“You’ll need tight team­work to steer a ship and con­quer the game’s sav­age seas”

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