The shipping forecast
Sea Of Thieves set sail with a light cargo of content, but its developers have much more planned in the coming months
We love being virtual buccaneers as much as anyone. More than most, actually, if you were to measure that love in the number of ‘Aaaaaar!’s emitted per minute while playing Sea Of Thieves. But as we mentioned in our review last month, it’s an unavoidable truth that Rare’s freeform piratical sandbox isn’t laden with things to do at present.
Rather than write such a potentialfilled game off though, we’ve been listening to the whispers of the ocean waves (and trawling Reddit) finding out what Rare has planned in future for it. Exact timescales have yet to be pinned down, of course, but the developers are making lots of encouraging noises regarding quests, customisation, diversions, and more.
One such planned addition is that of four-player sloops. This is big news for seafaring gamers because, without wishing to be crude, size really does matter. Your entire experience is radically shifted when you elect to go solo on a sloop rather than a galleon – it’s cheaper, lonelier, and removes the crew communication that proves such a lynchpin of the wider game in favour of lone wolf-ing it through every challenge and combat encounter. Soon it may not simply be a decision of going it alone on a sloop or in a crew of four on a galleon, though: “We’re looking to add the ability to play publicly or privately on any ship you choose after launch,” says design director Mike Chapman. “Supporting a four-player crew on the sloop is something we’re looking at.” There’s even talk of implementing rowboats for moving between galleons (or indeed sloops) and dry land. The team prototyped it and enjoyed the results internally, and have publicly stated their interest in adding the feature at a later date. Oddly though, physical anchors are out of the question. Currently you can drop anchor, but nothing actually falls off the boat and down onto the ocean floor. Apparently the devs decided the resources required to make this happen just weren’t worth it.
Throw of a dice
Granted, news of the newfound ability to huddle together in a smaller boat might not be sufficient to lure players back who might have tried the game at launch and found it lacking exciting gubbins. For those individuals, the looming possibility of mini-games might scratch the itch. Activities such as dice and card games were briefly teased during the game’s pre-release appearances but have yet to get past the prototyping stage. The devs are open to their future inclusion though: “If we put dice in the game we’d love to see what players do with them,” says executive producer Joe Neate. “For example, using them to direct your adventure. Roll six to head West!” Such an addition would sit in line with
“There’s some disagreement as to whether fishing’s a piratical activity”
the overarching design philosophy of
Sea Of Thieves, which is never to draw the player out of the game world. After taking such great efforts to have you fight, communicate, steer a ship, and play the hurdy-gurdy without having to delve into static menus, it’d be immersion-breaking to have to do so in order to roll some dice. However, with the game’s relentless fetch quest structure at risk of wearing a bit thin by repetition at present, kicking back for a game of cards with some AI chums, or indeed your own crewmates, sounds like an ideal, immersion-friendly palate cleanser. There’s a musical update planned soon too: drums. Every pirate band needs a rock-solid rhythm section, after all, and the rather basic skins planned for inclusion are certainly lore-friendly.
Perhaps it’s the immersion factor that has Rare umming and aahing about the possible inclusion of a fishing mechanic, too. There’s some disagreement at the Twycross studio as to whether fishing’s a particularly piratical activity, although they have expressed at least an interest in its future inclusion. We’d argue that a diet of crackers and grog alone is dangerously malnourishing, and that a tuna steak here and there does no end of good for crew morale – but what do we know? We don’t even have a parrot on our shoulder.
Oh, speaking of: changes are afoot (or a-peg, to use the pirate-friendly vernacular) for pets, too. Initially announced as the game’s first post- launch microtransactions, Neate later clarified that “we’re considering all options and they’re part of our ongoing service. We don’t have plans for them to be bought with gold but we’re looking at potential ways players could earn them.” It’ll be possible to own several different pets, but sadly – nay, tragically – you’ll only be able to take one of them out with you on a voyage at a time. No recreating Biblical arks quite yet, then.
For the fashion-forward pirate, there’s more good news. Rare’s working on new customisation options that will allow players to change their hair colour via the Vanity Chest, and also a tattoo customisation system that looks to reward players for their accomplishments – unlocking a kraken tattoo after defeating one on the high seas, say. They say tattoos tell a person’s story, and in everyday life that story is usually ‘I wanted to
look like a reality TV star/got drunk near a tattoo parlour’ so the idea of more meaningful scribbles is one to welcome with open arms.
Furthermore on the customisation front, it appears that the Legendary Ships unlocked by becoming a Pirate Legend (see ‘Videogame Piracy’) aren’t as profoundly different in their features as some in the community were expecting. In other words: they’re almost certainly just cosmetic changes. “When we bring in ship captaincy the legendary cosmetics that you acquire will apply to both sloop and galleon,” said Chapman on the matter. No mention of extra crew slots or special features that some had rather speculatively expected would comprise the Legendary Ship package. And really, that’s probably for the best – the game’s designed as a level playing field for everyone regardless of their hours looting and plundering. The cutlass, blunderbuss and rifle you’re armed with are the same for every pirate in the land, so why should the ships be any different?
Making it happen
We’ll leave you with this from Chapman, who recently teased the first of several planned special in- game events (think Overwatch) via a rhyming riddle: “New visitors soon there may be, travelling far across the sea, depth of night with eyes aglow, crawling the earth cast in shadow.” It’s not Ted Hughes, but it gets the info across. You can expect a spooky night-time event that likely introduces a new skeleton type, the Shadow skeleton. These lugubrious fellows are much more dangerous than your everyday bag-o’-bones, but they’re also vulnerable to sunlight or even your lantern. Hence the name, we guess. Rare clearly plans to expand Sea
Of Thieves, and indeed the studio’s hard at work on minor updates to improve performance and stability at the moment. But without a firm time scale on any of those aforementioned additions we’re still not confident that it’ll have enough to stay afloat for long after release. The fundamentals are all in place, but we need to see more substantial content drops like the event teased above in order to keep us interested in the world – and to keep us grinding away at its systems.
Above Soon it won’t just be galleons you can crew with mates, but sloops too.
right What will cheer up these listless faces? Rare has a few neat ideas.