[Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5

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    Exploration and combat are both very important to the Sea of Thieves experience. As the game, the world it inhabits grows and changes, we want to hear your thoughts on how you are finding the balance of the two play styles when you play.


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  • Hi all thank you so much for your feedback, suggestions and discussions around this topic. As this topic reaches its fifth mega-thread, I wanted to take this time to thank you all for continually sharing your thoughts around this topic.

    Exploration and player combat are key components of the Sea of Thieves experience. As we work to enrich the experience, develop the game and the world it inhibits we are always working on ways to maintain the balance between the two. They may not always be immediately apparent, but along with your feedback and data from your play sessions we are always improving.

    Thank you all again, and know that we are reading all these comments!

  • @khaleesibot I think the balance between the two is a little too heavily skewed towards combat at the moment in this way:

    If I log on, and don't feel like I have enough time to do a full voyage, there is much more of an incentive to engage in PvP pirating than exploration. The odds that I find another player's ship and can steal some loot through PvP is much higher than the odds that I'll randomly happen upon treasure on an island.

    I think the exploration aspect of this game would benefit by just increasing the frequency / quality of random drops in the world. Every island should have at least one low level chest / MA item, every shipwreck should have at least 2 chests in it, etc. If I knew that I was going to get something by exploring, I would be much more inclined to do so.

  • @khaleesibot Need more things like the regional outfits, as this mechanic now forces us to go to different outposts, however for the future it would probably be worth adding new content rather than splitting up the existing.

    Maybe next we could have region specific animals? This would be useful for merchant quests, but also you could add in the Hunting mechanic that has been mentioned numerous times. Further to this you could have region specific Monsters and other AI threats. You could have crafting materials that can only be found in certain Island/Regions.

    Imagine, there is a piece of clothing you want. It requires hunting 100 Monkeys and taking their pelts. Monkeys can only be found on Plunder Isle, and you are in Marauders Arch. You make the long trip over there, and in the process of gathering Monkey pelts, you accidentally start another quest (by finding a book or something) for another clothing item that requires you to go across to Lone Cove in the north to hunt the Meglodon that lurks in those waters.
    That's obviously just my imagination, but this is what the game could be. A more RPG-esque game that compels you to discover and gives you the option to explore if that is your wish. We just need, say it with me now: Content Content Content! Different tasks, different mobs, and a different experience.

  • Activating more then one fort at a time would bring some balance. (and a different fort then just the same 3 would be nice too)

  • @khaleesibot
    It would help if Rare would say how they feel about the balance. Too much Player Combat or too much Exploration? I also don't know what action Rare has taken based on the previous threads. So hard to give any feedback without some context on how Rare thinks things are going or knowing what actions based on the previous threads have been taken.

    Thanks,

    Zeffin

  • 5 mega threads and what has actually changed due to them?

    Seriously, do we have a list or is this just pointless.

  • @elem08 said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    @khaleesibot I think the balance between the two is a little too heavily skewed towards combat at the moment in this way:

    If I log on, and don't feel like I have enough time to do a full voyage, there is much more of an incentive to engage in PvP pirating than exploration. The odds that I find another player's ship and can steal some loot through PvP is much higher than the odds that I'll randomly happen upon treasure on an island.

    I think the exploration aspect of this game would benefit by just increasing the frequency / quality of random drops in the world. Every island should have at least one low level chest / MA item, every shipwreck should have at least 2 chests in it, etc. If I knew that I was going to get something by exploring, I would be much more inclined to do so.

    I agree with some of this. Multiple times I've seen a ship wreck spawn with no loot on it or just a foul skull. I think at least 3 items should be on a ship wreck. How I know it spawned is if I sailed by and look back with my spyglass checking for sails and it appears after I just sailed by that area.

    That said if they really want me to explore I need some way to protect my ship when I want to explore an Island. I'd like my ship to be invulnerable if I have no loot and my anchor is down and my cannons are not loaded. Not sure how feasible that is. It also may just cause people to hide on my ship and kill me when I come back. But realistically you can't explore much if your ship keeps getting sunk when you try to explore. I don't know what a good solution for this is.

    Zeffin

  • As someone who is a frequent poster on this board, I'm a little confused about the purpose of these "Mega Threads" and how this feedback is being synthesized. In all of the podcasts and videos Rare has released thus far, it seems like they primarily vaguely address user created threads (here and on reddit).

