Now, I fully admit that I am not an aggressive person in real life and that translates into the video game world when it comes to multiplayer titles. I also have bad depth perception and reaction times which makes games like Call of Duty: Warzone and such a bad idea since the rapid response and fuck everyone attitude you need for that kind game just stresses me out. This is why I tend to either play single player titles only or games that have taken an extra step to give players choice in how they wish to engage other players. Some examples of this are Fallout 76, Ark, and Rust.
In Fallout 76 they have made it so that you can turn on a pacifist mode which makes it so that you can’t damage others and they can’t damage you. The only three exceptions to this are Workshops, Nuclear Winter (Battle Royale Mode), and hacker/cheaters. Hackers/Cheaters are more on the PC version than on console. They also introduced Private Worlds, admittedly for a monthly or yearly fee, that makes it so you can play the game single player if you wish to do so or with a limited amount of trusted friends.
In Ark the developers made it so that you can make custom servers that eliminate PVP, lower it, or you can play single player.
In Rust on PC they are about to introduce private servers from what a friend told me. They already have custom servers but they don’t give the same amount of options that Ark does. Though of the three choices for my examples this one is less like the others when it comes to progression, etc. Rust really doesn’t have it at all. Yes you can learn plans, earn scrap/money, etc. but there isn’t any real leveling or reputation with guilds that happens.
Now, the reason why I am bringing all this up is that I started playing a game about a year ago now called Sea of Thieves. I first experienced it as a viewer on Twitch streams from players that I knew personally in real life and others. They made it look like a lot of fun and while there was PVP in their streams most of them didn’t go looking for it. The issue with this introduction is that they were rarely playing solo. The smallest crews they ever have most of the time is two. All of the players are veterans that had been playing since early access as well. So they made the game look simple and fun. Which IS true when you take most player interactions out of the equation. Though I will give some credit Rare has tried to limit the amount of ships/players on a server so there ARE days where there are no other ships that I have to interact with but those days aren’t often.
There are huge threads on multiple forums talking about the game mechanics, player interaction, and the like. The only one that Rare seems to pay attention to is the official one. I in fact doubt that this blog post that I am writing will even get read by anyone that works for them unless I go and send them the link myself and even then they might just dismiss it out of hand. This attitude I have towards Rare has a basis because of how they have chosen to handle the MASSIVE issue that is negative player interaction.
According to everything that I have been told by other players, read online, and seen in game Rare saw this as a game that had the opportunity to have a wonderful, playful, respectful PVPVE world. They didn’t take into account that if you have no real rules but more of an honor system, and no real enforcement of what rules you do have except for extremes that you would end up with a not so player friendly environment. When people complain about negative player interactions in the game that really are bullying, emotionally toxic, mentally toxic, energy draining from morale tanking when you are attacked for no reason doing Tall Tales with no loot, etc. The other players give out various responses like, Don’t play alone, Git Good, It’s Sea of Thieves not Sea of Friends, You don’t like what happens then go some where else, Don’t be a whiner, Then fight back, and it goes on and on. When it is pointed out that the game is supposed to be about player choice when it comes to how we each play the game they try to point out that going around attacking other players even if they run or don’t fight back IS how they want to play the game. They don’t see that they are FORCING their choices on others. If the ship runs without firing a single shot at them, if they try to talk without being aggressive or salty, if they offer an alliance without being aggressive/salty or fighting back at all then those players are showing how they want to play the game and the attacking players should respect that. However, they don’t. They continue to chase, fire on, sink, and generally harass the peaceful players. Rare encourages this type of behavior by making the Reaper Faction, and then they MADE tucking emotes so that other players can hide on your ship and harass you or track you. Their response to players spawn camping others on their ships was to introduce the scuttle ship option in the pause menu. This means if you get attacked and the other crew fixes your ship then continues to kill you each time you spawn onto your ship before you can even move your only option is to just sink your ship in a way that the enemy can’t fix. Most of the time that I get sunk in the game the other players don’t even take my loot. Some of them will call me names or say things like I suck, etc. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people because it’s JUST trash talking right?
The issue is that trash talking can be comedic to those saying the trash, but, can have long lasting mental/emotional effects to those that have it said to them because it is verbal bullying. Calling someone a Bitch for running from you while you fire on them when they asked to be left alone and didn’t fight back? Telling someone that they are trash when you board their ship and continuously kill them until they scuttle their ship just to get away from you? The real life versions of this would get most people a visit from another parent or the cops but because it’s just a video game they are given leeway to do it without any consequences. The only times I have heard anything being done about this behavior even when it is reported is if they use homophobic or racist language. Seriously? Do you realize the breath and width of the English language? You can get very, very damaging without ever using a cuss word, slang, or racist/homophobic language. This has caused a lot of the player base to which this is happening to just not report it because they have lost trust in Rare to do anything about it.
PvE VS PvP is a hot debate on a lot of the forums. There have been suggestions of a PvE only server that I fully support. This would allow for people like me to play while making friends with other like minded people. People who like to team up to defeat the Skeleton Forts, or other World Events. People who don’t mind negotiating who gets what loot at the end of the event. People who want to Alliance so that everyone benefits from the work they are putting into turning in loot, etc. Those of us suggesting this PvE server have even made it clear that we wouldn’t mind only getting say 25% of the gold and reputation points for all the loot items we turn in as a penalty for playing on that server instead of the normal one because a lot of salty people that don’t want the PVE servers to happen scream about how unfair it would be for us to have no consequences which would allow us to build up rep and gold faster than they could on the normal servers. They seem to forget that we would still be fighting skeleton ships, the kraken, and megalodons which for some crews can get a little overwhelming and sink them, but, we would still take that hit on how much we earn to make it ‘fair’.
What is fair really? Most of the players that would play in the PVE servers are those of us who get sunk on a regular basis and lose all of our progress for those hours we just spent and the people who sank us if they stick around to grab the loot get to benefit from our hard work for maybe five to ten minutes of gameplay to sink us. Some of the most prolific streamers will make MILLIONS in gold within a four to six hour stream just from going around sinking other players. They will camp world events that have high payouts like the Fort of the Damned and then attack the players that spent the time getting all the resources together to do that event. Yes there is an element of chance, but, those prolific players? They are usually the ones that have tons of skill, know all the exploits and WILL take full advantage of them. Like double gunning, running with loot, spawn camping while the boat sinks, etc. They are rarely the ones actually doing the events themselves unless they can’t find anyone to go after currently on the server. Even Azuki one of the nicer Twitch partners for Sea of Thieves that I watch will go after other ships more often than doing the events. Though I have seen her and her crew do some of them depending on what their goal was for the day.
Unless Rare starts to crack down on the bullying behaviors, opens up a PVE server, or puts in a way for players to chose to be pacifists like Fallout 76 has done I don’t think the game will live very long. Yes, putting in new content and seasons has helped keep some people playing but they are losing people daily. People like me. I am as of today quitting the game unless I am doing a Discord group thing. Which means I am not buying another Plunder Pass, I am not grinding another season, and I am not going to be buying anymore cosmetics for the foreseeable future. I am tired of getting onto the game all energized and ready to sail the seas, kill some npc enemies, and have fun doing tall tales only to have someone or multiple someone’s treat me like shit and take all the fun out of the game.