Sea of Thieves is fun until you meet other pirates

sea of thieves pirates

“More pirates!” I shouted at my matey, who we’ll call Andy because that’s his name. We’d both cleared our schedules so we could enjoy a leisurely cruise across Sea of Thieves’s striking azure ocean. This was our first sight of other players, and we were excited to get our instruments out and expand the size of our band. We jumped into the water to say hello. We were promptly shot.

Sea of Thieves is quite a lot of fun until you meet other pirates.

There’s a Pirate Code of Conduct stuck to the wall in every tavern in Sea of Thieves. It promotes community and fair play, and if these were rules rather than suggestions, the ocean would be a lovely place. Unfortunately pirates rarely follow suggestions.

sea7

We were both a bit disappointed that our very first encounter ended in bloodshed, but we patiently waited for the ferryman to let us return to the land of the living, hoping that our next life would contain more friendship and fewer bullets in the skull. We respawned on our ship, where the other pirates were waiting for us. We died again. This happened several more times until we just waited them out on the ferry. Eventually they got bored, scuttled our ship and left.

This sums up just about every single encounter we had last night. We’d either be docked or on land, another ship would sidle up to us, murder us and then camp out on our ship until they got bored. We rarely had anything worth stealing, so ultimately it was just two groups of pirates, boring themselves for nothing.

That Sea of Thieves has PvP isn’t the problem. In a multiplayer game about pirates, PvP is almost a necessity, and ship-to-ship battles remain thrilling, but being murdered when you’re just reading your map, trying to talk to NPCs in an outpost or trying to set up a pirate band is just disheartening.

sea1

It goes against the spirit of the game. If you’re just hanging around doing some shopping, there’s no point in someone killing you. It’s not the same as ramming into another ship and then boarding it in the hopes of finding treasure, or at least some chickens. It even says, in the Pirate Code of Conduct, that fighting should take place at sea. But aside from a notice that most players probably won’t even read, there’s nothing stopping people from spending the whole day camping and stalking.

Sea of Thieves absolutely creates this situation. It’s easy to get peeved and start grumbling about people with no empathy for their fellow players, but when they’re playing a game that places absolutely no limits on how much you can hassle other pirates, then the blame lies at the devs’ feet.

The ridiculous respawn system is certainly not the fault of players. When you die, you’ll always reappear back on your ship once you leave the ferryman, which is rubbish no matter what side you’re on. It’s ridiculous for the attackers because they’ve already won, so why should they have to fight me all over again? And it’s ridiculous for the defenders because it just means you keep reappearing right next to your murderer, who presumably already has their weapons at the ready.

sea3

Half-way through the evening, Andy and I just started trying to avoid every ship we spotted. Even before we knew the crew was aggressive. I mean, of course they were. They always were. Admittedly this did create one of the most dramatic moments of the night.

We’d been running away from this galleon at least for an hour. And it kept finding us. No matter what we were doing, it would appear, and quickly we’d be dead. Our sloop was no match for it, and frankly they were just better, or at least more aggressive, players. Usually they didn’t even bother using their galleon’s might. They’d find us hanging out on the beach or digging up treasure.

There was a treasure chest we desperately needed to unearth, so we were waiting around the back of an island, cautiously peeking around the corner to see if the galleon had moved yet. The crew seemed to be busy, so we set sail, taking the longest way round, staying out of range. Unfortunately, that meant that we were heading right into a storm. There was a moment’s discussion about what we should do.

sea9

I really wanted to get into a proper ship battle, but since this crew had been hassling us for so long, I didn’t really want to put on a show for them. Into the storm, then. Andy took the wheel, and I moved around the ship, keeping busy. I worked the ropes, controlling our sails so we could get more speed; I grabbed my bucket, trying to empty the water that was filling our cargo hold; when a hole appeared in the hull, I quickly patched it up; and when Andy started to feel nauseous, I played a tune on my hurdy-gurdy.

It was intense. The sea and sky blended together, cloaking us in darkness as we were tossed around in every direction. The compass went wild, Andy lost control of the wheel and the ship lurched and creaked. Can ships scream? I’m pretty sure I heard it scream. More holes started to appear, and then lightning struck the cabin, ripping another chunk out of our ship. We’d entirely given up on trying to guide our struggling vessel. We had no idea where we were going. Into the rocks? There was a good chance. Then, all of a sudden, the sheet of rain became a drizzle and the ship started to settle. We’d survived.

Those are the kinds of stories I want to be able to tell, when I make it back to dry land. “I survived Poseidon’s wrath” is infinitely more exciting than “WeedKing420 shot me when I was eating a banana”.

sea8

Maybe the problem is my expectations. The Sea of Thieves pitch is for a co-operative multiplayer pirate romp, but it looks like everyone I was playing with last night considers PvP the focus, turning it into a huge, tiresome deathmatch. I find that incredibly hard to parse with the game where I can chase chickens and pigs around a tiny island while my crew serenades me from the ship.

The whole experience has been somewhat off-putting. During a quiet moment, sailing through calm seas on our way to drop off some cargo, we gave voice to our doubts about the game and wondered if it might benefit from pacifist instances. I don’t think that would be a bad idea, but I do still want to get into the PvP. Its free-for-all nature is the issue, not that it exists at all.

I confess that I’ve been beaten. When I play again this evening, I will set aside my desire to make new pals and become yet another marauding pirate. Frankly, I need to blow off some steam.

100 Comments

Top comments

  1. Sorry says:

    First off - I'm sorry!