    I like the idea of these mega feedback threads, but quite honestly I feel like if I don't get a comment in within the first page it's just going to get buried within the thread. I'll also add that I haven't noticed very many Rare staff actually commenting in these Mega Threads which also makes it feel like these threads are just housekeeping for shouts into the oblivion.

    Rare is in desperate need of a community manager person that can bridge the gap between what the development team is actually working on and the community outreach stuff. Don't get me wrong @khaleesibot I think you're doing an excellent job, but so often your work here seems totally disconnected from the type of updates that most players actually want.

    I don't necessarily think that is your fault, but Rare should allow you to be more transparent about what's going on behind the scenes. I also think that if we're going to continue with these Mega Threads more Rare developers need to have an active presence here and actually respond to what people are writing.

  • i like the idea of having more than 1 skull fort active at the one time cause i usually find myself in non-stop naval combat and they can last up to 2-3 hrs

  • @cloudedmonkey said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    Activating more then one fort at a time would bring some balance. (and a different fort then just the same 3 would be nice too)

    You are a mad man!

  • The game needs more random loot. I played for 3 hours today and explored many islands. All were empty except a few gbs. It would seriously give more reason to explore and everyone will have a little more loot for the taking.

  • Reposting this from thread 4, just so it doesn't get lost in the churn.

    tl;dr:

    • Game needs PvP opt-in of some kind.
    • Create Safe Area. Can't be sunk, and your stuff can't be interacted with in the safe area. Leave the safe area? You're opting in and it's just like the game is now.
    • Safe area let's players interact and collaborate in more ways than shooting by allowing for peaceful contact.
    • Create flag signals. Hostile, friendly, etc. Use it to track crew behavior and allow fighting in the safe area.
    • Allow custom flags and ship skins, make them sharable. Can be used for forming fleets.

    Hey Rare,

    I've been playing the game with 3 other good friends. So far, we've had a grand time sailing around and doing adventures together. Working together to sail a ship and run the voyages is a lot of fun, but our mutual experience is badly dampened because we ultimately lack any choice in whether we wanna fight or not.

    Now I'm a PvP'er type. I'm ok with involuntary fighting cuz I find the PvP quite fun! My friends are PvE'ers and would prefer the fun experience of sailing around together as friends peacefully. They're not opposed to fighting, but they need to be able to opt in for it to be proper fun. I don't blame them.

    I understand the arguments against splitting up the player base, and I also understand that there's something of a Social Contract you "sign" when you log in to play a game like this: namely, that it's a free for all and that you better be ready to fight. I understand that one of the big goals of the game is to force players to encounter each other and interact, which is the main thing driving the game's dynamism right now.

    But I also understand that players should be given a choice to PvE or PvP, so you can accommodate the different play styles of your player base. PvP'ers still get fights if they're sailing against players who have explicitly chosen to fight, and lose nothing but unchallenging easy kills if the PvE'ers are off doing their own thing.

    I think that there are a few of things that could be done to synergize these two viewpoints. I don't know how much effort would be involved, but I think that the benefits could be enormous.

    1. Make a Safe Area. A big one, the same size as the map's current various regions. EVE Online did this with High Security Space (https://wiki.eveuniversity.org/System_security#High_security). Players generally understand that they are safe to PvE to their hearts' content in this area. As long as ships are in this area, they can't be sunk and their stuff can't be interacted with by other crews without consent. This'll give PvE players the opt-in that they need without splitting up the player base.
    2. Create a freeport in the Safe Area. Players can show up here to peacefully interact with others, collaborate, form fleets (maybe PvE'ers can team up this way?), pick fights outside the safe area, etc. This will drive player interactions a lot more than they are now; seeing as pretty much all interactions right now are driven by mistrust and shoot-first-ask-questions-later. More dynamism and collaboration opportunities = a good thing.
    3. Create some kind of flag signalling system. Lamps don't cut it. Ships should be able to signal whether they're peaceful or hostile to each other in a clearer way. In the safe area, use this to let people duke it out if they want. Outside the safe area, anything goes! Let players be sneaky if they want, but use the flags to gather statistics about how crews play and build your algorithms around it. Maybe crews who sink too many friendly flag flying ships - or who sink others while flying friendly flags - can't go into the safe area for a certain amount of time, longer if they do it a lot? Maybe set it up so that they have fewer encounters if they don't behave?
    4. Let players create their own ship skins and flags, and let them share with each other. They can form fleets if they fly the same flag, for instance! Make it so that they still have to buy each custom skin/flag they make using the in-game gold.

