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The Sea Of Thieves Community Doesn't Want A Console War, Rare Says

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GameSpot spoke to Rare about its pirate sandbox's journey to PS5, and why the game's community isn't invested in a console war.

Following rumors that some Xbox games would be making their debuts on new platforms, Xbox confirmed the plan: Four games (for now) are dropping their Xbox console exclusivity in favor of new launches on PS5 and/or Switch. This includes Obsidian's Pentiment and Grounded, Hi-Fi Rush, and, biggest of all, Sea of Thieves.

The live-service pirate sandbox has been an Xbox mainstay since it kicked off the Game Pass day-and-date launch scheme in 2018. The news was met with different opinions. Some Xbox diehards saw it as an unexpected maneuver in a decades-long console war and felt Xbox was ceding territory to the enemy. But within Rare and the Sea of Thieves community, the developers say it's all smooth sailing. GameSpot recently caught up with Sea of Thieves creative director Mike Chapman and executive producer Joe Neate to discuss how Sea of Thieves launching on PS5 is exciting for the team as it will infuse the game with new tales of adventure and the pirates who live to tell them.

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Now Playing: Sea of Thieves On PS5 - A Message from Our Crew

"I think it's interesting to see how the Sea of Thieves core community is taking this news," Chapman said of the game's upcoming PS5 launch. "They get it. Sea of Thieves is a community. The game, at its heart, is about multiple player motivations coming together in a shared world. You can be the adventurer that does Tall Tales. You can be the fisherman who just catches and cooks fish. You can be the pirate who wants to go engage in ship battles [...] So the chance to expand that community with a new range of players that get Sea of Thieves as it is today, with even more richness and even more motivations to follow, I think the community sees it in the way that's only going to make Sea of Thieves more vibrant [...] I think the thing that we are most proud of is that Sea of Thieves still stands completely apart as a unique gameplay experience. There's nothing like it on Xbox. And I think it's fair to say there's nothing like it on PlayStation."

"We've seen a lot of people putting YouTube videos up, like 'Hey, new players coming in, here's your guide,' [trying to] welcome those players into this," Neate added. "And that's definitely the stance that we're taking on it and what we would encourage amongst the community.

"This is a great opportunity for Sea of Thieves and by extension for all of our players, right?" Neate continued. "Getting to do this six years into the lifecycle of this evolving game and knowing what that unlocks for future growth and opportunity for us as an evolving game, it's just super exciting."

Chapman said he thinks about some of the game's major milestones, such as its first anniversary update in 2019, its Steam launch, its Disney collaboration, and others. He said he regards the PS5 launch as the next major milestone. "It's one more barrier we're taking away," he told me. "Come April 30th, someone with a Windows Store edition, someone with a Steam edition, someone with an Xbox copy of the game, and someone with a PlayStation copy of the game could form a crew. A friend group that splits across platforms can go have that awesome pirate adventure. It's one more barrier taken away, and more people can play together in this unique world that we've made."

Interestingly, even as the game launches on a new platform with full cross-play intended to drive more multiplayer adventures, the game will also receive a new Solo Seas update later this month, allowing players on any platform to play Sea of Thieves without needing a subscription such as Xbox Game Pass Core or PlayStation Plus.

"You still need to be online, but you don't need that online subscription," Neate explained. "So if you want to go in and play Sea of Thieves as a solo experience, and all of the Tall Tales, all of the trading company progression up to level 40 [of 100], that will be an option for people. So in terms of removing barriers to play, that's almost the final one that we're knocking down, because Sea of Thieves is such a great experience right now that it's a totally viable way to come in and experience it. And maybe that will then give people the motivation to go and want to branch out into the shared world too."

Starting April 30, a full crew of pirates could feature players on four different platforms.
Starting April 30, a full crew of pirates could feature players on four different platforms.

Personally, I enjoyed Sea of Thieves from my first experience in the beta, but I recall thinking of it in a new light after June 2018's The Hungering Deep event, which demanded players ally with other crews in their server to take down the game's then-new megalodon, a massive shark that bites ships like a pirate cronches on a banana. This event, which I ended up adoring, drove me into multiplayer in a way I'd previously been shyly avoiding for the two months since the game had launched.

I asked the pair if Rare has any plans to run back these limited-time events that PS5 players have missed, and they told me that while exact events such as The Hungering Deep may stay in the past, the lessons they learned from them continue to shape the game's future.

"I think the type of event that requires multiple players is a classic Sea of Thieves event," said Chapman, naming more recent events such as The Shrouded Deep and The Legend of Glitterbeard that have demonstrated a similar intent to bring would-be separate crews together. "Anything that optimizes the social interactions between players is just really exciting."

Neate added, "As we look to the year ahead in terms of the live events and trying to really elevate what we're doing on that front, and really make use of all of the richness of what we've built over the last six years, we definitely have some interesting ideas in that space."

The last few updates have seemed to build toward this moment, with major new additions like ship captaincy, Guilds, and an overhaul to how in-game missions, or "voyages," are browsed and initiated all on a player's ship, making it easier to see the variety of experiences all in one place--and much faster to dive into them. These changes make the game better whether you've been playing for years or you're due to have your maiden voyage on PS5. Chapman says Rare has assumptions regarding where the influx of new players will gravitate toward first, but he knows any Sea of Thieves session is likely to start with a plan and quickly veer off-course.

"We know that Sea of Thieves is the time machine. You put it on and you lose your sense of time," said Chapman. "People can actually get to the fun a lot quicker now. Don't get me wrong, like back in 2018, we designed the core loop to take about 45 minutes. But I think what we've learned over those years is that's not very accessible, not very approachable, and people want to chain things together and get a lot of the variety, which is what Sea of Thieves does best, it's that variety of all these different encounters coming together."

Sea of Thieves is now available for preorder on PS5 ahead of its debut on the platform on April 30. For more on what's on the horizon, don't miss the news that the game will have DualSense support on PS5, and that all players will soon enjoy a brand-new weapon class coming to the game.

Mark Delaney on Google+

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Mark Delaney

Mark is an editor at GameSpot. He writes reviews, guides, and other articles, and focuses largely on the horror and sports genres in video games, TV, and movies.

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