All the haters of high sec players and indy types like to throw around Eve memes like "pubbie", "care bear", "sandbox" and "theme park". PVP types are pretty much incapable of understanding or even accepting anyone who isn't angry enough to try to attack other players with no more expected gain than an e-peen number boost on a kill board. The same angry little pvp types will also be quick to advise that said care bears would be wise to go "back" to a theme park MMO. Like many/most memes, many/most of the users have no real clue what they are talking about, what the meme actually means, and angry Eve types are no different.
A "theme park MMO" is basically any MMO where the content of the games is decided by the developers. Regardless of how often you try or experience that content, it's going to be the same. It's like a real themepark. You go on the roller coaster today, and it'll be pretty much exactly the same ride you took on it last week, unless of course Bill-the-maintenance-guy was off getting a little sugar from Suzy-the-candy-floss-girl instead of tightening roller coaster track bolts. How many roller coaster type rides does Eve have?
The most obvious place to start is any pve content, and contrary to the pro-pvp crowd, Eve has tons of pve. All the different types of missions are a very obvious addition to the theme park list, regardless of the type. Planetary interaction, research agents, COSMOS missions and epic arcs are four more. There are grav, radar, and DED sites to scan down as well, and that too is pretty much clockwork, bog-standard pve content. More theme park-ery. How about grinding for rep or status? Same. How about crafting?
In Eve, "crafting" is a sure magnet for hooting and derision, but the industrial player does pretty much the same thing as any crafting player does in any other MMO. The player goes out, locates and collects crafting material, either from the environment or from killing npc mobs. They train up specific skills in order to create whatever particular item or items they decide, and in some cases need to buy the recipes first. Sometimes, the player even needs to go into hostile areas of the game where either pvp combat or high level npcs provide a higher level of threat to make it difficult to obtain special materials for higher level items. The player takes the materials, builds the item, and uses it or sells it. Are we talking about Eve, WOW, LOTRO, or GW2 here? Doesn't matter, they're all the fucking same as far as "crafting" goes. Pretty much full-on theme park.
Eve has tons of theme park content but there's also another clever meme to learn, and that's "zoo". In basic parlance, a "zoo" MMO is set up so that a particular game feature can be tried almost as many times as you like, but each time, the content of the feature will or can be a little different. Just like in a zoo, where one day you walk by the lion enclosure and the lions are outside sunning themselves, and the next day you go by, they're up against the feed shed going halfers on a memory. Lots of content in Eve was highly predictable pve, but since CCP jacked up the AI levels recently, higher end npcs can be tough little peckers to deal with, because you don't know what they're going to do every time. I'm specifically talking about sleepers, complex sites and Incursion npc AI here. CCPs plan is to jack up AI across the board to make npcs act more unpredictable. Maybe not full on zoo-ness, but definitely zoo. More zoo stuff is T2 invention. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Scanning down wormholes, grav sites and other random spawns are also on the "zoo" side of game play. So, there are some "zoo" aspects to Eve, and more zoo-like features have been suggested for future inclusion.
In a "sandbox", the content is player driven. A "real" sandbox has sand and . . . well, that's fucking it. Eve isn't a sandbox. It has a shit load of rules and mechanisms. Eve players like to turn up their nose and claim it's a sandbox, but I played in sandboxes a lot as a kid, and I can't do a fraction of the shit in Eve that I could in a sandbox with just a stick and a rock. The closest thing to a "sandbox" that I've ever played on a computer is Minecraft. In there, the only thing that limits you is your imagination. If the standard game play in Minecraft is too plain for you, then you can always make your own mod and truly build your own content, in a world that is completely unlike anyone elses. In Eve, people are obviously confusing a minimised EULA with a sandbox. Being able to be an asshole doesn't make where you're standing a "sandbox", it just makes it a spot where an asshole is standing. Being able to run around in areas with low level/new players and ganking them doesn't make it a sandbox either. People could do that in Asheron's Call or Ultima Online, to name just two. Being able to claim, upgrade and control in-game territory is also nothing new. DAOC, LOTRO, WHO, and GW2 are 4 that quickly come to mind, where you could do exactly the same thing. No body was yapping about sandboxes with them. At best, being able to fuck other players around without the Eve devs stepping in, it might amount to a spoon full of sand. Far from a box, unless it's maybe a little box that a ring might come in.
"But look at null sec! Players control that whole area of the game." And? I knew of a guild in DAOC that controlled the whole RvR area of the game server and were operating no different than the null sec alliances in Eve. That was also complete with battles involving all three races and hundreds of players fighting over keeps and resources. Again, being able to lie, cheat, steal and grief in Eve, doesn't make it a sandbox, that just makes it a game that attracts assholes, generates lots of "bad" news for Eve, and simultaneously keeps the majority of "normal" gamers away.
When you look at it, without the kool-aid glasses, Eve is maybe about 80% theme park and 19% zoo, with more npc zoo content planned, and 1% sand . . . spoon. When it comes to null and pvp zones like Factional Warfare, the sum total of active accounts in those two areas is somewhere around the 20% mark of active accounts, and all those players are operating with 100% reliance on the theme park content for every item they own.
So, the next time some meme spouting drooler of a pvp player tells a care bear to HTFU or go back to a theme park MMO, tell them to fuck off. Tell them to then go get a clue. Then tell them you already play a theme park MMO. It's fucking Eve Online.