    I'm quite certain the pirates that hunted you down were me and a few of my mates. None of us are in to PvP. We just assumed that fighting other pirates was part of the game - so when we spotted you we gave chase. When we saw you swimming towards our ship carrying SOMETHING we assumed you were coming to destroy our ship using an exploding barrel - so we killed you first. We pursued your ship in the hopes we could TAKE OVER your ship, assuming (wrongly) that this was part of the 'earn more money loop' in the game.

    We were wrong. All we did was make your experience upsetting. In the aftermath we also found it rather upsetting - what a waste of time and energy. None of us found the experience enjoyable and have not repeated it since. One of our group put it this way: "So after all of that everyone gets.. nothing? What was the point then?" We took no joy in what we did but thought it was part of what the game expected of us.

    So - please accept our heartfelt apologies. Should we meet up again we would gladly invite you aboard for grog and music.

    Wishing you fair winds and following seas Captain!
  1. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    That’s X-COM, baby!

    …No? Okay, I’ll be going.

  2. Maxheadroom says:

    ta for the heads up. PvP can be fun but spawn camping wasnt fun in Ultima Online 20 years ago and isnt any more so today.

    Think i’ll skip this one

  3. Godwhacker says:

    Yarr, that’s a shame (matey). I’d been considering checking it out this evening via the XBox Game Pass trial mentioned earlier, but if it’s just going to be a watery version of Rust without the possibility of teaming up with randoms then I think I’ll give it a miss .

  4. Sir_Deimos says:

    I never understood why people were hyped for this game other than Rare was finally releasing the “pirate game” they teased for so long. This only confirms that I’ll be passing on this game.

    There seems to be so many conflicting design decisions that should’ve been taken care of considering how long it was in development. No progression but cosmetic means there’s essentially no reward for playing the game since you can immediately sail to the end game content. Why make the penalty for dying so small when theres no progression loss anyway, meaning theres no risk to PvE situations. To help fix the problems described in the article I’d suggest a “safe harbor” concept where certain areas have PvP disabled, but this wouldn’t fit well with the rest of the philosophy of the game.

    I’m disappointed that I just can’t see why anyone would want to play this because I’ve already got friends trying to get me to buy it.

    • Guvornatwo says:

      There is progression beyond cosmetic. There’s a whole endgame with unique missions, locations and a unique ship. While the penalty for dying is small if you don’t have a chest on board, if you do that’s potentially a shitload of work down the toilet.

      • Sir_Deimos says:

        But you lose work *toward* what? Some more gold for more cosmetics? Unique locations and quests don’t mean much if the reward for doing them has no meaningful difference from regular rewards.

          • Sir_Deimos says:

            But that didn’t say anything about what makes playing as a Pirate Legend *different* from playing for the very first time. You get to access a special island to get special quests, but if the reward for those special quests is still just gold and reputation, what’s all that special about it?

          • televizor says:

            As far as I’ve read, there are some special rewards for the endgame content, unique or rare customization options and I think your ghost becomes one of the legendary pirates walking around the bar.
            But it ain’t much

    • Inu says:

      Safe harbors being a thing is fine. In a “real Pirate World”, pirates didn’t just attack nilly willy. They knew it was dangerous to attack more populated towns etc. There will probably need to be some AI to simulate this.

  5. geldonyetich says:

    As before, you put the gankers in the same kiddy pool as the carebares, there’s going to be hard feelings. The carebares leave, then the gankers get sick of eachother’s own medicine and leave too, and then the game is a ghosttown.

    It seems the general rule of adding open PvP is that it’s easy enough to add to any platform: allow player A to hit player B and you’re done. It’s not a miracle of immersive, theme park design busting, open world gameplay, they just haphazardly let players slap eachother around and damn the consequences.

    On the other hand, trying to balance it into being fair or enjoyable, now *that* takes effort, effort developers don’t seem willing to make. So they pin it on the responsibility on the players.

    It’s not the player’s job to assure long-term enjoyability of a game, don’t expect them to pick up any of the slack there. If you can’t do a better job at curbing their base impulses, it’s better not to put the open PvP feature in at all.

    • Chromatose says:

      That many MMOs have not even bothered to tackle this fairly important design consideration for the nearly twenty years the genre has been about is completely mystifying. What is more mystifying is that Eve solved this back in 2003 with high-sec, low-sec and nullsec space. It’s a damn shame Sea Of Thieves didn’t just copy this idea.

      • indigochill says:

        EVE has sort of half-solved it. You still have a couple problems there: In high sec, there are still myriad ways to grief carebears in high sec space. In null sec, the entire space is always dominated by the biggest group of friends who take whatever they want whenever they want it because nobody else can numerically stand up to them.

        But on the other hand it was a good call to give the PvPers a place to duke it out for e-pride and a place for the carebears to carebear in relative peace. It’s not a perfect system, but it goes a lot farther than any other open PvP systems I’ve seen.

      • ChiefOfBeef says:

        EVE’s ‘solution’ was to make it so you can be griefed but can’t do anything back when you are in high-sec. Any ‘solution’ to open-world PvP has this effect. People looking for a ‘solution’ here simply see open PvP as a problem and don’t like it as a feature at all.

        Several occasions during the scale tests, I was robbed. At least some of the time I was able to return, get revenge and get my stuff back, then take their loot too. This would have been impossible if ANY of the ‘solutions’ posted by people on the official forums had been in the game.

        • aircool says:

          I happy with the whole Wild West concept. The game is a good laugh with friends, and can be quite relaxing solo.

          We’re so conditioned to placing loot and progression above everything else that we often forget to just mess around having a laugh.

          Sure, there’s griefers, but they’re easily avoidable after they’ve got you for the first time. If they’re hanging around an island, go somewhere else. However, my advice would be gunpowder. It’s great for sneaky revenge, dropping behind you to deter a pursuing ship or for jumping aboard the enemy ship and laughing your arse off when they shoot you, the gunpowder and subsequently sink their own ship.

