How to make drastic changes, or cleanup without big epic tropes?
I think you can do so quite well by having actual structured events and longer campaigns that -eventually- lead to different scenarios, determined by the players.
The difference is the way they do it now, you have a few tiny events with relatively predetermined outcomes, and you are on a plot freight train towards 'x' 'epic' event. Epic event shows up regardless of what players are doing and there are no stakes, no one cares because no one has spent time supporting alternative outcomes or stakes.
Whether 50 people showed up or 5000 people showed up Jamyl was going to be instagibbed by those drifters.
Why the hell should anyone show up or care about that instead of just watching a news report the next day?
As far as lore and IC plots go, CCP is treating the game and the playerbase more like a plot dissemination device rather than an interactive fiction/choose your fate experience.
It's the fundamental difference in having a good DM and having a guided adventure experience, or a quicktime event cutscene in most games today.
This isn't a stab at the writers or the people doing these events, they have their jobs to do and they do what they are paid to do, I question the underlying approach to the design of the interactive experience is all.