The newest title from Rare for the Xbox One is unlike anything they've ever put out – but still with that Rare flavor. In Sea of Thieves, you and four friends (or strangers) will bond together as a ragtag pirate crew. You then traverse the world in your ship, going on adventures, looking for treasure, fighting off sea creatures, and even getting into epic ship to ship battles with other crews also controlled by players.
Sea of Thieves came up at Rare about 18 months ago. "We've always tried different things," said Design Director Gregg Mayles at a behind closed doors presentation for the game at E3 2016. "We were interested in and excited by shared world games, giving the players a lot of freedom."
To that end, they bring players into a shared world as a group, then let them create their own experience. They buck the trend, with no real tutorials or guiding of the players; instead, it's just dropping you in and going. They realized that they didn't need to teach players what pirates are – people know.
"It's a shared world adventure game, a SWAG," said Joe Neate, Executive Producer on Sea of Thieves. "We want you to come in and just spend hours in this world." The demo at E3 only scratches the surface, and the cinematic trailer, Neate assures us, and all it promises will be delivered upon. That means islands to explore, enemies to fight in hand-to-hand and gunplay, quests to go upon, and even sea monsters (yes, they will unleash the Kraken).
"If it's all about sinking ships, then as a game we've failed," Mayles said. There will be trading, the possibility of alliances, or battles with those other groups of players.
The players are the focus, and Neate said that when they invited players into the studio at Rare to play, the reaction was exactly what they were hoping for. After E3, the next step is a Closed Beta, which they plan to launch much earlier in the process than they ever have before in past game launches.
Player progression will let you customize your character and your ship as you play. "We want to get it into players' hands, then listen to what they're saying," Mayles said. That means if players make specific requests, they'll look at if and how to integrate them, and then do it, the developers assured.
So far, the player feedback has been "really good," Mayles said. "We couldn't have written it any better." The focus on making the players bond together, even or especially when playing with complete strangers was paramount. They were purposely quiet about the game until getting it into fans' hands. Seeing players jump in and do everything possible right away has been incredibly rewarding for the team.
"We want stuff that bonds people together, not stuff that breaks them apart," Neate said of bringing in things like drinking and musical instruments for the E3 demo, long before swords and pistols. However, those things are coming, as are smaller ships that can be run by a single player or a smaller crew. It remains a shared world, but has many experiences available.
While they're not talking dates or business models yet, Rare did confirm that it's not free-to-play.
"Players creating stories together" is the initial goal for Sea of Thieves, and it seems that will be the case.