Announced yesterday, Season 10 of Sea of Thieves will bring new content in several installments. Especially the third feature, called Safer Seas, could provide more accessibility to people learning to play Sea of Thieves, and those less able to competitively play. Players can choose Safer Seas to play alone or with a crew, in a private game session. This means no enemy crews will be around to interfere with players.
While there are great stories of crews cooperating together in Sea of Thieves, multiplayer games come with the risk of running into players intent on ruining others’ enjoyment. The unpredictability of other players can become stressful, even causing people to stop playing altogether. Allowing players to play at their own pace, with or without friends, provides a safer environment for anyone. New players can safely learn the game, younger players can avoid potentially toxic encounters, while other may simply enjoy the calm.
Accessibility through a relaxed environment
Especially for disabled players, PvP (player versus player) encounters can be an unbalanced experience. Despite great accessibility features in Sea of Thieves, disabled players may still be less quick or accurate than their opponents. Players might also have no one available to play with, limiting their ability to defend against fully crewed enemy ships.
The anxiety that the unpredictability of other players can cause is an accessibility issue in itself. But it may also get in the way of players mitigating other accessibility issues. Having more control over a game session can allow players to deal with other stressful or inaccessible situations. Such as dealing with a fear of deep bodies of water (thalassophobia), or navigating safely.
This is such an inclusive update for me as someone with thalassophobia who ADORES pirates & this game.Morgan Baker (@momoxmia on Twitter / X)
We’ve already seen a lot of positive responses from players. Safer Seas may have them start playing Sea of Thieves for the first time, or return after having stopped.
This is a good move. My biggest issue with sea of thieves was there being no way to opt out of combat. Crews would hunt you down for hours on end or until you server hopped. Shifty behaviour was always defended with “it’s a pirate game” people would stop playing because of it8BitElliott (@8bitElliot on Twitter / X)
Limited rewards and activities
High Seas is the new name of the current game mode when Safer Seas is available. Rewards are adjusted in Safer Seas, to balance the difference with High Seas. Handing in treasures rewards 30% gold and reputation, while progression at Trader Companies caps at level 40. This level cap means players can not attain Pirate Legend status, or partake in several other challenges and PvP aspects.
It might be disappointing for some, adjusting available rewards to the challenges is a key aspect of any game design. Restricting some aspects entirely might seem like a wrong choice in the context of accessibility. But as much as accessibility is about leveling the playing field, it isn’t about giving some players advantages over others. Especially where certain activities may involve PvP elements. As some activities are simply impossible in Safer Seas due to lack of PvP, restricting those areas seems logical. That said, I personally did find it disappointing to see captaining your own ship is one of the unavailable features.
Safer Seas will be Season Ten’s third big new feature, and releases in December. We can then judge how well risk and reward are balanced. It will be interesting seeing Safer Seas evolve, what players it attracts, and if it will influence other multiplayer games.