It’s fun to goof off and battle other ships in Sea of Thieves, but fighting skeletons over and over and running variations on fetch quests is getting a little tiring. To pass some of the longer journeys, I keep imagining all the things Sea of Thieves could do, but doesn’t, armchair designing an imaginary game as I play. The subreddit has been doing the same thing, which suggests that the essence of Sea of Thieves is excellent. Mediocre games don’t usually inspire so much imagination.
So it’s a compliment. Sort of. It’s a criticism, too, because we’re saying that the broth is outstanding but the soup isn’t complex or hearty enough. It’s not a very constructive way to criticize. For one thing, saying ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ doesn’t necessarily mean that what comes next would actually be cool in practice. And it’s awfully bold to assume the chef just didn’t think to add all of our great ingredient ideas. I’m sure that Rare, in the process of building this game I’m enjoying, thought about what to put in it a billion times harder than I have in a couple days of playing it. They also have a budget, which imaginations don’t.
But I can’t stop myself from daydreaming any more than anyone else can. The core of Sea of Thieves—four players on a ship fighting other players on ships—is so open-ended that ideas about how to add to and improve it form spontaneously every time we play. Call it the ‘No Man’s Sky effect,’ maybe (though that isn’t really accurate as the marketing in that specific case was a much bigger part of the story).
So as a compliment to Sea of Thieves, sort of, as well as not-very-constructive criticism, I’ve been keeping notes on all the things we think it would be really, really, cool to add to Sea of Thieves, many pulled from conversations Chris and I have had while sailing. Once we get all this out of our systems maybe we can actually talk about what’s there.
A bunch of ideas we had
1. A fishing minigame. Long boat trips and no fishing minigame? Absurd.
2. A ‘last ship floating’ mode in which teams battle it out in a small ocean arena. Winner takes all. Yeah, I’m suggesting a battle royale mode, but tell me it wouldn’t be fun.
3. A pipe you can smoke. They probably wouldn’t do this because tobacco isn’t cool, but it seems piratey and I want to do more piratey things.
4. A card game that you can play for gold on your ship or at taverns. Should be easy to add, right?
5. Whales, dolphins, jellyfish, and other sea creatures. The ocean is a little bare. There should at least be sturgeons. I feel strongly about that even though I don’t think sturgeons live in the kind of waters depicted in Sea of Thieves.
6. Pets! We tried getting a pig to live on board with us but we couldn’t get it out of its cage. (Rare told us before launch, “We’ll definitely do something with parrots and monkeys.”) I want a dog, too, and it should run and get bananas for me. And I should be able to pet it. And it should howl along with our songs when we play music. And I want to be able to name it. And for it to do tricks.
7. Tradable items.
8. Weapon variants with different stats and new attachments? Maybe? This might be a very bad idea, but progression being all cosmetic right now doesn’t work quite as well as it does in games such as Rocket League, where your skill is so thoroughly on display (for better or worse). I want new stuff to play with, even if it’s all sidegrades.
9. New musical instruments.
10. New shanties to learn, maybe hidden around the map. (We were told by Rare that this “100 percent” will happen at some point.)
11. Dinghies! I’ve already said this, but rather than swimming to shore, or up to boats we want to raid, it would be lovely if we could row over like regular, non-amphibious people. They could appear on the sides of galleons (maybe secured with a rope you can dramatically cut with your sword to release) and sink after a while if left in the water unattended, respawning a little later. I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t think this would be cool.
12. Dramatically cutting ropes with swords in general.
13. Sail damage. Damaged sails would reduce your speed, and perhaps be fixed by climbing to the crow’s nest and applying a patch. Could help stop fights from dragging on too long.
14. Fires. Could be started by lightning and/or a new type of ship weapon, put out with buckets of water. Maybe they don’t damage the ship, but spread if left alone and damage players? Between sail damage and this, I’m just looking for a greater variety of complications, especially those that aren’t vital to fix right away. Adds more decision making.
