TLDR: There's a pretty picture at the bottom... shiny!
This is designed to appeal to multiple types of players in order to booster player numbers to maximum potential.
The objective of this game is to experience life within this environment. Not to drive others to stop playing.
The concept is designed to give people goals and objectives which will in turn create player interaction and game-play opportunities.
I'm pretty sure the Dev's are fighting internally so this is really just a conversation piece at this stage.
This idea will not appeal to everyone. But remember, there are always unofficial servers.
Not a new idea, just rehashing it on paper.
So with these things in mind. Why not scrap the PvP large tribe servers, scrap the PvP small tribe servers, scrap the PvE servers. Anyone can still setup one of those servers unofficially. However no one can afford to run an official size server cluster. So put it to maximum use.
2x PvE Colonies surrounded by PvE squares.
This represents the land that has been colonised and is properly governed. These areas are under the defence of a governing force. Thus they are PvE. Players are limited to one claim flag. This lets them build what they like and maximises room for others to build also. Experience is capped at 1x. With low risk comes low reward.
The flags represent the primary player hubs of the area. The Devs should make these places feel alive. It should house a Faction Controlled Auction House. Prices and content should obviously be controlled by the players.
There should be an option for players to speak to a Captain of the local army here and sign up as militia. That would unlock a faction warfare game to encourage the PvE players to participate in PvP. They would gain faction points for killing players of the opposite faction. Perhaps a significant goal/reward could include the ability to drop an additional claim flag.
Between the two factions is squares dedicated to ship PvP primarily. It supports raid PvP but uses the Raid Warfare system. This is for your casual PvP players who want to participate but also have to maintain a job and family life.
2x PvP Pirate Colonies.
These two squares represent NPC controlled Pirate villages. Each one would be lead by a fearsome pirate band. It would offer a similar quest to the one above except they would obtain faction points by destroying members of any other faction.
These squares would have a NPC run Trade House and form a player hub for the Pirates of the world. Player Hubs create community and are necessary in an MMO.
These squares also offer a Dungeon Experience for other players. There is the option to raid these NPC towns. Incredibly difficult. But with great risk should come great reward. Perhaps once taken the successful company takes control of a tax bank on this island and they get a cut of all profits made via the Trade House.
These represent perfect islands. They have everything a fearsome PvP pirate warband could want including a juicy 5x XP. These are open PvP and designed to house the hard-core Mega-Company-PvP crowd. For living in constant danger they are rewarded with much higher XP. This lets them rebuild quicker and also entices them to live and play in the area. The 5x will also entice visitors.
Holding one of the four skull islands needs to come with rewards. I'd like to see a rank system where players of the controlling company collect points for destroying members of the other 3x PvP Mega-Tibes. Have a live web board for displaying the top companies and even top pirates. This encourages the mega tribes to fight each other. Everyone around gets to hear about the epic fights and aim to one day participate.
The surrounding areas should have a UNIQUE trade item that is necessary for high-end crafting. It will encourage people to seek out the items or trade for them. It doesn't matter which. For the people that seek it themselves it will generate PvP. For those that trade it will generate PvP and a Market. Markets will get people moving around the map move which will in turn generate for game-play opportunities.
Ghost Ships - Replace them with..
If you must have Ghost ships. They should be incredibly rare and be incredibly difficult PvE Raid Content with amazing loot.
British/French Navy ships who sail within their realm of control. They target players with enemy faction points. These ships should be encountered in the Raid PvP waters and offer a PvE Ship Battle challenge.
NPC Pirate Ships should sail the waters all over the place. These are PvE Ship Battle Challenges. Various scales of reward.
Resources and Skill Points
Resources requirements and availability need to be overhauled. It should be possible to build low level things relatively easy. It needs to be challenging to gather the resources required for high level things. The resources need to be positioned strategically around the map in order to encourage players to have to go and get them. This will force movement around the map which will create play opportunities. It will also create the need for trade which will create a market. Again this will create play opportunities. Biome positioning will play a part in this.
Skill Points need to be limited to ensure that no single person can achieve absolutely everything. You are not going to create a world where players create the content of the game if they don't need to interact with each other in order to achieve their goals. Players should need to specialise into skills making them valuable to their companies and assisting with the creation of a skill market.
What Will This Do
It's simple really. A game of this size needs players in order for other players to play with them. The content is largely player driven. This idea maintains that concept. The players will still largely drive the content for the game. It will still be a game focused on resource gathering, building, fighting and stealing each others shit. This however brings everyone into a single game. Allowing us all to play how we like to play while encouraging styles of play that will encourage player interaction.