Yeah, I went there. Probably one of the most controversial topics in all of Eve: risk vs. reward.
Right now the greatest risk to a player and his/her assets is another player. That being said, the risk of another player having the opportunity to kill you with respect to the environment you're in (0.0, low sec, high sec) is mostly binary: you can be easily attacked and killed in low sec and 0.0, much less so in high sec.
This equates to an exponential increase in safety in high sec systems over low sec and 0.0 without a corresponding decrease in profit and functionality/ease of use in high sec. Amusingly, one of the game design features in World of Warcraft (WoW for short) that it has over Eve is that in order to engage in higher tier PVE and gain higher level items, you have to leave the complete safety of it's cities and venture out into its version of low sec or 0.0. Not so with Eve.
Now, I'm not just advocating something as simple as moving L4 Agents to low sec and 0.0 space. I'm proposing a total re-think of how Eve is constructed from a risk/reward standpoint. What if high value items were only allowed to be put on the market in high risk space? No T2 items allowed to be sold in high sec for example. All faction ammo and items restricted to low sec system markets. Stuff like that.
I can already hear the carebears screaming in horror. The above suggestions couldn't be implemented without a few other changes in Eve's core design. Most notably Eve's jumpgates and how their connections force traffic patterns and form choke points.
I'm proposing that there be multiple parallel paths through low sec areas between high sec 'islands' of systems to allow players to have a wide variety of paths to take when travelling between systems so that they're not forced into a narrow choke point that is camped 24/7.
There should always be the capability of a completely high sec chain of systems to travel from one high sec island to the others, but these routes should be exponentially longer than taking a route through low sec or 0.0 space. If there are multiple 6-7 jump routes from Rens to Jita for example, then there should be 2-3 routes that will allow you to make the same trip, but the number of jumps should be increased to 50-60 jumps. Anything that increases the value of time in the game increases the relative value of risk as well, and that is always good game design.
How many stories on the Eve forums do you read about cargo pilots making great escapes with valuable cargo past multiple hostiles over multiple systems? Not many. I think that the Eve profession of smuggler/cargo transport pilot is under valued and under utilized in todays Eve simply because there isn't enough value placed on time and the lack of time cost to move between high sec markets. A large part of that particular problem is due to the introduction of Warp To Zero (or "WTZ), but that's another post all together...
So, given the above very limited illustrations of Risk vs. Reward, what other systems in Eve, large or small, do you think could be changed to radically improve game play and further promote player interdependancy and interactivity?