I like naval combat in my MMOs. That’s my weakness. Vehicle combat is great, but for some reason, I especially like boats. When I heard there was another pirate multiplayer game being revealed at E3 2017, I knew I’d have to check it out. Fortunately, I’d already been scheduled to check out Ubisoft’s press section of their booth, giving me a rare opportunity to see Skull and Bones behind closed doors.
The pirate’s code(s)
Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Skull and Bones is not nearly the same as Sea of Thieves. At all. Sea of Thieves is a good pirate simulator. You get drunk, you swing a sword, you dig for treasure.
In Skull and Bones, you’re a pirate ship, not a captain. Your ship is your class, like a tank or a sniper. It’s much more about boat play than character play. Don’t think of the triad though, as I didn’t see any “healer” type boat. And don’t think you’re just in a death match, as the pirate aspect was still there, even in my battleground-esque demo.
As I mentioned in MassivelyOP’s Best of E3 Overthinking article, I came away from this year’s con thinking Sea of Thieves was the best playable online multiplayer game with a playable demo there, despite that demo being “terrible.” What I mean by “terrible” is that it created the potential for some of the worst parts of gaming to come true. There’s a reason most MMOs demo a battleground, boss fight, or newbie experience: Those are easy to demo, especially for non-MMO fans. Some demos give players a zone to explore, which is better, when done well. Rarely are people put into a situation where the entire demo requires coordination, but Rare did it, and it paid off, despite the fact that it’s not selling an MMO.
Allow me to explain.
Oh, E3, always a magical time full of promises when some aren’t meant to be kept, some are meant to be kept but won’t be, and some actually will happen. Have fun guessing which is which!
Among the more pertinent announcements from this year’s convention are ARK: Survival Evolved launching on August 8th, Sea of Thieves delaying launch until 2018, and Destiny 2 launching early September and late October depending on platform. We’ve also got the new game Anthem on its way for 2018 and Monster Hunter World headed for consoles and PC, which is all cool.
Oh, and let’s not forget the announcements of Skull and Bones and The Crew 2. Or the Lawbreakers beta starting June 28th while launch is set for August 8th. Jeez. Is there even room for more beta news? Yes, but just a little.
Whew! Some title density in there, almost mirroring that of the list down below. You can still read the list, though, and if we missed something or a game has slipped into a new test phase, you can let us know in the comments.
E3 is drawing to a close, with its reveals over and done with — all that’s left is processing our interviews and hands-on pieces. But in the meantime, we decided to take this week’s Overthinking to consider the field. MMORPGs haven’t shined brightly at E3 in a long time, so our expectations are usually low — the con is interesting to us more for what’s happening on the multiplayer front.
So that’s what we asked our staff: What’s the most interesting or grabby-hands MMO or MMO-ish thing from E3 this year? Which game would get your best in show and why? There’s also an extra bonus section on the con itself courtesy of our writer on the floor.
How do you eat a banana?
Well, you’re wrong — at least according to Sea of Thieves. The seafaring game’s E3 trailer showed a brief gameplay segment where a character was shoving a banana into a mouth, unpeeled, stem first. This oddity caught the eye of Polygon, which made a video mocking it, and thus a meme was born.
Getting away from tropical fruit for a second, one interesting question was brought up during the expo: What if your own shipmates maroon you on an island and leave you there? According to the devs, a “friendly mermaid” will arrive to bring you back to your boat. Presumably she then falls in love with you and sings that she wants to be part of your world.
Sea of Thieves is currently in the throes of technical alpha, having announced that it will launch in early 2018.
Sea of Thieves, you have a new challenger in the realm of MMOsy pirate games: Ubisoft just announced Skull and Bones at E3. The game looks gorgeous and boasts a “shared open world” that reacts to players, seeming character customization (“choose your captain, recruit your crew, and build deadly ships”), PvP in the “disputed waters,” and fun piratey fluff like spyglasses and realistic wind navigation.
“It is the Golden Age of Piracy. Renegade captains command the most powerful weapons on Earth: warships. You are a pirate captain who has refused the king’s pardon and sailed from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean, an untamed frontier full of lavish riches. However, these waters are also a battleground where far-reaching colonial empires, powerful trading corporations, and ruthless pirate gangs clash. In order to survive, you will have to build a lethal fleet, prey upon lucrative trade routes, and ally with other pirates in your endless struggle for supremacy.”
“We’re not making Black Flag 2.0,” Ubisoft says in the new trailer. “We’re making our own game. But we really went to school on what we’ve done in the past.” Check out the videos for the whole overview.
