I'm feeling kind of philosophical today, so I thought I would share.
There's a lot of games out there, both MMOs and non-MMOs, and they both reward success and how you gain that success in different ways. I want to concentrate on the latter part of that equation for this post: how games reward you based on how you succeed rather than if you succeed. It's kind of an overlooked area of game design, I find.
A lot of MMOs base your reward on the amount of force you use relative to the amount of force necessary to achieve an objective. Put another way, if you play a game like Skyrim and you kill a low-level creature or adversary at low level, you receive a large reward for doing so. However, if you kill the same low-level creature or adversary at high level, you receive a very low reward for doing so. Guild Wars 2 operates on a similar principle with a bit of variation: you can farm low level creatures at any level and you'll receive high rewards at low level and low rewards at high level. However, to encourage higher level players to assist lower level players to complete low levels, every once in a while the game will reward a high level player with a high level reward.
This model obviously encourages you to generally stick to objectives that are close to your own level.
RTS and turn-based strategy games like Civilization take a different approach: this game actively rewards you for using overwhelming force against an enemy and the rewards remain the same. If you attack a town with an overwhelming force, chances are you will take the town with few or no losses. Whether you attack that town with just enough force to do the job or overwhelming force, the reward is the same. However, attacking the town with just enough force to do the job will probably result in heavy losses. Therefore, the game actively encourages you to use overwhelming force: the upside is the same either way and the downside is much less. Starcraft uses the same model: you can use just enough force to attack an enemy base, but if you use overwhelming force to hit the same objective and achieve the same reward, your reward will be fewer losses for using this strategy.
This is the opposite approach to an MMO style of game, and it encourages you to concentrate your force on a smaller number of objectives and overpower them utterly before moving on to the next.
Other RTS games and other MMOs, however, take the opposite approach. In Homeworld 2, you are actively punished for using overwhelming force against an objective. The game cheats and builds its force based on the amount of force you bring to bear. If you bring greater forces, the game also brings greater forces. Instead of being rewarded for using the minimum amount of force, you are punished for NOT doing so. Skyrim's predecessor in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, used a similar model: each creature or enemy had a level "range." Attacking a particular creature at a low level would result in a lower level version of that creature. Attacking the same creature at a high level would usually result in a much more challenging fight with a tougher adversary. In particular, there were a few timed missions in Oblivion that it was advantageous to complete at lower level where your adversaries would be easier and therefore quicker to destroy. Again, you were punished for bringing more force than was necessary to complete your objective.
What does all of this have to do with EVE? That's where the philosophy comes into play.
EVE obviously rewards you for bringing overwhelming force to bear on your objectives. This is a pillar of EVE game-play and even the devs buy into the philosophy and develop the game with that philosophy in mind. The game rewards you for bringing more friends, more logi, more special teams ships, more super-caps and basically just adding more and more bodies. Sure, add enough bodies and the servers will crash but right up until that moment, it's advantageous to bring every single person you can. And this applies to every single aspect of EVE.
What if the game didn't work that way, though? What if the game actively started punishing you for just throwing additional people at a problem?
Here's an amusing example just to give you something to think about. Suppose only the person that did top damage on a target got on kill-mails? The kill-mails could be changed such that it said "Ripard Teg and nine friends killed this ship" but the nine friends would be otherwise anonymous. Many players feel rewarded by getting on hundreds of kill-mails a week and they ensure it by making sure their fleets are enormous. But if you were one of the "nine friends" that never received any kill-mails in that fleet, you might wonder if there was another way of playing EVE.
Sure, EVE's n+1 problem would remain and I doubt it would change a whole lot about how a lot of people play the game. But today, not only are the biggest fleets rewarded with high value space worth billions of ISK, they also receive hundreds of kill-mails too. Should they get all the rewards for this game-play style? Or should they be actively punished in some way for playing the game the way they do?
What if they game were changed in some way to actively punish people who engage in n+1 game play? Like I said, a little philosophy for you.