      • SaintAn says:

        Some MMO’s have solved the problem.

        ArcheAge and Age of Wushu for example have laws and prisons where players go for breaking the law. You break the law, you get flaged as an outlaw, so when you die you go to game jail and have to stay there online doing nothing for a time that fits your crime spree, unless you have people willing to break you out and get marked as outlaws and increase your prison time.

        There’s also a bounty system in Age of Wushu where players can put bounties on other players that have wronged them which allows bounty hunter players to hunt marked players for the reward. It’s another way to punish and stop outlaws. For example if another player breaks the law and murders you it gives you the option to mark them with a bounty. I was a bounty hunter in that game and used to run along the rooftops in cities watching for players with bounties to fight.

        That’s what Sea of Thieves should have done even though it’s not an MMO. Would fit the game well since it’s pirate themed.

    • something says:

      I suspect that if your want your game to achieve Twitch/YouTube fame, you have to empower the worst people to indulge their most mean-spirited instincts. In that case, a well designed game won’t survive against anarchic purgatory simulators.

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      Drib says:

      Is “Carebare” spelled like that as a reference? Or are you just not spelling “Carebear” correctly?

      • Someoldguy says:

        Bear with me a moment.

        I suspect he barely cares.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Unintentional. “Carebare” one of those things that happen when you multitask, only have a 5 minute edit window, and are multitasking. I actually started cutting and pasting the misspelling.

        Honestly, carebear in this context is a dirty word that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s usually thrown out as an expletive by a griefer complaining about people who have the audacity to complain that their choice of entertainment involves being a disruptive jerk.

        But if I’m going to call the griefer a griefer, it’s only fair to call the people on the other side of the fence a carebear. And, honestly, it’s neither the griefer nor the carebear’s fault that the developer didn’t bother defining how play is supposed to go, resulting in the players stomping on eachother’s toes as some digital tragedy of the commons.

    • Montuckian says:

      Uh, but what are they gonna do for content then? ACTUALLY create it?

  6. Jumpy-B-L says:

    FYI – you can scuttle your ship while on the ferry. You’ll spawn with a new ship at an Outpost.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      THANK YOU

      • Guvornatwo says:

        To be fair, it does a really shit job of explaining itself.

      • Walsh says:

        Are you going to update the story now? Given you just turned off a lot of people who may have otherwise enjoyed the game.

        • aepervius says:

          I do think the story stand as it is as a warning to people. The fact that you can scuttle the ship does not change the fact that the better equipped player will hunt weaker one (rather than equal one). As such it is a GOOD warning to give to the potential buyer.

          • Guvornator says:

            Not true, a sloop will outrun a galleon, which is the game you are playing if you are on a sloop.

          • Guvornatwo says:

            There is no better equipped – a galleon has more cannons but handles like a barn on rollerskates, where as a sloop only has two cannons but is agile and faster. Even if you are out gunned neither can fire on you if you are in front or behind. There’s no doubting the sloop game is trickier to master (not least because folks tend to avoid galleons), but I’ve happily soloed for most of it and had an excellent time.

          • aircool says:

            There’s not such thing as better equipped. Better prepared, better drilled and a good stock of supplies, yes, but never better equipped.

            There’s a lot of complaints from people who are playing solo, which isn’t really recommended, but still viable. You play the game like a rat. Bold in large groups, but when you’re own your own, you have to be fast, sneaky and cunning.

        • Ragnar says:

          The fact that you can scuttle your own ship, rather than waiting for the gankers to do it, does not change the main issue – that the seas are full of gankers.

          Scuttling your own ship is akin to saying, “You’re firing me? Well, you can’t, because I quit!”

    • Guvornatwo says:

      I don’t think you have to be on the ferry either. It’s in one of the menus. All your crew has to vote on it though.

  7. Guvornatwo says:

    “We’d been running away from this galleon at least for an hour. And it kept finding us.”

    Did you blow out the lanterns?

  8. jeremyalexander says:

    So you wanted a pirate game but with none of the piratey douchbaggery and instead you wanted to just go to islands and dig up chests? I haven’t played it, but I watched a ton of streams and it seemed to me the only fun part of the game were encounters and battles with other pirates. Otherwise it’s just going back and forth to islands to dig up chests for money that really serves no purpose in the game. It’s like saying that you would have loved Wolfenstein if it wasn’t for all the violence. It’s called Sea of Thieves, not Sea of Deliveries.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      Yeah, it’s called Sea of Thieves. Not Sea of Camping Murderers.

      I don’t want to assume that you didn’t read the article before commenting, but I did state more than once that I liked ship combat and wanted to get into more fights. That wasn’t the issue at all.

      • Guvornatwo says:

        I sort of feel like the devs have addressed the ganking, but the community hasn’t grasped it yet. Generally I’ve found successfully sinking ships to be a resource heavy with no guaranteed reward – if there’s no chest, the best you can hope for is grabbing about half the cannonballs or bananas you spent trying to sink the damn thing in the first place.

        • Someoldguy says:

          I suspect the community has successfully grasped that asshat douchebaggery is a lot of fun as long its you dishing it out to someone else. That’s been the case in all no-holds-barred PvP games to date and will be in all PvP games to come.

          • Guvornatwo says:

            It depends whether the game has started directing people to missions effectively. Quite a lot of gankers I encountered thought that was the entirety of the game or had missed the mission tents and got bored.

          • Ragnar says:

            I suspect it’s not that the gankers have failed to grasp the goal of the game, but that they’re playing a different game from the rest of us. Their enjoyment is derived solely from denying others enjoyment. They’re video game vampires, sucking the fun out of their victims to feed themselves.

