EVE Online player steals space station in massive theft

LOL stands for "Lots of LOL"

The galactic skulduggery of EVE Online [official site] continues. The infamous spaceship MMO has seen a massive theft occur in the typical Eve fashion: a dissatisfied higher-up of one of the game’s military corporations has flipped to another group, bringing with him not only money, resources and ships but, more significantly, a huge space station – a Keepstar Citadel. This is one of the most expensive and formidable structures in the game. Imagine if Grand Moff Tarkin suddenly defected to the Rebels and handed them the keys to the Death Star. And then the Rebels wrote “LOL” in giant letters next to the space station. That’s what’s happened.

(Technically, that writing is done with “warp disruption fields” or “bubbles” placed far in the backdrop. These are normally used to prevent ships inside from warping away to safety. Perspective just makes it look like there’s a “LOL” next to the station. But still – good work, sky-writers.)

To explain the theft in more detail: a player called The Judge has become embittered with his corporation, a group of pilots, fighters and businessmen named Circle of Two. He has his reasons for turning (which you can read in detail on this Reddit post) but basically he was annoyed with his boss and another group offered him billions of ISK (the in-game currency) to “flip”. Which dastardly group offered him the briefcase full of fresh banknotes, you ask? Why, none other than our old friends, the Goons.

The Goons are known more officially as “The Imperium” and are headed by a fellow called TheMittani, a notorious player who was once the de facto king of space. He and his empire finally fell from grace last year in a huge war fueled by casinos and bankers. I covered that in depth here. Today, those gambling institutions are banned, the war is over, and the Goons are recovering. During that great conflict, however, one of the worst break-ups was between Circle of Two and The Imperium. These two groups used to be buds. But when things got hot, the relationship broke down and Circle of Two left the alliance, resentful of being what they termed “a meatshield” for the Emperor (they were sandwiched in a particularly nasty part of the frontlines). The Goons shouted at them, calling them turncoats and traitors, and pledging to have vengeance one day.

Well, deserved or not, they have it.

Whoops

The player who flipped, The Judge, received 300 billion ISK for delivering the Keepstar to his old enemies, he says. And he’s now a member of the Goonswarm himself. The citadel is an expensive structure, costing anywhere between 240-250 billion ISK. More importantly, it holds an unknown sum of ships, equipment, ammo, resources and other marketable goods within its hull. It is possible we’re looking at the biggest theft of goods in Eve’s history but we can’t confirm that to be the case. Although Andrew Groen, an Eve historian who wrote a whole book on the player-run universe, has called it “one of the most significant works of espionage” in the game’s history.

As with all things like this, it has led to an explosion of drama. Another group, TEST Alliance, showed up at the space station with an “escort fleet” to ferry refugees out of the system before the inevitable arrival of thousands of Goon pilots, onlookers and opportunists. This was according to player-run news organisation Cornak, who followed the theft as it was revealed.

Meanwhile, Gigx, the leader of Circle of Two, has been banned for reacting, let’s say, very badly to the backstab. He was one of the pilots involved in the war last year and has an unhappy relationship with the Goons.

The “state-owned” news site Imperium News Network has a fuller report of the story. But of course, be careful what you read. Eve is still 10% spreadsheets and 90% propaganda.

48 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    johannsebastianbach says:

    This game is amazing. I’d never play it as it’s just sooo overwhelming, but I surely do enjoy the occasional articles about the crazy stuff going on in this universe.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This game always generates cool stories, but I feel like, uh…

    I guess that it’d be like real life. Sure if I played I’d have the potential to be someone of worth and note, but instead I’d end up being lazy and giving up halfway through and just work a boring job doing nothing, and people above me wouldn’t care.

    • Moonracer says:

      I played far too much of the game for a year, and that’s how it felt. In my mind it’s “that year I was a mediocre space miner” like any other bland job you remember in real life. I tried to get in on the “action” but it was more insane patience mixed with the dread of losing hours of work if your ship explodes.

      • Sound says:

        You should give it a try, but this time don’t mine, and don’t stay in high-sec. Active and organized null-sec entities, like Karmafleet, have always got things going on. You can keep your ships cheap, or you can fly with one of our constantly outgoing fleets, and then get your ship’s value replaced if it explodes. Nothing lost.

