At the start of the event, Rohan from Blessing of Kings wrote a post to ask whether the new implementation of PvP on Ilum was "genius or madness", which summed up pretty nicely of why I personally really enjoyed it:
Free-for-all keeps things balanced on servers with unbalanced factions. Small teams only keeps the feel of multiple forces running around, prevents raids from stomping everyone, and gives tanks and healers a place in combat. The quest objects and respawn timers give people something to fight over, rather than simply ganking. Plus, it's only 2 of 6 quests, so it is pretty optional if you absolutely hate PvP.
The final interesting note is that this is a temporary event, though it will be repeated in the future. By making it temporary, it means that when the event appears again, everyone will flock to it again. This keeps the numbers high and many people involved, which is essential for good PvP.
However, looking around the forums, blogs and general chat, I actually saw a lot of people complain about the PvP portion of the event. Essentially the complainers seemed to come from one of two factions: on the one hand we had the PvE purists and completionists, who felt that they absolutely had to do all the quests regardless of whether they involved going to the PvP area or not, just to then complain that anyone actually engaging them in PvP in a designated PvP area clearly had no life, no self esteem and/or a small manhood. On the other hand we had the hardcore PvPers, who felt that the PvP area had way too many non-player mobs in it and that it was pointless to PvP there because there were no tangible rewards for actually killing people.
While both groups came at it from a different angle, their complaints kind of met in the middle to agree that the PvP portion of the event somehow wasn't "PvP-y" enough because there were parts of it that involved interacting with the environment (gasp) and random ganking didn't pay off.
I can certainly see where they are coming from, but as someone who is neither a PvE purist nor a hardcore PvPer, for me this was exactly why the free-for-all PvP did work so well. I'm someone who enjoys both PvE and PvP, even if my focus definitely lies with PvE. I do enjoy a good in-game brawl as well though, as long as it's optional to take part in it and people can easily walk away from it if it stops being fun. As such I've occasionally wondered what it would be like to level on a PvP server, but I can't actually see myself doing it because PvP potentially being omnipresent would make it hard for me to ever enjoy myself in peace. With that said, I loved the new PvP area because it was essentially a mini-simulation of life on a PvP server that you could easily pop in and out of at your leisure.
"Ooh, so nicely grouped up for AoE... oh wait, I'm still a healer. Never mind."
I do think that both the quests involving mobs and the lack of rewards for actually killing people were an essential part of why it worked like that. The quests provided people with a reason to go to the area and mill around there for a while regardless of whether anyone else was there at the time or not. Nobody likes to just sit around and twiddle their thumbs while just waiting for PvP to magically happen.
The lack of rewards for actually killing people was an important point in my eyes because it actually made the decision whether to cooperate or fight a genuine choice. For me personally at least, not knowing whether those red names over there would engage in combat or not was a big part of what made things interesting. I did queue up peacefully a couple of times, when it was quiet. Other times I engaged in mad mayhem with guildies, sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but it was fun regardless. However, this was only possible because the rewards for fighting were limited to capturing an objective more quickly and simply having fun. I'm pretty sure that if there had been better rewards for actually killing people, the area quickly would have devolved into nothing but a pure farming ground for the strongest PvPers, with nobody getting anything else done. Would that really have been more interesting/fun?
I hope that Bioware considered the way the PvP worked during this event a success and won't change it too much in future reiterations.