I agree with the OP. I'm a new player and I REALLY don't want to be forced into a PVP game. I appreciate being able to 'buy' protection, but I'd much prefer being able to opt out of PVP altogether and stop worrying about it, or at least limit it to people on your FRIENDS list.
I know there are single-player options, but they seem to be established campaigns. I would love to have a similar option to the online game where I start with very little and then have to conquer NPC cities.
It's an otherwise fantastic game. I'm having a lot of fun right now. Just don't want it blighted by being forced into buying out of PVP.