As we noted in our initial impressions of Sea of Thieves last weekend, the game is probably going to need some serious changes to be a truly enduring multiplayer lark. Developer Rare is now killing off one of those brainstormed gameplay changes before it comes to pass, canceling a planned “death cost” after intense fan feedback.
Currently, dying in Sea of Thieves only costs the player a little bit of time waiting to respawn. But in a forum post late last week, Rare announced a coming “death cost” feature would add a “small gold fee” to be deducted every time your character dies, upping the stakes and presumably providing additional motivation to avoiding those unplanned deaths. “Rates are dependant on the cause of death, so the more avoidable the death, the less patience the Captain will have when we enable this feature!” Rare wrote.
The response by players in a 19-page thread accompanying the announcement was almost universally negative. Many players worried this kind of additional cost would just encourage griefers to stalk other players, killing them over and over and making it nearly impossible to accumulate in-game gold. Rare clarified in an update that it “never intended to charge players for [player-vs-player] related deaths, as we understand the negative impact this would have on player experience.”
Even with that caveat, plenty of players were still concerned the idea would be a change for the worse. “The thing that hooked me about this game is the sheer, gleeful anarchy of it,” one player wrote. “Life is cheap, and stupid/epic deaths are highly amusing.”
“Honesty, we need in[c]entive to stay alive and DO stuff, before being punished for dying,” wrote another. Many players suggested alternative gameplay fixes that could be more productive, like a permanent vault to store accumulated gold or respawns that happen farther from your antagonists to prevent stalking and/or revenge killings.
In any case, Rare producer Joe Neate confirmed in a blog post on Sunday that “Death Cost is, well, dead. Thanks for the feedback here. We’re listening.” Neate followed up in a Twitter post Monday that “we messed up with the messaging around this, and it’s now gone. Thanks for the honest feedback & discussion on this.”
Rare’s quick reaction to fan sentiment here, well before the planned feature was even implemented, highlights just how powerful a unified reaction from players can be these days. In the last year alone, player outcry has led quite directly to a rebalancing of unlockables in For Honor, a ban on feeding birds cookies in Minecraft, and, of course, the complete removal of paid gameplay boosts from Star Wars: Battlefront. In the new “games-as-a-service” era, developers are increasingly learning how to listen to the collective game design advice of their players to figure out what services those players actually want.