A lot has been going on lately in the world of Eve. Burn Jita, Hulkageddon, OTEC, persistent Hulkageddon, changes to war declarations, and future plans for ship changes. Most of the above are things I disagree with on principal but I do admire the ability to pull a lot of it off in the game. I've helped herd cats in other games and I know it's never easy to get a group of people to jump the same direction at the same time.
So with all of this activity I thought I'd spend some time discussing the concept of a sandbox game since I see the term bandied about quite frequently on the forums. The first thing I did was went looking for any type of consistent definition. Unfortunately there was no consensus opinion on what exactly was meant by sandbox. The best I could find was a game where the developers provided sand and toys then the players set about creating the content. In most cases content is considered activities like blockading a system, ganking other players, manufacturing, and all of the meta game activities that go on behind the scenes.
The more I thought about what some people defined as content the more I realized that the problem I'm seeing isn't a reflection of player actions as much as the problem was one of CCP's poor implementation. Let's go back to the sandbox and the dev's handing out toys to use for castle building and what not. The issue is not players using the toys they are given but rather some of the toys have a flawed design.
Ganking in high sec is something I'm opposed to personally but I can understand where some people would enjoy the activity. While I don't like the idea of someone having the ability to inflict PVP on me when I'm not in the mood I also realize I can take some basic precautions to avoid the majority of situations. I've never been successfully ganked and only one time have I had a ship actually get attacked. I put a Mammoth on autopilot enroute to Jita and stepped away for a few minutes, came back and noticed I was almost out of armor. The only reason the hauler stayed alive was the fact I took the time to put some resists in the mid slots just in case.
When I consider an area I want to use as a base of operations one of the first things I do is look to see what kind of history the system has for jumps, ship kills, and pod kills. The lower the better. Then I look for things like ice or asteroid belts and I try to avoid ice systems as a home base and prefer systems with fewer asteroid belts. Dead end systems are better than something near a trade route. The whole point is to attract as little attention as possible.
Another thing I do when trying to avoid making myself a target is consider the fitting of my ships. I don't put super expensive modules and I typically move all of my ships as a group to provide support. I'll also watch local and start to note familiar faces and what they fly. When I see large groups of people moving around I'll take a look in something small to see if there is a camp setup on the gates I plan to use. Sometimes I'll jump through other gates just to avoid showing exactly where I'm going. I even have some rules I follow when moving cargo, but everything I use is found on the forums if you take some time to look.
With all of that being said you might wondering why I think there is a flawed toy and the big item I've not mentioned yet is mining vessels. When CCP created the mining ship they created a huge target with almost no way to defend itself. A full tanked Hulk can't even break 26k EHP and a large portion of that number is wrapped up in structure points. Peeling the shields off a Hulk doesn't take much effort and there is no armor to speak of, just shields and hull. I've seen some interesting posts about the problem with mining ships in high sec but I've come to the conclusion that removing the ability to PVP in high sec shouldn't be done because of mining ships.
The best solution I saw was the one CCP ended up saying they are going to implement. Make mining vessels capable of being protected by actually installing a tank which forces would be gankers to put forth some effort. Miners were unable to take any measures to defend themselves short of being ready to dock into an Orca as soon as someone locked them up, and I'm not quite sure you can swap ships if you are locked. Even tank fitted the mining ships were super fragile and had almost no hope of surviving an attack. Once the new changes are implemented then a miner who gets ganked is just as responsible for his loss as any other player that fails to use the tools available to increase their chances of avoiding a gank.
Which brings us all the way back to the sandbox and the toys we have to play with. Using a destroyer to kill a Hulk isn't something that should be banned. Instead the devs should have realized that allowing such a stupidly cheap ship to kill the top of the line T2 mining barge was silly. It was like giving balsa wood to one kid to build his palisade and giving another kid concrete blocks to throw at the defenses. Finally though the outcry has been such the devs are finally giving both sides the same relative material to work with and it's up to the players to use those resources appropriately.
Being in a sandbox means people have the freedom to create content however best they see fit. The only thing the devs need to make happen is to ensure everyone has toys that allow them to have a fighting chance when someone else decides it's time to knock some sandcastles over.