It should be common knowledge for any aspiring game developers that an audience’s investment in your game is driven by a “reward system.”
Unfortunately the rallied developers at Rare (which has been resurrected as an empty shell of its former self) were more focused on spectacle than good game design.
Companies like EA Games and Ubisoft sabotage their own good games with imbalanced micro-transactions that are “pay-to-win.” Rare didn’t commit this cardinal sin. They did, however, commit the same sin as “No Man’s Sky.”
You create generic missions with variables in their location and reward value. The more you progress the harder they may become and the more valuable the reward may be – but the mission remains the same.
As a gamer you start to ask yourself “Is this worth it?”
There are many games where you constantly grind, but the rewards are often worth it. Look at “Stardew Valley” or “Borderlands.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be a progression in storyline, but rather the gifting of equipment, abilities, or other things.
So what do we have here? Eye patches, peg legs, sails if you grind long enough. But with only around 3-5 specific missions it becomes old way too fast.
An unique attribute to the video game medium is psychology. It is the manipulation and craftsmanship of this reward system to maintain the intrigue. When you don’t have a linear narrative, the reward has to compliment your role playing.
In the case of “Sea of Thieves,” it’s just not worth it.
I just got done playing with my wife. We sailed out, collected two treasure chests, found a sunken ship, got a skull and another chest, when to an outpost, turned them in.
This took approximately 45 minutes. We had to ask ourselves “Do you want to do it again?” The answer was unequivocally: “No.”
It is a grind, but not the fun kind because the reward isn’t worth it. The lack of mission variety seriously cripples this game. Now can it be fixed with DLC? Maybe somewhere down the line.
It’s a beautiful game, and it’s clear a lot of work went into its design. Unfortunately there’s more to a video game than just visuals. It’s stunning how a multi-million dollar development company didn’t understand this.