          • Blackcompany says:

            Exactly this, and it guarantees I will never, ever try this game. Which is a shame, because I badly want an open world pirate game.

            But open world, with non consensual PVP, is a deal breaker. Not that it matters; the game will dead in months once everyone realizes its just another asshole simulator.

          • Guvornatwo says:

            The thing is I can understand where Fraser is coming from. I’ve had one day where I was killed mercilessly. I played solo for 4 hours, made no money, got rammed, stabbed, shot and generally fucked up and made no gold. I was ready to cancel my pre order and I would have if I hadn’t got friends who played it. But that was the only day that happened and I learned a lot from it – now I play solo like a stealth game, and it’s really exhilarating, because the win/loss situation is like a knife edge. Whether this was the way I should have learned from it is another matter, but when you learn how the game works there’s no reason you can’t chose most of your battles, and there’s no need to L33T to have a good time.

  9. Umama says:

    I tried the last beta in the one person ship mode as I just wanted to learn the systems before joining a crew. After some wandering around I eventually figured out how to take a quest. I then saw a small ship, which I assumed was mine, at the end of a dock.

    I got on the ship and then couldn’t figure out how to get it moving. I poked around the ship some more and then another ship approached and blew me into the water and killed me. I respawned and as I approached the docked ship I was killed again by the same people. (I tried loading a cannon but died before I even got the cannonball to the cannon.)

    I uninstalled and lost all interest in the game. If I can’t get out of the dock or even begin to learn the game without getting killed by randoms then what’s the point?

    • Guvornatwo says:

      Raise the anchor. If you are on a sloop its the big cog behind the ship’s wheel. Drop the sail. The pulley is on the side. Off you go.

      • Umama says:

        Fair enough, but the game made no attempt to explain any of that to me as far as I could tell. Plus I probably would’ve died trying to do that anyway given the ship that was continuously firing at me.

        • Guvornatwo says:

          I mean I do understand where you are coming from – the game doesn’t explain itself very well. Or rather, it expects you to look at your surroundings in a way that is obvious to Rare, but less so to the poor Sea Of Thieves noob who is curious to see what the fuss is about. However if you need to be told that a sailing ship needs to raise the anchor and drop the sail to move, that one might be on you ;)

          • Umama says:

            Haha, my husband was a sea cadet, so I guess I should have consulted with him :-)

          • aircool says:

            Watch videos, read the wiki. That’s how we all learn to play these days.

          • Guvornatwo says:

            Ha! I couldn’t possibly comment…

          • Umama says:

            Aircool – I have used Wikis and videos to learn more advanced mechanics in some games, but I do think that the game should at least teach some basic mechanics. I did only play the beta, so maybe they’ve improved in that regard since then.

            I think I saw enough to know it’s simply not a game for me in any event.

          • April March says:

            However if you need to be told that a sailing ship needs to raise the anchor and drop the sail to move, that one might be on you

            This reminds me of the guy who said Spintires was a fitting name for that game because he couldn’t even get the vehicles moving. In Spinters, you need to press B to release the handbrakes.

            It’s all a matter of knowing the level of abstraction is my point.

  10. briangw says:

    This is why I don’t play MP games any more. The same “spawning in the middle of camping soldiers” happened with CoD World at War and I just said to hell with it and play SP and PvE games now. I’m all for duking it out against another player but when you respawn and end up in the middle of someone camping, that’s where I draw the line and lose interest in the game.

  11. Sian says:

    This is the reason I gave up on the game as soon as I read that it had PvP, and I feel somewhat vindicated. It’s the same with every game that has open PvP like this.

  12. Kemuel says:

    I had this same issue in beta- I don’t think I encountered a single other player the entire time who wasn’t a complete and utter wanker. Even waving, sitting down, throwing the lets-be-friendly emotes, wielding nothing sharper than bananas would do nothing to improve my chances of having a positive interaction with someone.

    The pinnacle of this came when I somehow ended up respawning on someone else’s ship after losing my own in a three-way fight. Nothing I did would convince the moron that I kept spawning next to that I just wanted to crew up and take on the other vessel. Respawn, die, respawn, die, respawn, die, fuck all of this stupid shit, log.

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    Drib says:

    This makes me a bit sad. You can’t have a rollicking swashbuckling adventure if everyone is raving psychotics who just murder everyone they see.

    The game looks so bright and cheery, it’s a pity it turned into Rust/Pubg/Ark/every other game with unrestricted pvp.

  14. Evan_ says:

    I wonder if there are many of us sicko open-pvp fans who are planning to hold out for a Steam release. This article makes me feel it may be closer than we thought.

    Either that, or MS may try a ‘carebear-fix’, which will make me feel glad I didn’t jump in early.

    • Kowie says:

      I hope they don’t, PVP games that try to appeal to players who prefer PVE over PVP just bring in the carebear crowd who then generally proceed to give the game large amounts of negative reviews after being ‘bullied’ a few too many times and finding out surprise surprise pvp mainly based games at launch lack PVE content.

      +1 gonna wait till this is on steam, hopefully by then its at least half its current price.

  15. Rince says:

    Yeah, there goes the last tiny bit of interest which I could had about the game.

    Was to be expected.

  16. NuclearSword says:

    How were the previews for this (universally) so positive, yet this issue is popping up now at launch though? I find it odd. Were the beta players simply better people than your typical dudebro assholes who are only now deciding to dive into this and ruin a game when they’re taking a break from yelling racist slurs at each other in a Plunkbat Airplane?

    This experience seems like something that should’ve been revealed by the beta tests, no? That’s all I’m saying.

