Attendees of this weekend’s Guardian Con were invited to take part in a competitive Sea Of Thieves tournament, with the best four teams making it to the streamed finals last night. The Battle For Orlando (presumably so called because its watery arena is actually a post-climate-crisis Florida) was fittingly scrappy and chaotic for a game about pirates squabbling over the high seas. Where else are you going to catch your esports competitors take a quick break from shooting cannons and digging up beaches to go fishing?
The competition is a pretty standard game of the PvP Arena mode that was added to the game a couple of months ago. It focuses on fighting over treasure, racking up points by, for example, hitting your fellow pirate ships with cannons, or turning in the plunder. The big one is that if your ship gets sunk you lose a thousand, which takes a lot to make back up to, so competitors really do not want to get swallowed by the icy depths. Understandably.
If you want a detailed breakdown of the mode, it’s only fair that I link to Cass Marshall’s guide at Polygon, because she both alerted me to this tournament and coined it “seasports,” which is the only thing that matters. But it's fine if you don't really know how it all works, because at least one of the commentators had never played Sea Of Thieves before. That's actually a nice way to make sure your stream stays understandable to newcomers that I think big esports events could learn something from.
Regardless of how much you know about the mode, you can enjoy certain strategies developing, like a player leaping into the sea to swim with their treasure to avoid getting their ship sunk. That ol’ competitive staple, camping, also comes into play as treacherous pirates attempt to nick other players’ hard won treasure. And of course, a quick spot of angling.
As they mention, this was part of a charity event benefiting children’s hospital St. Jude, and developers Rare donated for certain in-game events. Like catching a good fish. Some of them were also competing in Rare’s official team who commandeered the blue ship. You might think they’d have an advantage, but in fact they placed fourth out of five in the first game before sweeping to victory in the second. Maybe they were just throwing at first to make it seem more even.
Points-based competitive games are always kind of hard to watch, because casters have to hop between things happening simultaneously and other numbers keep ticking up unremarked upon. And if there’s tactics to Sea Of Thieves’ chaotic sword fighting, I couldn’t tell. But it’s nice to be able to have an excuse to just watch this extremely pretty video game and remember how good the pirate designs and the water effects are.
There was a similar event that took place at E3 last month, so we might see more seafaring competition soon. Until then you can catch up with the VOD on Twitch.