        Anyways, what’s making Internet Spaceship Money for, if not to burn it on something fun?

        Eve can be difficult to understand at first. But once you’ve got it, it’s full of potential.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      “What you need to understand about the apocalypse is that you aren’t Mad Max. You’re part of the skull pyramid in the background.” –some guy on the internet

  3. FrancoBegbie says:

    Why is it, that while gambling with pixels is a bad thing (since they have an associated real-world monetary value), stealing pixels that also have an associated real-world monetary value is apparently a good thing where the thief comes out as a clever hero?

    I’m missing some essential part of narrative here, it seems.

    • SigmaCAT says:

      It’s mostly related to consent, I think. If you are lied to about which exact pixels you are buying, it’s a lie. But if everybody took the contract that their shit might get stolen because they have the ability to do so, it’s easier to accept mischief.

    • phuzz says:

      The gambling was linked (allegedly, but enough for CCP to take notice) to RMT, or Real Money Trading, ie the in game currency (ISK) was being exchanged for actual real life money. This is against the rules of Eve, and potentially illegal as well.
      Another way of looking at it would be that the casino sites were also getting funded via advertising on their websites, and CCP didn’t want someone getting rich off of their game.

      The truth is somewhere in the middle. Initially CCP were ok with people betting ISK in game, and this transformed to organised gambling, which spread to out of game sites, some of which eventually started to do less-than-legal things. At thi point CCP realised that the only solution was to ban all the gambling sites at once.

      • thetruegentleman says:

        It’s this. You never want the IRS (or another national equivalent) to kick down your door and start yelling something about money: it’s a very unpleasant experience that rarely ends well for any company.

    • InfiniteSubset says:

      I had to think carefully about this and I actually think this is a good question to be asking ourselves. I think, in this particular case the major difference is that espionage, theft, and trust are part of the game itself. Handing the keys of a huge station to somebody who is part of your organization requires trust, which encourages building close relationships, but trust without consequence isn’t really trust. Gambling, on the other hand, was ultimately something that was built outside of the game that mostly only used the game as currency.

    • cosmitz says:

      Since you can’t pull that value out of game. You could with CSGO skins.

    • frymaster says:

      I think it’s difficult to draw the line here but I think it’s the external factor of the casinos. This is why abusing a position of trust inside the game doesn’t attract developer attention, whereas the reaction apparently did, because ultimately the communication there is towards a human on Earth.

      As to him being considered a hero, of course the goons (who represent a large group of people and have fans outside their alliance) will think that, along with anyone who likes the pot being stirred in Eve. Circle of two, not so much

      • Sound says:

        Worth noting that while Goons are well known, in spite of all the press, they’re not particularly different from the players in any other large alliance.

        I think this is absolutely true for everyone in Eve: If events fall in your favor, it will be treated as a good thing. If someone else benefits, you notice the flaws, and it’s bad.
        This pattern of behavior is rarely contradicted.

    • Monty845 says:

      You are missing the real world legal considerations involved. When CCP banned gambling, there had recently been a lot of press on game related gambling, much of it negative. There are tons of jurisdictions with laws covering online gambling, and they don’t even want to risk getting investigated/sued/charged. So they crack down on it. If the world all of a sudden decided online gambling was universally legal, they would very likely reverse course, and the players liked it, and it was good marketing.

      Same deal with RMT. Regardless of what you think about the morality or impact on the game that comes from RMT, it has major potential legal consequences for the developers. Basically, no game developer wants to be dealing with the intricacies of banking and money laundering laws. As long as money can never come out of the game, they are largely safe from that, but if they let people take out money, they could have very expensive legal problems. So instead they fight against it, so they can’t be accused of complicity with the RMT that does go on.

      Meanwhile, to the extent that any laws do apply to Eve players being bad to each other, the laws would apply to the players, but CCP wouldn’t be likely to get into trouble. There is also likely an argument for consent, acceptance of the rules by the players, but acceptance by the players wouldn’t be a defense to gambling or money laundering charges.

  4. TotallyUseless says:

    ” “escort fleet” to ferry refugees out of the system ”
    so errrr I don’t get it, why the need for an escort fleet to ferry out refugees out of the system? Can’t the players just jump out on their own?

    <- sorry am not an eve player.

    • Slazia says:

      I would imagine there are a lot of people out hunting.