    Still, shame on Rare for not having any sort of other faction, or any kind of incentive to be someone not shitty. It’s always nice to assume the best of your potential playerbase, I get it, but – and this is especially true for anything wearing the Xbox brand (“the official online network of the worst dudebros since Mechassault™”) – but you have to design systems to handle the worst potential players first and foremost. That should be accepted gaming knowledge now. It’s depressing that it’s not.

  17. Budikah says:

    I guess I’m in the minority here.

    I grew up with Ultima Online, so open non-consensual PvP games are the height of PC gaming for me. I love stuff like this.

    It isn’t fun getting your ass kicked, but it is fun surviving and getting better and eventually having some good fights or doing ass kicking.

    Perhaps Sea of Thieves needs more consideration for their open PvP system, but there are still people out there who enjoy this style of gameplay.

    • ColonelFailure says:

      The glory days of Ultima Online were flat out an adrenaline rush. Knowing that you had to go past Brit crossroads in order to sell your wares and that reports were that Sheepdog was out and about.

      Surviving a PK attack was one of the most exciting things that could happen.

  18. aepervius says:

    “It goes against the spirit of the game. If you’re just hanging around doing some shopping, there’s no point in someone killing you.” And this is exactly what I expect from the player base. All pvp based game with free roam always turn into pack of wolves hunting the sheep and spawn camping them, and targeting smaller crew as to avoid risk. Most efficient way, and in my experience most open world pvper don’t seek the thrill of pvp, they seek the feeling of power and grief. To avoid that you got to have something enforcing a balance, so that risk and reward are not so lope sided. As I expected SoT did not learn the lesson of past games.

  19. RichardBlackEye says:

    Wow! These comments…

    Nonetheless, Fraser this is something you should expect in a PVP game. Rust and so on are examples that when you have something at stake (resources, in this case) you’ll defend them with your life. Even our modern world still has this golden rule.
    I understand that people might want to run from real world subjects, as I do, when playing videogames, but Sea of Thieves is as they told people it would be: World PVP.

    In the Open Beta, I gathered nice people to play with due to enconters were we both knew we got nothing to lose while playing music, dancing, pillaging forts or sinking other ships together.

    Today, on launch day, I never interacted with other players, not because some of them immediately attacked me, but because I was soloing forts so I gathered lots of resources. I had things to lose. And I believe most players had too.
    The best option is shot first, question later.

    I agree that the obsessive behavior is something Rare should tackle. On the beta, a galleon attacked me but didn’t sank my ship, so whenever I respawned I would get killed. Or after I sank some ships so I could get in an island safely, the players would circle the area to get their revenge.

    But these are subjects that come up when a lot of different people join the game. We don’t know how people played in the testing phase, maybe they were more friendly since Rare would prefer to see cooperation. There was a guy who killed 47 players so they saw conflict, too.

    Perhaps now their getting more useful data to improve those conditions in the game.

    • aircool says:

      People have grown used to having PvE and PvP completely separate, along with safety nets and safe zones.

      One the one hand, you have people saying that there’s no point in treasure etc… because there’s no vertical progression, but at the same time, complaining when someone robs them of their loot.

      The bottom line is, you lose loot and you gain loot. However, there’s always someone who want to be ‘that guy’ in all online games, whether trolling, cheating, griefing or hacking. Outside of a eugenics program, there’s not a lot that can be done at this time.

  20. dylandekoe says:

    Hell be other players.

  21. ViscountBiscuit says:

    Oh.
    I was hoping my group of friends could have fun operating a pirate ship together in a series of hilarious, but kind of scripted, NPC heavy environments. GTA 3, but on boats. Or Artemis, but with more bananas.
    I guess this isn’t that.

  22. Hyena Grin says:

    This is disappointing.

    I was just talking with friends about this game last night, mulling over whether we should pick it up. The premise always struck me as a good one; cooperative pirate shenanigans in an open world, where we can be a crew and explore and have fun.

    The reality that there would be PvP involved always worried me. It’s not that I never wanted to have PvP experiences, but that I was concerned it would overwhelm the entire rest of the game.

    I had hoped that encounters with other players would be far and few between. I was aiming for a ratio of about 75% co-op exploration and 25% tense encounters with pubbies.

    It sounds like the ratio is entirely off.

    It also sounds, given the complete lack of care in how the devs have set up the PvP, that the devs were entirely too optimistic about the nature of players in open world games with no PvP restrictions.

    PvP is only fun if you’re looking for it. If it’s constantly obstructing you from engaging in the game’s non-PvP content, and serves no purpose other than ‘lol let’s camp these noobs and laugh about it’ then that’s not exactly ‘players creating content in a shared environment through conflict’ so much as ‘players obstructing content.’

    I really hope they iron this out good and hard, because I’m interested in the game (a lot) but I’m not buying it in this state.

    • Guvornatwo says:

      Give it a free trial. Trust me, I’m not PvP expert and I’ve had a whale of a time. It’s not like it’s so busy that you’ll be set upon straight away and there is usually space to learn – the devs claim to have at most 7 ships on any instance of the game game running on their servers, although it being the first week there may be more.

      But bone up on it beforehand, as a LOT of it is under explained (and there are some bugs too), which I think explains a lot of this post.

  23. aircool says:

    I haven’t seen any spawn camping at all. Not today or in the previous test weekends. If you scuttle your ship, you’ll respawn near it on a different island.

    Most people shoot first and ask questions later because they treat everyone else as a threat, or because they’re just dicks.

    Or because they want your treasure.

    Quite a few PC players are missing out by using third party chat. If you use the in game chat you can often ask people not to shoot and they’ll be happy to socialise, or at the very least vomit all over you.

    The open system suits me fine. It’s disheartening to lose your ship or some valuables, but only if you’re on your own. With friends it’s a lot more fun, and a lot more survivable.

