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Role Playing (Games)

Labyrinthine 'EVE Online' Scam Recounted 51

Posted by simoniker
from the bad-news dept.
Thanks to Terra Nova for its post discussing "a lengthy, but intensely fascinating and well-written account of an EVE Online [PC MMO] player who brokered a large investment scam by creating a puppet corporation." Terra Nova mentions that the account's nefarious author "does an incredible job of explaining the complexity of MMORPG worlds, the emotional salience of interactions, and how play transforms into work", concluding: "It's a lot of reading, but it's well worth it."
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Labyrinthine 'EVE Online' Scam Recounted

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  • Freecache link... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Right here [freecache.org] in case of slashdotting.
  • The best part... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @03:10AM (#9966027) Homepage Journal
    As soon as a court precedent is set concerning virtual currency, and I dont think it will be much longer considering how bad the scamming is getting, all these people can sue the piss out of this guy. 480mil Isk today is worth about $500. Depending on how long ago this scam happened it could have been worth upwards of $5000 then.
    • by Osty (16825) on Saturday August 14, 2004 @04:39AM (#9966223)

      As soon as a court precedent is set concerning virtual currency, and I dont think it will be much longer considering how bad the scamming is getting, all these people can sue the piss out of this guy. 480mil Isk today is worth about $500. Depending on how long ago this scam happened it could have been worth upwards of $5000 then.

      Laws do not apply ex post facto. You can't change a speed limit from 60mph to 30mph and then mail tickets to everybody who drove on the road while it was 60mph, and you can't prosecute this guy for virtual currency fraud when there was no law against it (and still isn't). The victims are welcome to sue in civil court, assuming they even know anything more about the guy than his online avatar name and a library phone number, but it'd be a rare judge that would take them seriously.


      What he did wasn't right, but at the time it also wasn't wrong (still isn't). Besides, this is fake money. Fake. As in, not real.

      • Sure it was real. Would it be ok for me to delete all the data on your hard drive? Of course not. The data has value. These game currencies have value too.

        I will admit you're right, both on the ex post facto part and the unlikeliness a judge would care.
        • the virtual money in the mmo's IS NOT BACKED BY ANYONE! therefore, it is 'fake' as in money(fake as in toy money). it just something that acts as if it had some value but it does not, like if you used some toy bills as 'money' in your schoolyard play to buy land from the moon or whatever.

          it could disappear overnight and you wouldn't get squat, if the publisher would decide so.

          I'm pretty sure the mmo's have clauses in the playing contracts that state that everything stays the property of the publishing com
          • The only reason real currency has value is because we trust that the goverment maintains it as a limited resource. In MMOs we trust the developers have made the in game currency a limited resource so we attach value to it. The fact that in game currency can be exchanged for real currency which in turn can be exchanged for real products means there is value.
            The biggest difference is as you mentioned, for legal reasons, the publishing company owns all rights to the in game "property," therefore individual
      • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @05:13AM (#9966285) Homepage Journal
        What money is "real" then? There are currency exchanges where you can convert one virtual currency for another, and sites where you can buy/sell virtual currency for "real" currency. Its as much a commodity as any other currency.

        As to the law applying, its a matter of PRECEDENT. I didnt say they would pass a new law. They dont have to. As soon as a judge rules that scamming virtual currency is against EXISTING fraud laws then what this guy did becomes illegal, in a somewhat retroactive fashion. Precedent doesnt have to pre-date the crime, it only has to pre-date the day its applied again in court. This is why you sometimes hear of a court postponing a decision until a [higher profile / more important] case in a [higher] court is decided which will affect the outcome.
        • by BinaryOpty (736955)
          The money isn't "real" because a company controls the world it's in. The company going under and/or cancelling the game would make the virtual money you've collected worth nothing: but if it's considered real money then you could theoretically sue the company for the real world equivalent of virtual money you had when the game stopped. Then also, you'd have to put virtual currency on your taxes and likewise the company running the game would have to send out a tax form (An MMOW-2?) to each and every player.
          • How does this compare to, say, a country, such as Germany post-WWI, where Inflation reached astronomical levels and currency was literally worth less than the paper on which it was printed?

            What's different about a country "folding", as opposed to a "company"?
          • Virtual money is not real money for those reasons.

            And more.. I don't know about EVE, since I can't seem to sign up right now (has their card auth server been slashdotted or something? Not many posts here), but in Star Wars Galaxies, even though you can find tons of SWG stuff on Ebay for real money, it's actually forbidden in the user agreement and grounds for account termination. I think that's a great thing really, and a good move on their part. Whether or not their policy is effective at preventing such
        • What money is "real" then? There are currency exchanges where you can convert one virtual currency for another, and sites where you can buy/sell virtual currency for "real" currency. Its as much a commodity as any other currency.

