"We’d had our dreams built around bringing players together, to be more than just attacking everything on sight."
- Lead designer on Sea of Thieves Mike Chapman on how the game's first major update encouraged comradery.
The open sea can be cruel and unforgiving, especially when it's populated with other online players determined to sink ships and compete for treasure.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, lead designer on Sea of Thieves Mike Chapman discusses the evolution of how players went from competing against each other to collaborating.
The studio initially hoped some of the encounters in Sea of Thieves would be peaceful and cooperative, but the inherent competitiveness of online multiplayer seemed to have encouraged players to be on the defensive instead.
But the game's first major update, The Hungering Deep, shifted the tide.
“For the two weeks of that campaign, the game became Sea of Friends," Chapman explains. "We looked at the stats and found that, during The Hungering Deep, the game was twice as friendly – ship encounters that ended in combat were reduced by half."
Having players work together to defeat a common enemy instead of attacking each other was so successful that Chapman knew the team had to build that into future campaigns as well. Coupled with some other hard design decisions, it was back to the drawing board.
“A week after release, we sat down in a room, took out our roadmap for the year and pretty much ripped it up and started again,” Chapman says.
"The feedback we were getting was: we want more variety in quests, more things to do in between, to come across in the ocean, that can challenge us, more emergent opportunities, goals to aspire to."
He was speaking as part of a longer interview around designing new content designed to have players work together and introducing AI enemies into Sea of Thieves to help toward that goal, so be sure to read that over at The Guardian.