Eve Exploit Summary


Thank goodness for those guys over at Massively, who have summarised the larger text produced by Eve’s Council Of Stellar Management (run by democratically elected players) as they got to grips with the recent starbase exploit scandal. My precis and wibble after the jump.

Basically it turned out that, under certain conditions, resources could be re-used in Eve to create free product. This product, which was manufactured in moon-anchored starbases, could be sold for a fair bit of cash. No one knows how much money was generated by this, but it could be in thousands of billions of isk.

That seems like an awful lot, but as Eve’s economist Dr Eyo points out, daily trade in the game is around three trillion isk, so it’s probably a blip in the seething ocean of economic activity. It could have bank-rolled a fair bit of the 0.0 player alliance empire building, of course, which is not healthy for the game as a whole.

The deeper issues are whether CCP ignored the exploit for four years, as it is alleged, and whether developers were involved in the scam. This latter part seems extremely unlikely, as CCP have been under such close scrutiny since the original industrial scandal a couple of years ago. If they ignored the exploit, then it was probably down to human error: the GMs not doing their jobs properly, rather than any malicious intent. What’s more interesting to me is how CCP responded: banning seventy paying accounts – basically all those people who could be shown to have directly participated in the exploit. That’s been a harsh blow to the corporations involved. (If seventy of my pilots were banned, we’d be in negative pilots.)

Did all these guys really deserve to be banned? Discussions within the game suggested that quite a few of them didn’t even realise that what they were doing shouldn’t have been possible in the game. Eve’s starbases are fairly complicated anyway, and it would have taken careful attention to realise they weren’t working as intended. Lots of folks obviously did know about it, but it seems that they kept it relatively quiet, suggesting that some of the players running the starbases were innocently tending a cheat they knew nothing about. Hopefully CCP’s log-reading is accurate enough that the bannings were just.

Ultimately I don’t think this is a huge blow for CCP’s operation. While it has devastated a couple of major corporations, this kind of exploitation of game systems is just how gamers operate. If they can break a game, or take advantage of brokenness, they will. It was CCP’s perogative to punish this harshly. Perhaps it will encourage people to report exploits more readily when the encounter them in the future… or perhaps not.

25 Comments

  1. feffrey says:

    If it was reported 4 years ago and CCP did nothing about it, then they don’t deserve a ban.
    If they petitioned CCP and they ignored it, I would get the impression that it would be an “allowed” exploit. (I know there are a few in eve, I just can’t think of any right now)
    and banning is way too harsh, just fix the exploit. If you want to be mean destroy the stations and if really mean, take out some SP from the players that were running the exploit.

  2. cHeal says:

    Eve is an awesome game. I love the idea of it so much that I won’t even dare try the trial, lest I not see sun light again. :D

    Good story by the way, I love the idea of such a dynamic economic system.

  3. teo says:

    Which corps did it?
    Also, I don’t trust CCP to ban the right people. They banned the whistleblower for the last scandal. Pathetic

  4. weegosan says:

    It depends surely. If it was a case of “I’ve done this for a year, now I’m worried someone else might blow the whistle first so I’ll get in there and be the good guy” then why shouldn’t they also ban him.

    With this one, there’s no way to know how much chat/event tracking they have been doing before the ban wave so everything else is pure conjecture. Personally and in the spirit of the game I think rather than completely ban them they should freeze their assets and send their character to a prison colony for a few months or real world time.

  5. arqueturus says:

    One of the things that blew my mind when I started playing Eve five and a half years ago was the complexity of the Economy and that was nothing compared to how it is now.

    ‘Allowed’ bugs that spring to mind are ghost training (the ability to keep skill training even though your subscription is cancelled), the history of which is interesting as it was a bug that became a documented feature for 5 years only to be called a bug and removed a couple of months ago. And yes this is something that irritates me personally and veteran Eve players like myself need to take a break every now and then and it was unique to Eve.

    The other more famous exploit/bug that has be wholly accepted in Eve has been documented in such tomes as This Gaming Life by a certain author and that’s Jet Can Mining.

    One last point to make Jim, is your emphasis on paying customers, I expect that the banning has come more due to the fact that none of the 70 accounts will have paid a sub in real money for quite some time as they had a bottom tap of ISK to pay for subs with (for non Eve players, it’s possible to pay your subscription with in game money – ISK). Even myself as a relatively poor long time player could manage to play the game for ‘free’ for about 2 years on my current in game assets and wallet but I choose not to.

    In fact that might be the root of all evil in Eve.

