Being A Sea Of Thieves Pirate Sometimes Means Being An Arsehole

Sea of Thieves is mostly about hunting down treasure with your friends, but every now and then things get ugly. In a game where everyone wants loot and crews can battle each other at the drop of the hat, the line between being a pirate and being a jerk feels razor-thin.

There's only a few things to do in Sea of Thieves - find buried treasure, collect bounties on dangerous skeleton pirates, and raid forts - and each activity offers all kinds of loot. You'll find curse skulls, massive chest of gold, and collections of rare supplies like tea or silk. Once you have these supplies, you can bring them to an outpost to sell.

However, at any given time, other players can take your treasure and try to steal it for themselves. Sea of Thieves matches are small, with the large open sea only filling with a handful of ships, but when players meet there is a choice to be made: play nice or play like a pirate.

Trolls and griefers suck. Players who exist only to cause trouble for everyone else or ruin the experience are far too common online, from players who intentional throw Overwatch games to Fortnite squads secretly working together.

It sucks. But Sea of Thieves' very structure encourages less the honourable behaviour. While it is possible to behave yourself and still succeed, the lure of other players' loot and the bombastic spectacle of ship battles makes it hard to resist engaging in some bloodthirsty behaviour.

This weekend, I started playing Sea of Thieves with my friends. After a series of bounties, we decided to raid a fort full of skeletons only for another crew to attack and sink our ship. This led to a series of engagements where this crew - who were frankly, arseholes - continued to harass us as we tried to return to the island and continue the activity. We even offered to split loot with them if they wanted to join up to fight the skeletons.

They never listened, trolling us for hours and hours. It only ended with a new player managed to broker a truce. But as we all fought the skeletons, my crew hatched a plan: one of us would detonate explosive barrels on the troll's ship and we would take their loot.

The plan went off without a hitch and we took everything. It felt good.

That's me and a random player. He has no clue what's about to follow.

This might sound like a simple case of outsmarting griefers but earlier in our session we had another random player climb on our ship who sailed with us for a time. Jokingly, I raised my pistol to his head when he wasn't looking.

It would be so easy to betray him. When I wasn't looking, another member of my crew did the deed. At first, I was shocked but then I laughed. The audacity of it all was absurd. We'd drank grog and raised sails with this stranger and at a whim executed him for a laugh. Isn't that what pirates do?

As currently designed, the only thing to do in Sea of Thieves is purchase new clothings or items for your character. There's no building feature to, say, build a friendly port for players or games inside taverns to have friendly competition.

The core loop of the game, as befitting a game about pirates, is about acquiring cash and flaunting that wealth. Bounties and treasure hunts offer a pathway for success but stealing from other players speeds up the process considerably. You can grind activities for hours or raid someone else's galleon in as little as five minutes if you play your cards right.

There's also little repercussion for embracing your darker impulses while playing Sea of Thieves. There's no punishment that sends NPC law enforcement after you or a mechanic to place bounties on those who've betrayed you.

At worst, you anger some players who try to hunt you down for revenge before they eventually get bored. Without systems in place that encourage players to team up against dangerous pirate crews, Sea of Thieves is a hectic free-for-all where cruelty is often the best path to profit.

Sea of Thieves lives somewhere between a cooperative MMO and competitive deathmatch and knowing when to engage in either mode is difficult. Betraying a trusting solo player so you can take all of their stuff makes sense. The game allows it, the reward structure encourages it.

Why feel bad if that's what the game wants you to do? And yet, every player is just someone trying to have fun and your bit of thievery could be the capstone on a horrible day. That knowledge makes it difficult to screw someone over.

I don't necessarily think it's wrong to play Sea of Thieves like a pirate but that doesn't mean there's no such thing as a dick move.


Comments

    I mentioned Ultima Online elsewhere in regards griefing where, in short, the wonderfully designed system simply didn't survive real life. Players got bored within days of launch, and did the only thing they could think of to relieve that boredom - they turned on other players.

    That sounds very similar to Sea of Thieves...

      We've had non-stop assholes decide to attack our ship while we're on an outpost away from it. Last guy that did that didn't end up surviving. I got angry, we took off in our sloop, repaired it while sailing away, and then turned to face him and lit him with cannon fire.

