What Can We Expect in 2019?
On Inside Xbox last week, Joe Neate revealed some big news: most of the major features we know the team are working on have been rolled into a single ?Mega Update?, and they will reveal its release date on March 20th.
That creates the longest drought between major content releases since the game launched, but fret not fellow scallywags. The Mega Update is shaping up to be worth the wait, and Rare has a plan to keep us a little busy in the mean time.
February/March: Mercenary Voyages
January was slow, with only a quality of life update and no new Bilge Rat Adventures. Rare was hoping that the new content of Shrouded Spoils and the December Gilded Voyage gifts we were given would keep us busy through the first month of the year.
Last week Rare released their February Update, which was much meatier. Alongside a major combat balance overhaul and numerous teases towards future content, they launched a week long Friends Play Free promotion and the launch of a new system called ?Mercenary Voyages?.
Bilge Rat Adventures were intended to regularly give players something new to do. Over the summer these released every two weeks, but this schedule was unsustainable- it didn?t leave enough time for testing, and the game became riddled with bugs. Rare then switched to monthly releases, which addressed the bug issues but left players feeling restless, with new challenges releasing few and far between.
Mercenary Voyages aim to meet in the middle. They give players something new to do and allows the team to drive player to player interactions, but they don?t require the invention of brand new systems or assets for each adventure. The systems are already present in the game- they are simply remixed renditions of the Voyages already available.
The first one, Mercenary Voyage of the Rum Runner, acts as a sampler platter for players new to the game to experience a variety of voyage types. As with past Bilge Rat Adventures, participating will earn you Doubloons and some limited time cosmetics. The first three pieces of the Mercenary Ship Set are available until near the end of February or beginning of March, presumably when the next update comes and brings a new Mercenary Voyage.
The first voyage launched alongside major tweaks to the game?s combat, so it?s likely we?ll get more gameplay changes and quality of life updates at the start of March. The option to opt-out of Cross-Play servers will happen in this time, as well as more features aimed towards streamers?/content creators? quality of life. Also, the ?Molten Sands Fortress? will become active (a new Skull Fort recently added to the Devil?s Roar region) when that next update comes.
Mega-Update: April or May?
March 20th will be the game?s 1 year anniversary, and on that day Rare plans a grand reveal for what the Mega-Update is all about. They will reveal its release date, as well as all the features that are contained within it.
Optimistically, it could come at the start of April, as the first week of each month has been the pattern with game updates. But more realistically, with all that we know is included and how long it will take to test, it might not come until May. May would also be the anniversary of the game?s first major update, the Hungering Deep.
What?s coming in the Mega-Update?
Joe specifically mentioned:
- The Arena: a previously announced new mode consisting of timed matches where crews compete to gather the most treasure from small subsections of the Sea of Thieves world. PvP focused
- ?Tall Tales?: This was the rumored name for what Joe refers to as ?bringing story and lore to quests?.
- Pets: Originally planned for the first update after launch, pets were pushed back to focus on free content features. Pets will be the first instance of additional revenue streams for the game, costing real world money to buy.
- ?And more?
- Captaincy? When the original Pets plans were shelved, so was ?Captaincy?, a feature set that was said to give legendary players the option to name their ships, spawn in the legendary hideout, and retain their ship cosmetics automatically each session. Some or all of these features might still happen.
- Cooking/fishing? The latest update to the game has added a cooking stove to the Brigantine and Sloop, as well as new ?streamlined? cutouts in the deck bow. It has been said by Mike Chapman (Senior Designer) that new types of food will come eventually, and that cooking/fishing are things they want to add. These could very well happen in the Mega Update.
The biggest question mark for Sea of Thieves is what comes next. Every major feature that the team has been teasing consistently since last year seems to be coming in the Mega Update.
The Mega-Update also throws off the ?schedule? the team was on. Previously, there were actually four teams working on different updates simultaneously, with different staggered release windows. Now, the entire studio?s efforts are releasing at once, and anything that comes after will begin development after the Mega-Update releases. There?s nothing currently being worked on to come later.
But we do have at least some idea of what could come later in the year:
- Arena Updates: Arena will launch with just one game mode, so more are likely to come. We don?t know how many portions of the map (arenas) will be accessible when the Mega-Update comes, so perhaps more will come later as well. Regular updates to The Arena and its own cosmetic rewards are expected.
- ?Tall Tales? expansions: The devs once described their lore-focused update to the quests as a ?new system? that, once implemented, could easily slot future updates into. Sort of like Story Chapters, they could be adding more throughout the year after the initial foundation is laid.
- New region: The Devil?s Roar was the first new region added to the game after launch, something Mike Chapman referred to as a ?perilous region?, optional to venture to, offering unique challenges and greater rewards. We know the team has more perilous regions planned, and the next one may be a priority after the Mega-Update is finished.
- Player Creation options: Mike Chapman mentioned that the option to change your pirate in-game in a ?Sea of thievesy way? will be a priority later in the year.
- Weapon variety: Mike also mentioned that new varieties of handheld weapons, including melee weapons, will be a priority later.