Interesting thought experiment, let’s see what the removal of skills would do.
1 Without skills, names are useless.
Without skills, any character can fly any ship. That means I can make a new alt, and have that alt instantly sit in my carrier.
I could camp someone’s space in a cloaky recon ship, and every time after I have caught someone, I recycle the character at no extra cost, so they never know who the character in their space is hunting for.
When people can chante their name at any time without any downsides of significance, names become useless.
2 Without skills, there are no consequences.
People could gank in high sec space until they lose enough security status to be hunted, and make a new character with perfect skills to continue doing so, because…
without skills there are no repercussions for any actions in the game that might harm the reputation of your character.
3 Without skills, there is no specialization.
Do you know that type of gameplay where the player or group you’re often fighting is specialized in certain ships and always seems to bring ship type X?
Where you - if you are smart and do some digging into the available information - can adjust your strategy to fight them based on what you know about the specialization of the others?
While people can also change their strategy based on yours, changing strategies in EVE takes time, due to the fact that not everyone can fly every ship. Players in EVE are specialized in certain ships, and most cannot easily bring the hard counter to your setup at any time, simply because not every character can fly every ship well.
4 Without skills, there is no way to get known for your skills
Do you know that one guy in your corporation with perfect refining skills that everyone sends their ore to? Do you ever fly command bursts in fleet and know which bursts the two other pilots can be using according to their skills? Do you know the person who can build a certain ship for you?
Well, remove skills and all this is down the drain. Everyone can do everything. Boring.
5 Without skills, what sense of permanent progression is there?
EVE is a harsh universe.
Ships are tools, consumables, and explode frequently.
ISK comes and goes, and is just a means to an end.
There is just one thing ‘forever’, which is your skill progression.
(Well… technically only ship skins are forever, as skill progression could be extracted, but you know what I mean).
Without skills, there is no permanent progression in EVE. Newbie buys a big PLEX package and is now at an equal point as a Veteran player who also has that much ISK in their wallet.
Once the new player has bought their mining ship, they have nothing further to work towards, as they are already mining at maximum yield from the start.
Without progression, what is there to keep the Veteran player attached to the game, once they are getting slightly bored and ‘sunk cost fallacy’ is not a thing because of no permanent progression? It’s not that they stick around to play with the toys they can now finally fly after years.
With skills you can always buy a new Freighter after your previous Freighter has been killed, as your specialized freighter pilot can still fly freighters better than most other pilots due to their specialized skills. Remove skills, and your pilot is only freighting as well as any new day-1 character that just bought a freighter.
6 Without skills, there is no pacing.
Newbies have an incredibly deep game to explore when they enter the game. Hundreds of paths, even with limited skills.
Now remove the skills, and they can access everything all at once, if only they had the ISK. How are they supposed to know not to undock a dual tanked (defence is good right?) Golem without bastion, with 10MN propmod (gotta go fast!) and gate it to their mission in low security space?
That’s what skills are for: to protect newbies from making expensive mistakes that they could have made and should make in cheap frigates that are easily replaced in the budget of a new player.
And even for veteran players it’s nice that there still is pacing, still are new things that unlock over time. Without skills, I could have tried every part of the game in the first few months. But because of skills, years into the game I still unlock new things to try every few weeks, to keep me engaged. And that’s good!
Conclusion: skills are necessary, without skills no EVE
Because of skills, you can make a name for yourself in this MMO. Because of skills, actions have consequences. People can specialize and you can make use of the knowledge of your enemies specializations to counter them.
Without skills, we would have access to everything all at once. While it sounds fun initially, what do you do when you notice you don’t have the ISK for most of it? Buy PLEX to progress faster?
What do you do when you notice all of your progression has been killed in a fight and you’re literally back to 0?
What do you do when you’ve tried the entire game in the first few months and want something new?
EVE needs skills.