  24. Anti-Skub says:

    The game matchmakes you into crews. Swimming up to someones boat and expecting them to be friendly is a ridiculous expectation to have. There are absolutely no mechanics that would allow that to function as a gameplay choice. You might as well get angry that people shoot you in PUBG.

    It’s a game about pirates, where the only actual piracy on offer is PvP…and you are surprised and disappointed people are doing it? What game did you think you were buying?

    • Asurmen says:

      Well, typically pirates weren’t just pointlessly murdering scumbags. They wanted something from the effort. Therefore, massive difference between attacking another ship that’s wealthy for their loot, and spawn camping.

  25. Captain Narol says:

    They should add a “Battle Royale at Sea” mode, I’m quite sure that would work !

  26. Vickers says:

    is this game even playable without a group of buddies? It seems like its just another survival game with a pirate MMO dressing.

  27. Shai-Hulud says:

    I sailed around solo last night and everyone is just so aggressive and immediately attacks.
    Mate, im circling your ship in my sloop playing music on the deck, i haven’t fired a single shot and i’m holding a fucking Hurdy-Gurdy. Relax and do something stupid too instead of frantically trying to sink me.
    Lets have some fun here people!

  28. TheSplund says:

    “In a multiplayer game about pirates, PvP is almost a necessity,” – I always wondered what the second ‘P’ in ‘PvP’ stood for – I guess it means that there’s more than 1 player then?!

  29. ColonelFailure says:

    Hello, here’s an alternate perspective.

    I’m an MMO crafter. I build stuff, I do a spot of trading, I end up on the losing side in virtually every PVP battle I’ve been in. Typically, I avoid PVP.

    In my first few hours in Sea of Thieves however, all that was forgotten. After my crew and I retrieved our first chest we spied a sloop heading in our direction and immediately went full pirate. We were hopeless with cannon, and the incoming vessel landed an amazing shot that ripped through mu quarterdeck, blasting me out to sea and onto the ghost ship waiting to respawn.

    Upon my return we bested what turned up to be one brave soul tackling us on his own, but our ship was sinking fast, too fast for us to do anything about it. As it sank rapidly we managed to salvage the chest but being miles out to see we opted to make use of a friendly local mermaid (who appear and will teleport you to somewhere useful to save hours of bobbing around). We had lost our loot.

    Upon tracking down the treasure for a second time we spotted, rather too late, that a galleon was bearing down on us fully crewed while we were at anchor with our sails stowed. This put us at something of a disadvantage, although did give us a very rare (no pun intended) stable firing platform. The hostile galleon turned to ram our ship allowing me to line up the finest cannon shot I’ll ever make. It ripped throw the prow of the ship killing 2 pirates immediately. My victory was shortlived however as they rammed us full speed, ending my brief career as a naval gunnery officer immediately. Their ship was sinking, our ship was sinking and 30 seconds later both crews were in the respawn afterlife offering a full round of “that was hilarious”, “gg”, “lol” and other authentic pieces of pirate speak.

    My summary here is simple: forget progression, be a pirate. Sure, pursue your quest, play nice with others, goof around (we did a ton of the latter), but be ready to go full pirate at any time. I’ve not had an initial 3 hours in a game that put as big a smile on my face in a long time. Maybe that’ll change, but right now I’m loving it.

    (For those who know, yes this will be on video, first part later today…)

    • AchtungNate says:

      I fear you might be in danger of playing the game as it was intended.

      The content is in the experience and fun you can have interacting with others, however that may be.

      Carry on.

      Postscript to some of the other comments: I have seen people camping outposts, but either find another (only a few minutes sail usually) or keep your eyes peeled and work as a team. Playing solo can be done but is nowhere near the fun.

    • Nahorn says:

      I played for four hours or so yesterday, here is how it went. Joined a galleon crew with some random players (does having an X before and after your name mean you are an XBox player? If so we had 2 from each platform). After about ten minutes getting sorted and getting quests we headed out towards the island we needed went through a storm which did a surprising amount of damage but with everyone pitching in we made it out. We hunted chests for a couple hours with crew coming and going and we eventually ended up with just three of us. We were at anchor resupplying planks and bananas and hunting a chest. I had stayed on board to keep watch and saw a galleon heading our way, they got back quick we weighed anchor and turned to meet it. Then we had a sailing skirmish of maneuvering, repairing and firing cannon. We eventually decided to try and break off because we were shorthanded still and had a chest and skull we wanted to turn in. So then it became a chase trying to out sail them or lure them onto reefs. The other ship eventually gave it up. That skirmish from first sighting to finally losing them took the better part of an hour, and it was awesome. We saw sloops now and then while we were playing but never gave chase, remember to turn off your lanterns at night.

  30. Ethalis says:

    I could see two obvious game mechanics that, combined, would probably solve this problem :
    – Different flags that you could raise on your mast to tell other players what you’re looking for. The Jolly Roger would mean that you’re looking for a fight, while a white flag would mean you’re just trying to sail peacefully. You could send a lot a different signals to other players without breaking immersion

    – A kind of bounty system : everytime a player breaks the pirate code (like attacking other players in towns, shooting at a ship waving a white flag), he would get a bounty from some kind of pirate council, which the player who kills him would get.

    That wouldn’t prevent agressive players from having fun, since the only penalty they would get is even more fights, but that would make players interactions much more credible and less artificial. It could even create entire careers around these mechanics, like pure outlaws and bounty hunters.

  31. Headwuend says:

    Another fine rockpaperbubblewrap piece :^)

  32. MajorLag says:

    When people talk about how video games might be contributing to recent self-destructive violent tragedies, I used to think that it didn’t make sense because as I understand it there’s no substantial link between consuming violent media and violent tendencies.

