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.