It’s never been quite clear how many players will be able to fit in a Sea of Thieves server, and it turns out there’s a very good reason for that – Rare’s approach to servers is very different to most online games, meaning there’s no definitive answer.
The developer’s focus is on keeping player encounters regular, but not too frequent – the magic number is apparently to see another ship, on average, every fifteen minutes to half an hour, making every encounter different, as well as giving non-violent players the chance to escape.
But in a map as large and spread out as Sea of Thieves’, a high number of players might still be too spread out, or a small group too bunched together, to keep that magic number in check. The solution for Rare is to focus on the distance between players in a server, not just how many players are on that server.
While Star Trek found a new lease of life on the big screen in 2009, it had been more than a decade since the last TV show in the long-running sci-fi franchise when Star Trek: Discovery premiered last September. The show’s producers faced the difficult task of making a show that appealed to modern audiences and new fans, as well as satisfying die-hard, long-term Trek devotees.
But while Discovery has taken the story and characters in some surprising directions, it’s also very aware of its past. Every episode to date has contained at least one reference or call-back to something from the grand 52-year history of Star Trek. Sometimes these are sly jokes that only the most dedicated fan will spot, and sometimes they are crucial plot-points. So here’s a look at all the Discovery Easter Eggs so far…
Sea of Thieves will launch with a maximum crew size (and therefore party size) of four.
Lead designer Mike Chapman confirmed to IGN that the party size from the game’s beta would continue into the full game, saying that the key element for Rare was in how larger groups would (or wouldn’t) communicate:
“The biggest ship was designed for four,” Chapman explained when asked why that became the maximum. “We’ve looked at feedback and of course there’s people who want an 8-player ship, a 10-player ship. The thinking there, as with everything in this game, is really intentful.
“If the two of us were to go out to the pub together with two other friends, you’ve got that intimate relationship, you’re all getting on together. If it becomes six or eight people, you start getting people splintering off and it’s really hard to communicate – four seems like the magic number.”
[Editor’s note: Because we didn’t receive Kingdom Come: Deliverance for review until late last week and it’s estimated to be a 50-hour game, our review is still underway. We’re aiming to have it completed and scored by the end of the day on Thursday, February 15. In the interest of hitting that goal, we’re keeping these impressions brief.]
I’ve put around 25 hours into Kingdom Come: Deliverance so far, and I’m finding plenty to be impressed by. The large chunk of wooded, medieval Bohemia across which the bloody and dramatic story takes place shows significant attention to detail and is filled with little historical touches that help it feel like a real place. Towns, farms, and logging camps are all laid out with a strong internal logic and built on a scale that makes sense, as opposed to the standard RPG city in a game like Skyrim that’s designed to feel large, but really isn’t.
Exit Theatre Mode
The “open” world isn’t always as open as I’d like it to be. I’ve run into a number of areas with invisible walls where it looks like I should be able to jump up onto a rock ledge, but am stopped from doing so by an immersion-breaking barrier. There’s also a fairly common tendency to use impassible hedgerows to prevent me from sneaking up on a bandit camp or other objective, though that at least seems consistent within the setting. If you’ve ever been out in the deep woods, you’ll know that getting from A to B as the crow flies isn’t always practical.
Combat has a significant learning curve, but it’s a lot of fun.
Combat has a significant learning curve, but I’ve found it to be a lot of fun the more I’ve gotten the hang of it. Most of the times developers have tried to create a “realistic” first-person melee system, the result has been the next best thing to unusable. But Warhorse’s designers seem to have struck the right balance here: sword fights have a nice tempo and reward technical skill, quick thinking, and most of all patience, but don’t feel cumbersome or incomprehensible. While my character does level up and gains new perks, I feel like the main thing allowing me to take on tougher enemies is that I, the player, am learning new techniques and progressing toward mastery of the mechanics. And in cases where I’ve found myself outclassed, a good majority of quests have a nonviolent solution.
It was a nice bit of levity among the brutal business of medieval life in wartime.
The story up to this point has been gritty, engrossing, and complex, though it tends to fall back on some old-fashioned ideas of medieval historiography in a couple of places. The focus is very small-scale. I find myself solving problems in the margins of a larger conflict involving two half-brothers competing for the throne, which is actually kind of refreshing in the wake of so many fate-of-the-world adventures. The stand-out quest so far has been a Sunday mass in which I had to recite a sermon inspired by contemporary Czech church reformer Jan Hus – an important predecessor to Martin Luther and arguably the real father of the Protestant Reformation – because I’d gone on a drunken bender with the local parish priest the night before and he was too hung over to do it himself. I laughed the whole way through, and it was a nice bit of well-written levity among the often brutal and unpleasant business of medieval life in wartime.
The presentation of the story could definitely stand to be more show than tell, though. During some parts of the main quest chain, I feel like I’ve been playing through wordy dialogue scenes longer than I’ve been doing everything else put together, while I’d rather out be out exploring or stabbing bandits in the face.