    • Sound says:

      The purpose of such an activity isn’t to protect pilots; It’s to protect assets. The Keepstar stolen is best understood as a city. It was Circle Of Two’s capitol, stock exchange and market, port, supply depot, parking lot, etc. Losing ownership of the Keepstar means that if the assets can’t get quickly pulled out, then a near-incalculable amount of value is lost.

      But there’s the opportunity, before hostiles surround the place, to squeeze a few jump freighters out, loaded with whatever ‘jewels’ can be crammed in the hold while there’s still time. Ultimately, this opportunity represents a drop in the bucket – most players’ money is tied up in assets, rather than liquidity, in the form of weight-less ISK. And only some of the players were online to capitalize on the opportunity. This was a devastating blow.

  5. Sin Vega says:

    Not necessarily, no. There are several ways to block warping and/or ambush or blockade people, especially for groups that work en masse. Depending on what ships and skills you have available, it could be hard getting out of such a sudden danger zone. As almost everyone in EVE is a coward, an escort can be all you need to put most attackers off.

  6. haldolium says:

    EVE players still create the best stories. I just wish there would be a better game behind the screen of great player created content.

    • Dogshevik says:

      Actually I was hoping for it to happen the other way round. A better game taking notes about enabling player agency.
      So far no luck. The only thing that pricked people´s ears is what ridiculous sums people are willing to pay for pixel spaceships. (personally I think real money tied to gameplay is poison, while others claim it is the key ingredient.)

      • Merus says:

        I think the problem with this is that you only get to the kind of skulduggery you get from EVE by enabling behaviour that drives away the more normal players.

        • Monty845 says:

          The real problem is you need a game that can attract a mix of wolves and sheep. Eve accomplishes this because there is really no other game in its genre, and so if you want to play a real MMO spaceships online game, eve is really the only choice. There are some competitors in the Faux MMO Space game market, like Elite Dangerous, but it is an instanced game, not a true MMO, and doesn’t have the strong market/industrial side of the game, while still being greifable/cutthroat. Star Citizen will be another faux MMO if it ever gets finished. There are some games in earlier stages of development that could compete, but they aren’t sapping players yet.

          You actually saw this in the seminal MMO, Ultima Online. It was one of the first accessible MMOs, and due to lack of competition had a great mix of sheep and wolves. This generated tons of emergent content and fostered strong player relationships. But as more MMOs came along, they started loosing the sheep, and in their attempts to retain them, ruined the game for all the wolves, while still failing to keep the sheep.

          To really get the level of player driven story you see in eve, you need an offering strong enough to attract many types of players, sheep/wolves, casuals/hardcore, empire builders and those who just want to burn it all. But in an increasingly competitive MMO market, no one has really managed to do that again in more than a decade since Eve came out. I certainly hope someone does, but to do that in the more crowded genres is going to require a really revolutionary MMO.

          • Sound says:

            The sheep/wolves part is wrong. It’s a false separation. They’re all just normal players, who generally behave in absolutely average ways in any other game. The difference with Eve is, above all, it’s a social game that tends to promote tribalism. Getting into a group of friends, creating bonds over time, accomplishing things as a group, etc, is the primary activity. That, and wrecking the stuff of your rival tribe next door. That teamwork, friendship, conflict, and grudges is precisely what the game is about. And the game system is geared to facilitate that dynamic.

            You can’t find any kind of existential difference between the sort of player that trades and mines all day, or goes out hunting for stragglers, or bums around in space chatting with friends, or spends their time on a long con. Circumstance can turn any player toward any activity at any time. The protaganist of today’s story wasn’t any particular “kind” of player. He’s just a guy who, like the rest of us, got very invested in his 5 year hobby, and had some feels, and then the right circumstances came along to do something about it. He’s no more a wolf than he is a sheep – he’s neither. He’s overwhelmingly likely to be an average person.

          • Maxheadroom says:

            Respectfully disagree, I think there are wolves and sheep, and im most definitely a sheep.
            Been dipping in and out of Eve since about 2009 and from my perspective Eve is a game all about fucking people over and taking their stuff.
            If you want to mine, trade, explore etc then you’re just fodder for the people playing the game ‘properly’ while mostly paying for the privilege.

            Like I said though, Im a sheep. My killmail history is all deaths and no kills.

