Cross-play between Xbox One and PC "knocks down barriers," says Rare Executive Producer Joe Neate. Rare just ran its first internal test with cross-play enabled between Xbox One and PC for its upcoming online multiplayer pirate game Sea of Thieves.
The positive cross-play experiences of Neate and other Rare employees grew into a topic of conversation during the latest Sea of Thieves Tales From the Tavern podcast. Cross-play remains unconfirmed for the final game.
Here's part of what Neate says about his experience with Sea of Thieves cross-play during the podcast:
"It was the first time we've ever tested out cross-play in a home environment. As a game Sea of Thieves is so suited, I believe, to cross-play as an experience, right?" ... "I literally sent an email to the studio at 10:00 at night just to talk to them about how magical it was. It was just seamless, you don't even notice. You're just there, you're just playing with people on PC and Xbox One. And that just opens up so many possibilities, doesn't it?" ... "It just opens up so many possibilities, of people being able to play with their friends that maybe they haven't been able to play with before in multiplayer games. It just knocks down barriers. It knocks down walls."
That was quickly followed up with this comment from Lead Designer Mike Chapman:
"And that's obviously something we're taking to heart through a lot of the decisions we're making across the game. Whether it's progression longer term, how we structure the game -- no barriers in place for friends to be able to play together. But also making friends in the game. Platform is another barrier that shouldn't exist."
For a studio that hasn't yet officially confirmed cross-play for Sea of Thieves, the developers at Rare are certainly saying all the right things as to why cross-play is great and would work so well in a game like Sea of Thieves.
Microsoft has placed a newfound focus on the PC gaming audience over the past year by introducing features like Play Anywhere, which lets gamers purchase a title on PC or Xbox One and share ownership across both platforms. Cross-play, however, has remained a rarity. Games like Gigantic and Rocket League have found levels of success with cross-play, as well as Microsoft first-party titles Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3.
These comments from Rare regarding their internal cross-play testing make it seem like Microsoft's even more serious about it than meets the eye. Both Neate and Chapman seem well versed in company language for why cross-play is so important. Neate even goes on to mention the difference between "Take Friends" vs. "Make Friends" design, which sounds like it must have come directly from a Microsoft seminar on the subject.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether Sea of Thieves is meant for cross-play or not. First-person multiplayer games, especially with shooting, tend to heavily favor PC users in competitive scenarios. Yet Rare's comments are certainly worth thinking about in a broader sense, whether that be Microsoft's future plans or just the nature of the industry as persistent online experiences continue to grow in popularity.
Sea of Thieves remains tentatively planned for release in 2017 for the Xbox One and PC.