    I think that changes like this would give everyone a little of what they want while preserving the game's core mechanics, while at the same time driving more player interaction and more types of interaction, which would make the game more fun for everyone in the long run.

  • 6 hours in an only 13 comments.

    Not to push it here but the lack of engagement has really done a number on the community.

    Honestly there is more than enough content over the past 4 megathreads to keep rare busy for a while but with no engagement from RARE as to their intentions to these ideas, pray tell, where is my motivation to continue caring.

    Many here try to remain positive but the general consensus to a large number of people is that this hungering deep is potentially make or break.

  • @prannon
    The threads about balance not segregation. Rare has said no to pve servers many times. See for yourself
    link text

  • Nerf the skeletons with pistols and blunderbusses for gosh shakes.

  • Give us the option to completely opt out of PvP. Like, completely. Totally. If people don't want to PvP give them a way to 100% opt out of it. That's my suggestion.

  • @laughsmaniacaly said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    6 hours in an only 13 comments.

    Not to push it here but the lack of engagement has really done a number on the community.

    Honestly there is more than enough content over the past 4 megathreads to keep rare busy for a while but with no engagement from RARE as to their intentions to these ideas, pray tell, where is my motivation to continue caring.

    Many here try to remain positive but the general consensus to a large number of people is that this hungering deep is potentially make or break.

    Exactly this, why would I bother writing again the long detailed posts I've posted over and over if

    1: there's literally ZERO feedback that they're actually listening to them and
    2: getting really, really tired of people answering them with a simple unexplained "no" like they get to veto suggestions or with the ridiculous "it goes against the Spirit of the Game™/Core Values/Sacred Developer Vision for Sea of Thieves" like it's perfect and unchangeable and any improvements would just make it worse for every single player on Earth because them themselves don't want it.

    If only they just went and checked the most upvoted comments in the last 4 megathreads and commented something, anything about them...

  • @ant-heuser-kush said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    I think it's fine... but why on earth is that skelly jumping?

    JUMPING SKELLY CONFIRMED!

  • Make people have the "whoa I didn't know that could happen in this game" moment.
    Like digging up a chest in a cave but then suddenly the cave starts collapsing and you have to make it out in time -- RQUIRING NO COMBAT.

    not saying combat is a bad thing but skellies get boring...

    MERMAIDS CONFIRMED!!!

  • @nwo-azcrack Good video mate. Thanks for sharing!

    I note the video is from last November. Been a while since then. They talk about their prototype, which is not the same thing as a game-at-scale. As far as I know, they didn't release the game until March. Circumstances tend to change once you put your app into the wild, and you either adjust or you die.

    I also note that the discussion focuses a lot on their game philosophy when it comes to how they'll tackle the Balance Question. Seems that they're more interested in trying to design the world and encounter system such that balance is achieved via "soft means" rather than putting in hard barriers and rules. I can appreciate that.

    A few points to you, though.

    1. I did not call for PvE servers or segregation. I called for safe areas that give PvE'ers a soft choice to PvP or not, while remaining in the same space as everyone else. Rare explicitly says no to safe areas in the video you linked that was released 6 months ago. I'm curious if their opinion has changed now that their app is in the wild. Do you have a more recent video or statement? And to Rare, if you have not changed your minds, then fine! Say so, please, so that your players KNOW what kind of game they're actually playing now that it's "Wild Tested," so to speak.
    2. I maintain that safe areas will create more dynamic player interactions, cuz in those safe areas the Social Contract is different. "Oh, I can actually trust the ships near me not to sink me? Hey, let's talk. Let's adventure together. Let's form a fleet. Let's go out into PvP land and protect each other." In the game as-is, anyone who sails at me is sailing aggressively, and there is no mechanism or opportunity to interact beyond killing and shooting. That's a limitation, and since the whole Game World is bound by that limitation, it's going to be bad in the long run if you are actually interested in a dynamic beyond simply shooting at each other.
    3. Even without safe areas, I think there should still be some kind of flag signalling system that allows Rare to collect hard statistics on how different crews play. You can tailor your encounter system such that hostile flag flying crews or friendly flag flying - but actually sneaky shooty - crews encounter other PvP type crews. Maybe PvE crews encounter fewer PvP crews based on these stats. These seem like fair, "soft means" to accomplish what many PvE'ers want (a relatively peaceful game experience), while keeping the world from being hard divided.

