Several missions need balancing, especially one called Swimming With Sharks. You start the mission 1000 yards from two bass boats you need to save. You will be sailing upwind while four large-cannon ships surround and attack your ally AI. In between you and them are another four large-cannon ships. To date, I know of no one who has ever completed this mission and on the Pirate side of things, it is used to farm for new ships.
My advice for now is to sink NPCs on the Open Sea until you hit a level where you have a Career Skill mission, go do it and hit the Open Sea again. You should also run missions if you want a particular reward item or need some quick doubloons. PotBS is not all about PvE though and player interaction is where it really out-shines a majority of the games on the market. Whether players are trading goods or cannon-fire, it's always fun. Making money is popular, so I'll start with that.
The economy in PotBS is almost completely player-driven. While loot drops are a source of items and resources, to get them in any useful quantity they must be produced. Getting into business is easy and pretty much taken care of with the Economy Tutorial that teaches how the system works. Freetraders are the undisputed masters of production but any career can still contribute and generate income. I started by making ammunition but found that it was an over-saturated market on my server and switched to selling raw materials. Part of the design that makes the system a success is limiting each account to only ten structure lots per server. This means that someone will have a need for another player's goods at some point. The Auction House uses a blind bid system and has resulted in a few price wars on higher demand items, like ammunition. Not bitter. Generating income is not the only benefit to producing items, since one of the ways to initiate a PvP port contention battle is by transporting goods to an enemy port, which leads us into the trading cannon-fire portion.
Some were concerned that this economic system might not work so well in practice. To date, the economy seems to be doing great, as Freetraders move their goods all around to different ports. I haven't had any problems selling my Raw Materials at a decent profit.
Player versus Player
PvP is a large part of PotBS. It is also easily avoidable if you are not into being shot by another player. For those who do enjoy it, you can set a PvP flag or sail into a PvP zone, marked by a red circle on the map. The benefits of PvP are gaining Marks of Victory, which can be traded in for rewards or sold to other players, gaining unsecured cargo from defeated enemies and in the larger picture, gaining Citations of Conquest for winning the map. The risks are losing ships and cargo.
The vast majority of PvP takes place in contention zones. These are generated around a port when the Unrest reaches 5000 points. Unrest is raised by sinking NPCs or players of the faction that owns the port or by delivering goods to a Rebel Agent. While in this first stage, Pirates and Privateers with the right skill may freely attack or be attacked. Once the Unrest gets to 7000 points, the size of the zone doubles. The inner circle allows for all careers to attack opposing nations, while the outer ring acts as before. At 10,000 points the port is then scheduled for a Contention Battle. These battles are great fun and every player should try to experience at least one. Diplomacy, intrigue and the making or breakings of alliances are all possible for players who like the strategic side to PvP.