Worlds Adrift has been one of those games I’ve been closely watching but trying not to jump into until it was ready. I tried one of the alpha weekends, and while it was playable, I could tell I needed to wait, and wait I did. I had faith that once the game would hit Steam (“early access” shield be damned if you ask for cash to play your game), it’d be something that’d move me. In fact, I called it out by name when discussing possible future MMOs that could tackle griefing with a moral system.
Today, I’m here to eat my hat, good sirs and madams.
While Improbable has been trying to “save MMOs” with SpatialOS, this being the first big MMO that uses it doesn’t wholly impress me. Some things work well, and yes, there are some good ideas, but as a PvP fan, I think there are some glaring mistakes that are going to send a lot of MMORPG players heading for the hills. Let’s dig in.
It’s funny how we assume that there are monsters in the water. Sure, there are definitely big things down there, and some unusual things, but even when we know about all of that we still hold a feeling like there’s something even worse down there, something lurking and evil. Of course, Sea of Thieves is not constrained by the limitations of reality… and its trailer for the game’s first major content update, The Hungering Deep, hints that there’s more to this than just speculation and legend.
Of course, the grizzled pirate in the trailer is more than willing to sneer at the idea of these being “just stories,” but… well, we don’t want to spoil it. It’s only two minutes long, and if you’ve been needing a pirate to weave tales for you, this will deliver. Just… try to avoid bridges for the rest of the day.
Yesterday, Rare patched in a new feature into Sea of Thieves that was designed to allay the rampant griefing going on within player crews. The new open and closed crew feature allows players to select between pugging and only grouping with friends. A good first step, we suppose, except that the studio had to take the system offline due to errors.
“Due to a high volume of AllmondBeard errors we’ll be scheduling another emergency maintenance window at 16:15 PDT,” the studio posted on Twitter. “During this window we’ll temporarily remove the Open/Closed Crews feature as well as the invisible underwater gamer tags. We’ll post more information as we have it.”
This system, along with the disabling of underwater name plates, continues to be disabled this morning even as the game has been brought back online. “The game is still experiencing server instability and players may experience issues,” the studio said. Rare urged players to stay tuned to its Twitter feed for current information.
Yo-ho, Sea of Thieves captains. The latest game patch is giving you more control over who exactly is on your boat thanks to the “Open and Closed Crews” system implemented this morning. You’ll use “Open” when you’re game for a PUG and “Closed” when you just want to sail the seas with your mates with no intruders or replacements. Eventually, the game will even allow folks to block their own friends from joining (if you really need some serious alone-time, I guess) as well as flip between the types on the fly.
“We hope this mitigates one of the key reasons for people misusing the brig and will be monitoring this closely,” Rare says. (You’ll recall that brig-griefers claimed they were doing it because they wanted to bring their friends into their group, something easily rectified before by simply gathering said friends before queuing, so yeah, we’ll see.)
What else is in the patch? The studio’s added basic trading of items like bananas and cannon balls, fixed tags underwater, added new sound effects, tweaked some in-game prices, improved drops at higher ranks, and fixed a ton of nasty bugs, including the one that was delaying achievements and commendations.
A planned feature patch for Sea of Thieves will have to be delayed as Rare attempts to figure out an issue with the PC version of the pirate game. Thus, players will have to wait until next week to see the patch.
So what will players be waiting for with this update? Sea of Thieves is going to be introducing public and private matchmaking to assist with crew formation. Other features include hiding name plates while underwater, rebalanced drop rates, and handing off resources between players.
In addition to discussing the delay, Executive Producer Joe Neate talked about some of the feedback that Rare has received from the community. He apologized for incomplete patch notes and for “visually weak” and incorrectly priced store items. Rare has three teams internally that are working on separate major content updates for this year.
As a “shared world adventure game,” Sea of Thieves has a vested interest in promoting its multiplayer setting and encouraging players to partake in social gameplay. But when there will always be a segment of the community that would rather take off and do things solo, how does a developer deal with that?
This is why Rare made sure to include the small “sloop” ship so that soloers and duoers had a viable option for when they didn’t want to or couldn’t group up with others. This doesn’t mean that soloers are exempt from multiplayer battles, however. “It certainly changes the way you approach the game as well,” said the devs. “You might have to be a lot more cautious and stealthy on the ocean.”
Obviously, Rare doesn’t want you to stay in a sloop forever, even though it acknowledges that the challenge of solo play can be quite rewarding. Having the ability to team up with one other person is a “first step” toward manning a five-player galleon, but until and if they choose that, solo players have the freedom to experience the game in their own way.
Massively OP reader Sorrior recently sent in a question about raiding, a topic we haven’t discussed in a while.
“I have noticed raiding tends to lead to more homogenization even without PvP and a bigger focus on numbers when making classes as opposed to their feel and style. I also see a correlation with a bigger emphasis on raiding and the decline of community quality. On a personal level, I feel like raiding should be about the joy of taking on foes you cannot defeat alone with allies/friends, but I feel many treat it as a chore or just see the numbers nowadays. Or they are just after the gear, which also seems to bring in a lot of people who focus on the numbers rather than the experience. I thought talking about why we raid and what we enjoy about it as MMO players while discussing ways to preserve the feeling of community might be fun.”