    And again, these are balancing suggestions. I think it is to the game's benefit for Rare to heed them or to find equivalent solutions.

  • @prannon
    I think the only mention of this after the video is the dev saying never to pve servers or safe zones in some interview.
    And while i respect your opinion i disagree completely about any safezones. I see why they havnt been added. The devs dont want you to be safe or be able to opt out of combat.
    Anyway i think the better solution is one montioned alot lately. And that is a hub outside the game where ppl can make friends, duel, play dice etc.. like the tower in Destiny.

  • @nwo-azcrack Thanks man. Glad to have a civil discussion about this. :)

    I'm not sure that I agree with an out-of-game area as the ultimate solution to the Balancing Question. I consider out-of-game solutions to be Meta-Game.

    The Meta-Game should be there, but players should also have tools In-Game to work out differences, form alliances, and/or other types of collaborations than simply shooting at each other cuz "you got too close and I got scared man." The flag signals seem like the most harmless way to do this while still retaining the game's current set of risks. ;) I'mma keep plugging that angle, if you'll indulge me.

    Also, in order for any Meta-Game to thrive, you need to have a way to encounter people that you want to encounter. Right now, as I understand it, the game doesn't have a way to make that happen. My research indicates that the game tries to force random player encounters for any given crew about once every 30 minutes or so, and the game engine will migrate you to different instances to facilitate that. Not being a single instance, you're never guaranteed to encounter people that you might hook up with in the Meta-Game, and that dooms any effort to resolve the balancing problem.

    Curious what your thoughts are on this and how Rare might be able to solve it, if not with a Safe Area.

  • @khaleesibot
    I still think this is the most elegant solution that doesn't change the core mechanics of the game. No safe areas, no enabling and disabling PVP, no separate servers.

    Create a "Privateer's Writ" that you can earn via quest. Each player can hold one at a time. You may not attack another pirate team without using a writ. A pirate suggests using the writ to initiate PVP. If that players team agrees, PVP is started until one of a few conditions happen.

    One ship is sunk.
    All Pirates on a team are killed at the same time.
    45 minutes have passed.

    If the attacking team looses the defending team get's a writ as a reward. If the attacking team wins, the losing team gets 1/2 hour to retaliate without using a writ.

    This game is PvPvE. Just like there shouldn't be any PvE only play, there shouldn't be any PVP only play. Implementing a barrier to PVP by requiring some PVE will hopefully restrict it to worthwhile situations. Yet, since you would never know if the other team had a writ, you would always have fear of attack. You can balance the amount of PVP that occurs through making the writs easier or harder to acquire.

    This would solve many of peoples main complaints. No attacking over and over in an effort to run the other team out of supplies. No killing someone at their spawn point over and over again.

    Most importantly, it would raise the percentage of friendly interactions at sea, even if those interactions were based only on one team checking the other for loot to see if they are worth attacking. And you would still have to be on your toes all of the time because you would never know if the ship heading your way had a writ they could use.

  • @elem08 said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    @khaleesibot I think the balance between the two is a little too heavily skewed towards combat at the moment in this way:

    If I log on, and don't feel like I have enough time to do a full voyage, there is much more of an incentive to engage in PvP pirating than exploration. The odds that I find another player's ship and can steal some loot through PvP is much higher than the odds that I'll randomly happen upon treasure on an island.

    I think the exploration aspect of this game would benefit by just increasing the frequency / quality of random drops in the world. Every island should have at least one low level chest / MA item, every shipwreck should have at least 2 chests in it, etc. If I knew that I was going to get something by exploring, I would be much more inclined to do so.

    There may already be but someone's got to it before you.

  • Oooo tortuga. The only safe zone, no pvp, no companies. All game and party. Games of chance.

  • @prannon
    I mentioned an out of game safezone because most of the posts i see about safezones and pve servers are usually asking for ppl to just have a place to chill and relax a bit. The ones who want a private server or not pvp at all i dont pay attention to. But the first group is huge.
    And you are correct about needing better methods to intetact. A flag system, if optional, would help a little. Im curious what this megaphone Rare keeps talking about is....
    And finally i feel the best solution for balance is just more content. More things to do to keep everyone occupied, and i feel like that will take some pressure off ppl just wanting to do voyages or explore. Ppl are bored out of their minds right now. So alot have taken to hardcore pvp to ease that. We need alot more distractions and reasons to team up. I really feel lack of content is what is hurting the balance.

