".....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?"
I'm not really sure how to answer that question, the way it's phrased. See, I'm of the opinion that things are mixing well. The ongoing story of EVE (as written by CCP) and the player-driven gameplay interact without too much fuss. That is to say, they don't interact, and that's not a bad thing. I don't want CCP's story to change my gameplay, I'd rather see CCP letting my gameplay change the story.
As it stands right now, players aren't inconvenienced or forced to give up doing what they love to do by storyline events. While I like the fact that CCP has decided to move the storyline forward, I don't want to log on some day and find out that thanks to storyline progress, the Jove have invaded Jita and made it completely impassable to all traffic. That's certainly an extreme example, but it's the kind of thing that would illustrate story changing gameplay, as opposed to gameplay changing story. If CCP continues with storyline-advancing live events like many people have asked for, the events and the results of the events need to either compliment or side-step current gameplay, not detract from it.
The 'Battle for Caldari Prime' event which happened recently is a fine example of doing story advancement in a way that neither helps or hurts player. It was accessible to players who wanted to participate, and it wasn't a barrier to the gameplay of anyone who didn't want to. On the positive side: Adequate notice was given so that people could prepare, only Luminaire and the systems connected to it were affected, and it had a definitive result which advanced EVE's lore. The biggest complaints? The limited number of EVE players who were able to get into the system to start (stupid DUST bunnies), and the fact that player actions had no bearing on the final outcome. Would it have been amazing to see the outcome of the event and consequently the storyline of EVE be decided by player actions? Absolutely.
That's the one thing I would love to see more than any other going forward. Live events that are actually interactive, and making player actions part of the game lore. When RvB had a massive brawl in Poinen, they managed to crash CONCORD. How cool would it be to have that become an official part of the EVE story? A massive capsuleer fight led to CONCORD being forced to leave gaps in their coverage to respond. That's a pretty memorable event, certainly something that worthy of being noted in the history of EVE. How about the battle of Asakai? That was possibly the best player-driven event we've seen to date. There's tons of video and written battle reports, could CCP compile them into one historical record and make it part of the official story? The best events in EVE have been/are being/will be written by players, and it would be amazing to see the lore reflect that.
We've already seen CCP do this to a small degree. Next time you happen to be in Jita, take a look at the monument just off the 4-4 station. One of the fun things people did in Jita during the fallout after Incarna was shooting the monument (Rainbow lasers are pretty and you know it). In recognition of the event, CCP replaced the in-game model with a destroyed monument and commemorated its destruction in the new description you see whenever you 'show info' on it. Since Burn Jita 2.0 is scheduled for this weekend, CCP will have a chance to react to another player-driven event. Hopefully we'll see it included in EVE's official history.
If I could ask for one lore-related thing from CCP, I'd ask them to let player stories have an meaningful impact on EVE's history. They're already doing such an excellent job of creating stories, so give them the chance to make the stories official.
Edit 18/04/13: It was quite correctly pointed out to me that I had confused Monocle-Gate with Burn Jita. My bad.
What really caught my attention today though, was the 'True Stories' video that CCP released. The video opens with the words "History is made by those who write it." Perhaps it's a linguistics thing, but that's a statement I really disagree with. It goes against the point I tried to make about it being better for CCP to record player events as history instead of writing history and then giving the players a chance to watch it happen.
I'm a fan of the True Stories project, no matter how biased some of the stories will inevitably be, and I'd like to see that style of historical record become part of the game itself, not simply an out-of-game writing contest. The lore surrounding the major empires only affects part of the player base, but it makes up the vast majority of the official history of EVE. Where's the history and lore of wormholes and player-owned null-sec?