Sea of Thieves is a highly social game that encourages players to either befriend other pirates out on the sea or betray their own alliances for gold and glory. The only catch is that players are limited to, at most, four players on one ship. While it’s technically possible for players to get more than four players on the same server, it’s a big hurdle, and it’s not one that’s likely to change soon.
Right now, if players want to have more than four players on one server, they need to find another player on their own ship. By using Xbox’s social features, that outsider can invite one of the galleon’s friends to their ship, then log out, relinquishing control to the new party member. This requires a galleon to chase down another ship, negotiate with its owner, and go through the rigmarole of getting the outsider to invite a fifth friend to their ship.
Right now, Rare has “no specific plans” to change this, but creative director Mike Chapman told Polygon in an interview that the studio has “discussed extensively all the different ways you’d expect in terms of changing ships dynamically in the world and expanding crew sizes.”
Part of the issue comes from clarity — when a player sees a galleon in Sea of Thieves, Rare want them to be able to understand immediately that means that they could be tangling with four players and react accordingly. Another part of the issue comes with Xbox Live infrastructure and netcode.
“It’s more complex than we thought it would be in terms of Xbox Live session sizes, and all of that” Chapman said. “It’s quite complex.”
That doesn’t mean Rare will never introduce an option for players to start the game with a fleet, or a six-person ship. But it’ll take a lot of work on the part of Rare, and there are no updates on the horizon. Right now, players will have to get used to either playing with three of their buds, or chasing down ships on the horizon to create their own fleet. In June of 2020, Rare introduced private servers for content creators. The feature allows streamers or community figures to generate a code and share it with community members so they can join a Sea of Thieves server, albeit one that does not award gold or reputation from quests.