Back in June of 2011 CCP released the Incarna expansion for EVE Online and instigated the Summer of Incarnage where massive player revolts and cancelling of subscriptions caused CCP management to step back in horror, look deep inside themselves to find the fault of hubris, publically apologize and reversed course by pouring development back into spaceships and the environment they exist in. The avatar gameplay and environment has since languished in the 6 years hence excepting a few new clothing and accessory options.
In hindsight we can see that the ambitious plan for Incarna and beyond was doomed to failure and its easy to forget the excitement and anticipation for walking in stations content that reached a high point after the character creator was released in Incursion expansion 7 months before. So let's play a game of "What If?" in the tradition of Marvel Comics...
Imagine, if you will, that instead of delivering a single captain's quarters with graphics that melted video cards, that CCP delivered all four captain's quarters with Incarna release. In addition, the quarters also gave players options to make minor changes and add decorations, some decorations that were rare and could only be found in exploration sites and missions or purchased from other players on the market?
* * * Alternate Universe Sequence of Events * * *
Jun 2011 - Incarna releases to mixed reviews, some players happy with the player quarters in stations, many still frustrated with lack of development of spaceship gameplay. CCP vows to dedicate some more resources to in-space content but will continue forging ahead with in-station content as well.
Oct 2011 - More content for customizing quarters are released including large quarters that players can opt to lease via a monthly ISK payment. Demo of two players in single quarter (i.e. occupant and visitor).
Dec 2011 - Concourse release - The captain's quarter door opens to an elevator that takes players to an instanced version of a station concourse (only one version for now based on Caldari designs but more planned). Each instance allows up to 10 players to interact, with a bar and a dance club to attend with simple attractions like having a drink or dancing on the dance floor. Or you can simply go to the concourse observation lounge and look at the station window which actually shows the station's system (but not real time with ships in space, static view only). Players rejoice at finally being able to interact outside of ships.
Feb 2012 - Players allowed to have 1 visitor to quarters, new minigame added to players quarters and concourse bars based on simple Slay game. Minmatar concourse released. Concourse instance player limit increased to 20.
Mar 2012 - First Slay championships run by players held in Jita.
Summer 2012 - Periculum expansion released which brings in game gambling to EVE. Players now have the option to go to an instance of the station casino where they can wager their ISK in NPC run gambling games with other players. Also, players can arrange private games of a poker-like card game with other players where the stakes can be ISK or other in game items. Gallente and Amarr concourses released, the former with tattoo parlour where players can get custom ink and the latter with a Chapel. Caldari concourse gets Mindclash arena where players can participate in battles of Mindclash with other players or NPCs, while the Minmatar concourse gets the Bazaar where unique items such as quarters decorations and avatar accessories can be browsed and purchased. In station game play activity begins to compare with in space activity as subscription number increase of players looking to participate in sci-fi roleplay.
Winter 2012-2013 - Player Owned establishments added to game that allows players to rent space on a station to set up their own business, one of bar, dance club, casino, or Mindclash arena. These can be customized with decor, minigame consoles (along with the Slay analog there are a host of 1 and 2 player minigames now), and extra facilities for more gambling, space, etc, all cost ISK. The number of players joining EVE that no longer do any in-space gameplay except for moving from one station to another represents a full one third of the EVE playerbase. Wars to drive players out of null sec stations to set up their own establishments in high traffic areas become a regular occurrence.
Spring 2013 - Corporate Offices added so that corporation can rent space on stations for housing a corporate office that players can visit for recruitment information, and member players can visit to join private corporate meetings which can be as simple as minigames, poker games, small mindclash matches, or use the holo-map control to discuss war strategy.
Fall 2013 - CPP releases Legion, new gameplay which allows avatar-based combat. Instanced zones on planets added to the game with similar functions like station concourses and hosting player owned establishments, along with new "laser" combat games similar to paintball courses.
Summer 2014 - Assault release brings full on station combat via avatars in null sec player owned stations. Players have to assault a station and try to take control of its vital systems (engineering, security, command, etc) in order to take control, while other players resist the station assault. Whole new class of player arises that specialized in avatar combat and needs to work with space combat players to get close enough and drop shields to launch assaults. When station is taken over, hostile players still stuck in the station lose access to concourse and are limited to their quarters only.
Meanwhile, development of tools to allow player run Mindclash tournaments has increased the quality of play to the point where CPP runs an Alliance Mindclash tournament where the prizes include new Elite level quarters, unique decorations for quarters or establishments, and new unique avatar accessories.
Summer 2014 - Avatar gameplay in EVE has surpassed spaceship gameplay as the number of features has increased. Avatar-based exploration being the latest feature, where players can search abandoned ships and stations for valuable artifacts or data while watching out for NPC rogue drones, traps laid by NPCs and other players, and other players themselves.
* * * * *
What if...? Well, we'll never know.