Reposting this from thread 4, just so it doesn't get lost in the churn.
- Game needs PvP opt-in of some kind.
- Create Safe Area. Can't be sunk, and your stuff can't be interacted with in the safe area. Leave the safe area? You're opting in and it's just like the game is now.
- Safe area let's players interact and collaborate in more ways than shooting by allowing for peaceful contact.
- Create flag signals. Hostile, friendly, etc. Use it to track crew behavior and allow fighting in the safe area.
- Allow custom flags and ship skins, make them sharable. Can be used for forming fleets.
I've been playing the game with 3 other good friends. So far, we've had a grand time sailing around and doing adventures together. Working together to sail a ship and run the voyages is a lot of fun, but our mutual experience is badly dampened because we ultimately lack any choice in whether we wanna fight or not.
Now I'm a PvP'er type. I'm ok with involuntary fighting cuz I find the PvP quite fun! My friends are PvE'ers and would prefer the fun experience of sailing around together as friends peacefully. They're not opposed to fighting, but they need to be able to opt in for it to be proper fun. I don't blame them.
I understand the arguments against splitting up the player base, and I also understand that there's something of a Social Contract you "sign" when you log in to play a game like this: namely, that it's a free for all and that you better be ready to fight. I understand that one of the big goals of the game is to force players to encounter each other and interact, which is the main thing driving the game's dynamism right now.
But I also understand that players should be given a choice to PvE or PvP, so you can accommodate the different play styles of your player base. PvP'ers still get fights if they're sailing against players who have explicitly chosen to fight, and lose nothing but unchallenging easy kills if the PvE'ers are off doing their own thing.
I think that there are a few of things that could be done to synergize these two viewpoints. I don't know how much effort would be involved, but I think that the benefits could be enormous.
- Make a Safe Area. A big one, the same size as the map's current various regions. EVE Online did this with High Security Space (https://wiki.eveuniversity.org/System_security#High_security). Players generally understand that they are safe to PvE to their hearts' content in this area. As long as ships are in this area, they can't be sunk and their stuff can't be interacted with by other crews without consent. This'll give PvE players the opt-in that they need without splitting up the player base.
- Create a freeport in the Safe Area. Players can show up here to peacefully interact with others, collaborate, form fleets (maybe PvE'ers can team up this way?), pick fights outside the safe area, etc. This will drive player interactions a lot more than they are now; seeing as pretty much all interactions right now are driven by mistrust and shoot-first-ask-questions-later. More dynamism and collaboration opportunities = a good thing.
- Create some kind of flag signalling system. Lamps don't cut it. Ships should be able to signal whether they're peaceful or hostile to each other in a clearer way. In the safe area, use this to let people duke it out if they want. Outside the safe area, anything goes! Let players be sneaky if they want, but use the flags to gather statistics about how crews play and build your algorithms around it. Maybe crews who sink too many friendly flag flying ships - or who sink others while flying friendly flags - can't go into the safe area for a certain amount of time, longer if they do it a lot? Maybe set it up so that they have fewer encounters if they don't behave?
- Let players create their own ship skins and flags, and let them share with each other. They can form fleets if they fly the same flag, for instance! Make it so that they still have to buy each custom skin/flag they make using the in-game gold.
I think that changes like this would give everyone a little of what they want while preserving the game's core mechanics, while at the same time driving more player interaction and more types of interaction, which would make the game more fun for everyone in the long run.