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1000 people will get to play Sea of Thieves' first alpha next weekend

X button marks the spot.

Last month Sea of Thieves developer Rare launched an Insider Programme allowing excited fans the chance to partake in early alpha and beta tests for the in-development pirate game. Now Rare has confirmed that the first "Technical Alpha" will go live from 16th-18th December.

Only about 1000 Xbox One players will partake in this first semi-public hands-on though. "This gives us the right scale and experience for our first test, and will allow us to focus closely on the feedback we receive. As we move on through the Technical Alpha phase, we'll gradually increase the player base and frequency of sessions in line with the game's evolution," Rare said of its playtesting process.

Those who are selected to be part of the Technical Alpha will be bound by an NDA, so don't expect a ton of new footage to leak as testers experiment with the current iteration of Sea of Thieves.

Cover image for YouTube videoOfficial Sea of Thieves Technical Alpha Update: The Quest For Gold

What we do get is this development video detailing what one does in this alpha. Players will be given a map dictating the location of hidden treasure. But there are no waypoints in Sea of Thieves, so players must locate the desired island on their chart, set a course, then actually find the spot to dig by locating landmarks and using their compass to estimate where the big red X represents.

From there, players will have to bring the treasure back to an outpost to cash it in, but they can be attacked both on land and sea en route to their destination. In fact, sneaky players could stowaway on an opposing team's vessel and make off with the treasure if no one's looking. Furthermore, naval combat can turn into more traditional fisticufs should a player leap onto a nearby vessel, as swashbuckling pirates are known to do.

Our Tom Phillips sailed Sea of Thieves earlier this year at E3. Do check out his interview with design director Gregg Mayles about what you actually do in Sea of Thieves.

Sea of Thieves is due in 2017 on Xbox One and PC.