In a recent playthrough of Sea of Thieves we were struck by the game’s immersive first person perspective, simple controls and unobtrusive UI. ‘This,’ we thought ‘has VR potential.’ According to the game’s lead PC designer, Ted Timmins, however, that’s not the case.
Xbox has mentioned that the release of the Xbox One X means there’s a chance players could eventually see console support for Microsoft’s mixed reality headsets already running on PCs. Given the fact that Sea of Thieves plays seamlessly across both platforms, we asked Timmins if a VR version of the game would ever be considered.
“We thought that,” responded Timmins with a nod, “and then one of our testers – well, there’s a mod you can get on PC where you take any game and turn it into a working VR game – and dear God the moment you hit a big wave it’s just like ‘whoa!’ So we put that to bed pretty quick.”
Steering clear of the VR wave
Given this is a game based largely on water, we couldn’t help but chastise ourselves for not considering sea sickness. Especially given we’ve experienced extensive motion sickness just through the motion of walking in VR ourselves.
“It’s bad enough when you’re not in a storm,” laughed Timmins, “but when you go into a storm you’re just like ‘oh god!’ There’s actually a lot of people at Rare who have the Vives and Oculuses of the world and they’re like ‘no chance’. People can do the mod if they want to, but they’ve got braver stomachs than mine.”
Given the emphasis on truly co-operative play in Sea of Thieves, we also took the opportunity to ask if local co-op had been considered for the game, alongside online co-op.
“We kind of did for a while,” executive producer Joe Neate told us, “We decided against it because cross-play kind of gives that – you’ve got a laptop, you can sit next to me on console, and I think in today’s environment people can do that; people have a lot of different devices in their homes and we have pushed the minimum spec as low as we can to accommodate that.”
Outside of that, Neate also explained that going back now to include the feature would be technically difficult: “I think going back and adding a split screen and stuff, the performance challenge would be really hard. The complexity of the water and having that render twice and physically figure out stuff twice. We discussed it for a while and we don’t think it’s worth the investment. I think we can cater to most people with cross-play.”
It’s true that Sea of Thieves is a game created with cross-play and Xbox Play Anywhere features in mind. In our conversation with Timmins, we were told that the team has considered the highest and lowest spec PCs throughout the development process, as well as Xbox consoles, meaning the game is resolutely not a PC port and will work well for all players.