What are your thoughts on how Incarna will affect the current EVE Online social dynamic?
That is a very broad question, and it's one that's impossible to answer without more information on what exactly Incarna will entail. There are hundreds of thousands of EVE players, and I challenge anyone to predict reliably what they'll do about ANYthing, much rather something as unknown as Incarna.
That said, I'll take a few shots in the dark just to have something to talk about on this topic.
I am guessing that the social dynamic of EVE will broaden and expand if Incarna is realized to as complex a level as the rest of EVE. What will Incarna bring us? New ways to chat with other players? Vegas-like casinos with gambling and games of chance like poker, roulette, blackjack and craps? Personal apartments that players can decorate and accessorize? There are so many unanswered questions. Since we don't know the answers, I'll talk about what I would like to see.
1) Games of chance. CCP has mentioned wanting to have some games of chance that players can play against one another and even gamble. I really hope this happens and is fully realized. I imagine a futuristic casino, with all the familiar games we'd have in a casino today with an EVE spin. Think about it. There are a lot of old games that people play--chess, Nine Men's Morris, etc. It's likely that popular casino games would still be around in EVE in some form or another. Going that route would also have the benefit of lessening the learning curve for these "mini games". I'd love to be able to gamble isk and chat with other players across the card table.
2) In-station missions. This is something CCP has alluded to without giving any real details. I'd love to see missions involving subterfuge and espionage. Spying on people, framing people, gathering evidence against people. Perhaps you could do some "personal favors" for your agents (above or below the table) that would enhance your standings. This could become a whole other game within EVE, and I'd love to see it.
3) Apartments and other personalizable effects. It would be cool if you could rent an apartment at your favorite station. You could even decorate it (for a fee I'm sure). Buy your character some changes in clothes. Maybe you could even buy things for your character that would give you some minor in-game benefits--personal items and clothing that would function like weak implants, enhancing a specific skill or activity. At the risk of seeing EVE turn into "Sims in Space", this would really be cool. I don't think EVE will turn into "Sims in Space"--CCP is way too smart for that. However, people love to customize things, and they'd be fools not to work with that.
4) New skills. I would love to see an array of new skills that are only useful for in-station missions and activities. Social skills like double-talk, subterfuge, deal-making, empathy, charisma, etc, etc, etc. Skills that would help you complete missions, improve your relations with your agents, and maybe even give you a leg up at the gambling table. These would be great if they had no application to flying ships in space. That way, if people wanted to have "in-station characters" they could focus on these new skills, while a player who had no interest in stations would have no need to get them.
5) Wide variety in station interiors with lots of room for exploration. I really hope all Amarr stations don't look the same inside, with the same layout. Sort of like how every inn in WoW is the same. Lame. I also hope there are more than a handful of different layouts for each race. I hope CCP really goes all out here, so you will have to actually learn your way around the different stations. I would love to see "encounters" in the station that just happen occassionaly if you're in the right time and place, and have nothing to do with a mission.
6) Combat. I would love to see combat--hand to hand, melee weapons, blasters. I know I'm asking for too much, buy if you're gonna dream, might as well dream big.
7) The ability to attack stations. I don't expect this in Incarna, but it would be cool.
8) Boarding parties. An outshoot of number 7, the ability to board other players' ships and fight and kill their crew, and the capsuleer himself. That would be really cool.
How will this affect EVE's player base?
The assumption here is that it will affect the EVE player base. That depends. If Incarna just adds a few "extras" to the game in stations, I don't think it will affect the player base at all. You'll see the same types of people playing EVE. The only way I see Incarna bringing in types of players we've never seen in EVE before is if it's extremely expansive, to the point that Incarna is an entire game. If you can play EVE and have fun without ever undocking or playing a ship, then MAYBE we'll see some new player types, but I highly doubt it. There are so many good games out there. If someone is going to play EVE, it's because they love sci-fi and wanna fly spaceships. Incarna will just be a bonus. Now, if CCP really blows the roof off with Incarna, they may prove me wrong. Maybe in a few more expansions.
Who will Incarna attract? New players to the genre? Seduce old players back into the game?
I think EVE Incarna will attract the same players EVE has always attracted. It's still going to be EVE. I see two possible exceptions, though.
1) Incarna may attract some people who originally tried EVE but just couldn't get into it. They may give a trial a try just to see what it's like. Whether or not they'll keep playing will have to be seen.
2) IF the in-station activities have an easier learning curve we MAY seem some players come in who have been intimidated by the learning cliff. It will give them something else to do while they try to wrap their heads around space flight, and if Incarna's good enough, maybe they won't even have to go out into space at all.
Will we see new players come in who will never leave their station?
This will completely depend on the nature of the expansion itself. Honestly, I really hope so. Because if that happens it means Incarna is awesome in its own right. In that case it will bring more players to EVE (good thing) and diversify the player base a bit (great thing), not to mention hopefully killing the mentality that people who play EVE are "elite" in some way (excellent thing).
In summary, I'm really excited about Incarna. I'm happy with EVE the way it is, and I have no real need or desire to "walk around in stations," but I am constantly amazed by CCP. I can't wait to see what they come up with. I think Incarna itself will be the tip of the iceberg, and we'll see much more done with it in future expansions. I'm really excited and looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
What do you think? How would you answer these questions? Your comments and thoughts are always welcome!