Sea of Thieves

October 5, 2016 by Tim

I don’t feel like we get enough good pirate games. Sid Meier’s strategy take is probably at the top of my list, but I’ve yet to play one that really captured the adventurous, high-seas stakes on a ground level. AC: Black Flag scratches a bit of that itch… I enjoyed the ship portion of the game, but it was still, all told, an AC game with piratey stuff tacked on.

We also had that MMO a few years back… Pirates of the Burning Sea or whatever. It made a good effort at the time, but the on-ship stuff, as I recall, was still pulled way back. A strategy approach.

So I’m pretty excited at the idea of a huge, open-world, multiplayer pirate game that puts you on the deck of the ship as captain or crew. It’s got a great, stylized aesthetic, and a lot of gameplay I love the look of. Plus drinking and sea shanties.

Unfortunately, though, its hard not to look at a big ambitious game like this without a clearly-defined gameplay mechanics/goals and not draw some parallels to No Man’s Sky. This article that I read earlier this week does nothing to calm my fears.

You’ll notice that the title of the article seems to suggest an interview with the developer in which they’ll explain what you’re actually able to do/not do in the game, but if you read the responses, they nearly all begin with “Chapman was vague on this, but…” or “Chapman didn’t go into specifics, but…” followed by the author’s opinion on what the cryptic answers or what little we’ve seen actually mean.

I want to be excited about cool games coming out. Sean Murray is hardly the first developer to promise big and under-deliver in a fashion that almost feels deceptive, but No Man’s Sky is definitely one of the biggest examples of shitty PR leading to a hype implosion upon release. And the whole situation has definitely colored my anticipation of games that seem to promise a “dream concept” (a game where you imagine the mechanics boundaries will be all but invisible and you’ll get lost in this do anything/be anything sort of world).

I would certainly hope that developers, Rare included, learn from Sean Murray’s mistakes. Keeping tight-lipped or offering vague answers to questions about gameplay in order to let the audience’s imagination fill in the blanks, therefore hyping up your game, is not a viable approach. Because the audience will fucking turn on you.

I think all of us would appreciate answers along the lines of “Well, right now our plan is to include X feature, but that stands to change” or, hell, even “We’re not really sure how that mechanic will evolve between now and release yet, we’re still working on it.” Just be straightforward regarding what your game is, and what your game isn’t. It’s fine to talk about features you’d like to implement, but be clear they’re on the design table, not necessarily the development table.

TLDR: Just make sure you’re giving us an accurate picture of the game you’re actually making, even if that changes during development.

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