In the Beginning..
The current state of Eve null-sec conflict is largely based around the conflict for resources.. most particularly Tech moons. Prior to the tech moons it was R64 Moons. Prior to that.. well, it was something else. This is true even to the individual level. Most people go into null-sec initially because they hear of how rich one can get either by ratting, or by exploration, or by anomalies.
The case is an easy one to extrapolate into how it affects not only null-sec.. but it trickles down into other aspects as well. T3 production for example is exclusively a Wormhole resource/product. Raw minerals and Ice from High-sec has become the centerpiece for all production in the game. Even the bastard child of low-sec nibbles in all of these. You can go back from the beginnings of this game, and find the resource conflict has been the most predominant aspect of null-sec life. In other words, isk became the end not the means.
Now, it has been promoted by the CSM (generally speaking) that wars are based mainly on the social interaction of “hate”, and certainly some of the Coalition versus Coalition as well as Alliance versus Alliance null-sec conflicts can be traced to some bad social interactions, but that is by far not the norm. Usually Social conflicts happen internally first.. and when they do happen, it is almost has been exclusively because of how resources (i.e. mooon profits, supercaps, etc.) were distributed. External social conflicts usually are just the public face of another resource grab or resource denial campaign.
A New Way?
Now, CCP has started toying with the idea that it needs to move away from resource conflicts and develop more “social” conflicts. As I mentioned before, true social conflicts are rare at the coalition and alliance levels.. they tend to be far more common at the individual or corporate level. The reason is pretty obvious.. in larger organizations there are more stopgaps where a social conflict can be prevented by cooler, more calculating heads. Another big reason is that while an alliance or coalition leader may get personally upset at another alliance or coalition, that leader is stuck trying to “sell” it to the other members.. and if things don’t go well.. then morale plummets and more serious internal strife begins.
So, both of those conflict sources have their place in a sandbox game like Eve. But the problem really is, those conflict drivers aren’t enough and on top of that, they aren’t very fair or balanced. Current Wardec mechanics are so easy to manipulate on both sides that it removes the ability for “social” conflict completely. Tech moons are so profitable and so valued that they are often more of a source of internal conflict and alliance/coalition disruption than for external invasion. Supercapital proliferation has become so absolute that it is impossible to invade any nullsec space without having a fleet of them for your own. Faction Warfare, CCP’s attempt at social conflict, has become a little more than an afterthought.. with most players pretty much doing missions to gain isk, rather than actual PVP combat.
However, it is wrong to think that the “rare” true social conflicts involving alliances or coalitions aren’t spectacular. In fact, they often infusing most of Eve will new life or sustaining Eve during long, dull periods. But, really, they weren’t so much “social” conflicts, as they were a more “Religous/Nationalistic”-style conflict. Since both touch on social aspects in real life, one can hardly be faulted in thinking they are one in the same. There is, though, a difference. A significant, game altering, life altering difference.
In a typical social conflict, say for example, “I hate you.”, the justification for that hate is started and rationalized by the one, single person. “I hate you.”, or “I hate Goons.”, or “I hate ice cream.” sentiments, since they are personal, will constantly be assailed by the actions of others and it takes a lot of work to keep rationalizing them, to keep proving that social conflict to yourself. Saying to yourself, “I hate Goons because I’m better than they are.”, is a hard line to maintain as you are running missions or eeking out a living mining, while Goons get more and more media coverage and glory.
A Second Perspective
Now, when you switch that into a religous or nationalistic – style conflict, that rationalization, that justification of the conflict gets reinforced by others, and perpetuated. So, instead of “I hate Goons because they blew up my Mackinaw.”, it becomes a more powerful, “I hate Goons because they blew up my friends Mackinaw, and WE are going to fight back.” That hatred may last even after the war or war(s) are long over. And that hatred will come back time and time again when the opportunities present themselves over and over. In fact, it becomes easier because as human, we do better in groups naturally than we do alone, and let’s say that ice mining corp starts to make profits, or starts getting into PVP, they can count those achievements as victories against whoever their adversary is.
In essence, you begin to have both a justified hatred for your enemy, and more importantly, a justified love for those you consider your brothers.
The two best examples of this revolve around two conflicts: The Goonswarm/Band of Brothers Wars and the CVA/Ursha’khan Wars. The Goonswarm / Band of Brothers conflict is an excellent example of a “nationalistic” – style conflict. In the beginning, they were simply a bunch of ass-hats who pissed off the most powerful alliance ever to grace Eve. Yet, they were able to foster, both from defeat and from ongoing victories, a very strong comrodere. But it worked both ways for many years. Band of Brothers reformed itself twice just to go up against Goonswarm. And there was a time in Eve Online when you could (and would) ask, “Who are you going for?” And they would say either BoB or Goons. The Eve Universe revolved around that conflict.. far more so than it does today. The conflict DEFINED Goonswarm. It could be rightly said that if BoB had just ignored the Goons way back then.. Goonswarm would have never gotten the notoriety, or fame, or its large piece of Eve history.
The second example, is the best example of “Religous”-style conflict.. the Roleplay war between Ursha’khan and Curatores Veritatis Alliance. While it did not achieve the same widespread fame as the Goonswarm/Band of Brothers conflict did.. it was longer lasting. And it had a certain uniqueness in that it was a “serious” RP alliance during the vast majority of its life. You had to swear alligence to the Emperess, you had to follow NRDS (not a complicated system to individual members, but having it successfully operate required a huge amount of dedication and time on back end), you had to fight against “Minmatar Terrorists”, a mantle that Ursha’khan decided to take up fully (and quite personally). The idea, along with a bit of fortune and good circumstance, flourished enough that eventually all of Providence was under the control of CVA. Oddly enough it became a haven for both Pirates and self-described Pirate hunters, as well as those who like to be “police”. It was null-sec for everyone, fought over by Amarr Loyalists who believed in the divinity and rightness of the Amarrian cause against Minmatar Rebels fighting to free others from Tyranny and devot in their belief that justice was on their side. That strange conflict has allowed both Ursha’Khan and CVA to survive experience, falling outs, complete devastations that would have erased other alliances. And yes, they are still at each others’ throats.
There is no doubt that Eve Online exists because of its ability to use conflict. But it is also just as true that conflict in Eve is not as fun, nor is it very useful, or even important as it used to be. And whether you are a low-sec pirate, a high-sec miner, a null-sec soldier, or a wormhole producer.. above all your concerns, how conflict is handled and changed is going to be your upmost issue.
And thus, it will be THE crucial issue that CSM 7 will have to tackle with CCP.