Home Tech PlayStation, ahoy! How Rare’s pirate adventure Sea of Thieves set sail for a new platform

PlayStation, ahoy! How Rare’s pirate adventure Sea of Thieves set sail for a new platform

by Elijah
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PlayStation, ahoy! How Rare’s pirate adventure Sea of Thieves set sail for a new platform

Ohne evening several months ago, Mike Chapman, the creative director of the cooperative pirate adventure game Sea of ​​Thieves, sat down to play the game with producer Joe Neate. This wasn’t just a standard playtest: joining them online would be accompanied by a team of players they’d never taken to the ocean with before. It was a team from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The plan to bring Xbox exclusivity to PS5 had just been developed; Now it was time to get into the details. “We were educating them about the game, telling them what was special about it,” says Neate. “It was so surreal,” says Chapman. “Trying to find treasure on an island with a party from another platform holder…”

The PS5 is scheduled to launch on April 30 and pre-orders are now open, but this is just the latest step in the evolution of this fascinating game. Launched on March 20, 2018, it was the most ambitious project in the long history of veteran British studio Rare. Billed as a cooperative pirate adventure, Sea of ​​Thieves gave players access to a vast multiplayer world of ocean exploration, buried treasure, and ship-to-ship battles. The design philosophy behind the game was simple, but extremely risky: tools, not rules. Players would be given everything they need to embark on their own pirate adventures – even musical instruments and gallons of virtual grog – but there would be no overarching narrative, no skill trees, no complex character progression systems. The stories would come from the players themselves, as they assembled their crews and battled other buccaneers for fame and fortune.

“We did our best to stay true to that”… Sea of ​​Thieves. Photography: Microsoft

After a shaky launch, hampered by technical issues, Sea of ​​Thieves found its audience and thrived. Since that day in 2018, there have been around 100 updates and expansions, including adventures based on Pirates of the Caribbean and Monkey Island. New mechanics such as goods and captaincies have added new depths to the experience, but Chapman believes the game’s longevity comes down to carefully ensuring player action and supporting roleplay. “We give players very simple tools and they can bring their own creativity to it,” he says. “We did our best to stay true to that.”

Supporting a diverse community has also been vital. “I think that’s part of the hidden work of creating a shared world,” he says. “If you add a mechanic to the game, the mechanic itself can be very simple, but it has to respect the fact that it’s in a shared world. It’s a set of motivations brought together in a shared space, and the mechanic will be used in different ways depending on whether the player is traditionally a PvP (player versus player) or PvE (player versus environment) style of player. So every time we build a mechanic, we think a lot about how it fits into this world and how we could potentially create new metas that will make it thrive over many months and years, but also way we can conceive of emergent metas that we don’t want. It’s almost about tapping into players’ psychology of how they might use a new mechanic for better or worse, and trying to design something that leads, in the majority of cases, to the stories that we want to see. Increasingly, this is where our design team is focused.

So, what was it like to face the prospect of opening the game to a whole new community? “At the management level, when we first heard about this possibility, we were initially excited. Then: “Okay, how are we going to do this?” » said Neate. “The fact that we had already moved to another platform with Steam helped us with not only the technical challenge, but how to start interacting with a different community in different locations and building that reputation.

“We really pushed the boundaries of the Sea of ​​Thieves experience”…Sea of ​​Thieves. Photography: Microsoft

“This is the first time in Rare’s 40-year history that we are developing on a Sony platform, which is incredible. It was pretty surreal for us to get a call and be presented with a set of slides on a platform we never thought we would have the opportunity to ship on. But honestly, for our tech team, it was like, “Let’s just get some kits and start experimenting and figuring this out.” “We had them hidden in a secret part of the studio with frosted windows and no one could peek. It was as much excitement as anything else.

According to Neate, Rare works with co-developers who have PlayStation experience, and Sony itself has been extremely helpful, arranging regular catch-up calls and making its own technical staff available whenever needed – even when the project was still top secret. “If we were going to visit their studios, we had to do it without wearing Sea of ​​Thieves T-shirts, as I’m sure you can imagine,” says Neate.

One of the huge benefits of preparing for welcoming a new community is that it gives the team an excuse to stop and think about the structure of the game. Season 11 of the game, which launched in January, was developed knowing that PS5 players would soon join them, so the onboarding system was revised. It now offers a much more compelling pirate journey, with content unlocking at a more manageable pace and a quest board showing where to find new things that were once hidden in artifacts or map icons. Rare also plans to introduce an offline single-player mode with the March update. “You won’t need Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus,” says Neate. “If you just want to come and play alone, you will be able to play Safer Seas as a single player so you can experience all of the content in Tall Tales and all of the progression through the companies. It’s another way to fall in love with the game before thinking “maybe I want to grab this subscription and start playing multiplayer.”

Rare is keen to point out, however, that while its recent work has focused on creating a more accessible and intuitive experience, with an eye on the new PS5 community, more ambitious projects are underway. Long-time fans have been clamoring for new mechanics, new systems, new tools – and they are coming.

“What we’ve been doing throughout the last year is really pushing the boundaries of the Sea of ​​Thieves experience,” says Chapman. “You can own your own ship. You can be part of a pirate guild. You have the quest table. You have revised tutorials, you can go into the game and play Safer Seas and spend all your time there and, as Joe says, play all the many hours of story content that way. Now we’ve pushed the boundaries of what Sea of ​​Thieves is and we have this new core experience, it’s all about enriching it. Let’s build on the captaincy, let’s build on the guilds. The coming year for us will be all about the sandbox.

It’s been a long journey since that launch six years ago and Chapman and Neate, who have been here since the beginning, seem more excited than ever. “To embark on this journey with the new platform is also incredibly exciting,” confirms Chapman. “I think we have prepared ourselves for many more years of an evolving game.”

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