Sea of ​​Thieves in the Sea

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    Introduction

    When it launched in 2018, many players loved the pirate life fantasy offered by the developer Sea of ​​Thieves, but many others weren’t sure what to make of the game. The critical reception of Sea of ​​Thieves was lukewarm. At the time, ignorant and naive reviewers wrote things like, “The basic mechanics of a modern co-op journey can be found here, but the carrot dangled in front of your ship is unfortunately small and unwelcome,” and , “Many elements of the experience made me uncomfortable, even when it brought up the life of a pirate. Since then, however, Rare and its Sea of ​​Thieves team have made the game a “It’s interesting to think that Sea of ​​Thieves—by any metric—has pushed for a trend in which players of all ages take to the sea and tell pirate stories,” says creative director Mike Chapman. – is the most popular game Rare has ever released”. This is especially impressive to consider when you consider Rare’s games like Banjo-Kazoo and Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country games. Let’s look at the history.

    When I wrote these lines in my review five years ago, Sea of ​​Thieves had not yet found its footing. There was work to be done, and like a crew of pirates motivated to discover treasure and make a better life for themselves, Chapman and the team worked hard to enhance Sea of ​​Thieves and bring it closer to that experience. of what he had envisioned from the beginning. And what did the players want? After achieving and continuing success on Xbox platforms and PC, Microsoft made the surprise announcement that it is bringing the game to the PlayStation 5 – Xbox’s main competition – for the next big leg of its journey.

    From the beginning

    From the beginning

    “The type of concept of [Sea of Thieves] Chapman says, “I think it started with — as with much of Rare’s history — looking at genres where Rare could make its mark.” Rare looked at games like DayZ and Rust, popular online sandbox games at the time where the stakes were high for survival, and much of the fun came from how players interacted in these worlds. Cooperate with or oppose them. “Before there was Pirates, the core of the game was about players creating stories together,” says Chapman. “Rare wanted to create a game where players could explore a fun world with versatile tools and high quality on a console. could boast of production values, but he was also aware that games that excelled at telling their stories were often overly punishing. “It felt like a place where Rare really was can have an effect.”

    From there, the discussion turned to topical wrapping. Chapman says the team discussed ideas about whether the game could be about deep-sea exploration and even vampires. Internally, Pirates was a favorite, which makes sense given Rare’s history. He had never made a pirate-centric game before, but pirates always had a way of sneaking in. And then every other ship in that shared social sandbox would become another crew of real players,” says Chapman.

    At that point, the prototype phase began and Rare began to explore the details, should the game be first-person? If you are a pirate yourself, how do you control the whole ship? “We built the game outwards from there, starting at the absolute core, building a lot of the mechanics you see today, and then obviously beyond that,” Chapman says.

    Content creator

    Content creator

    Even under the influence of some anonymous reviewers at launch, Rare felt strongly about the core mechanics and overall idea. “We were so confident in Sea of ​​Thieves that I think the way we looked at it is that we started a very pure experiment,” Chapman says. “And even in the run-up to launch, we were very open about this being a game that was going to grow with its community — that it would evolve over time.” Even with this stated promise for Rarity, there was a lesson for the launch team. “What we didn’t expect was the amount to which the lack of content really hurt us in those early days,” says Chapman. “But that first year was pretty close… we need to improve the core experience we’ve already built.”

    It would be hyperbolic to call it a scramble, but after release, Rare had to revise its plans for the game and change its approach to what it would add to the game – a pivot that paid off. Rare tore up its planned roadmap for the year and focused on what players would consider core content. For example megalodon sharks and other creatures were added along with a very unexpected addition: skeleton ships.

    An early rule of Sea of ​​Thieves was that if you saw a ship in the distance, it would be another player. “We were founded on the idea that every ship you see will be built by other real players,” says Chapman. “Right after lunch, we revisited it, and we said, ‘Well, you know, we actually want sea-based threats and other ship-based threats to be present when the other players aren’t around. ” In retrospect, it was Chapman’s change and one the team never thought he would make, but it was the right decision.

    One aspect that made Chapman adamant about why he wasn’t in the game – despite the annoying insistence of journalists like myself at E3 2018 – is the RPG elements. You are not equal in a sea of ​​thieves in the traditional sense. Your sword never hits too hard, and your health will always stay the same no matter how many times you play. This is by design, and considering the success of the game and the ability of any player to be equal to everyone else at any time, it’s safe to argue that it was the right call. “It’s about doing the unexpected,” says Chapman. “We wanted players to discover the game years after its release. And what we didn’t want was for players to be left behind. The regret for that decision is strongest now that Rare, a Microsoft-owned developer, released the game. Makes for a platform he never thought he would port the game to.

    A new station to play

    A new station to play

    “If you asked me that question two years ago if I ever thought this game would come to PlayStation 5,” Chapman said with a laugh, “I think you can probably imagine my reaction. can.” Rare has been making video games since 1986. It has released games on almost every Nintendo console, a few Sega consoles, Xbox consoles, and dabbled with many arcade machine and PC releases, but somehow, it found its way to releases with Sony. Never crossed. Sea of ​​Thieves Playstation Game. “It feels very real,” Chapman says.

    When I ask who initiated the conversation about bringing the game to PlayStation, Chapman doesn’t have a specific answer. It wasn’t necessarily clearly directed by Rare, Microsoft, or Sony, but when it came time to pull the trigger, it was an easy decision. When the team met with Sony to start hammering out the details, they actually invited their liaisons to have their first meeting on an in-game ship in Sea of ​​Thieves.

    When I ask if anyone at the meeting appreciated the irony of Rarity, playing a pirate, inviting Sonny aboard her ship to presumably “teach” her boss’ primary competition, Chapman says, Predictably, the comparison is laughed off and offers a political response to the new relationship. : “That was probably as painful as it could be.”

    Rare is a skilled developer and familiar with porting his games to other platforms, so it seems there are some technical hurdles to bringing the game to the PlayStation 5, but Chapman is excited about Sony’s controller and its additional capabilities. Talked about what can be done with. Rare will take advantage of haptics and adaptive stimuli, but it has no plans to use a touchpad. “We’ve always been very intentional about making sure that one platform doesn’t really have an advantage over another,” says Chapman, pointing out that mouse and keyboard players Controllers have been overlapping with players for years already. For the future (of historical fiction)

    As for me (an old guy), I still think of Rare as the studio that made Donkey Kong Country and Perfect Dark. For Chapman and the playerbase it primarily engages with now, the developer is viewed differently, but is doing its best to maintain the quality and innovation it’s known for. “There are probably a lot of people out there now who will recognize Sea of ​​Thieves before they recognize Rare as a studio,” says Chapman. “That’s what’s rare in modern times.” Sea of ​​Thieves is crucial to the studio’s ongoing sense of the moment – possibly the most important – but the future looks bright. “I hope it’s just a great reflection of the pirate theme and a great place to hang out with your friends,” says Chapman.


    All images © Disney

    This article originally appeared in Game Informer issue 365.

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