Season 8 of Sea of Thieves washed ashore late last month, and to celebrate, we sat down with Creative Director, Mike Chapman, to discuss the brand-new PvP system, factions and more ways to become a pirate legend.
You can watch the Season Eight content update trailer below:
How does group PvP differ from solo PvP?
Mike Chapman: As part of Season 8, players can choose to matchmake solo or as part of different crew sizes relevant to each ship. If players choose to play solo on a Sloop, we will only ever match you with other solo Sloop players of an opposing faction. Players can choose to play with one other person on the Sloop as part of a duo crew, but again, it will only ever match you against another duo crew, ensuring that the capabilities of each crew and how they can divide roles remain fair. This then scales to three-player crews, playing on the Brig and four-player crews on the Galleon. The only exception to this is when players chain four wins back to back – this will bestow Champion status upon that ship, with associated bonuses and visual effects on the ship figurehead, while also allowing Sloop and Brig Champions to enter ‘hard mode’ whereby they can match against bigger ship and crew sizes.
What measures has the team taken to balance the new PvP system?
MC: Balance between crews has been a major area of focus for the team. From skill-based matchmaking and curating the size of the battle area, to ensuring that we separate players at the end of the PvP encounter, our focus has been on ensuring that the fights remain as fair as possible. We were keen to ensure that progress was primarily earnt through PvP gameplay rather than falling back on alternate ways to play using other mechanics in the game. We’ve also been working alongside both our Sea of Thieves insiders and partners, taking feedback and suggestions on how to improve the mode while it was in development.
From ensuring that we minimise potential exploits to ensuring that progression felt satisfying and rewarding, we’ve put a lot of effort into making the Season 8 features integrate as seamlessly as possible into the rest of the game, including new Ship Captaincy alignments and new ways to progress as part of the Emissary system. However, now that Season 8 is live, we’re already taking feedback from the broader community in terms of weapon and supply balance, so the adjustments to balance will continue, along with improving the matchmaking system to ensure players are more likely to experience thrilling encounters as fast as possible.
Can you tell us about the new Faction system?
MC: There are two factions that we’ve added in Season 8, representing the Pirate Lord through the ‘Guardians of Fortune’, and Captain Flameheart through ‘Servants of the Flame’. Players can progress in each faction by earning allegiance based on winning ship battles in their name. All Sea of Thieves players will see a new item, the ‘Hourglass of Fate, ’ added to each ship they choose to play on. Players can spin the hourglass to choose to play for their chosen faction, and by doing so, they opt-in to being matched in PvP battles. Players can choose to sail around and collect treasure on their ship for their chosen faction, earning scaling tiers of allegiance based on successfully defending their ship from opposing faction ships who may hunt them down and will burst out of the water next to them.
Alternatively, players can go on the hunt themselves by unfurling the War Map and voting to seek out an opponent before seeing their ship dive below the waves, revealing stunning sights as their ship glides below the waves underwater as part of seamlessly matchmaking them with an opponent. Players can earn streaks of wins, with four wins earning players the status of a Champion Ship, making them an attractive target to anyone who encounters them emergently in the world. Players who progress to level 100 as part of the Guardians of Fortune, as well as being a Pirate Legend, will unlock the Faction Hideout, where they can receive Athena’s Blessing, granting players the ghost curse to use with their character.
Players who progress to level 100 and Reapers Bones level 75 will unlock the Reaper’s Lair, a fiery labyrinth of underground tunnels where they will receive the skeleton curse. Playing as a skeleton also brings new customisation options, such as changing your skull, upper body, and lower body and your bone colour. Players can earn additional allegiance levels beyond level 100 that come with extra rewards and bragging rights.
What was the inspiration for the opposing factions?
MC: Alongside the new PvP matchmaking and faction progression, we were keen to wrap it with a sense of storytelling and roleplay. Having factions based around our chief good and bad characters and what they stood for felt like it would amplify the feeling of fighting for a cause. It also felt like unlocking new locations, which frankly are absolutely stunning and evocative, along with the new highly desirable curses, would make engaging with the new features feel rewarding and meaningful. Our focus was to create that feeling of ‘one more go…’ through thrilling PvP gameplay while also presenting it beautifully in a way that expanded the world-building of Sea of Thieves.
Do you have plans to add additional factions in the future?
MC: We don’t have any specific plans at the moment, but we’ve certainly talked about it a lot. What’s great about Season 8 is that it could also serve as a platform for further expansions in the future. New rewards, new customisation options and new factions are all possibilities now we’ve established the core fundamentals.
Which faction do you see yourself more personally aligned with?
MC: I adore the look and feel of the Servants of the Flame. The Reaper’s Lair is stunning, and the skeleton customisation options are a wonderful addition to how you can express what you’ve done in Sea of Thieves. That said, I personally side with the Pirate Lord and his Guardians of Fortune. The crew bond and the thrill of sharing adventures with friends as part of a truly free pirate life is what the game is all about to me.
How did you use community feedback to perfect the new PvP system?
MC: Not only did we discuss and take feedback from Sea of Thieves insiders and partners, we also started a dialogue with our partners, specifically much earlier than we ever have before. Anything to do with PvP and the meta of combat needs to be balanced with such fine care, so seeking out players who are experts engaging with this aspect of the game was the perfect way to collaborate. We iterated and perfected so much more than we would have done, and given the complexity of what we’ve added in Season 8, on the whole, it’s landed incredibly well with players. Nothing beats releasing to a full-scale audience, but we’re in much better shape than we would have been if we hadn’t had the help and advice of some of our most committed players.
What are your favourite faction rewards this season?
MC: Definitely the new Faction Hideouts and the Ghost and Skeleton Curses. I genuinely believe that the new environments are some of the team’s best work – you can see and feel the experience of us continually expanding the game over the last five years. I’m especially proud that we’ve finally added these new Curses but as part of the new faction gameplay to the extent that they feel like a critical part of the world and what you can achieve.
Do you have plans to add special PvP events to the game in the future?
MC: We’re always careful not to upset the delicate balance of the shared world, but the fact that we have ways to connect like-minded players who opt into PvP after Season 8 will really open up the possibilities for how we could run some thrilling PvP events in the future.