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Monday, March 19, 2018

It's Sea of Thieves Eve And I Must Grieve

By RAWKHAWK2010 - Happiness stolen in a Sea of Hype.

Well, after three long years it's finally out. The true beginning of a post-Kinect Sports renaissance for Rare Ltd. -- and according to several who have played it, their all-time magnum opus.

Upon its announcement, I was pretty brain-meltingly excited for Sea of Thieves. I made a video syncing the Sea of Thieves announcement trailer to Athena's Swashbuckler Spectacular from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and another of Phil Spencer (widely considered to be the man responsible for Rare's rescue) eccentrically dancing. It was awesome, dudes. Sea of Thieves was gonna be Donkey Kong Country 2 but in almost-real-life. Sea of Thieves was gonna save my waning enthusiasm in video games while Nintendo stayed busy screwing over the Star Fox franchise (which involved first exhuming it from the grave) and making all kinds of other terrible decisions. Back then I was all like, "Bless Rare and Microsoft Studios", but skip three years into the future and the correct phrase is "Bless me", because I honestly couldn't have been more wrong.

Sea of Thieves, for someone of my tastes, is a complete and utter disaster.

Look guys, I like to be immersed. I like for the focus to be on the game -- the characters, the environments, all the things inside the TV. So what happens when it's been three years and the focus has been less on anything about the game and instead entirely centered around the humans playing it? The ones Rare hauls over to their studio from America and films yelling and screaming?

I don't know what that is, but it's not immersion. That's like, "exmersion", because instead of pulling the players into the game, it's the game being pulled into them and Rare thinks we should all want to watch. Well, I don't, and this marketing path only serves to confirm my worst fear about the path of video games in general -- the quality of one being determined less by the "game" and more by its active reliance on aloof humans to flourish. Me? If I want to have an actual "crew" (aka if I want to stand any chance at thriving in the Sea of Thieves ecosystem since it's not gonna happen with random strangers), I actually have to convince three of my friends to shell out $60 for the game and we'd all have to rely on each other to continue playing it past the first week. And to ensure people continue playing, Rare themselves have to keep the cult-of-celebrity personality streamers shrieking to their fans about how much fun they're having. There's 24/7 reliance on people that NO ONE can trust! And I'm pretty sure the metric ton of Sea of Thieves swag -- from clothes to £20,000 bananas -- won't change the fundamentals of what I'm saying.

Sea of Thieves Vans® shoes clothes clothing apparel merchandise Rare
Sea of Thieves shoes: an official item.

Throughout the past year I've raised concerns over Sea of Thieves' accessibility factor (aka Rare's success in reaching out to the kinds of people who wouldn't wear FUCKING SEA OF THIEVES SHOES) and I've been lied to time and time again. At first I was told that Sea of Thieves was totally still a single-player game -- "a different experience, to be sure", but yeah, people played the Beta/Scale Tests and that's now a thing believed by no one. Next I'm told I'm a radical because "almost every game is played for multiplayer now", not recognizing that a more accessible solo experience is what most effectively can pull one into a greater multiplayer experience in the first place. That's how it works though: Rare crafted a crew of tight-knit examinees to sail around in their bubble for years and now they can't identify at all whatsoever with outsiders. (Rare also banned them from ever directly talking about the game due to NDA, which was hilarious because they were still expected to act bubbily excited over things they couldn't talk about. They couldn't even correct misinformation.)

Oh yeah, and I played the game by the way. I didn't want to (much like last year's Splatoon 2 Testfire), but after three years of speculation I decided I couldn't abstain.

Sea of Thieves pirate sits sitting underwater glitch beta
Sitting underwater. Exciting stuff.

After watching my pirate sit underwater for a while, I even streamed a Sea of Thieves stream. It was viewed by no one besides Ludwig and for good reason. (Note: None of the people talking in this video are me, and any immoral actions towards my crew-mates were solely to keep Sea of Thieves from putting me to sleep.)

Yeeeeeah...pretty bad.

