2010 held up pretty good for player activity, with the Dominion, Tyrannis, and Incursion updates which gave players a lot of new things to do and try.
2011 started to bomb, due to Incarna, Walking in Stations, Monoclegate, etc. Basically CCP failed to meet many expectations for the year, outraged players, and didn’t deliver on interesting content. It’s my opinion that 2010 was the finalization of content and plans made by the actually talented EVE decision makers/designers (who had begun to bail by 2008 and accelerated over the next 3 years). 2011 was the year in which the folks who are really out of touch with the player base (or rationality) began to show their stuff.
2012 was basically a holding pattern. The people who left in 2011 didn’t come back, and everyone else just held on waiting for something interesting. Little was achieved this year for EVE as CCP was backing off from their 2011 fiascos and struggling to figure out what the heck they were going to do with White Wolf/World of Darkness, which was beginning to fall apart. It was the forerunner of the years of “tweaking and balancing” that was to become the new normal.
2013 was actually kicked off by Retribution/Crimewatch at the end of 2012. It garnered a lot of interest, especially from the PvE crowd who thought maybe this would change the PvE landscape significantly. Odyssey expansion mid-year also added some interesting new features and people looked forward to Rubicon at year end to update “many core elements”.
Rubicon didn’t turn out quite as interesting as people hoped, and then in 2014 CCP basically stopped making and announcing actual expansions and started years of waffling and “we’re working on amazing things!” statements, tweaking and rebalancing and redoing many areas (to no actual purpose), and basically adding nothing new to the game.
CCP effectively gave up on developing EVE content as a core principle around 2011, in my opinion. Since then they finished off some things they were working on previously, came up with a few half-baked and half-implemented ideas, desperately scrambled to pull a rabbit out of the hat every now and then (Alpha states, Citadels, etc.) to keep the cash flowing… and focused most of their attention on creating failed game after failed game after failed game.
Because Hilmar wants an ego project of his very own.
And that’s why things headed downhill in 2014 and after, and fell off a cliff in 2016, and frankly if it weren’t for Alpha clones we’d be down to about 10,000 PCU now. Or lower.
As for “how did CCP respond”? Generally, by saying “Well, EVE isn’t for everyone and if you don’t like what we’re doing with it, the door’s over there.”
(Note: all taken from my possibly biased remembrances of how those years went, considering I’m mostly high-sec day-tripper into WH and low and have never done Null and not much FW either. And I really can’t be arsed to pretend ganking indy’s in high sec is “PvP” so I don’t do that either.)