While it should come as no shock that Sea of Thieves was going to fail to make its projected spring 2017 release window, especially considering that the game is only now working its way through a technical alpha, it still might be a little disheartening for would-be buccaneers to hear that they will have to wait until next year to take up piracy.
At E3 this past weekend, Rare announced that its multiplayer title has been delayed until early 2018 for both Xbox One and PC.
While this is certainly a bummer, there was a bright side to Sea of Thieves’ E3 appearance: The team released a fairly amusing and informative gameplay video to demonstrate how the game will function in a multiplayer environment.
“We don’t want to spoil any of the new and improved features on show, but we can tell you that sharks, shipwrecks, swashbuckling in storms and the lost art of human cannonballing all play a part in this adventure,” the team said. Check it out below!
According to Rare, PC players’ patience might have started to wear a little thin as the studio demanded a few month delay to get the computer version of Sea of Thieves ready for testing. But now that the first PC technical alpha is underway with 1,000 testers, a new era has begun.
“Stability and performance is just so important to us as a studio,” the team said. The devs are focused on getting the default video settings right during the weekend and generating feedback from the players to implement for future tests.
Another project that the team is working on are live campaign events. “Live campaigns are time-limited events that will happen in-game,” the team explained. “They’re meant to spice up the every day gameplay and potentially give you a unique experience and also a unique reward.”
For the record, both the PC and Xbox versions are being run in parity with the same updates and features. You can hear the team talk about the development of the PC build and the live campaigns after the jump.
Alpha is beginning for Rare’s pirate-themed sailing MMO Sea of Thieves — technical alpha, that is, for a thousand lucky Windows 10 players.
“Starting this Saturday, May 20th, we’ll be inviting a small initial batch of players to test this first PC release on Windows 10. This test will run from 7 – 10 p.m. BST, and it will be open for these 1,000 invited PC players only. And when we say small, we mean it: this won’t be an armada of PC players just yet. We’re looking to invite around 1,000 Windows 10 Technical Alpha testers to start.”
Rare says that you lucky thousand seafarers will be focused on auto-detection – “how effectively the game analyses and assigns low, medium, high, or ultra settings” – as well as generating feedback on control schemes. It’s basically the same build features from the Xbox One tech alpha.
“Similarly to our Technical Alpha on Xbox One, we’ll be starting slowly but gradually building up our audience,” says the studio.
For Microsoft, Sea of Thieves isn’t some below-the-radar project that’s beneath the company’s notice. Its Xbox division, in particular, is very keen to see this multiplayer pirate game succeed.
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, showed his public support for the project by coming onto the latest Inn-side Story video to talk about his own personal experiences playing the alpha and what he thinks of the game. “You’re building just a magical experience for people to go out onto the open seas and have a great time together,” he said.
Spencer also complimented the team’s infectious energy and Sea of Thieves’ approachable and flexible format. He notes that building a brand-new IP is scary but that it’s a worthwhile project and one that Xbox supports.
You can check out the interview after the break!
Just because you make a game doesn’t mean that you are an automatic expert in it. In the latest Sea of Thieves developer gameplay video, the team shows that even they can become tourists under the right circumstances.
This week, the devs faced off against a team of Xbox players as they raced to scour islands, dig up treasure, and sprint back to a safe port with their booty. Armed conflict and plenty of deaths ensue while the devs start caterwauling in distress.
See the devs play the role of noobs below!
One of Sea of Thieves more RPGish concepts is that of “limited resources.” Basically, each player has access to certain unlimited items, such as a bucket to bail water out of a boat or a musical instrument to play, but then has to forage around islands for certain limited-use items. These include food (to replenish health), cannonballs (for ship battles), and wood planks (to repair ship damage).
Because health doesn’t regenerate and ships don’t magically heal themselves, the devs see limited resources as a way to make the game more strategic and pepper it with interesting choices for players. When and where you use these items is important, as is taking side treks during voyages to see if you can find any more useful items on islands.
Get a feel for limited resources in the new video below!
It’s very rare that this job allows us to use the terms “shutdown” and “good” in the same sentence, but the upcoming alpha shutdown for SkySaga is one of those rare instances. After all, the only reason the alpha test is shutting down is so that the game can move into its open beta, which will serve as a de facto soft launch. See? That’s a good thing.
Other betas were doing stuff this week, too, so that’s also a good thing.
And we’ve got our full list of games just below if you’d like a more rundown-style update. As always, we appreciate it if you let us know what stuff has jumped to another phase of testing or might otherwise be erroneous; we do our best to keep up with changes, but we do miss things from time to time.