Sitting underwater in third-person is by far the most fun I had with the game. Some will click the vid and say I'm at fault for not using a mic to try and spark conversation, but even if that changed anything (it wouldn't), such would result in me relying upon a player who was clearly retarded in this session or a sobbing Briton in another. In other sessions either no one talked at all or no one spoke the same language. The lack of order was...amusing, I guess, but if this is how things operated in an environment of Sea of Thieves "Insiders", it drives home my point that this is something from which functioning crews will never surface. The game simply doesn't have a solid foundation at all when approached from casual levels of preparation. Hell, the "smoothest" experience with strangers is still just a hackneyed cycle of adjust sails → sail for five minutes → make pit stop to grab a chest → repeat. It becomes decidedly tiresome after just a few rounds. To actually enjoy Sea of Thieves, you have to have your cabal of willing Rare/Sea of Thieves fanboys that are with you from the very get-go. Enter with that and Sea of Thieves becomes a warm friendly game of charades -- everyone singing shanties and getting drunk while sailing through the night. That indeed may never get old, but if you don't have your ducks in a row from the very beginning, it's an entirely inaccessible experience.

Remember when I said that a quality single-player component is the easiest way to bring someone into the multiplayer fold? Being functional on a core level so that you can have an experience enhanced by other players as opposed to a relationship with other players enhanced by an experience? Sea of Thieves embraces the latter without thinking twice and that's why it will never go beyond "party game" -- and I can confirm that "partying" with strangers on a Sea of Thieves boat is about the biggest waste of time there is. My belief is still that having your best friends aboard could provide lengthy amounts of fun...if all of you indeed actually like each other and are easily entertained (probably the biggest requirement), though now that I think about it further, partying with "friends" still means partying with the ugly-ass avatars that represent them -- a displeasure I feel I'd only so much be able to stomach. It's true, ugly characters are indeed a hallmark of Rare NPCs, but they're supposed to be appealing from a distance, not inches away from the player's first-person-camera face at all times. It's too constant, too forced, and too without respite.

Sea of Thieves pirate ugly faceapp smile smiling teeth
I tried to make this one prettier.
(Keep in mind that after you select your RNG-customized pirate from a RNG'd cycle of options,
you can currently never change it.)

Well, that's it for Sea of Thieves commentary. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a fair bit of seasickness following it.


...Honestly, I'm more flat-out depressed. After having the back of a manic-depressant Rare back in the day (interpreting insults towards Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts as attacks on my very being, and more recently even attempting to see the "beauty" (twisted definition) in Kinect Sports), this long-awaited "return to form" marks the first time Rare has...basically meant nothing to me. It's public knowledge that I haven't exactly been a huge fan of Playtonic either, but that's because the Nuts & Bolts aficionado in me was seeing too much old and not enough new. Conversely, "Old Rare" is doing "New" in the strictest sense of the word, we are. I can't feign one ounce of excitement while all the other Rare fans effortlessly ooze it, and I can't help but wonder if something besides Sea of Thieves itself played a greater hand in my detachment. In any case, take Rare out of the picture and it raises the question of what my significance to the greater video game fandom even still is. Is it -- no matter how much I try to fill the gap with Tokyo Crash Mobs music and kawaii desu ne Xenoblade Chronicles 2 waifus -- anything at all?

What happened to me?

Rawk now stumbles from E3 to E3, burying his shattered Rare hype at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Also, this is by and large the most depressing KoopaTV article to ever come out of him. (He should go play Kirby Star Allies or something.)

Sea of Thieves was first announced at Microsoft's E3 2015.
The YouTuber E3 video came from Microsoft's E3 2016, which was all about thinking every game shown was going to be Sea of Thieves.
Rawk was not impressed with Sea of Thieves by Microsoft's E3 2017.
As Ludwig observed, your crewmates’ worth is measured by how social you are. Rawk not talking may have impacted his experience.
Many years later, and Sea of Thieves is a popular hit.

1 comment :

  1. "After watching my pirate sit underwater for a while, I even streamed a Sea of Thieves stream. It was viewed by no one besides Ludwig and for good reason."

    I just want to note that I did not at all enjoy the stream and Rawk had to beg me to keep watching it.


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