Come on Sea of Thieves, let me call my ship the Creaky but Whole

Sea of Thieves boat named "Booty McBootface"
(Image credit: Rare / Microsoft)

Sea of Thieves season seven is here, and with it a wave of new features that the community has long been waiting for, especially regarding ship customization.

This includes naming your very own ships, and especially after being teased with a trailer featuring a ship named “Booty McBootface”, players were excited to see what new and exciting ways they could add a little flair and humor to their pirate vessel.  

So when the season finally dropped and my friend messaged me saying that he wasn’t allowed to call his ship the “Creaky but Whole”, I was pretty peeved, assuming the worst of the profanity filter and its attempt to vanquish harmless punnery. 

Instead, what I found was more complex: an inherently flawed system, lacking the ability to distinguish between the juvenile and the outright offensive.

A popup saying that the name "The Creaky but Whole" is not a suitable ship name

(Image credit: Sea of Thieves / Rare)

Take a caulk, Rare

Eager to see if the sinking of the Creaky but Whole was a one-off, I took to Reddit before I tested any names for myself. The fee for renaming your ship is pretty hefty - 499 ancient coins, which is roughly £4.99 / $5.99 - and I wasn’t keen on trying anything too outrageous that I would then be stuck with. 

I was met with a sea of perturbed pirates confused by the inconsistent filtering. For example – the Crusty Blowhole is fine, but Bloody Mary (which was part of a ship name in the child-friendly Puzzle Pirates game from 2003) is not. 

The Itchy Dinghy, Booty Clapper, Throbbing Cutlass, Filthy Oar and Rum Dumpster all pass, where Keg Gremlin, anything with the word ‘tavern’ or even the Sapphic Siren, don’t – and that last one is just homophobic to block if you ask me. 

These aren’t even the worst of them, really. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek innuendo and puns, you’ve got the truly NSFW names that I can’t grace this article with, featuring slurs, offensive slang and some pretty dark humor – the list goes on. 

The Itchy Dinghy, Booty Clapper, Throbbing Cutlass, Filthy Oar and Rum Dumpster all pass, where Keg Gremlin, anything with the word ‘tavern’ or even the Sapphic Siren, don’t

We reached out to Rare for an official comment, and executive producer Joe Neate said that the team is “aware of reports from the community of inappropriate and offensive ship naming” and has measures in place for prevention, including a “zero-tolerance approach for any kind of discrimination and this applies to ship naming”.

Crucially, Neate says that “filters are able to be updated as we spot words and phrases that are bypassing it, and we have a regular review and actioning process in place to address in real time” – meaning we could at least see a fairer and more consistent filtering system moving forwards.

Interestingly, Neate highlights that the cost of renaming your ship through the Pirate Emporium exists “so as to help avoid targeted harassment and toxicity” - though as your first choice of ship name is offered without any cash transaction, this seems like a half-measure.

Neate also noted that any inappropriate ship names which bypass profanity filters can be flagged up on a customer service report via the Sea of Thieves website. There’s no in-game option for this currently.

While none of these solutions will yet allow me to put the words ‘but whole’ in my ship name, at least it appears Rare is proactively assessing the situation.

A singing pirate in Sea of Thieves

"Why you gotta be like this, Rare?" (Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

Give no quarter

Sea of Thieves has to toe a careful line (or rather, walk a thin plank) as a co-op game about pirates for ages 10 and up in the US, or 12 and up in Europe. Mostly, it manages this well – until you encounter a ship of 12-year-olds on voice chat who just learned that swearing is fun and online gaming is a great place to do it.

In fact, its toxic community has historically been one of the main criticisms made against Sea of Thieves. While PvP is a core component of the game, over the years, players have taken what was a means to plunder other players’ loot to extremes – making the game pretty much unplayable solo at times, and tough on newbies too. This, alongside a slow update release schedule and a lack of single-player content, may have been responsible for a shrinking player base (according to concurrent player data from Steam Charts, which doesn’t account for Game Pass) that we’re only beginning to see recover in 2022. 

I’m totally not against a profanity filter for this exact reason – but the fact that ‘but Whole’ would be snagged by it when ‘Sweaty Balls’ wouldn’t just shows how juvenile and outdated the filter itself must be. 

There have even historically been issues where in-game terms from quests and achievements have been filtered out in text chat – including ‘chunder’, which is featured in the Tactical Chunder achievement, and even the word ‘damned’, which made it just a little tricky to tell your crewmates about your trip to the in-game Sea of the Damned or Ferry of the Damned. Of course, you can turn this particular filter off, but it just goes to show the strange double standards in the system. 

Sea of Thieves S7 SGF 2022

(Image credit: Rare)

Shiver me timbers

If Rare was to take a little more care with precautions like these, it has the potential to offer real reform in its community. But there has to be more push and pull. Typically, Rare’s efforts in this area remove a lot of the real fun and charm that can be had with a game like Sea of Thieves with blanket solutions that don’t actually address the core issue: the game and its gameplay facilitate bad actors, and offer no rewards for good actors.

There’s very little motivation in Sea of Thieves to not behave like the scourge of the seas, and that’s not necessarily wrong. Games are not entitled to be fun for everyone, and PvPvE is an acquired taste for many. 

However, Rare needs to pick a side - is Sea of Thieves a grittier game with a steep learning curve that’s hospitable only to those who tough it out, or is it a fun, accessible game for all that has an element of risk thanks to PvP? Rare needs to model its features, and the aggressiveness of its family-friendly filtering, around whichever heading it chooses.

In the meantime, I’m happy to see Rare taking discrimination seriously, and have high hopes for a cleaner, less easily manipulated system in the future. If the balance could shift ever so slightly more towards allowing some harmless juvenility, too, that’d really hit the sweet (black) spot.

Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.