            Don’t think Eve should change, I love the stories that come out of it – I just don’t think its for me

          • haldolium says:

            I would say it’s mainly due to the lack of competition. However EVE is very old and has very tedious and inconvenient mechanics that actually do attract a certain kind of players. Not necessarily “sheeps” and “wolves”, but people who can overlook the vast amount of flaws that still resemble a game created many many years ago with a high absence of modern day game design ideas.

            The “spreadsheet” stereotype is not far fetched, but even todays google docs in their basic form have a better UX as EVE has. That is what put me off mostly, since way too much “game” time was wasted upon obscured dynamics and mechanics.

            The awkward encouragement of using 2 accounts at the very least is also off-putting.

            That said, I really miss the community. Even with dicks like CODE it was still the most interesting (and usually very mature) community I’ve encountered in decades of playing games. I can’t really imagine something similar happening with a new IP in these times.

  7. AutonomyLost says:

    Wow.

  8. Amstrad says:

    Wow, apparently Gigx was banned because he threatened to cut off Judge’s hands!

  9. racccoon says:

    It just proves one thing, never trust your neighbours and never trust your friends, as they are all enemies of greed & selfishness. These sort of people have always had this plan. Its one thing CCP has never been able to stop or cope with, they should of curbed it slightly or come up with a fair plan early in the games development.
    Like with all things CCP do! its way too late to do anything.

    • Monty845 says:

      Quite the opposite. The risk of betrayal makes it that much more satisfying when you find friends you can actually trust. Trust enforced by the code or GMs isn’t worth much at all. The fact that someone can betray me and doesn’t is what makes the trust really mean something. The price of course is that someone can betray me, and hurt me in the process. It also means that player communities that actual uphold internal standards matter, as there isn’t going to be any enforcement outside the player community itself. If CCP tried to change this, they would destroy what makes eve special.

      • tlwest says:

        > Trust enforced by the code or GMs isn’t worth much at all.

        I suspect that that is only true for a small minority. One thing I’ve found is that 99% of the time, faux or weaker sentiments have close to the same value to our emotional well-being as “true” statements.

        There are a reason why those unwilling to mouth white lies are considered callous, even when those lies are obviously perfunctory.

        There are some interesting studies indicating that (statistically, not for every individual), we don’t really don’t really process motivation when evaluating how we feel about people saying something. Tell people that you are paying an actor to say something, and people still feel on some fundamental level that the speaker *must* believe it.

  10. ropable says:

    Non-Eve-player here: how does one “steal” an asset like this in the game? Is docking with the station restricted to members of authorised corporations? If players can store assets in it, what’s to stop anyone else from walking off with those assets at any time?

    • Sound says:

      These Keepstars have a lot of widgets and functionalities associated with them, all of which are impactful, and you don’t want to random person to be touching the dials. So there’s a system of “roles” that give permission to do particular actions with the asset(or organization).

      The ‘thief’ in this scenario(better thought of as a turncoat, really) was approximately the second-in-command. So he had many roles & permissions. One of these is to swap ownership status of structures. He used this to swap the keepstar to a holding corp, and then did a shout-out for buyers. Once he got his cash, he transferred ownership again to Goonswarm.

      At that point, the prior faction lost control of the structure. If they’re currently docked, they can stay docked, and if they had processes running inside the station, those processes will continue. But they cannot re-dock if they leave, and they cannot resume processes that stop, or complete.

      All assets inside the Keepstar still belong to the individual character, as before, but if they leave then they can’t reach those assets anymore. Some assets were held inside shared corporate warehouses & wallets, and those are the items are what the turncoat took. All in all, it’s not the assets and cash stolen that was the problem for Circle of Two. The issue is individuals losing access to their individual hangars, paired with throwing the alliance into chaos, logistically and socially.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Solrax says:

    This just sounds like it is too easy. If all you have to do is bribe one player to pull something like this off, well it must happen all the time on smaller scale. You’d think you’d have to do something like bribe a substantial fraction of the corporate board, or turn the generals against the board, or something.

    Can someone explain how it isn’t a flaw in the game design that such an asset resides in a single players control?

    • Sound says:

      You’re presuming that money was the incentive. It wasn’t. The second-in-command did this because they’d developed a grudge toward the org’s primary leader(by many accounts, he’s mean, petty, shifts blame, doesn’t respect his officers). The turncoat wasn’t bribed, nor flipped, so much as he’d finally gotten fed up and hit his limit.