Deliverance has been delivering its own share of technical issues, as well. Most noticeably so far is the way that in many dialogue scenes my character has inexplicable missing polygons on his neck, exposing whatever is behind him to the camera.
Exit Theatre Mode
There’s a lot to take in and by my own estimate, I’m only a bit less than halfway through the main story. My overall impression so far is pretty positive. The amount of work that’s gone into the worldbuilding and depictions of medieval society (with a couple exceptions) is downright impressive. Little touches that ground me (like the fact that having dirt on your clothes lowers your persuasiveness when talking to the nobility, forcing you to actually do laundry sometimes) are highly appreciated and help transport me more fully to the era being depicted.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a miscarriage of justice to correct. Probably with a sword thrust to one or more faces.
TJ Hafer is a freelacne writer and critic. Find him and ask him about midieval history (seriously) on Twitter.
Sea of Thieves will launch without microtransactions, but will add them in its first major content update, planned for around three months after release – but they’ll be for cosmetic rewards only, and won’t feature loot boxes.
During a visit to Rare, executive producer Joe Neate told IGN:
“Our focus at launch
on a great game experience. When we deliver this first major update, that’s when we’ll turn on the ability for players to spend money optionally.
“We thought long and hard about what’s right for our game experience, and the key thing we think is that it has to add to the fun, social nature of the game. So anything in this area will not impact power or progression, and you’ll always know what you’re getting – so that means no loot crates.”
The more we’ve seen of Sea of Thieves, the clearer it’s become that the simple act of playing it will be fun. Its mix of gentle action and almost hardcore seafaring (seriously, you try manning a galleon with three people who don’t know how sails work) is immediately engaging and, more importantly, hilarious.
But what bookends that moment-to-moment play has remained resolutely mysterious since the game’s announcement – how does Sea of Thieves begin, what’s the story, and what are we working towards? After visiting Rare and talking to several of the game’s developers and producers, finally we have some answers.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Sea of Thieves will open with you choosing your pirate. “Choosing” is a deliberate choice of words – this isn’t character customisation. Rare’s made a purposeful decision not to include slider-filled menus. Instead, you begin in a tavern, with eight procedurally-generated pirates to inspect. They’re created based on twenty different parameters – everything from age, to body shape, to overall ‘wonkiness’ (essentially, how asymmetrical they are) – leading to a “practically infinite” number of variations. If you don’t like the 8 you’re shown, you can regenerate another 8 as many times as you like until you find a favourite.
Before going to visit Rare, the British studio behind Xbox One‘s first big exclusive of the year, I wasn’t really sure what you do in Sea of Thieves. It’s a pirate game, sure, but what does that mean, exactly? It seems obvious now, but of course the answer is: you act like a pirate. You take on quests to retrieve loot or kill a skeleton captain and then proceed to sail a ship, look out for enemy boats, fix leaks, bail water out, position the sails, lower or raise the anchor, and shoot cannons.
As it turns out, that’s all really fun. Playing in a team of four, I enjoyed swapping between those roles, communicating with my crewmates to navigate the sea or if we spotted an opposition ship in the distance. The entertainment comes from the role-playing, the coordination, and the satisfaction of knowing that skeleton captain’s skull lies on the floor beneath you because your crew attacked his fortress together. You can do whatever you wish, and go in any direction you want, and it’s enjoyable to see what hilarity ensues from those decisions.
For Rare, this sensation of making your own fun was very much intentional. “That happened because we give you a great degree of mechanical freedom,” says Sea of Thieves’ design director, Mike Chapman. “You’ve got a ship that’s not gonna sail itself; it’s just a piece of wood. You are the ship: you are a person on a ship and you must work together to sail it and then you’ve got these tools that you can use in different ways. Like the gunpowder kegs [which can be used to blow up enemy ships, for example], like [randomly] finding a merchant message in a bottle that leads you on a different adventure. All of these things are deliberate in terms of the freedom they give players because when you put multiple players in the same world doing the same thing, you get all these incredible scenarios.”
Of course, you do have objectives to accomplish in Sea of Thieves–it’s just up to you whether you actually aim for them. Sure, you can go and find that one specific pig and keep it alive on the journey back–one of the game’s three existing factions will task you with retrieving rare creatures and maintaining their health for the duration of your voyage–or you can ignore any quests and just chill out. Simply sailing around the game’s colorful oceans, hanging out with friends, is an equally enjoyable experience, and the world will distract you with emergent mechanics such as the aforementioned messages in bottles or public events on distant islands that draw other players to their shores.
