Oh no, not another PvE argument. Well, not exactly.
I don't have an issue with the PvP nature of the game, but when playing solo it becomes a different thing all together. The obvious consequence is that any crew on a Brig or Galleon is gonna chew you up, but even outside that, if your sloop is anchored and you're, say, searching a shipwreck, or doing something on an island, your ship is entirely vulnerable to be sunk without you even being around to see it. If other players decide to attack you there's almost nothing you can do to stop them, and fights become so laughably one-sided that they can't honestly be called fights.
Playing solo basically puts you at a major disadvantage in pretty much every scenario, and the only options you have to avoid the more frustrating aspects of PvP are, themselves, frustrating and not helpful.
Scuttling the ship costs you any loot you have and spawns you elsewhere in the sea. It's not a solution to the problem at all, it just gets you past the formality of waiting for the ship to sink.
Running is possible in some cases, but arriving at an island you have objectives on only to then have to sail away while being chased is a pain. Your pursuers will either give up and still be in the area you then have to return to, starting the whole problem again, or they'll chase you to the ends of the earth and send you on a huge detour while wasting your time.
Watching the horizon and staying vigilant will only get you so far. It's hard to watch for approaching ships when you're in the caves beneath Sailor's Bounty, or following maps in the crook of Plunder Valley. It's also tough sometimes to keep an eye out when you also have to adjust the wheel, sails, bail out storm water, fight a skeleton ship, or a meg, all on your own. Vigilance only goes so far when on your own.
A PvE mode or setting is almost certainly never going to happen, and I don't think that I would even want one, but I do think solo players should only ever be paired up against other solo players. That's pretty much the only way to make the game balanced for them. I don't know how many people play solo, though, so solo servers, or matchmaking might be more effort than they're worth.
SoT is a great game and I've been enjoying it a lot over the last couple of weeks, but playing solo and playing with a crew are almost two different games entirely, and one of them isn't nearly as enjoyable.
I want to find ways the solo experience might be improved, and I think matching solo players only with solo players is one possible way to do that without sacrificing the core experience of the game. Everything would be the same, but all players would be on the same basic level, with the only advantage or disadvantage being skill and their own choices.
I've seen some suggest PvE modes, a 'Passive' setting, or even designing a solo ship that's better at running. There are pros and cons for all of these, but I think solo servers, or a solo mode, would alleviate a lot of the frustrating aspects of the game while sacrificing as few other aspects as possible.
What do you think?
On a wider note, I've read through many discussions about PvE and I think many of the same arguments might come up here, so I want to address some of the kind of things that often come up.
- That's just the nature of the game so stop complaining.
I think this argument fails to take into account that, despite the devs' intentions, there's a large part of the player base that simply doesn't engage with the game in that way or for those reasons. Often this is met with "You bought the wrong game", but that's not really true. There aren't many games out there that offer the sailing/treasure hunting experience SoT does, and saying people should just go find another isn't a practical response. It assumes PvP is the only part of the game that enjoyable or meant to be played, which isn't true for many people. Also, you're telling people to leave and disengage from the game, shrinking its player base and hurting it in the long run. Would you rather the game make some changes to accommodate more of its players, or would you see it die off faster?
- Git Gud
This can only work up to a point. A solo player against two or more is always at a disadvantage, so simple skill is only going to take you so far. In regard to ship combat, your only hope is that your enemies are new to the game and don't know how to repair their ship or board yours. It's easy to say "Just camp the ladders," or "Just use a gunpowder barrel," but these aren't practical in real terms in almost every situation for a solo player. There's simply too many things you need to do on your own at once.
- Join a crew
Again, this basically misses the point. A lot of people don't want to play with strangers for whatever reason, and your usual crew isn't always available when you want to play the game, as is the case for me. Regardless of what the devs intend, there will always be people playing solo. It's just going to happen for various reasons, and thinking of ways to include those players more is better than telling them they're playing the game 'wrong'.