The idea of avatar-based gameplay has been bandied about by CCP and players for years. Here's a little history which might provide some insights into the topic. Yes, you'll have to click the links and actually read stuff to become better informed.
EVElopedia's Walking in Stations page states that avatar-based gameplay was first referred to as Ambulation. "Walking in stations" (WIS) was a more descriptive name that eventually stuck as the general reference to avatar based gameplay. The release that was intended to start the ball rolling for avatar based gameplay was called Incarna.
As far as I can tell, Ambulation was first publicly discussed in late 2006 at Fanfest with a follow-up in the Walking in Stations dev blog by CCP t0rfifrans. Several months later a dev blog on Walking in Stations: Tactical Map by CCP Eris Discordia was published.
In 2007 at FanFest, Ten Ton Hammer did a video Q&A with CCP t0rfifrans about Ambulation.
In 2008, CCP t0rfifrans was interviewed by Jim Rossignal for Rock Paper Shotgun on the walking-in-stations future of EVE. He was also interviewed at FanFest by mmorpg.com's (then) managing editor Jon Wood about Walking in Stations.
I couldn't find anything in 2009 from CCP about the state of Incarna development or more details about what kind of walking-in-stations content was in the works. This doesn't mean there wasn't anything, but in the time I had to research this post my Google-fu didn't reveal any.
In 2010, CCP was talking about a Summer 2011 Incarna release but had provided no information about what it would contain. Given the relatively ambitious schedule for such a major feature, CSM5 (to which I was elected Chair) requested a status update (to no avail) in the internal forums used for communicating with CCP. We put Incarna on the agenda at all three summits: in June (page 12 of the Minutes), October (page 15 of the Minutes), and December (page 7 of the Minutes). In early October, CCP t0rfifrans published a dev blog that introduced the new Character Creator but reiterated that doing so did not mean an Incarna release was imminent. In December, CCP Ph00ze released a dev blog that talked about the technical challenges of the new Character Creator but did not mention Incarna or release date details for the Character Creator beyond Soon(tm). By the end of December, CSM5's concern was growing. Outside the Summits, no devs would engage with us about Incarna's gameplay or design details yet CCP's apparent intention was to release Incarna within 6 months. After careful consideration, we determined that our obligation to represent players' concerns warranted a public statement to CCP about our Incarna concerns in the form of an open letter on the forums. This statement was extremely controversial and received zero response from CCP (despite our giving them several weeks to respond to it prior to its publication).
It's no secret that 2010 was an extremely disappointing and frustrating year for me, especially as regards Incarna -- a feature that, based on prior hype from CCP, I had been wildly enthusiastic about. Suffice to say, I had a very bad feeling about the planned Incarna release.
In 2011, dev blogs preceding the Incarna release proliferated. CCP Chiliad talked about content for the Incarna release. CCP Zulu soon after announced a release date and summarized what was coming in the first Incarna release. CCP t0rfifrans and CCP Flying Scotsman provided a video preview of Incarna. It was starting to become clear that "walking in stations" really meant walking by ourselves in a single room with nothing much to do there. The release of Incarna that summer was a huge disappointment relative to "walking in stations". That disappointment was exacerbated by extremely short-sighted and misguided decisions that CCP made regarding the pricing and type of items made available in what we now know as the New Eden Store as well as the total lack of attention to flying in space features that were screaming for iteration or just plain broken. Cue rage and drama, riots in Jita, mass unsubs, and finally a re-focus on the Flying in Space part of the game. Note: For further insight into the Incarna expansion (which involved more than avatar-related stuff), see Sugar Kyle's A Look at the History of Expansions, Part 22 and Part 23.
Fast forward to 2015. Following the Incarna debacle, CCP suffered a few shake-ups, resources were re-focused on the spaceships, and many welcome improvements have been implemented for the Flying in Space part of the game. In many ways, CCP is a much better company and EVE is a much better game. It's not surprising then that players continue to discuss their hopes for Walking in Stations.
But to seriously consider such a massive feature necessarily leads to some important questions:
- Does CCP have the chops to design and implement a Walking in Stations feature that would mesh with the Flying in Space game and be favorably received by players?
- Is such an investment even remotely feasible?
Note: Please comment about any inaccuracies in my post, with links to supporting info if possible, so that I can make corrections.