I think talking about that would also be fun, which is precisely why we Overthink it in this column. So let’s do it: This week I’ve asked the Massively OP staff whether they raid now or ever did, what they raid for, and how they feel raiding fits into the modern MMO from a mechanics and community standpoint.
With Sea of Thieves’ latest patch in and out of the way this morning, what’s next for the game? Executive Producer Joe Neate is explaining just that in a new video out today, the first of apparently many planned videos.
Neate notes that Rare is focused on weekly updates and that today’s update demonstrates that the studio is moving on to new gear and customizations (rather than just mopping up remaining launch messes). The devs are now split into three teams, one for each of the upcoming updates: Hungering Deep, Cursed Sails, and Forsaken Shores. Each team is focused on the core new content, plus ongoing feedback and smaller weekly tweaks.
Hungering Deep will be out later this month as a medium-sized update; the future updates will be meatier since they’ll have had that much more time to actually cook. Once that Hungering Deep is out, that mini-team will be moved to another unnamed patch slated for after the other two mentioned above, and on and on as they go – which sounds like quite a bit of new content on deck for the indefinite future.
After a month at sea, one can imagine your character in Sea of Thieves is more than ready to stop in to port. But you’ll soon be setting sail from that port once again, no matter where it is. Just make sure that you first pick up the Eye of Reach from merchants for just one gold piece, a special commemorative item for a month since launch. Heck, while you’re there you ought to take part in lots of stock; the newest patch adds a variety of new styles for ships, weaponry, and characters, offering a wider range of options for everyone.
The patch also adds in regional variation for merchants, so players will need to head to head to the Ancient Isles to pick up the Sovereign sets, while more common attire like the Bilge Rat options may be freely purchased anywhere. There’s also performance tweaks and bug fixes to enjoy, so while you’re dressed up all fancy-like you can expect a steadier gameplay experience. All good things, yes? Enough to make you forget that you’re still trapped in a leaky wooden boat after a month.
It’s really hard for me to not to gush hard about Sea of Thieves. I know many out there won’t agree, and it’s easy to say why, especially for RPG and theme park fans. It also may be because I’m late to the party, as the game came out while I was at GDC. That being said, Massively OP doesn’t do ratings because we expect the games we cover to evolve, but we do post impressions and hands-on coverage, and as I’ve played the game before and after it’s latest patch, I figure it’s time to lay out some judgments. Don’t worry, we’ll run through the game’s grimy pockets before looking at its actual treasure!
“Fortnite is now the largest free-to-play console game of all time, in revenue generated and monthly active users,” SuperData has declared in its monthly revenue report for the gaming industry for March 2018. The game sits at the tippy-top of the console listing and has now breezed past both PUBG and World of Warcraft to sit at #5 on PC.
“Fortnite had quite a March. The game has overtaken the previous ‘king of battle royale,’ PUBG, in terms of revenue generated and monthly active users across all platforms. It also hit the #1 spot by revenue on iOS in the United States in its launch month, and has the highest conversion rate of any free-to-play PC game in March. […] There’s no other way to say it: the game is a phenomenon. Fortnite generated $223 million across all platforms (console, PC, Mobile) in March, up a whopping 73% from February.”
Hearthstone’s re-entry to the PC side has bumped Far Cry 5 out of the top 10 (though Far Cry 5 on console is at #2). Destiny 2 is now nowhere to be found, Monster Hunter World has sunk to #10 on the console side, and Sea of Thieves debuted at #7 for console revenue. Don’t get too excited about Sea of Thieves, though; the analytics firm says almost half of the game’s two million or so monthly active users were playing the free trial.
Sea of Thieves set sail with a brand-new patch this morning with better ammo crate positioning, UI tweaks, and new ship scuttling tips, plus tons of bug fixes, including the demise of “sky ships” – that fun bug where ships floated up to the sky when sinking. Also? No more earworms! “Players will no longer play the same shanty twice in a row.”
Do note that Rare says it’s still aware of bugs with not being able to view your character customization, the grey screen at launch, delayed achievements and commendations (stilL!) and missing DLC.
What’s on the horizon? “There’s rumour that a new shipment of clothing, items, weapons and ship customisations are on the horizon and heading for the Sea of Thieves!” Rare hints. “If you are saving yer coin for a pair of trousers, you might want to keep a weathered eye out for this arriving soon!”
Multiple new-to-us games calling themselves MMORPGs seem to land on mobile devices every week these days. On our radar today is Ocean Legend. Live on iOS and Android in some soft launch beta hybrid mode, it’s a swashbuckling “Age of Exploration” MMO that’s a mix of Sea of Thieves and Pirates of the Burning Sea and Sword of the New World. Here’s NetEase’s pitch:
“Players take part in the growing naval empires of 15th and 16th century Europe. Choose between four different characters and five separate countries for your own oceanic adventure in the Age of Exploration! In single player mode, join Columbus and his shipmates on their third expedition, battle against pirates, then set out on your own to make a name for yourself as commander of your own fleet.”
Exploration is accomplished through “Cards of Discovery” – History, Theology, Architecture, Art, Biology, and Geography – each of which “opens up a new world of knowledge for players, and an opportunity to travel more and face new challenges, like difficult weather conditions, real navigation, and even other players in multi-player mode.”