A shared world, public events, and live content all made me, at least, recall Bungie’s Destiny, which has a similar structure–the ability to jump into a squad with friends and explore a beautiful world, engaging in missions if you want to. However, while Destiny and Destiny 2 have strikes, raids, a story campaign, and a combat-focused Crucible, Sea of Thieves appears to contain no extra modes as yet. After the game’s recent beta, some fans were left concerned that the final version would be too light on content to maintain any sort of significant longevity, and it’s a concern I share. Specifically, I wonder whether the game’s weapons and gear will offer enough depth to keep me coming back after more than a few hours. Using in-game currency, you can purchase new guns and clothing–among other items–but there are no stat advantages to be gained from buying more expensive pieces. You can obtain different types of weapon, such as the shotgun or sniper rifle, but within those categories there are no mechanical differences between the first shotgun available to you and the last. “The compass never gets more powerful,” says Chapman. “A compass is just a compass. A pistol is just a pistol. You’ll need to grow as a player as you face these high level challenges.”
Sea Of Thieves – Player Progression System Detailed Trailer
Rather than acquiring more powerful weapons and thicker armor, Rare’s idea of growth is experienced players growing to know Sea of Thieves’ map more closely, so they’ll have the advantage over other sailors when it comes to acquiring treasure fastest and escaping unscathed. The developer intends to support the game post-launch with additional content–it even said it views Sea of Thieves as a 10-year project–though it’s not sharing whether that will be in the form of distinct expansions or sequels.
Chapman did say that much of the game’s live content will be for those who reach Sea of Thieves’ endgame, which he calls becoming a “Pirate Legend.” Becoming a Pirate Legend grants you access to an exclusive location in the world called the Tavern of Legends, the home of NPCs who will spread the word of in-game “rumors” such as any additional trading companies coming soon, or “new ways to play.” Pirate Legends can also take part in exclusive missions called Legendary Voyages–the most challenging missions in the game–and choose to share those quests with their non-Legend friends, if they wish.
Interacting with friends and strangers is key to Sea of Thieves–so much so that Rare says it is constantly adjusting the size of its world to ensure you spot another ship every 15-30 mins, precisely–and doing so magnifies everything that’s great about Sea of Thieves. Whoever’s in the Crow’s Nest tells the rest of their team they’ve spotted an enemy, at which point the four of you must decide whether to run or engage, which direction to steer in, who’s going to shoot, and whether to board the enemy ship, as well as ascertain whether the enemy have any stealable loot, among other things. “It’s a game that celebrates soft skills, how you talk together, how you relate to each other,” says Chapman. “It’s gonna be different based on who’s playing and who’s in the crew.” Of course, the best moment is when you all, inevitably, fail; seeing a shipmate clinging on to a sinking ship with three human enemies attacking him is hilarious.
Interactions with other players are amazing, but I fear they may also be required for Sea of Thieves to be fun. Although I didn’t get to try it, a smaller ship is available for those who prefer to play by themselves, but that’s not going to help when a crew of four strangers are attacking you head on. If your friends don’t buy the game, you could of course team up with random people on the internet, but relying on strangers hidden behind Gamertags rarely promises consistent fun.
Sea of Thieves makes performing each role of a pirate team so fun that it undoubtedly has the potential to become a multiplayer favorite. But given so much of its depth and base enjoyment is reliant on having a good group around you, I worry for anyone planning to set sail alone.
Sea of Thieves is often bandied about as an exclusive to Xbox One, but it’s only a console exclusive; the seafaring pirate game is also coming to PC. Following earlier technical tests, official system requirements and recommended specs have been shared, and they truly run the gamut.
Microsoft and developer Rare have shared a wide range of possible specs for running Sea of Thieves on PC. What it describes as the minimum requirements involve running the game at 720p and 30 FPS. Doing so requires an Intel Q9450 or AMD Phenom II X6 and 4 GB of RAM. It also divides up the suggested video cards into “GPU” and “modern GPU” categories; the former calls for a 1 GB GTX 650 or AMD Radeon 7750, while the “modern” cards start with a GTX 1030 or R7 450. Unusually, we also get a hard drive speed suggestion too; you’ll need 60 GB free on a 5,400 RPM drive.
From there, the specs scale up to the recommended level of 1080p and 60 FPS, which requires an i5 4960 or FX 8150, 8 GB of RAM, and a GTX 1060 or RX 470 (for modern GPUs), and a 7,200 RPM hard drive. The highest end provides the necessary specs to run the game at 4K and 60 FPS: an i7 4790 or Ryzen 5 1600, 16 GB of RAM, a GTX 1080 TI or RX Vega 64, and an SSD.
click for a full-size view
There are also requirements outlined for a slightly…lesser experience. Rare previously promised Sea of Thieves support for 540p with a 15 FPS lock. In this list of specs, we see the necessary hardware to run the game at 540p and 30 FPS with the minimum graphics setting, which is dubbed “Cursed.” For this, you’ll need an Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 or Iris 540, 4 GB of RAM, and integrated graphics. And, like all other specs, 60 GB of hard drive space and DirectX 11 support are still required.