The more time I spend in incursion fleets, the more I think incursions are a real unsung gem in EVE Online. I don't think CCP is getting enough credit for how good a feature it really is.
Sure, incursions are flawed in a number of ways. The pay-outs are too good, the sites are too repetitive and predictable, and from an in-game story perspective, incursions make little to no sense whatsoever. Incursions are really just a blatant attempt to capitalize on an on-going trend in MMOs and single-player computer RPGs in general. A number of other MMOs and single-player RPGs have it done better, most notably RIFT and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. EVE incursions should be less frequent, more serious, and under more control of the GM community or generally better designed to fit within the EVE universe. I grant all of those things.
Now put them aside a minute.
As a training tool for newer players, incursions are really quite good.
I've spent a lot of time in my EVE career training new players. EVE is a deep, complex game and we all need some help from time to time. And I wished that I'd had incursions available as a feature when I was doing it. Incursions teach so many excellent lessons about EVE so well.
Back when I was training new players full-time, I ran a weekly L4 mission group. This was usually ten or twelve players, in battleships and battle-cruisers, supported by a few older hands helping out in either superior battleships or T2 ships of various persuasions. The obvious point was to help these newer players make a little bit of ISK, but the hidden point was to get them used to the idea of following an FC's orders, using ship types that were needed, and understanding and adapting themselves to the needs of the fleet.
Incursions does the same, but does it so much better. Something that I would constantly run into during this period in my career was the tendency of moderately skilled pilots to fly whatever it was they felt like flying. You could offer them advice and they'd ignore it. You could give them good reasons to refit their ship to something that would be more helpful to the fleet as a whole and they'd ignore them. And if you pushed on them at all, they'd take their ball and go home because (as they could correctly point out) the money from L4s really wasn't worth the trouble anyway.
Something I'm continually struck by in the incursion channels is how this attitude just gets blasted to smithereens when it appears. If you don't post your ship fitting, you don't get picked for a fleet. If you post your ship fitting and it's bad, you get suggestions. And if you don't take those suggestions... you don't get picked for a fleet. It's just that simple.
And since the money is good, the people in this situation will usually grumble... but then they'll refit.
I've pointed out already that incursion-running is healthy for the long-term health of EVE as a whole because of this tendency, but it really does bear expanding on. People that listen are rewarded by being allowed to join fleets. People who are jerks and refuse to take well-meaning advice get to sit in a channel by themselves. It really is a positive trend.
On the flip-side, if your ideas for ship fitting are really good, other pilots will tell you they're really good and you'll start to see ships fitted out the way you've suggested. I see this again and again in the incursion channels, and it's quite refreshing.
The same thing happens when fleets begin. Newbies almost always out themselves as newbies in short order. They're quickly given advice and counsel on the things that they need to be doing. And if they learn, all is well and another new productive member of the EVE community is started on his or her way, learning how and why to follow FC orders and work for the good of the fleet. And if they don't learn, or they bitch, or they go anti-social, nearly always, the FC will just boot them from the fleet. You either learn, or you do not profit. That's also a positive trend.
CCP really needs to recognize these trends and take advantage of them. So many new features of EVE just get ignored after introduction. Trying to get CCP to change this was one of the corner-stone points of my run for CSM6, and something that a small minority of those that were elected said they were going to take up as their standard. And it's a standard that's seemingly just been dropped since they took office.
I haven't heard a word about iterating on incursions for the winter expansion, and that's worrisome. What's available in incursions is a good start, but if it's not built on and improved, it's just going to go the way of a dozen other EVE "features" that were introduced and then dropped on the floor.
Having been in that situation once before (with faction warfare), I know what it feels like.
C'mon, CCP, learn from your past here!