SEA OF THIEVES
Grab your best maties for swashbuckling online bonding
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”