  • @nwo-azcrack Got sources on this megaphone business? Videos or statements? I'm curious, and the consuming public would like to know, I'm sure. If it's just hearsay, then meh. For my part, I think flag signals are the better fit for this Game World. I mean... we're talking about ships and stuff. In the old days, flags were the way to communicate. "Striking the Colours" meant surrender, after all. It fits, and requires minimal changes to the game mechanics.

    I'm emphatic on the flags cuz I'm maybe kinda passionate about it, and I think that it would improve the game experience. I'm glad you're open to it. :)

    I hear ya on adding content to keep players occupied, though I will say it's ironic that we're banking on PvE content keeping PvP'ers occupied enough to leave pure PvE'ers happily alone. I'll freely admit - only for myself - that PvE content generally gets boring after a while, and unless Rare is willing to sink gratuitous amounts of dev time into regularly released content updates in the coming years, we're going to repeat this set of arguments over and over and over again until new content updates comes out.

    Folks being bored means folks looking for other players to murder to be entertained. That makes a lot of sense and I'm glad you've said it. The game's backend design seems tailored to encourage player encounters and interaction to drive the content that we so want. This is not a bad thing (in fact, I think it's the best thing that any game company can do these days). That being the case, even with more environmental content, there needs to be some intermediate way to allow players to interact in more ways than combat, and you can't solely rely on content distractions to do it.

    At the very least, I continue to maintain that flag signals will vastly improve the game experience. I also maintain that a safe zone of some sort will improve and increase player interactions.

  • @prannon It odd, because I feel like the seas are less aggressive now than they were at launch. But I also almost never come across ships carrying meaningful treasure unless a skull fort just went down.
    I think a large number of the PVE players have left already and the ones who prefer heavy PVP now have to do PVE to have any hope to advance. I'm guessing many of them will be gone soon.
    I saw a post on Reddit that may not be authentic but if it is, it would be a game changer. Someone claiming to be a Rare employee posted that they were considering PVE servers because 95% of players are no longer active. Too much PVP is the number one complaint.

  • Na i cant remember where i heard this megaphone buisness. I seen it mentioned alot. With most acting like its a sure thing. And i cant even figure out how it will work

  • @chitown-bear I'm not surprised. This past weekend, I played solo on a sloop and often spent long intervals between player encounters. Longer than I'd've expected, given the research I've done about the 20-30 minute encounter algorithms that Rare employs.

    Further, playing with my galleon crew, we spent several hours with no other galleons in sight. Almost as though few people are playing. We had several conversations about how we'd gotten curb stomped a few times and then... nothing. Just.... nothing. It's as if we were on a PvE server anyway, given the lack of real encounters.

    But of course, there was one encounter where we landed at an outpost, and a couple of pirates (who I'm sure landed there and scuttled their sloop so as not to attract attention) then boarded our galleon, raised the anchor while all of us were ashore, and then tried sailing off to grief us before we scuttled the ship. No talking, no real interaction of any kind. At an outpost... where peaceful interaction is supposed to happen. Why is there a tavern if not for peaceful interaction?

    That's not fun. That's annoying. Even if we can scuttle, it dampens our experience. There's no skill in screwing us over in that scenario, and there's no skill in us scuttling our vessel.

  • @nwo-azcrack Fair enough. I maintain my statements then, and I respect your opinion. :)

  • @prannon I think the server merges are messed up because of server hoping to get skull forts.

    Maybe my experience is the exception, but when I've joined random groups it has been 2 or 3 weeks since I've found one that wanted to work on factions. They all either wanted to PVP or do skull forts.

    I would be quite shocked if they get 10% of the players back when new content is released. It has been weeks since I have seen new data on player counts and achievements which should tell you all you need to know about how they feel about the status of the game.

  • @chitown-bear said in [Mega Thread] Balancing Exploration and Player Combat - Part 5:

    I would be quite shocked if they get 10% of the players back when new content is released. It has been weeks since I have seen new data on player counts and achievements which should tell you all you need to know about how they feel about the status of the game.

    If you check the game achievements, currently only 9.30% of all players have unlocked the "Aye of Reach" achievement, purchasing a new Eye of Reach. And there's a limited time 1 gold Eye of Reach in-game so if someone hasn't bought one they're just not playing.

    And I'd say that maybe people that aren't played anymore came back just to get the limited time item and leave (like I did), so 9% could be a generous percentage.

  • "Exploration" and combat are both very important to the Sea of Thieves experience.

    thanks for the LOLs

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