These are some suggestions that I think the PVE server should have in contrast to the PVP server, otherwise it will stay exactly like a copy & paste version of the PVP server "gamemode".
1. The possibility to see other players name and rank:
With that being stated, we should be able to trade and/or message and add to friend list other players from different nations aswell. There is absolutely no need to make their information private and impossible to make contact or trade.
2. Colonization, Port Battles & Temporary admiralties:
Each core nation should be able to colonize neutral/free ports/towns for a month. Only free town/neutral ports. Instead of fighting NPC from other core nations, we would participate in port battles against neutral NPCs, which doesn't belong to any core nation at all. With that being stated aswell, there could potentially be more factions to hold these free towns and defend it; Barbary Pirates, Pirates and Merchants.
Hardcore nations should be able to conquer free ports aswell, but instead of holding it national for only a month, they should be able to hold it as a national port for a longer period, since they lack capitals and admiralty.
Players (or clans) could and should be able to make that free town/port a temporary admiralty for themselves with limited resources. They potentially would be able to buy upgrades, books, permits and small amounts of rare woods/pve exchanges, also labour hours could be cheaper but smaller amounts available. Everything would be limited and resupplied every maintenance till the timeframe ends.
Each conquered port would give the nation benefits in crafting, trading. To keep that port to your nation, when the timeframe ends, that port can only be conquered again within the next 24 hours.
3. Pirates should be able to add their own custom flags into the game:
There should be a system where a player could request the developers to add their flag into the game. An area on the forum that the player would post his request, the developers would analyze it and approve it. If approved, the flag would then be added into the server as an item for the player to right-click > use and it would instantly be added to his flag page to be applied on his character/ship.
4. Treasure fleet:
There should be treasure fleets spawned randomly on the server, announced globally for all players to see, not really a rare fleet, it could be announced within 3 to 4 hours each day. Once announced, players could gather forces and go to the place marked on the map. Once there, the group joins the instance and they need to sink the escorts + the galleon/merchant ship carrying the treasure (doubloons, combat medals, reals, expensive goods, rare woods, A BUNCH OF THEM). Escorts could be SOLs and frigates, nothing too hard to deal with but nothing too easy to deal with it either.
5. Consensual duels amongst the players:
Be able to challenge someone to a duel, no consequence whatsoever. You wouldn't lose your ship nor reals/loot, just a friendly duel so people can teach, play with or even test out upgrades & metas against each other. Kinda similar to what the "practice" gamemode was all about, but instead, on the go. You're on the Open World, sailing around and you could potentially duel a friendly player or a player from a different nation for a duel/challenge, you both would go to an instance, nobody could join, and you battle till the player "sinks", after that, the instance would be close and you both would be back to the open world, in your ships, back to normal.
6. The possibility to enter other nations capitals/ports without being marked as an enemy.
I still don't know why this is a thing in the PVE server, but knowing that the server was almost a copy & paste version of the war server, I get it. You should be able to join other nation capitals and ports without being marked as an enemy, since in the PVE server, you're not an enemy and you can't attack players.
Other hardcore nations could potentially make use of the other nations admiralty, since Russia, Danemark, Swede, Prussia and Poland don't even have capitals (if I'm not mistaken).
If that's too over the top, then my suggestion of adding a "temporary admiralty" option would even out the odds for those hardcore nations. If they can't use other nations admiralty, they could potentially conquer a free town port and simply establish a temporary admiralty for them, making that port a temporary capital.
7. Getting the rank of Post Captain at the tutorial instead of the Master & Commander.
I get it, it would give too much advantage for new players at the beginning, or wouldn't it? No. It wouldn't. Starting off as a Master & Commander gives you a huge advantage as a starting point, but still too limited for people that are already experienced with the game and wants to jump into the action, start doing econ runs and craft. The rank of Post Captain gives you total controle over frigates and the possibility to even undercrew heavier frigates in the 4th rate category, which is good as a starting point in my opinion.
8. Fly your own flag:
If the trade & message suggestion would get approved, it would be possible to group up with different players from other nations to do fleet battles, with that being said, if you belong to a different nation, you should fly your nation's flag instead of being forced to fly their flags in the instance battle. Right now, if you join another nation's battle, you will fly their flag as if you were part of that nation and it's not how things work, is it?
Anyway, that's just some suggestions that I've been keeping to myself but seeing that a lot of changes are coming to Naval Action with the latest patch and the future ones to come, PVE server really needs tons of content to be a active server. Right now we vary between 150~200 players 24/7, with the difference being between the hours of midnight till after maintenance, which dangles to 50~60.
We, from the PVE server need to be more active on the forums and request more content from the developers, because it's really necessary.