      Meanwhile, the group he cut a deal with has a large and impressive diplomatic and spy ring that exists largely to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities. There was also a real-life working relationship between the turncoat and one of these diplomats. You don’t get to these outcomes easily. A lot of energy is put into making these moments possible.

      There’s systems in place in the game to provide some security from these actions. But in any given organization, you must invest some power into the members of a leadership structure, or they can’t do their jobs. No system is foolproof, and every individual with power has the potential to have a change of heart. This simply cannot be programmed against.

      • Runty McTall says:

        I agree with a lot of this – in “the real world” insider threats are a huge concern too. It’s just a fact of life.

        Only thing I’d say is that a very basic concept to reduce this risk is segregation of duties – basically it takes two or more people to, say, release an invoice for payment or set someone up on the payroll or whatever. SOD doesn’t eliminate all insider risk of course but it’s much harder to find two people willing to take risks to work together on a fraud (and even if both of them were willing, one of them has to take the risk of raising the topic first and potentially being ratted out by the other).

        If it took two corporate officers to transfer ownership of these citadels then it probably wouldn’t have happened.

        This may be by design by CCP though – they might want a certain level of fraud and betrayal to drive exactly this sort of story.

        • Sound says:

          Yeah, those ideas would certainly have prevented the theft.

          But I suspect the reason those system options aren’t available from CCP is simply because that means establishing a team framework is that much more complicated and daunting. I think that they just want to keep it simple and accessible so that anyone has a shot. The last thing they want is for Eve to be even less like a video game than it already is.

          As for Circle-Of-Two, I suppose it’s no coincidence it happened to this group: That sort of bureaucratic mindset is the antithesis of who GigX seems to be, and what he wanted their alliance to be about. Which I can’t actually fault the guy for: He wants to fly spaceships with his team, fight, war, make stories. And not be a paper pusher. It’s an in-escapable tension within the game, where seeking excellence pushes players to be less like gamers and more like professionals. Which is often less fun.

      • Premium User Badge

        Solrax says:

        Thank you, I appreciate the explanation.

  12. syndrome says:

    I’m just here waiting for a headline that someone killed someone over something in Eve etc. and brutally (which ain’t that far from the actuality of Eve’s affairs). And then Iceland’s ministry of Eve going all nuts and making public statements, where they spam yt and global newspapers with paid awareness advertisements and whatnot, until headlines turn into “Is this the Eve of humanity” so they have to change the name to Morning-online.

    When will journalists address the fact that this game is ~70% played by hardcore military professionals (typically US navy and such) situated all over the world? Eve-online is a major export good for Iceland, and someone could say it might be their pledge for the NATO alliance.

    My corp’s CEO is/was a blackhawk mechanic living in an American military base somewhere in Asia. Eve-online was basically his only relationship to ‘normal’ world, and these people invest way too much of their time and focus, into this crap grindfest game where all of their relatively proactive colleagues already are.

    This guy had his ingame assets flipped by his best mate, who was still in USA at the time, and this wasn’t where it ended: best mate managed to extend this expropriation until he got his RL house and his RL wife as well.

    So it’s quite important to mention that this game is so special because its dwellers are so special. I hope I’ll see a similar report from the Second Life next time, that’s how much we should all care about it.

    Eve-online IS NOT A GAME. It’s a paid rollercoaster of pain for people who are neck-deep in the Samsara, who like politicking and navigating social stratums, who are vane and morally dispersed. It is a political machine inserted into population with too much money and too little individuality. As such it’s a scam, much like WoW is, as it exploits weaknesses in people, underdeveloped social intelligence and status, and hoards money for doing nothing to make them aware of how lost they are. You might call it “entertainment” as much as gambling is “entertaining”, but it’s certainly not a game.

  13. teamolulz says:

    what we really need to look at is why is the makers CCP, allowing its CSM’s to create back door deals to ruin the game for 1000 ‘s of its members? Whag it appears is that CCP allowed one of its CSM”s with a personal beef to conspire with another CSM to take 5 years worth of effort away from thousands and give it to its pet players , and yet they wonder why the game is dieng.This game needs to die even the people running it are corrupt, save your money

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