I think the issue with ‘exploration not feeling like exploration’ is, that no activity can feel like exploration when you’re doing the same thing for the 10th time or more.
I mean, after hundreds of exploration sites it may still be fun to find valuable cans or optimise your hacking skill, but it won’t feel like exploration anymore, except when described to people new to exploration, or as the EVE university wiki puts it:
"The main object of an explorer is to track down hidden areas found in systems across all of the EVE universe. These areas contain valuable items or other points of interest, but cannot be warped to initially. Instead, a player must use their ship’s scanner and their Probe Launcher to track down the “signals” of these hidden areas through a process generally referred to as “probing,” or “scanning,” or “exploring.” If you’ve ever heard someone mention that they are going to “probe down a site”… this is it! "
Exploration is still exploration as much as mining is the act of shooting rocks in EVE, but it won’t actually fulfill the needs of the explorer gamer type when they have already seen it a hundred times.
Instead, explorer players will be the type of players to immediately dive into any new piece of content, figure out abyssal fits and new playstyles. Luckily EVE does cater to those players, but EVE’s implementation of exploration is not one of the activities created for explorer players, sadly. Not for repeated gameplay anyway.
I think that one little change could make exploration feel more like real exploration: add random and incredibly rare new exploration sites for players to find. They don’t even need to be valuable, just interesting sites.
That could make exploration feel like exploration again.