Rare has announced on an Xbox blog that they’re bringing the pirate-centric Sea of Thieves to Steam two years after the title left Early Access and has enjoyed relative success on both the Microsoft Store and Xbox One. Arriving on June 3 with a $40 price tag, Rare is hoping that this move will increase Sea of Thieves player base even further beyond the reported 10 million players.
For many critics and fans alike, however, it has yet to negate that primary flaw with the title of being grief-slapped ad nauseam.
Sea of Thieves exists in an odd space between genres which has seen relative success since it’s release into Early Access in 2016, since completed in 2018. Users need to contend with PvE elements in order to grab loot across the world, and then the focus typically turns to PvP as crews attempt to turn that loot into ports and harbors.
This format turns Sea of Thieves into a ganking paradise where it rewards large crews that are willing to wait near ports until a ship arrives, taking the plunder that they’ve spent hours getting in a few minutes at most. The recent emissary update that saw players receiving additional rewards if they hoisted flags telling others precisely what they had on board seemed to increase the hide-and-gank nature even further.
This all has resulted in Rare being placed in a precarious situation, attempting to appease both players that are looking for a casual pirate simulation (PvE), and those looking for an intense PvP match.
It’s a tale as old as multiplayer games: Ultima Online has a similar issue, where you had those that wanted to PvE without concern of PvP. This brought about the controversial Trammel facet as Felucca became a ghost town.
Players that were interested in PvP had much slimmer pickings, stuck against only other players that wanted to PvP, while players who only were interested in PvE avoiding Felucca like the plague. PvP-focused players were rather vocal in precisely how they felt about this in forum posts which often turned into mud-slinging until the Champion system was brought about which rewarded PvE players for opting into the possibility of PvP.
This is all very relevant: Sea of Thieves is supposed to be getting PvE servers relatively soon, with many theorizing that it could happen during the Steam launch. This has, as expected for anyone who has been around the game industry, upset many PvP-centric players.
The Arena is a specific game mode that players can opt into that focuses on player versus player, yet it doesn’t capture the element of surprising enemies with attempts to sink their ship and take their crew. Further, Arena awards players for digging up chests, turning what was supposed to be PvP-centric into a standard play with a different taste.
Frankly, PvE servers will split the player base, regardless of how large it is, and the undeniable thrill of defending your ship against a surprise attack will need to be somehow replaced by further PvE interactions. Forums will ignite, that player base will become frustrated, and Trammel will descend into a new world, making Sea of Thieves the Sea of Friends. Which, depending on how you like to play, could very well be a good thing.