I have been doing a lot of reading in the forums the last week. I have noticed that, aside from battle instance complaints, most of the criticisms and arguments revolve around some common themes.
One of these is the lack of PvE content/the role of PvE players in a PvP server, as well as the lack of incentive for players to leave the safe zones. I see these as being major problems for this game. Don't get me wrong, I love this game, but I don't see the current set-up being sustainable long-term.
Since there is no ultimate victory being worked towards, players are left to play the game for the combat, which is of course NA's strongest atribute.
PvE content in this game is not satisfying right now. We all know that the AI OW fleets spawn at random and sail around at random waiting to be attacked by humans who are trying to get drops. There is no deeper purpose to fighting AI right now other than getting resources. The same can be said for admiralty missions.
I believe to have a successful MMO, there must be the appearance of a living, breathing world that draws players in. Players who are in it for the PvE still want to feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose in their game. Knowing that completing an admiralty mission or sinking OW AI does absolutely nothing other than provide money and drops is a huge blow to that sense of purpose.
So my proposal hopes to address the issues mentioned above and should provide a much more interesting and fulfilling playing experience for PvE and PvP players alike. I will try to avoid using specific numbers as this is a concept and the details would be need to be hashed out and play tested. So here we go.
This game should revolve around the idea of "campaigns". Each port in game will be tied to a geographic region on the map. Instead of ports being captured via port battle that is scheduled for specific times and can happen quite quickly, each port and its surrounding region will require a campaign in order to capture it. An aggessor nation can designate an enemy region as a campaign area. This contested region now receives a "balance of power" meter.
A temporary "port" will now pop up on the edge of the region being campaigned for and belongs to the aggressor nation unless the aggressor nation already controls an adjacent port. The game will now designate one or two of the closest 5 aggressor nation ports as being the supply ports for the campaign. What this means in practicality is that AI supply/trade ships will start spawning at those supply ports and sail to the temporary/adjacent port. Each shipment of men, provisions, or weapons that reaches the port will increase the power rating. Some of these AI ships could be a group of two or three supply ships escorted by several AI frigates, or they could be lone ships trying to sneak in.
The defenders will have almost the exact same set up except they of course would have their supplies going into the port that belongs to them. Human traders will of course be able to assist in these operations as a few new items should be added to the game which are deliverable to the ports and the amount turned in will correspond to the power increase for that nation. On occasion, there can be/will be scheduled a large shipment of men/material that would show up sort of as future PB's do now so that players have advanced warning of when these fleets are leaving. These shipments, if successful will be quite significant in the power rating. This means it will be in the best interest of the nations involved to form large fleets to protect/attack these shipments.
"Hostility" will still be able to be ground up on the port that is the target of conquest or on the aggressor's port. However, instead of triggering a port battle that gives control of the region, the players will now choose to either conduct a port raid, or establish a blockade. Choosing the port raid option would schedule a PB akin to what we have now but with some changes. First of which, no more capture points. Instead, there needs to be structures on shore that can be damaged by cannon/mortar fire.
If the attacker destroys the defending fleet and wins completely, they will be given credit for plundering shore facilities and each attacking captain will receive a bounty in gold and other random items that they can destroy or put in their hold to cart off as booty. Any damage done to the port facilities, in the case where an attacking force managed to damage shore structures but was forced to disengage or was sunk, will reduce the defenders power in the region by an amount corresponding to the damage dealt.
If the option to establish a blockade is chosen, AI supply ships will no longer be sent to that port as it is blockaded. If human captains with campaign supply goods on board attempt to enter the port in their ships, it will trigger a "blockade runner" instance in which they must attempt to outmanouver and evade a screen of ships around the port and reach a circle in port within the battle instance. The personal gold reward for captains successfully running a blockade would be significant because the risk is high. If the other nation wishes to break the blockade, they may schedule it and a battle will occur. Once a blockade is broken, there would be a long cool down before another one may be established to avoid blockade spamming.
These military campaigns will run for a set length of days, this helps to eliminate one of the current problems of port flipping. Because these last days, everyone will have a chance to contribute to the final outcome and every battle and each AI ship sunk actually means something. The amount of active campaigns a nation may have, offensive or defensive, will be based on the amount of ports controlled. This will prevent smaller nations from getting stretched impossibly thin.
Since nations will not always want to be attacking other nations' regions and because there are a significant amount of traders in the game, there will also be "Inland Trading Ventures" which can be established like a military campaign. There will be multiple locations around the map where these can be launched such as south America or the Gulf of Mexico. A temporary port will be spawned and just like the military campaigns, personnel and trade goods can be delivered to this port. When a venture is started, the region will have a piracy rating and AI pirate ships will spawn in the area. The higher the piracy rating when the venture concludes, the less profitable it will be. Sinking AI pirates in the area will reduce the piracy rating and lead to more booty! At the end of the set amount of days, the payout of the excursion will depend on how many trade goods were deposited, and of course tracked by player. The rewards for these excursions will be gold as well as drops (mods/books/regional trading goods), some of which could be quite exotic. You'll of course have to watch out for pirates or privateers from other nations looking to relieve you of your investment or ship!
I have many more specific ideas within this framework for mission types and AI behaviors but this is already, I fear dragging on dreadfully long so I will save that for specific questions captains may want to level my way. Essentially, this is an immersive way to:
Focus hostile players into some smaller zones for enhanced PvP,
Give PvE players ships to fight/loot where doing so actually affects the world around them,
Fix the idea of port flipping,
Add new game play elements that were big parts of the age of sail, ie blockade running, convoy escorting etc.
Give players a real reason to leave the green zone on a daily basis,
Make territory gain and loss feel like a real achievement and a real military campaign was waged to make it happen,
And perhaps most importantly, make the world feel alive and have AI ships doing things with a purpose, increasing both PvP and PvE depth for everyone.
I think most of what I have suggested wold be possible for the devs to implement without having to rewrite the game from scratch. They are already track PvP scores by player and in the past we had to carry items (flags) to specific locations in order to start port battles.
Discuss/ask me questions at will.