  6. bazzy says:

    I don’t see why anyone should be banned for exploiting sloppy code, other than it discourages people from doing so without the developers having to lift a finger to fix the problem (i.e. it comes down to money, as usual – these companies are happy to hoover up subscription fees like they’re going out of fashion, but when it comes to spending that money to deliver a better product with fewer bugs it’s a different story).

    After all, these people all bought this product in the condition it was in, and they have continued to pay into the system; it’s not like there’s not a strong precedent of people taking advantage of exploits throughout the entire history of gaming, and likewise I doubt this will be any kind of deterrent for the future.

    Personally I don’t play any MMOs, but I take my role in games seriously and so wouldn’t exploit (since I’m paying for the experience and this is one surefire way to ruin it), but at the same time I’d be very naive to expect others not to exploit. Of course, I can also understand why people who do play MMOs would be quite angry at these people, I just wonder if that anger wouldn’t be better targetted against the company responsible than end users.

    To me, this ban is the equivalent of Intel or AMD banning people who overclock from buying their chips, or, rather, taking away the chips they’ve already bought and overclocked without any recourse for recompense or appeal. It’s the companies in this situation that create chips with the inherent ability to be overclocked and people who have invested their own money in the product (and therefore are supporting the product financially) are just using this to their advantage.

  7. unwise says:

    Perhaps they should offer lucrative incentives for unearthing similar exploits in future.

  8. Heliocentric says:

    An mmo you can pay for by being good at the game? Quite stupid. Both in terms of balance and economy. I admit it stops the game stagnation that would otherwise happen by keeping people motivated. But hell, getting killed might mean you can’t play anymore. That’s going to cause people to take things too seriously. I played a space trader mud tdzk, ultimatly taking the reigns of a major group. I proceeded to millitarise a small group and dominate a little corner of the galaxy (in an otherwise uncontrolable galaxy.) i quit because it stopped being fun and the millitarised felt much the same. I can never play an economicly driven mmo. Not until i don’t need to work any more. I know of the ruthless businessman/despot that i turn into given a world that rewards such behaviour.

    I think thats why i loved planetside, its the mmo where you don’t worry about money. Even wow has economy.

  9. phuzz says:

    For the record, the whistle blower had already been banned, at which point (s)he decided to tell all about the bug/feature. Or at least that’s the story they’re telling here. Something tells me the truth in this is deeply buried.
    Do the Council for Stellar Management get oversight of CCP’s logs? Otherwise how can they reassure the rest of the player base (who elected them) that CCP are playing fair?
    (My opinion? CCP were just being slack, not malicious.)

  10. phuzz says:

    (sorry for double post).
    Just read the following:

    CCP is holding off on breaking the exploit down by ISK amount estimates for the various materials, namely to let the market speculation die down

    Art imitates life?

  11. Vanderdecken says:

    If this cripples a big corp or two, it could be interesting to see what this does both to the market and to the balance of power in EVE as a whole – larger corporations leave a void to fill, mass redistribution of assets in a short space of time… a galactic revolution?

    And I echo cHeal’s thoughts – it is utterly spellbinding and a wonderful idea, I’d love to get caught up in its infinite complexities and details, but I don’t have the time.

  12. Jim Rossignol says:

    Market speculation happens regularly in Eve, particularly in response to proposed patch changes. When the scam was revealed the price of ferrogel – the susbstance in question – rocketed, and several people made large fortunes on it.

    It doesn’t look like the damage from the bannings were to any particular powerful players in the alliance game, and certainly not ones whose allies can’t prop them up.

  13. Phoenix says:

    The one thing that really interested me in Eve, when I tried the trial was the ability to trade stocks and shares; that is until it turned out that that feature wasn’t activated. Has this changed yet?

  14. Acosta says:

    When in real life, with real money, stuff like the Mastiff scandal can happens, I’m not surprised such things happens in a game like Eve, it even makes it more exciting. Wish I wasn’t so much out of the loop to play it, I guess joining at this point is kinda worthless now.

  15. Acosta says:

    I meant “Madoff” of course, sorry.

  16. zergl says:

    Discussions within the game suggested that quite a few of them didn’t even realise that what they were doing shouldn’t have been possible in the game. Eve’s starbases are fairly complicated anyway, and it would have taken careful attention to realise they weren’t working as intended.

    You’d have to be pretty thick to not realize that something that’s supposed to take expensive stuffs A+B to turn them into even more expensive stuff C without using up A+B is NOT intended gameplay mechanic, tbh.
    Not noticing doesn’t count as you have to fuel the POS and empty the output silos, so no “I’ve not looked at it for a month and then all the stuff was here”.