          You are not selling the virtual currency, you are selling the action of transferring it. You can't sell something that doesn't belong to you, and aside from the question of whether you can buy something which is virtual (clearly you can, since you can order software and downlo

          • Just like dollars arent really yours, the federal government is just letting you hold onto them.
            • More like your car isn't really yours, the government is just letting you hold onto it. In Scotts Valley, CA the police can actually come onto your property and ticket you for expired registration, and then come tow your car for tickets. True story.
    • by fallingdown (709840)

      As soon as a court precedent is set concerning virtual currency, and I dont think it will be much longer considering how bad the scamming is getting, all these people can sue the piss out of this guy.

      If you've ever played Eve, you'll know (or you should know) that this is what the game is all about. It's about lying, cheating and stealing. All the other activities of the game are there only to give context to the end game - PvP. Every ship, missle, player corp - whatever - represents hours and hour

    • So should EVE players be able to sue pirates who extort them out of money in order to pass unharmed?
      • only if someone passes a law making the "extortion" part illegal. nothing to prevent someone from lowering the value of someone elses posessions as long as they arent breaking a law doing it.
  • For full effect... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Incoherent07 (695470) on Saturday August 14, 2004 @03:17AM (#9966041)
    When Nightfreeze originally posted this in SomethingAwful about a month ago, he posted it in about 18 hour intervals, infuriating all of his readers, but adding a great deal to the suspense.

    As for the story itself... it's another tale of people pushing the rules as far as they'll go to get ahead. There's a natural tendency to want to take any advantage, whether it be by exploiting others, exploiting loopholes, exploiting lax enforcement of the rules, or just grinding incessantly. And since the worst that can happen to you online is that you get IP banned or key banned (which only diminishes your standing in that virtual world), it opens up all sorts of doors for people to fulfill whatever escapist criminal fantasies they have. Is that good or bad? Well... that's almost the same debate as "games cause violence".

    The really interesting part is the epilogue: after scamming what would amount to a sizeable amount of cash on EBay, he doesn't buy anything with it or flaunt it, he just gives it away. Guess there's really nothing to do once you're the richest player on the server.
    • by Osty (16825) on Saturday August 14, 2004 @03:33AM (#9966088)

      As for the story itself... it's another tale of people pushing the rules as far as they'll go to get ahead.

      It was more than that. From his story, Nightfreeze was doing a brisk, legal trade business, with a bit of pirate hunting vengeance on the side, until the developers caved into pirate requests to nerf the one real defense a trader had -- the MWD (micro warp drive). In doing so, it made the game nearly impossible for traders, so Nightfreeze decided that if the developers were going to screw around, why shouldn't he? In the end, he realized that he screwed himself in the process, getting all of that money but losing the time invested in his scamming character, so that his new character wouldn't be able to utilize that bankroll for months.


      Disclaimer: I've never played EVE Online, and I'm only going by what was available in the story. It was a good story, though.

      • I've been playing the game almost since release, and this kind of stuff, while somewhat evil, definitely keeps things interesting. I was honestly expecting this to be about Morbor's investment scheme. That guy fooled a good chunk of the game population with his scam that ran for weeks.

        As for the trader losing his only defense to pirates... (The MWD) Well, the whining about who has the unfair advantage never stops on either side. Keep in mind that the story here took place early after release, and the
    • I was one of many waiting for each installment. It was good stuff.
  • that was intense. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JVert (578547) <corganbilly@NOSPAM.hotmail.com> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @03:40AM (#9966099) Journal
    When I first started reading I was soo excited to hear how the game worked. I loved tradewars and never found anything that could replace it. But this was definatly it. His background of becomming a successfull trader using in game skills and social skills for quick advancement; very inspiring. When he loses his family of ships you really feel the pain he is going through. So bitter to go down in a ball of flames taking out your arch enemy but losing everything you had as well, a fitting end to a story, I would have stopped playing right then, but he wasn't done yet. Even when he decides to become truely evil the emotional trauma isn't aparent untill he recounts a fantasy of how his victims will attempt revenge.

    "He would then start to pull something out of his pocket, and the entire LAPD SWAT team would open fire on him. The 9 millimeter hollow-point bullets would penetrate his soft flesh and expand, creating large breaches in each of his vital organs. They would continue to shoot through his body and exit out his back, leaving a gaping hole that would spurt out blood and various torn off chunks of cartilage. They would keep pumping round after round into his fallen, disfigured mass, making sure that he was good and dead. And when they finally got around to investigating the body, they would find out that he was reaching for a pumped super soaker pistol filled with laundry detergent."

