Along with the ‘Friends Play Free’ update for Sea of Thieves released today, we’ve taken a first step in rebalancing weapons and addressing some of the issues that have caused frustration for players. While Drew gave an overview of our overall approach in this week’s update video, I’d like to spend some time going into more detail about the specific changes and why we’ve made them.
When it comes to the vision for combat in Sea of Thieves, some of the most important aspects for us are maintaining a first person perspective, not having any excessive UI elements and most importantly, the need for combat to handle all the varieties of encounters that can occur while sailing around in the world – 1v1, 2v5, 3v3 etc. This is also alongside the types of locations combat can occur in, such as within cramped decks, on large islands, as well as the interplay between fighting skeletons, before then immediately switching to fighting other players. Even though the ideal scenario we want to cater for is about picking the right weapon for the job at hand, the game is unpredictable and players frequently have to adjust to different combat scenarios.
Since we launched the game, we’ve been adding new experiences and features for players with the larger updates, but now with the Arena on the horizon, we’ve been taking a look at combat in detail again, with today’s update the first of what we expect to be several that aim to improve the overall combat experience in the game. It’s important that we don’t make these changes all at once, but rather release a smaller set of tweaks and then assess how it changes the experience, shown both in your feedback and the data we receive from the game, before we then rollout further changes.
Here’s a breakdown of the changes that we be live following today’s update:
Preventing the Double Gun Exploit
The ‘double gun’ is a non-intended exploit that has recently gained traction in the community. It’s essentially the result of the wield animations for each of the weapons being too brief. Up until now, equipping a weapon has played a basic wield animation that finished extremely quickly, and what this means in the case of a gun is that it can go from unequipped to being ready to fire in a short space of time. This has led to scenarios where some players are exploiting the fact that two guns can be swapped between extremely quickly, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession that can then easily overpower their target. Traditionally, most first person experiences have a more elaborate wield animation to allow for a short ready time before any shot can be fired, preventing any exploits around wielding weapons. Rather than add an arbitrary delay, from the gameplay perspective, it will always ‘feel’ better to have a wield animation where the gun animates to the screen, comes to a natural rest, and the moment the animation looks like its finished, the gun will be ready to fire.
As part of this, all weapons have new wield animations as part of an inbuilt delay when equipping weapons. We’re confident this will reduce the effectiveness of this exploit.
As a nice side effect, the new wield animations look much nicer than the ones we launched the game with!
This relates to a change recently made to the Eye of Reach, but now rolled out to all weapons. It ensures that a gun is reloaded the moment the hammer is pulled, rather than when the full reload animation is finished. This resolves issues where players reload a weapon and think that the reload has been finished, so go into a sprint or change their weapons, before then frustratingly seeing that the animation for their weapon is restarted when then wield it. It’s been so easy to be caught out by this in combat or high pressure situations, but should now function as players expect.
More Fluid Swordplay
As part of ensuring that swordplay between players remained super accessible, but also has a layer of depth, we originally launched with an enforced slowdown on the player when performing cutlass attacks. This was particularly frustrating in situations where a swing didn’t connect, leading to situations where control felt like it was being momentarily taken away. While it did lead to some tactics around timing swings, after revaluating this, we believe that removing the slowdown and prioritising more fluid attacks, feels like the better approach. Nothing captured the frustration quite like missing a swing against a skeleton, to then see it back up while chomping on a banana, but being temporarily slowed down and unable to close the distance. It’s gone!
Increased Projectile Speeds
As part of having a nod to period weaponry, as well as adding additional strategy, gunshots have a natural ‘time of flight’ and ‘drop off’ before they hit a target, presented as the visual tracers of each pellet. This is demonstrated most critically with the Eye of Reach, with players having to adjust their aim based on the expected distance of the target. With this change, we’ve increased the projectile speeds of both the Eye of Reach and the Blunderbuss. With the Eye of Reach, this means that it’ll be easier to land shots at distance and with the Blunderbuss, it just makes the weapon feel more powerful when fired. While the damage from the Blunderbuss felt right at close range, the feedback from the tracers now more appropriately matches this.
Removed Scaling Damage Distance
For many players, this has probably gone unnoticed, instead being perceived as lag or server issues. Up until this update, we’ve actually been scaling the damage on projectiles, with longer range shots inflicting less damage on a target. While physically more accurate, it leads to more frustration and we’ve decided to remove it in favour of a more solid feeling overall experience. If you’re lucky enough to land that awesome shot between two moving ships, we’ll short change you no longer!
Eye of Reach Damage Reduction
As part of the two above improvements, the Eye of Reach is now a more effective tool when used for what it was designed to do, which was hit targets at long range. With this in mind, we’ve slightly reduced the damage caused by an Eye of Reach from 80 to 70. This reduction still makes it effective in the right hands but prevents it from feeling too overpowered now shots move faster and hit with consistent damage.
Increased Hip Firing inaccuracy with the Eye of Reach
As part of each weapon having a defined role, we’ve made hip fired shots, or shots made without aiming down the sights, to be wildly inaccurate when using the Eye of Reach. This is largely based on some players exploiting it, but also due to the fact that it makes little sense to reward the hip firing of a long range weapon. While it would have been easier to just remove hip firing from the Eye of Reach, we always strive to make mechanics just work as you expect, therefore we always want the fire button to do something, rather than just taking that ability away. Under pressure, you can still get lucky with a hip fired Eye of Reach shot, but it now functions less like a mini shotgun at close range.
Swords and guns have all been able to knockback players, leading to fun situations where players can be knocked off ships, but also pushing two players apart, potentially allowing time for other strategies. We believe however that having this across all the weapons strayed too far into making combat feel less solid and dare I say it, a bit goofy. With this change, a cutlass and a blunderbuss will each still cause knockback, but its been removed from the Flintlock Pistol and the Eye of Reach. The same change also applies to skeletons, but we’ve taken the additional step of also taking knockback off the Blunderbuss when it comes to skeletons to further reduce frustration.
As mentioned previously, this is the first step in a re-evaluation of combat and we’re keen to assess the impact of these changes in this latest release. There are more changes planned… both for player AND ship combat, all with the goal of improving the combat experience across Adventure and Arena. Your feedback and thoughts as ever are greatly appreciated.