    Now I’m starting to wonder if gaming culture isn’t the real problem. When it is basically encouraged to see other people as just things you frustrate, harass, and bore for your own amusement, and even your own teammates can be targets for your wrath because they didn’t play up to your standards, what does that do to people? Of course, gamer culture is just a subculture of larger internet culture, which has similar problems…

  33. B0GiE-uk- says:

    Surely there could be a simple solution for this griefing?

    How about all guns and cannons are immobilised unless you are flying the Skull and Crossbones flag?

    Or a players could fly a white flag of peace and any incoming fire is nullified just like in GTA V.

    Also different factions could be brought in, ie East India Trading Company so you know who your friends are???

    • Asurmen says:

      White flag idea is immersion breaking for what is clearly intended to be an open world PvP game, plus there are emergent gameplay solutions such as bounties which would fit the setting.

  34. JimDiGritz says:

    I bought this at launch, mostly because I sensed this would become a “big thing” and have real longevity as a multiplayer game.

    On the plus side, the sea is incredible. Full stop. Apart from that the game has let me down.

    One common example from 10+ hours playing:

    Joined a galleon, pitched in and crewed to island for 20mins. No one had mics, but I made a point of using the radial to call out and followed orders. We got to the island and fought 20+ skeletons until the boss arrived. 2 seconds later I’m in the brig. No explanation, nothing.

    I’ve done mostly solo missions (due to stuff like the above), and am frankly pretty bored. There is no progression, and I’ve been to almost every island on the map. Fetch quests are as basic as they get. Perhaps the more advanced missions will allow me to collect ‘different coloured chests’ or kill skeletons with ‘different coloured names floating over their heads’ but I’m not holding out much hope for more gameplay experiences.

    This should have more PvE – why can’t we plan a raid on an outpost or NPC galleons? Why not introduce some PvP concepts from Elite or Eve? Local Police and or patrolling Royal Navy NPCs would level the playing field.

    This is Rust with galleons. Sure if you’ve got a bunch of friends and can crew a galleon you’ll have a good time, but forget trying solo.

  35. ZippyLemon says:

    How, HOW, was the opportunity to say “The Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules” not taken?

    WHY?

  36. Morcane says:

    This comments section is like the golden age of ‘insert MMORPG name here’ PvP vs PvE threads. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    The game itself reminds me tons of EVE Online, way back in the beginning (like 2003). All of the measures CCP took to prevent griefing resulted in either more griefing and / or stale gameplay. People are generally very creative at finding ways to circumvent these new rules, or they just stop playing altogether.

    Best bet is to either play smartly as a solo’er and accept the occasional ganking session, or not play at all. I’m looking forward to what Rare does with the game in the future, but as it is now, it’s not really worth 60 bucks. Imagine like a Sid Meier’s Pirates! world with this engine – it would be a dream come true.

  37. Premium User Badge

    geoffreyk says:

    Played during the open beta. Found the mechanics for interacting with the world, and the world itself, to be excellent. The game seems to be intentionally vague about how things work, (which works a lot better when your first spawn is at an abandoned island without people around to grief you), but as I explained to the friend that joined me: in order to do stuff, you have to do the stuff. Want to change directions? Go grab the wheel. Want to stop? Go find the anchor winch, and drop anchor. Want to go faster/slower? Find the ropes for the sails, and pull them up/down or align them with the wind. Where most games are filled with prompts, this seems to eschew them, to its benefit.

    The ocean, the sailing, the weather, the sun and moon and stars and sunsets, are all excellent. The drop in the bottom of my stomach when I’m out for a swim in the middle of the ocean and I stop to look “down” into the infinite abyss? Excellent. The shanties! Oh, the shanties! And grog! I wanted to want to spend more time in its world.

    But the game that you’re supposed to play in that world? The one with endless fetch quests and non-stop player-on-player violence, all for the sake of cosmetic progression? I levelled up the gold-seeking faction to unlock their higher tier missions… only to immediately get sent on an identical fetch quest, to an island I’d already been to.

    There’s so much potential here for a game I would want to play, such a great framework and setting, but the game appeals to me not-a-bit. Every time someone says “You know it’s called ‘Sea of Thieves‘, right?”, I’m tempted to launch into a lengthy dissertation on the historical reality of piratical economics, key being that pirates generally robbed non-pirates most of the time, not each other. I don’t begrudge others that this may be the game they want, but what’s there doesn’t appeal to me, and it saddens me that I won’t be spending more time in the world that Rare have so lovingly built.

  38. FakeNewts says:

    I’m honestly surprised by this article, I generally agree the heck out of everything RPS writes but this one seems to have missed the point in a big way.

    Sea of Thieves would be an absolutely terrible game if it was PvE. Apart from anything else, I don’t know if you noticed – there are no NPCs (apart from a few skeletons).

    All the thrill comes from the tickling suspicion that players might be in the next cove, the constant weighing of greed/prudence, whether to sell your stuff at a distant port to avoid the sails on the horizon, whether to make a run for the shop anyway dodging fire.

    If you die it has no consequences, even if you lose treasure, because all the purchasable items are cosmetic only. By design. The game was specifically geared for this cat and mouse PvP, and steps were even taken to limit the dominance of the “1337 MVP” PC FPS players because guns fire so slowly, turn-rates are deliberately low while aiming down the sights, to avoid snap firing, you can’t kill anyone with one shot, plus you’re entirely able to out-think your enemy or even just run away at almost every turn. Sea battles are cinematic, but also haphazard and emergent, not just based on pure mechanical skill. Violent/Thieving player encounters is the linchpin of the entire game. It’s literally called Sea of Thieves.