    If any of the banned folks actually believed that, EVE’s IQ has gone up quite a bit thanks to the bans.

  17. Jon says:

    Having spent the majority of my time in EVE spending my days trading, speculating and entering non-consensual pvp [because that’s just how cut throat the EVE market is] I think CCP are playing this down far too much, I’ve just read over on Massively.com that this exploit comprised 35% of the Ferrogel market. If that is truly the case this exploit netted those involved horrendous amounts of isk. I’ve traded in Ferrogel, I’ve run the numbers and have the spreadsheets telling me that Ferrogel is a fantastic money earner, the ill gotten gains from this exploit could easily have financed many motherships for the alliances and corps involved.

  18. LactoseTheIntolerant says:

    This is delicious. A lovely little scandal. I love how complex a game EVE is. I’ve never played it and feel it would be impossible to get into now, though.

  19. TooNu says:

    Well speculation aside, I am glad they did at least do something. It appears as if they took this seriously and banning 70 accounts in a game with 33,000 players on at any given time is a bit “meh” i guess to their bankroll.
    I still fail to beleive that only 70 people were involved. I still beleive that the vast majority of them are scapegoats for the real people organising and saying what’s what in a large alliance.

    My guess is 10-15 of these people are actually responsible and the rest are mere workers maintaining a poss, again, speculation.

    Thanks for the report Jim, I was wondering if you would do this at some point.

  20. AlexMax says:

    @Lactose

    Impossible to get into? No, in fact they’ve made it far easier to ‘get into’ as the years have gone by, with a much nicer tutorial and more stuff to do in Empire space.

    Not for everybody? Yeah, it’s still not going to be pulling anybody away from raiding anytime soon.

  21. DSX says:

    Once again Eve provides a better observation and analytical discussion then actual player experience, imho (=

  22. Axiin says:

    Nice, I was wondering we got a Concord notice informing us that one of our corp mates was killed due to complecations. This was the same guy who was super rich and telling me “It’s easy to make money in this game you just have to know how” and when I asked how he responded with “I have my secrets”

    Very nice. I’m glad he got his.

  23. Devin says:

    Zergl,

    You’re assuming that the “dupes” were sole proprietors of these starbases. That’s not likely the case.

    I spent about a year as, roughly speaking, second or third in command of a hundred-pilot corporation in a couple of major alliances, and I can tell you that it would have been easy for me to cover up something like this.

    All you do is, you tell someone “Yeah, the starbase needs fuel. I put the fuel in the corp hangar at the outpost, can you take it over to the starbase, and while you’re there, grab the ferrogel from the array and bring it back? You’ll need to start another batch of ferrogel too, but the materials are already in the array, we carrier-jumped them straight there.”

    See, he doesn’t know whether the materials are there because they got carrier-jumped in, or there because they were never used up because of this exploit.

    This is also a pretty typical scenario. When we ran manufacturing starbases, we usually had one group of pilots responsible for fueling the starbase itself, a different group bringing in the minerals to build the ships, and a third group that ran the build jobs and moved the finished product to market. Each of those activities has certain requirements in terms of time, organization, and logistics, and so while a few people were involved in all aspects, most just helped out with one or two things.

  24. GrayGhost says:

    It’s just a bug. It doesn’t deserve a ban. I remember playing the beta of Saga of Ryzom back in the day when gunsmiths could manufacture rifle ammo at for $25 and sell it back to NPC merchants for $5,000. If you had dedicated enough time and effort into gun smithing skills and manufacturing mass quantities of ammo (took time!) you became a very rich player and a rich uncle to newbies.

    You might think that this upset game balance tremendously, but really it just enabled players to experience the more enjoyable parts of the game sooner, rather than having to grind for untold hours in order to afford that new armor. Eventually the devs “fixed” the profit margin to a point where ammo was so expensive to make or buy that gun wielding classes had been completely nerfed and the characters we had all worked so hard on were rendered unplayable. Ryzom is now defunct. I think if you come down too hard on people who are just trying to use what you’ve given them to their advantage, you’re going to fix your game into the ground.

  25. Jon says:

    Latest news is that so far 178 starbases have been removed. That’s a lot.

    What this means:
    Control of a system is determined by having 51% of the moons in that system controlled by having a starbase at them. Without the starbases you lose control of the system and this can be seen on the in-game map. This means that it will soon be possible to see the areas of Eve that were used the most for this exploit.