15. Flares (like the ones the mermaids hold) and fireworks. Just because.
16. Signal flags. Sometimes we don’t want to fight—we just want to hang out with other crews. We usually pull out our accordions to signal that we’re not hostile, but signal flags that indicate ‘no cargo’ or ‘not a threat’ could be fun. You could obviously lie with them, too.
17. A rope with one loose end to swing from, attached to the bird’s nest. What’s a pirate movie without someone swinging from a rope onto another ship? It could snap off at the end of its arc, and so only be usable once per session, just to make it special.
18. Lots more server-wide events. Like a whirlpool that sucks in ships and spits them out in random directions at high speeds. Or, is that stupid? That’s probably stupid, but still, server-wide events other than the kraken and skeleton forts. They can even be benign, silly things, like a school of dolphins passing by. Any uncommon, shared experience would be delightful.
19. Player bounties. Someone griefing you? Offer 10,000 gold (or some suitably large amount that scales so it’s always a lot) to the player who does the most damage to their ship within some time limit. A bounty would notify the entire server and mark the ship in some way. This probably would not work at all. But it’s a cool idea and that’s all we’re doing here.
20. More loot so there’s more to lose at all times. This is the most important change I hope to (actually) see. It can take a long time to find a single chest, but slipping back to an outpost to unload it has been quick and mostly uneventful so far. Other players we run into rarely have any chests of their own on board, so all we’re stealing are cannonballs. If there were more loot to find lying around—barrels of rum and crates of tobacco and other appropriate hauls—we’d always be more worried about an attack, and more likely to get something by raiding another player. Plus we just like finding things.
21. Even more ship customization, including interior customization.
22. Functional ship upgrades, such as new cannon varieties. A sort of mortar that’s super hard to hit with but does tons of damage could be fun.
23. More consumables, and a way to craft them. ‘Just put more stuff in it and also a crafting system’ is probably terrible advice most of the time, but I think there’s something to it here. (It’s probably still terrible advice.) Sea of Thieves is all about journeying right now—going to islands, getting stuff, bringing it to different islands—but that’s only part of the appeal of boats. They’re also your base, your home. I’ve already said I want to go fishing, but I also want to disappear below deck and then pop back up to the poop deck with plates of hearty blackened tuna for everyone (maybe they temporarily boost max health?). Anything that might build camaraderie and give more character to each adventure: add it in there! Make this game a mess.
24. Related to #23, more nonvital ship maintenance tasks. One of my favorite parts of starting a new game is loading all the cannons. It’s a simple thing, but it’s courteous, and it might really help us later on. Taking care of little tasks for my crew makes me happy. Related to this, I’ve been playing One Hour One Life lately, and it requires constant effort to keep yourself and your little settlement of players alive, and to improve everyone’s quality of life by crafting useful new things. In minutes it engenders this wonderful community atmosphere. A player will notice I’m trying to build a fire, for instance, and run off and grab me kindling without being asked. The same idea, applied with a much lighter touch to Sea of Thieves, could have a similar effect. Maybe I notice someone slipping around the deck while trying to load the cannons, so I swab it. Maybe the compass is misaligned, so I fix it. Simple acts like that would ensure everyone has something to do on longer trips, and also bring the group closer.
25. Ghost ships. I mean other than the one you end up on when you die. They’d be full of skeletons and contain rare loot, if you can fight your way to the hold. Ya have to have ghost ships. Also a fishing minigame, please.
What’s actually coming (that we know of)
So there you go: 25 things I have no idea how one would build or at what expense, and that might not work at all in the way I envision them working, but that I decided were good ideas while playing last night and during the beta.
Whether or not any of these ideas, or the many ideas floating around Reddit and elsewhere, ever actually make it into Sea of Thieves, something new definitely will. It’s not as if Rare isn’t aware that there’s potential in the game. There’s “loads” of it, said design director Mike Chapman in a pre-launch interview in which he detailed Rare’s many plans for the endgame and future updates, including new voyages, and possibly limited time events. I suspect Sea of Thieves may be much improved in 12 months time.
For now, I’m enjoying it a lot despite the many, many things I think would it would be really cool if it did. Our full review will come later this week, and won’t include any suggestions. We’ll try to just play the game from now on.