    I know I’m banging on a bit, but you guys are professional games journalists and usually so on-point about game design. Whether or not you personally enjoyed the experience is one thing, but saying it’s a shame players aren’t being nice to each other, and complaining about having your stuff nicked seems to be misunderstanding the game’s intentions at a very, very basic level. That’s never what the game was supposed to be.

    P.S. I mean it, there really isn’t any PvE content, if you take hostile players out of the equation the game would be an insufferable grind to unlock… a new beard. So. I dunno, pretty happy we didn’t get that, to be honest with you.

  39. malkav11 says:

    There’s been a lot of people suggesting fixes for this problem, but the thing is…they’re bandages at best. You can incentivize or disincentivize people who are here to engage with the game on its own terms by changing rewards and punishments, for sure. But there is a species of player that isn’t there for the game. They’re there to ruin the game for everyone else. That’s the goal. That’s what gives them pleasure. And as long as it’s physically possible for them to do that stuff in the game – i.e., the game features open, nonconsensual PvP at all – they will come and do that. Because it doesn’t matter to them if they get a character locked up, or bounties are put on their head, or whatever else. Why would it? They’re not there for the game systems or the game rewards. They’re making their own fun.

    And hey, if that risk is something that actually enhances a game for you, more power to you, I suppose. For me it’s grounds for immediate blacklisting of the game in question.

  40. Sorry says:

    First off – I’m sorry!

    I’m quite certain the pirates that hunted you down were me and a few of my mates. None of us are in to PvP. We just assumed that fighting other pirates was part of the game – so when we spotted you we gave chase. When we saw you swimming towards our ship carrying SOMETHING we assumed you were coming to destroy our ship using an exploding barrel – so we killed you first. We pursued your ship in the hopes we could TAKE OVER your ship, assuming (wrongly) that this was part of the ‘earn more money loop’ in the game.

    We were wrong. All we did was make your experience upsetting. In the aftermath we also found it rather upsetting – what a waste of time and energy. None of us found the experience enjoyable and have not repeated it since. One of our group put it this way: “So after all of that everyone gets.. nothing? What was the point then?” We took no joy in what we did but thought it was part of what the game expected of us.

    So – please accept our heartfelt apologies. Should we meet up again we would gladly invite you aboard for grog and music.

    Wishing you fair winds and following seas Captain!

    • Fraser Brown says:

      I’m not sure if it was you and your mateys, but thank you! The game clearly has a communication problem, because I don’t think any of us really knew what it was on day one. It can be very easy to assume someone is being a dick when they’re simply trying to figure out how to play.

  41. doodler says:

    I get that the game doesn’t explain a lot but the mechanics are fairly simple as you play.
    The voyages send you to various islands, once you get higher level ones they don’t give you better things necessarily just more of them. So whereas the start quests give you 1 or 2 chests, the later ones will give you 5 per map. This causes you to have more treasure on board and more to lose. You have to be aware of your surroundings and not just blindly charge into the outposts when you’re loaded with treasure to turn in because it takes time to turn it in when you have a lot. You can cross from horizon to a ship in under 5 minutes. People aren’t necessarily camping outposts or just griefing because the mechanic forcing you to sit and unload for a few minutes to get all the treasure off. Sure you could return to port with each piece of treasure as you go but you’re going to spend half the night raising and lower sails that way for very little gold but if you stack up like voyages from your crewmates that send you around and fill up your ship then you’ll make enough to buy pretty much any outfit in an hour or two.

    Also the complaint about people “spawn camping” your ship is completely unfounded. The ship is your spawn point, as long as it is alive you are still in the fight. The objective to win a PVP engagement is to sink the other ship. Anything less than that isn’t really a win as they can repair their ship and keep going so you have to board them, kill the crew, and have holes below the water line to sink it.(My crew typically has a few gunpowder barrels to scuttle other ships when we’ve dropped their anchor) Otherwise yes you have to just camp them as they respawn while you haul their treasure off, if they don’t want to try to spawn and fight you back then they can scuttle the damn thing at any time and then we can just pick the treasure out of the water rather than running through your ship.
    You respawn in like 45 seconds, it takes time to go through a ship and make sure it doesn’t have any loot on it especially if you don’t have the ability to sink it.

    There is no reason ever to cooperate with another crew, you’re all pirates for a reason. It infuriates me that people think you should work together to take down the skull fort, the damn thing exists to pull ships from across the map together and fight. The PVE is a joke esp for a crew.(although much more difficult AI wise than the beta and has more variety in the skeletons) Someone who knows what they are doing can solo a damn fort with no repercussions beyond spending time there.(Resulting in higher chances of another ship showing up and killing you then finishing it with your progress in hand) There are 2 items there that form the bulk of the money so how do you split that with another crew?

    Granted the game does have to fix the SHIP respawn as right now it tends to put the new ships way too close to where someone was sunk resulting in them just coming back again and again until you run out of cannonballs to sink them.

    I’m loving the core gameplay loop and you can always run away from engagements if you don’t want to fight but you have to plan if you want to escape with valuable.

  42. Oneill says:

    The game loses most of its fun the moment you encounter other players. The argument that “were pirates, we kill eachother” loses its meaning in situations like when me and my buddy went exploring on a secret island, while we had 3 big chests on board, then i heard someone shooting and i knew it was another player, went up and look, they started firing the moment they entered range, they didnt even try to steal anything they just came by, sink the ship and went off. Thats not pirate-y, that is just plain troll. Or when, as i was attacking a fort alone, another ship comes up while im on the beach, and just shoots my ship. Like..why? He did not even try to contribute to the siege. So after the skeleton cannons sink his ship, he climbs on mine while i thought he was dead, drives my ship in front of the cannons and just make it sink. Why? What did he gain beside trolling?

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