      The game should be further along, wasn't it something like 3+ years in development? They must have spent most of it working on the water. The combat is sluggish and completely terrible, the physics aren't much better. During that fight, I was thrown overboard and managed to get back on, only to be thrown off by the ladder.

      Certainly not worth $100, I've seen Indie games more polished for $15. For a company that has the backing of Microsoft I expected more.

      I really hope they work quickly, because if they don't it could become a NMS-esque scenario where everyone drops off in a month.

        Next patch is supposedly in June....sooooo yeah.

          Thanks for that, I'll cancel my Game Pass and come back when they update.

          If they're following based off what they've outlined in a "Developer Address" video - It's just the connectivity issues. How about not depending on a piece of shit app that takes 2 minutes to load and takes you out of the game?

          I've got a lot of gripes with SoT. It's got potential, and I've enjoyed sailing with my partner, but with the bugs and general lack of content, I'm less inclined to stick around.

            Yeah. They did patch today 19gb LOLOLOLOLOL to fix connectivity and other minor bugs, but nothing related to content.

            I compare SOT to Wild West Online. Both games have a crazy bright future. But it's up to the devs to not screw the pooch and release a rushed out piece of vaporware that will be deserted in 12 months.

              Just read the patch notes. They wanted to "do a full client update" to get it into players hands faster. Instead of releasing a smaller 2gig patch. Yep let's make our players download the game client again! That's 40gig alone for my household.. Didn't think a developer could get any more incompetent but here we are. Slow flap for Rare.

                Brother, you don't know incompetence until you've lived through the development of Star Wars The Old Republic (EA's MMO). It was developed as you'd expect.

                  Hahaha I totally forgot about the flustercuck of a development cycle.

                  Hey, at least i got more than a days entertainment out of Swtor.

                  That game ruined MMO's for me.

                  Yeah, SWTOR's story system was awesome.

                  Then EA got involved. CASH STORE FTL.

        Rare want people to provide the content.

        These guys are providing content. It isn't fun or interesting content, but they're being pirates.

        Pirates <> Nice

          "Rare want people to provide the content."
          Hard to do when what's already there is barely anything. I'm more than happy for people to come pirating, it's satisfying to sink them. But the lack of other content is horrible. NPC ships are a must because for a "mmo" I've come across 2 people.

            It's six ships per server apparently

              The map is pretty big, but only 6 ships, interesting.

                From what i have heard. But it's all hearsay until confirmed.

                  Wonder if it's 6 ships or 6 players.... The amount of ships would be 6 if each player was solo, but only had 6 players on the map, or up to 24 with full 4 man gallons.

                  And 24 sounds like a normal multiplayer server number to me, so it must be player based.

                  Yep. I've heard that too, and the most I've seen is 4 enemy ships - which made for a hectic battle - so I'm happy to believe it.

                  As much as I'd hate to see 3 other ships at once (Because at least 1 of them is going to try and kill me), it must have been a fun few minutes. Probably followed by a spawn camping MF'er.

        i agree that $100 is a steep cost but i also think this was done to push people more towards the game pass system, as it's a game ill likely get at least a month or two out of $20 is pretty good especially since it has other games included.

        I wholly agree that griefing can be a problem in game but i think it integral as it adds a sense of risk and danger that other games cannot replicate, often i find myself scanning shorelines and outposts to make sure they're safe, that sense of danger keeps me sharp.

        As for repetitive griefing attacks thgey are frustratiung yet also satisfying, killing a ship that comes at you constantly is so rewarding. i think the implementation of their ships supplies dropping as floating barrels could help stop the constant ramming as you'll always be stocked for supplies.

          Not so fun when you are on a sloop and being harrassed.

          I had a free game pass that I had been meaning to use. I've been also trying super lucky's tale

            How's super Lucky's Tale? Been meaning to try it, but other things get in the way

              It is very similar to spyro, banjo kazooie and crash bandicoot.
              It is a platformer with an emphasis on collecting.
              There is a hub world for each enemy with portals to levels. In each level you can collect a clover, the letters for the word Lucky, coins, gems and more.

    The best description I've seen of this is: "It's a sandbox, but with few toys in it."

      It's not a sandbox, it's a sea box.

    I mean arent these players just being accurate to history? Pirates werent really the nicest fair go people.

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