    After that disturbing recount you realize he is crazy enough to go through with it. The drama is intense as he earns his victims trust. You feel guilty for suspicous ones who require alot of coaxing, you smile and nod at the one jerk, the guy who has it comming to him.

    When its all done I couln't belive it, I could never have done what he did. I wont sleep tonight thinking about poor HardHead. He lost his money but breaking his trust was the worst of all. Think about it, if Trazir gave him his money back, or gave him the full profits, Hardhead will still never be the same. Yes that irk was indeed cursed.
    • Re:that was intense. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by garibald (17833)
      I actually beta-tested for Eve Online for about a week or so, hoping as you did that it would be a suitable successor to TradeWars... but, at least when I played it, it fell extremely short... there were a large number of items to trade and such, and a fair number of ships... however the trading was entirely based off of your character's skills... also, the differential between two ports was miniscule... most items having exactly the same price in every single port for an entire constellation of stars

      My po
    • Re:that was intense. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by david.given (6740)
      When its all done I couln't belive it, I could never have done what he did. I wont sleep tonight thinking about poor HardHead. He lost his money but breaking his trust was the worst of all. Think about it, if Trazir gave him his money back, or gave him the full profits, Hardhead will still never be the same. Yes that irk was indeed cursed.

      Yeah, I felt sorry for Hardhead. Defrauding Thoggins I could feel good about, but Hardhead seemed to be a nice guy.

      But the one I really want to know about is Frosttt.

      • ... I'm sure he won't be able to write like Nightfreeze ...

        I could just feel the thrill. The original presentation 18 hours apart would have been stellar to read.
      • Re:that was intense. (Score:3, Informative)

        by servognome (738846)
        Probably had to change his name, since now everybody knows he's the one with all the ill-gotten money.
        Poor guy, happy as heck noob with 300M, suddenly getting death threats and confused as hell why
  • by thekitch (805453)
    Now only if Doom III had this kind of immersion.
  • by samael (12612) <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @09:41AM (#9966831) Homepage
    If a character in-game can't lie to another character-game, what's the point?

    Shooting one another is fine, but lying isn't?
  • by bitusmeus (563097) on Saturday August 14, 2004 @10:53AM (#9967103)
    Nightfreeze wasn't the first one to pull off something like this. Back in the early days post-beta, there was a guy (something like Morbo) who was promising 100% returns on investments after two weeks.

    He first got people to make little "pilot" investments of 1 million isk, and paid them back on time. Meanwhile he was collecting new investments.

    Doesn't take long to see where this is going, does it? But for some reason, skeptics were in the minority. Despite warnings of a Ponzi scheme, more than half the people in my corporation started giving this guy money, to a total of about 1/2 billion isk. They never got a dime.

    I wouldn't be suprised to find that all those who did get paid were shills. The guy kept posting apologies and excuses on the various player forums, and managed to keep convincing people to give him money, and keep his original investors believing they would get paid.

    I guess people thought that because it was a game, that no one would rip them off. But think about it, it's a game designed with PIRACY as one of the coolest ways to make money.

    But people didn't or couldn't see that the whole entire operation took place completely within the game mechanics and environment. No cheats or exploits were used. If anything "illegal" happened, then it's only within the game world, which is designed to encourage "illegal" behavior anyway.

    I'm sure Morbo had a great time. I imagined someone doing this in preparation for a term paper on Charles Ponzi or the gullibility of the average investor, etc. My hat's off to him, wherever he is.

  • 2. ??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by hunterx11 (778171) <`hunterx11' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @06:01PM (#9970092) Homepage Journal
    Looks like somebody figured out what Step 2 is.
  • Very well writen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by node159 (636992)
    Wow, very well writen, this beats the scrips of all the movies released this year hands down :).

    I feel sorry for HardHead, if I had been Nightfreeze I would have given him all the isk's rather than give them to any old n00b, but then again I probably could not have gone through with it either.

    Ultimatly Nightfreeze encountered the biggest problem with RPG's, once you beat the system there is nothing left for you. You feel like a hollow shell, don't want to play it any more cause its pointless, you beat it
  • You can be a Pirate in this game, but you can't be a white-collar criminal?
  • Childish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Peter Cooper (660482) on Sunday August 15, 2004 @06:55PM (#9976376) Homepage Journal
    I thought this might be worth reading until I got to this:

    [..] there lies a poorly designed game which rewards the greedy and violent, and punishes the hardworking and honest; and if you think about it, that's a good representation of capitalism.

    Yeah, because it sucks so much to live as a hardworking and honest person in the US, UK, or Japan, compared to how amazing it is in China or was in Soviet Russia.

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