The Big Story: Sea of Thieves

We talk trea­sure chuck­ing, ship pimp­ing and fly­ing the Xbox One flag with the de­vel­op­ers of Sea of Thieves, Rare’s most am­bi­tious game ever

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENT -

The as­pi­ra­tion for Sea of Thieves, says its ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Joe Neate, is for it to be “be­liev­able, not re­al­is­tic”. What else would we ex­pect from a stu­dio that’s never let re­al­ism spoil the fun? Climb aboard your ship and you can raise the an­chor, lower the sails, spin the wheel and set off, sure. But you can also pick up an ac­cor­dion and start croon­ing your own sea shanty. Or start glug­ging down grog and see how much of a li­a­bil­ity you’ll be­come to the rest of your poor crew.

The great­est swash­buck­ling game we’ve seen since As­sas­sin’s Creed’s fling with piracy, Sea of Thieves is a sea­far­ing MMO that’s also a trea­sure trove of mad ideas. “The magic of this is that it’s a shared-world ad­ven­ture game,” ex­plains Neate. “It’s a bunch of friends, on an ad­ven­ture, sail­ing to­gether, go­ing on quests, get­ting trea­sure, tak­ing that back, stor­ing it. We want to meet the key mo­ti­va­tions of peo­ple who love to ex­plore, peo­ple who love to bat­tle and peo­ple who love to go on quests and have goals.” And peo­ple who just want to re­duce other ships to tiny shards scat­tered across the seabed? “When­ever you see a set of sails on the hori­zon, you are go­ing to know that it’s crewed by real play­ers and you’re not re­ally go­ing to know what their in­tent is.” So if it’s the good ship OXM, ex­pect to be buried at the bot­tom of the ocean in an on­slaught of cow­ardly can­non fire.

Our ne­far­i­ous plans will rely on good match­mak­ing, mind. Just how easy is it to choose our ship­mates?

“We ab­so­lutely want friends com­ing back to­gether and op­er­at­ing as a per­ma­nent crew,” says Neate. “It’s an as­pi­ra­tion we want to sup­port be­cause we know peo­ple want that. We want play­ers to be­come the leg­ends of the game. There’s no Black­beard, no Black Pearl ship. We want play­ers to be­come that based on the sto­ries they go on or the videos they share. I want to recog­nise a ship I’ve seen in a bunch of blog posts or videos and go, ‘Whoa! Let’s sail the other way!’”

Con­sole war

It’s an am­bi­tious goal, and Rare know a large player base will be re­quired to achieve it. With the game launch­ing on both Xbox One and PC, could cross-play be on the cards? “We’re look­ing into cross-play. It’s an as­pi­ra­tion for us to do that,” prom­ises Ted Tim­mins, the PC de­sign lead. “Of course it means bet­ter match­mak­ing when there’s more play­ers out there. We won’t do it un­less we feel the bal­ance is there. But even if there’s a slight im­bal­ance we feel we can have some fun with it. We’ll let the PC play­ers have their flags and the Xbox One own­ers have their own flags and you can be like, ‘There’s Xbox play­ers on the hori­zon!’ or vice versa.”

A vi­cious nau­ti­cal bat­tle against the PC mas­ter race? Sign us up.

In­di­vid­ual flags are just the start, as pimp­ing out your ship is how you’ll stand out in Sea of Thieves’ oceans. “You’re go­ing to have your ship, and be able to up­grade how it looks and how it plays,” prom­ises Neate. “The fig­ure­head, sails, can­nons, hull, etc.

We’ve pro­to­typed a wide range of cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions. One of my favourites is a steer­ing lock for your ship – like what you’d have for your car’s steer­ing wheel – so you can stick that on your ship and then head off onto an is­land. So if an­other pi­rate came up they wouldn’t be able to steal your ship.” Believ­abil­ity once again trumps re­al­ism for an ab­surd (and in­spired) touch.

“Go on some­one else’s ship and you’ll get to see how they’ve kit­ted it out, al­most try-be­fore-you-buy,” says Neate, of the ben­e­fits of tem­po­rar­ily leav­ing your ves­sel to join an­other pi­rate’s crew. “Maybe there’s some can­nons that you’ve not used be­fore that you get to try. If you’re a new player and your mates have been play­ing for 50 hours, you’ll still be able to go on ad­ven­tures with them and get shared re­wards. So you’ll progress quicker with friends and then start spend­ing that on your own ship. En­joy the spoils and learn from them the best way to play.”

“Friends will be the leg­ends of the game, go­ing on quests and get­ting trea­sure”

Up­grades cost money, nat­u­rally, which can be found in trea­sure chests. But find­ing the trea­sure isn’t the hard part. “Once you’ve got the trea­sure chests, you’re try­ing to get it back to port to bank it,” ex­plains Neate. And these chests are phys­i­cal ob­jects in the game, mak­ing them both a li­a­bil­ity and a po­ten­tial as­set. “Let’s say you’ve man­aged to dig up a bunch of trea­sure chests and you’ve got them scat­tered all over your ship. Maybe you’re be­ing chased by a big­ger, more pow­er­ful ship. You could just throw one over­board and leave it for them and then they’ve got to de­cide whether to carry on chas­ing you or leave that one in the sea.”

Per­ish­able pi­rates

Rare’s love for the fan­tas­ti­cal (and dis­taste for re­al­ism) re­ally shines when your char­ac­ters die. Per­ish, and you won’t get a game over. In­stead, you’ll be taken aboard the ghost ship, The Ferry of the Damned. “It’s like the wait­ing room in Beetle­juice,” en­thuses Neate. “Play­ers go and get a ticket and wait to go back into the world. You’ll en­counter any­body who’s died at the same time, re­gard­less of whether they were in your crew or not. You’ll be able to see how they died and share sto­ries. ‘Oh, hey! What hap­pened to you?’ ‘I got eaten by a shark.’ ‘Oh, right.’ And then you go your sep­a­rate ways.

“The bal­ance of pun­ish­ment and loss is some­thing we’re con­stantly wrestling with, but we wanted to make death fun. It’s part of the ad­ven­ture. When your ship sinks, you’re still laugh­ing at it when you’re in the sea, drink­ing as the ship goes down. It’s not the end of the world, and we don’t want it to be.”

Po-faced re­al­is­tic pi­rat­ing can walk the plank (al­though plank-walk­ing is a must, surely?). The mad­der Sea of Thieves gets, the more we want to dive into its world. It’s early days, but this could beat Black Flag as our favourite open-sea ad­ven­ture.

Sea of Thieves will spill from Rare’s golden trea­sure chest in 2017

above This room looks fancy but we’ve found a chan­de­lier just like this in IKEA for half the price.

Be­low Be­ing a pi­rate looks pretty rock ‘n’ roll, or at least boozy.

above Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Joe Neate gets into char­ac­ter - bring him grog!


above What bet­ter way to wind down af­ter a long day than blast­ing an­other ship to smithereen­s?

Right OXM would love to sail off into the sun­set but we’ve been told we don’t have the bud­get.

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