With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE is back in favour as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two playstyles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?Now I'm going to make this response short because delving into this topic deeply could easily result in a novel's worth of material. And honestly while such a novel might be very amusing to write, I think the basic question is flawed because it suggests a dichotomy that doesn't exist in EVE Online.
EVE Online is made out of its stories. And New Eden doesn't care where they come from.
There are alliances and coalitions in EVE that drive the great stories of the game, there are those that have those stories inflicted on them (hee), there are smaller events -- heists, for instance -- that all of us hear about, and there are CCP-run events. As a player, I've been involved in all of them, and all have contributed equally strong memories of my time in EVE Online. They're all part of the overall story of New Eden.
Yes, sometimes the CCP-driven ones feel a bit more artificial than most, but even that's just an illusion. Who could have guessed that a Band of Brothers director would defect? Seems kind of contrived and overly convenient, right? Who could have guessed that Goons would suddenly forget to pay their alliance bill. Seems equally cringe-worthy as a story-telling device. ;-) Sometimes, the stories of EVE aren't pretty and don't make much sense.
But when they do, we're all hooked. And all of us are hooked by different things. Walking around Fanfest and seeing the great variety and imagination of faction costumes, I can say with a great deal of confidence that there are lots of players that get off on EVE's developer-created thematic story elements. But there are thousands of players that enjoy the player-crafted stories. And there are not a few that are just here to pew, or to mine... but are contributing to the story in their own way.
So nope, don't see much difference between one and tother on this one.
Thanks as always for the interesting question, Mat!