How important is “fluff” in Eve online? Would eve online be the same if it were purely numbers and mechanics, or are the fictional elements important to the enjoyment of the game? Would a pure text, no reference to sci-fi or fancy names still be an engaging game? Should CCP put more or less emphasis on immersion?
For me there were two things that brought me to EVE: The recommendation of a friend, and reading the in-game lore after that.
Just like Star Wars never needed the whole in-depth lore that was constructed around it to be a successful space opera, EVE doesn't need the lore to be a successful game, but in both cases it just makes the whole thing that much more captivating. (With the prequels, George Lucas has also shown quite effectively how you should not treat your body of lore)
To this day - while I am off "active duty" as far as the game is concerned - I am still actively engaged with it's lore by writing stories which I always strive to keep as faithful to the source material as possible.
The massive amounts of historical background, chronicles, fan-fiction and other contributions to the body of EVE-Lore is almost impossible to ignore. It is just always there like a dim reflection in a transparent surface.
Of course there will be the extreme camps who either go for full-on roleplaying and keep everything as much in-character as possible (even though, not even CVA flies exclusively Amarr ships AFAIK), and there will be those who are just min-maxing and metagaming in complete disregard of anything that has to do with the fictional universe they play in.
Most of us will probably occupy some middle ground between those two extremes.
Anyone who chose a player race at the beginning for other reasons than "The Rifter is the best beginner PVP ship" or "Caldari have the best PVE ships" has made a more-or-less conscious decision to pick a side for other reasons than pure metagaming.
It might have been the plucky image of the Minmatar as the successful rebels; the impressive Amarr ships which just radiate a sense of righteousness; the political idealism of the Gallente Federation or the no-nonsense military industrial complex of the Caldari.
Even if people are not actively engaged in factual roleplay they do stumble upon bits and pieces of the background material every so often. Fellow players will tell them stories, they might click on a link to a chronicle or they may wonder what those Angel Cartel guys they are shooting all day are actually all about.
Like children growing up in a world they are thrust into, many of us gain a sense of identity based on a fictional cultural heritage. It may not be strong, but you will sometimes read cries of "Amarr Victor!" or "For the State." in local. Some of us will feel drawn to that, and even those who don't tend to banter in the long hours of an EVE playing session about how Caldari have no sense for aesthetics or how Amarr are religious nuts.
Even Goonswarm - the ultimate metagamers with their own out-of-game community - couldn't resist and came out with a lore-influenced statement for the Caldari Prime live event (and complained a lot about the fact that they were not able to influence the outcome).
I myself had imagined a character background for the game when I started. In good old RP fashion. I didn't really become a roleplayer in EVE, but during my career as wormhole pilot and my brief excursion into the world of mercenary PVP, I always had a sense that I sort of stuck to the path this young woman could have taken if she were an actual citizen of New Eden. Especially wormhole space captivated me with it's dark romanticism and frontier mentality.
That is also the reason why I keep writing stories about wormhole space capsuleers.
I am sure many players feel a similar undercurrent of influence from the lore that makes EVE the unique setting that it is.
So, the question remains whether I think CCP should do more to immerse people into all that lore.
My answer would be a definitive YES!
However, that has proved to be difficult in it's own way.
Because there are large entities who can basically project their power everywhere, such events will always suffer from OOC (out of character) interference by those who just want to stick it to "those filthy roleplayers" or simply want to wreck a live event because they can.
It might seem that the only way to prevent this is to create pre-determined outcomes like giving the Minmatar tribal elders super overpowered modules, or by destroying the Shiigeru anyway.
It does not have to be like that though.
It could easily be argued, that - based on lore - even a large Alliance like Goonswarm or TEST or Solar Fleet could never match the military power of an NPC empire. They may have thousands of capsuleers, with their amassed crews that might be dozens of millions of human beings, but the four large empires have populations numbering in the hundreds if not thousands of billions each.
If the Gallente wanted to destroy the Shiigeru and they would know (of course they have spies) that an empire of nullsec capsuleers were on their way to support the Caldari, then they would gatecamp each and every system in the vicinity with so may Moros Thanatos and Nyx (super)caps that even PL would swoon.
If the Minmatar tribes would go on a trek to bring their elders together for a big meeting, they would send so many fleet boosting Lokis to support their sympathisers that even a newbie in a Rifter could perform like a pilot flying a Dramiel with max skills.
So what if PL does successfully kill one or two of the Tribal Elders by hotdropping them in lowsec? What if Goonswarm does wipe out half the Gallente navy?
They would have their impact on the game but the outcome could still be more or less the same. However, unlike it happened before, the events would be consistent with the lore.
That consistency would be crucial.
If people then complain, their argument could easily be turned against them: Did you really think you are the only ones in this universe who can build Titans or blob with capfleets?
No, I didn't think so either.
Would that require more manpower and more resources from CCP?
Definitely, but it would also make the live events more satisfactory and more "realistic", and that would enrich our fictional cultural heritage much more than some overpowered deus ex machina CONCORD module.
Others have written more extensively on that particular subject, so I leave it at that.
Of course there are also other sorts of immersion events. The whole Arek'Jaalan project was just amazing as was the beginning of the Sansha Incursions. (That being said, let some other faction invade highsec already. Sansha Kuvakei must have gotten the message.)
The problem is, CCP tend to drop those things and not iterate on them much, like they did on game mechanics in the past.
Now they are in game mechanics iteration overdrive, which is not bad, but I do feel that the lore needs it's iterations as well.
It wont bring more people from SomethingAwful, reddit, 4chan, Russia or other out-of-game community. Those people will just come anyway as long as they have friends in-game to play with.
I am sure it would attract more of those who do not have an established out-of-game bond with an in-game community. The more fictional cultural heritage CCP can create for such players to build on and to identify with, the better it will be for the game overall I dare say..