Pirate101's VineIf you haven't seen it yet, the Vine Pirate101 posted is below. It's not the first. There have been two others which seem to be connected, showing Aquila NPCs in what appears to be an Aquilan cave, though it may be Skull Island.
The Mutt GangThe big question is what type of ships the Aquilan Galleon is fighting in the Vine. If they're player ships, they must be titled accordingly. However, if you look closely, it would appear that the title of the ships (which falls under the name) is "Mutt Gang Ship."
There are several other words we can make out in the Vine, but I'll discuss those later on.
Clues That It's a Boss FightFrom what I've seen, my guess is that this is a boss fight... of sorts. Perhaps not a boss, but instead a mob fight, ship style. Whatever the case, I don't think it's ship PvP, which is currently the popular opinion.
The Sigil and Ship NumberFirst, let's talk logistics. The sigil has four spots - hardly ideal for PvP. Is that a 2v2? Maybe a 4 versus whatever else happens to show up in there? If it were PvP, it'd either be a queue or a double sigil, like in the PvP hall.
Balance, Balance, BalanceOne of the big things that has to come before PvP in Pirate is a balancing of powers and abilities and even ship equipment. Ratbeard (a.k.a. Pirate's design lead) has constantly been nagged about balancing talents, to which he consistently responds that he hasn't begun balancing at all. I haven't seen any changes since he's said that last.
Think about the ships in the instance. One Aquilan Galleon versus four Royal Navy Skiffs (or at least that's what they appear to be to me). On one hand, it's unfair because it's 4v1, and on another, unfair because it's an Aquila-level ship against such low-level enemies that they'd hardly scratch their 40-level-higher superior. Either we're about to see ship puppeting, or that's not ship PvP.
Most importantly, everyone has the same ship gear. Is ship PvP really a feature that's ready to go? Think about it. The crown shop gear is the best in game currently, as is the ship. Although the gear drops throughout the Spiral, what's to say it wouldn't simply be a button-mashing contest if we all had the same things?
Name ColorsThe colors of the ship names tell us something. Unfortunately, whoever is taking the Vine (most likely one of the Community Managers) has their overhead names set to either Others or Non-Players, so we only get the names of the other four ships. Besides "Mutt Gang Ship," we can also see some names, including "Baron's Kingfish," "Unswerving Bounty," and "Meteor."
Theory ConcernsI think it's only fair to address a couple of questions about the idea of the Vine being an enemy fight rather than ship PvP.
Ship NamesIf these ship names were not available to players, which many enemy ship names aren't, that'd solve the debate here and now. However, "Baron's Kingfish," Unswerving Bounty," and any name ending in "Meteor" are all valid player ship names. You could go and change yours to one of those right now. However, to me, this isn't enough to disprove all of the other evidence to the contrary, and the fact that it reads "Mutt Gang Ship" below the name is a good indication it's an enemy.
PvP SymbolThose less familiar with Pirate101 may only recognize the crossed swords from Wizard101's PvP, but since the game started around two and a half years ago, what was formerly a PvP symbol has always been a combat icon in Pirate. This indicates that a ship is at 50% health or below, and can therefore be boarded by enemies. Even if that whole concept were changed, surely the opposing ships would also have the symbol.
Vortex BossesEvan Silver brought up a good point on Twitter - what would be the point of instanced ship fights if that's what vortexes (or vortices, if you prefer) are for? I decided to investigate with the assistance of Misty Jackson. While some vortexes, like Fin Dorsal's, immediately dock you to the ship, others, like that of Bobby Bones, allow you to unbottle and have multiple ships within the vortex, provided, of course, that your friends are in a group with you.
The only reasons I could see for separate instanced ship fights would be convenience and the fact that whatever edge of a vortex you meet, you will exit. In the Vine, it looks more like a cove, where you could have an appropriate battle and skirt the edges or fly across the middle according to your strategy.
Imagine, also, if, instead of sending you from way back in Achaea to fight vulture ships, you instead just hopped into an instance at a nearby island edge and fought four? Now think of this - a ship boss is physically blocking your quest progression (which isn't possible in the skyway), so you must pass through the instance to defeat him, and the location continues on the other side. Sort of like the Starfall Sea dungeon.
Ruling Out Ship PvP?There's certainly still a lot of preparation to be done in terms of getting ship PvP (and any form of ranked PvP) ready. However, what's to say those changes won't be made during the same update that the PvP is released? Perhaps that's what we'll be testing - balance.
So no, I'm not ruling out Ship PvP as part of the upcoming Pirate101 update. However, the Vine appears to be an instanced ship fight. That's good news for players, though, because it means that the next update isn't just something we're expecting - there'll be an unexpected element of it as well. And who knows, maybe they'll slip Book 15 in.
Which do you think it is?