Personally, I wouldn’t call it “actively kill” the playstyle, but they have completely given up on it. To be fair, they just stick to their own words: not working on things, that don’t bring in enough. I mean, we could probably take a look at how that became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but then we’d have to look years back and I don’t really see the point in that.
I wonder how sustainable their push to mega-coalitions is.
On the one hand, we’ve seen how large the crowd affiliated with the big groups is, in Vegas and otherwise. These groups attract players and while many are organized in smaller groups, the large ones present a coherent, long-term picture. I suppose that’s a good thing in CCP’s books - reliable.
On the other hand there might be a wall waiting on the other side of current events. Sov Nullsec used to be this trade-off between reaping juicy fruits and higher effort/risk. Now it is by far the most easy place to play in. Every other place in EVE is harder - in any way. “Has been”, “was intended to” aside, I wonder if this won’t create an actual problem in terms of entertainment.
EVE without players challenging each other through clever use of mechanics is … well is totally boring. That’s not bad-talking about the game I like, it’s just fact. There is pretty much nothing to do without other players, other than running around large amounts of space that is repetetive, poor in depth and offers almost nothing to explore. Even for the many PVE focussed players in large Nullblobs, it’s the other players, friends or enemies, who make the game interesting.
Now the mechanical and behavioural challenges have shifted over the past couple of years quite a bit, as you described nicely. At the same time, we have seen more and more players simply not accepting the challenge anymore. I think this is not your usual giving up in frustration: no, this is a new quality. Players, who have played this game for a decade or longer are declaring that they don’t accept the “win conditions” that CCP set. They are partly perceived as boring, grindy, unintelligent and simply not providing entertainment for a smart crowd.
This could create a problem for farmville online. I think we have seen signs of that during the Imperiums operations in the North. While many of the Imperium members had a good time, finally being able to deliver some pain after being the victim of NCPL or other baddies for so long, what I found remarkable was how clearly unmotivated the other side was. It may be due to the beating they got, but I think part of it was also the realization that many of theirs are simply not seeing the necessary industrial grind as a fun game - and in turn, don’t care enough to fight for their stuff.
My guess is that this will only continue. Personally I think Rorquals, active moon mining and all of that are an insult towards the somewhat intelligent playerbase. Hell, it’s an insult to the game itself to develop it towards this kind of farming simulation. This might just produce more and more unwillingness to give fights, to entertain each other. When there is exactly one solution to “a problem” and that solution is Rorquals, Superratting and (hello Init) botting, it’s not a challenge of wits, it’s a challenge of who gets bored first. And that could be the wall I was talking about earlier. No one feels inspired by the bot/grind/donut mechanics of today. The wall that it will lead into, is the wall of no content, boredom for even the most easily excited line members and finally inactivity.
The danger of basically pushing people towards the blob, is that downward cycles in a blob are much more rapid than in smaller groups - if they happen. If a bunch of smaller groups become dysfunctional and cease to exist: not an issue, others will pick up the remaining members and will create new stories. If larger groups fall apart, the gravity of such events rips more players out of the game. If megablobs start contracting the desease of no content (because there is no one else accepting the mechanical challenges), things become dangerous.
So, at the one hand, being in a group certainly helps players sticking with the game, yes. The larger, the more more you can handle some fluctuation without having negative effects. On the other hand though, creating a game in which players don’t accept the challenges (because they think these challenges are stupid), bears the danger of mass boredom, centralized and organized in mega-blobs - possibly not repairable if it ever comes to a downward cycle due to lack of meaningful conflict.
This is not the Imperiums fault, mind you, it is just that under current game mechanics the possibility for “fun roams” further and further declines. Unless you consider hunting each others ratting/mining bots a “fun roam”. The remaining blobs do what they have to: be efficient and try to keep things together, while thereby being part of making the game boring for themselves.
For people who never lived some kind of PVP style, this will not matter immediately I suppose. Line members, who join fleets when asked to, having some fun and all; they may not miss it overly much, once content dries up. They will however start to crumble, when their PVE profits can’t pay for their alts PLEX anymore. Which is a possible result of this agenda of order and peace that CCP is pushing over the game.
The best conflict/content killer is creating an imbalance in risk/effort/reward that leads players to say: “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t accept this challenge. I rather do something else with my life.” We always joke about conceptions of “imbalance”, but when it bites our ass, it suddenly becomes clear as the night, that balance is the best conflict driver.
That balance was formerly delivered by variety of choices in playstyles and a variety of “win conditions”. Now it is getting more single solution problem, or theme park if you like. This is the imbalance, not that some groups are adapting to it or others don’t. It’s not an imbalance of strength, but an imbalance of choices.
Do I think it sucks? Yep. Do I think this is the end of EVE? Probably not. It surely costs the game depth and continues to do so. Even if this is slowly turning into a game that I don’t find interesting anymore, I hope CCP is having success with the path they’ve chosen. I do think that it could be a bit short-sighted as I’ve tried to argue, but I also hope that I’m wrong about that.
Maybe one day there will be a statue somewhere in New Eden saying:
"This is a memorial for all those who lost their ships to other players. New Eden used to be like the West - uncontrolled and wild, dangerous and free. Luckily, not anymore. EVE freed itself from the burden of PVP and has become civilized and orderly, peaceful and hard-working. Take a moment to remember all those who lost their lives on the path to eternal boredom.