Pirates seem like a smelly group of people who are lacking in morals. They don’t seem like they would make a great friend. And Xbox One’s new high-seas adventure acknowledges that.
You don’t need to play Sea of Thieves with other people. Rare wants to give players the option to approach the connected world of pirates and ships however they want. If that means you want to strike out on your own, you can do that. So far, Microsoft and the development studio have only showed big battles between teams of players who work together to crew massive sailing vessels.
GamesBeat had a go with the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in Los Angeles, and I found something that is nearly a pirate sim. While one person gets to hop on the wheel, everyone else needs to pull down the sails and then angle them to get the most from the wind. Other players fire the cannons while also repairing damage. It embraces the minutia of piracy, but it also seems like something that wouldn’t work at all for a single player.
In a conversation with GamesBeat, Sea of Thieves lead designer Mike Chapman explained that these team battlers are only one small slice of the overall experience.
“The goal for us was to create a rich pirate world,” he said. “When you look at the cinematic trailer and see all the familiar pirate tropes, your mind kinda fills with the possible quests. For us, we want to allow people to be the pirate they want to be. If you want to be the solitary pirate who sales around on a small, one-man ship, we want to allow you to do that.”
At the same time, Rare isn’t going to fudge things to help a single-person vessel take on a larger opponent.
“It’s better to play with other people, but I don’t mean that mechanically. It makes sense in the world,” he said. “If I have a bigger group, I can control a bigger ship. I can man more cannons. I can repair at the same time that someone is on the wheel. You’re gonna be a little bit more limited when you’re on your own, but not because we’re limiting players.”
Instead, Rare wants to empower people who play together with a different experience that is more complex and rewarding because you can do more when working in unison.
“When people see our game, they think that it looks like a classic Rare action adventure,” said Chapman. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build most cooperative adventure game, but we don’t want to limit what players can do for people who want to get lost in the world. That’s just as valid.”