Sea Of Thieves is meant to be a dangerous sandbox full of threatening skeleton ships and dastardly fellow players nipping at your heels. It is that, and more, but as players do with sandboxes, many organise less lethal events on the high seas. In the past, pirate crews have hosted everything from fashion shows to ship races, but those events always exist with the threat of other interloping players. Now, Rare are planning to begin testing Custom Servers, private sessions to help facilitate special community-organised events.
"As Sea of Thieves has grown, we’ve been supporting some of these initiatives in the background, helping people get together on the same server to save on that initial setup time for our community events, but we’ve always harboured a desire to do more," Rare say in their announcement. "We will be working with these creators and community groups to test Custom Servers in a live environment."
For the first iteration of custom server use, Rare are planning to let Xbox Insider testers customise types and number of ships on the server and generate a private code to share with invited friends.
Importantly, Rare say that custom servers aren't meant to be used as private PvE servers, so you won't gain any gold or reputation whole playing in one. A bit disappointing for me, the pathetic pirate who really wants to go on tricky Tall Tales without the threat of another player stealing my quest items, but the restriction does seem fair.
"The first step is to roll these out in an Alpha state and start learning," Rare say. "We expect this to be a lengthy Alpha phase where we listen, learn and evolve what Custom Servers deliver in terms of tools available to those using them."
In the longer term, Rare remind players that servers of course cost money to host and run. Though the test pool will start small, they say it's likely Custom Servers will eventually be an optional service accessible through the Pirate Emporium cash shop.
While they may not keep PvP out of my PvE, it will be quite neat to see if Custom Servers help to evolve proper ship racing leagues or live events on livestreams and other such community creations.
Public use of Custom Servers sounds a long way off, but perhaps Rare will divulge a little more about their test plans during Microsoft's Xbox Games Studios-focused showcase in July.