Microsoft has officially announced that Rare’s multiplayer pirate action game Sea of Thieves will feature cross-play between Xbox One and PC. The announcement came during today’s Xbox Gamescom livestream, which included some new trailers, a few announcements, and concluded with the launch of Xbox One X pre-orders. But cross-play for Sea of Thieves could be the biggest surprise, with the game’s closed technical alpha implementing the feature, effective immediately.
This isn’t the first time that Rare has talked about cross-play for Sea of Thieves, however. Earlier this year, when Rare first activated the closed alpha on PC, the team decided to try out cross-play just to see how it felt. Executive Producer Joe Neate called the experience “magical,” explaining that it led him to question why any game would split player bases. But questions about balance and fairness prevented Rare from making it official straight away, however the more the studio considered cross-play, the more it realized there was no good reason not to include it.
That’s not to say that Rare is ignoring the issues that divide PC and console. In fact, Rare is going to great lengths to ensure balance between platforms:
“One of the things we’re very aware of is the need for the balancing to be right. After running some recent tests, we found that PC players were 4.5% more efficient at killing skeletons than Xbox players, and this feels close enough that it’s something we’ll continue to monitor. However, PvP between platforms, or more importantly device input, is the big focus point for us as a Design team, and already we’ve been working closely with the Game Experience team to change the way the guns work to be better balanced for cross play. We’ve put in a bunch of telemetry around this, and with the change to guns it’s made them feel tonally so much more fitting, as previously they felt more like laser weapons than ancient plundered-and-pillaged gunpowder-driven blunderbusses.”
Rare will perpetually track balance in Sea of Thieves to ensure as fair of an experience as possible for both platforms going forward.
According to Rare, the studio wants to offer a balanced experience that’s equal in almost every facet. In practice, that means a game with full feature parity, but more than that it means an equal playing field from day one. So Rare also says they’re planning on launching Sea of Thieves day and date on both console and PC, with launch still on track for early 2018.
For now, though, Rare will continue with the development of Sea of Thieves in preparation for its forthcoming launch. There’s plenty to do, and Rare seems like they’re adding new ideas as fast as they can come up with them. The studio just revealed how players can now get sick and vomit into a bucket, then use the bucket as a weapon against friends (or allies).
But there are larger issues left to address too, like how Sea of Thieves will support Xbox One X. Cross-play is now just a part of the game, and Rare’s got other treasure to take its focus.
Sea of Thieves releases early 2018 for the PC and Xbox One.