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E3 2016: Sea of Thieves is a Massive Pirate Sandbox

When they sat down to brainstorm their next project, the developers at Rare only knew one thing: they wanted to make a game that would allow many people at one to join together and explore a shared open world.

As the idea developed, it eventually evolved into Sea of Thieves, the upcoming online pirate game in which players share a massive online world in their journey to become infamous pirates.

As they describe it, it’s very clear the developers want Sea of Thieves to be completely dictated by a player’s choices. There are many options and opportunities available to choose from, ranging from collecting loot and completing quests to engaging rival pirate crews in epic sea battles. Make a traitor walk the plank. Steal a boat from a rival pirate crew. Spend all your time drinking grog with your friends. It’s entirely up to the people playing, and no part of Sea of Thieves will demand anything in particular from anyone.

While the dream of Sea of Thieves is to let groups of friends travel, explore, and experience the open world together, it isn’t restricted to allowing only groups to have fun. If one wants, they can play Sea of Thieves alone and forge their own path. Ships of varying sizes have been included to accommodate small to large groups and everyone in between.

My biggest concerns lie with Sea of Thieves’ shared online world and complete freedom. Relying on having a world built up around other players being around simultaneously is a large leap of faith, since its world will essentially die should people not adopt it or eventually stop playing. It's a game built entirely around the existence of other people, and when the success of an experiment hinges on the interaction with other players, there had better be enough people to populate the world and enough content to dig through in order to ensure Sea of Thieve's long-term appeal is viable. 

During my time with the developers from Rare, I noticed their aversion to directly answering the questions I asked about what could be done in Sea of Thieves. But it wasn’t because they couldn’t or didn’t have anything to say. Rather, they were so dedicated to the idea of Sea of Thieves being a different game for different people that they drew away from providing specifics, lest players be compelled to act in one way or another. They made it clear this is your story, your experience, and your own path to carve, essentially placing the layers hands on the steering wheel and telling them to simply have fun.  

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