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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Massive Bank Fraud In EVE Online 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the virtual-madoff dept.
djconrad was one of several readers to point out the latest major scandal in EVE Online, the space MMO notable for its large, player-driven economy and the entertaining stories it often generates. A player named Ricdic, chairman of a large in-game bank, decided to embezzle roughly 200 billion ISK (the game's currency). Ricdic exchanged the ISK for about $5,000 to pay off real-life debts. Massively has an in-depth write-up about how the theft affects the game and its players. Since the scandal became public, there's been a run on the virtual bank, and its executives are doing what they can to reassure people that it will continue to exist. Ricdic was banned, not for the embezzlement, but for trading 200 billion ISK for real currency, which is forbidden by EVE's EULA.
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Massive Bank Fraud In EVE Online

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  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Panzor (1372841) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:16PM (#28577325)

    Then why didn't you submit it then?

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:18PM (#28577335)
    EVE continues to be an interesting study in politics and intrigue but I will forever fail to understand its appeal as an MMO. I've tried playing it - it totally does not appeal to me in any way, what-so-ever. It was about as dreadfully boring as a game could possibly be without being nothing at all. In my opinion. But, its political backstabbings and manipulations of its systems sure as hell generate some interesting stories... Intensely interesting and dreadfully boring at the same time.
  • by Manip (656104) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:19PM (#28577349)

    You might think I'm being sarcastic but really. Each time I read one of these stories about an Eve problem I only want to play the game more. I've played other MMOs and having full banking institutions, investments, and companies exist is within its self very rare.

    I mean all games have some kind of monetary system and by extension a way to trade money for goods. But very few are able to recreate the real world so closely.

    Take for example World of Warcraft, you have gold, and you can trade. But you'd never have real businesses exist because the game just doesn't work that way, let alone banks.

  • In my head: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alzheimers (467217) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:23PM (#28577373)

    Kneejerk response #1: This jerk is why we're all going to have to pay income taxes on our MMO loot someday.

    Kneejerk response #2: Finally! The solution to the health care crisis...Gold Sellers!

    Kneejerk response #3: You're only jealous you didn't think of it first.

    -----------------

    My Final Conclusion: I just hope his kid is getting better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:36PM (#28577457)

    The reason eve fails is BECAUSE it replicates the real world too well. When you "play" Eve, one gets the distinct feeling that one is actually not playing a game but doing work. The feeling of the drudgery of work.

    Maybe CCP will learn from the financial crisis that a utopian hypercapitalist world is not only a fantasy world, it's not all that fun.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:58PM (#28577541)
    And where exactly do you find people that want to be janitors and coal miners? It's a rather Utopian view to suggest that it's something that everybody can have.
  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zergl (841491) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:37AM (#28577751)

    Either way, I don't know why this is surprising except for one fact: That it didn't happen much, much sooner. That's what happens when there's no real world consequences for your behavior (or you think you can avoid them).

    That's not surprising. It happened before and it will happen again.
    EVE has a very rich history of large scale scams, reaching from investment scams like this one to long-planned infiltrations of alliances like the infamous heist [klaki.net] by GHSC (who incidentally ripped assets to the tune of 200ish billion ISK off one of the major alliances again just recently [eveonline.com]).

    The only "surprising" and novel bit about this story is that he apparently/supposedly didn't do it for the e-fame or e-gain, but for RMTing the scammed ISK because of real life troubles, which was the reason for his subsequent banning.

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:42AM (#28577779)

    I don't know why this is surprising except for one fact: That it didn't happen much, much sooner.

    Because people are inherently honest. Dishonesty is an abnormality. Even in this case, it took $5,000 in immediate real life needs for this person to cause harm in a video game to a fictional economy, and the only punishment is that a few ones and zeroes got flipped around so they didn't like a few other ones and zeroes anymore. It's this very fact that pisses game theorists off to no end -- agents in the system continue to act completely irrationally (ie, to trust) when the rules clearly indicate every advantage for the "cheater" and next to no consequences.

    Trust is inherently illogical and irrational and yet it works. Society is built on networks of trust -- most of our institutions and infrastructure that allow life to go on the way it does right now depends on the vast majority of people playing by the rules. Rules which, for the most part, are arbitrary. There are very few rules that are "naturally derived" -- For example, not murdering people is a naturally derived rule because we can't exactly make going extinct legal. O.o Traffic laws are, for the most part, arbitrary -- red means stop, green means go, drive on the left (or right), etc. But we'd never be able to use the shared public resource (the highway) without them.

    Human beings are social creatures. In order to survive, we have to trust one another. Every social organizational structure is derived from this basic concept -- it simply varies in how we trust, to what degree, and to whom.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:51AM (#28577825)

    The system of monetary exchange already provides fully and completely for the automation of tedious tasks. For example, putting wheels on cars, putting beans in bags, creating pencils from wood. The world has a pool of labour and a stream of output, and the sum of the latter equals the standard of living (although not equally distributed). Monetary exchange imperfectly but quite regularly pushes towards the maximisation of output given the available labour by reallocating whatever labour is available to where it gives the most output. If you change the nature of the input (labour) or set constraints on it you change the nature of the output.

    In this specific case, the technology simply isn't there in most cases (robotic janitors? Welcome to 2100. Here's what current state of the art robots looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASoCJTYgYB0

    Even if the labour that goes into janitors is reallocated into robot designers, robot constructors, factory workers at robot factorys, salespeople, accountants, people to program site specifics, robot maintenance etc, you're likely to have a substantially lower output, which in practice means a lot more dirty buildings.

    Shorter shifts? So e.g. someone who's a janitor only needs to actually work 3 hours a day to earn 80% of someone who spent ten years of study loans to get a PhD? It's an interesting concept, but would in addition take a massive increase in labour supply to make the amount of dirty buildings not increase when people work less.

    Obstacles:

    Q: But tedious work dulls the mind. Surely if tedious work was eliminated for a short while, their burst of creativity would rapidly increase the state of technology until robots were fully as productive as humans?
    A: Uh. Well. Yeah, one could go to Bangladesh and retrain 30% of the populace to be robot designers. Or you could. Good luck.

    Q: This really pisses me off in an NSFW way
    A: Which is why you explain away reality by creating the fantasized "sabotagers", those who stand in the path of enlightened progress and whose only joy in life is to obstruct and create odious pain for others which in some not fully clear but still obvious-to-the-world way leads to profit for them.

    I'm sorry for the sarcasm, but if someone starts talking about a global conspiracy of shadow communists they would be physically harassed in many places as well.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:16AM (#28577911)

    EVE continues to be an interesting study in politics and intrigue but I will forever fail to understand its appeal as an MMO. I've tried playing it - it totally does not appeal to me in any way, what-so-ever. It was about as dreadfully boring as a game could possibly be without being nothing at all. In my opinion. But, its political backstabbings and manipulations of its systems sure as hell generate some interesting stories... Intensely interesting and dreadfully boring at the same time.

    Perversely enough, those are exactly the play mechanics they wanted to emulate.

    MMORPG's are weird beasts. On one hand, it doesn't feel like an RPG because nobody is in character, nobody is playing according to the setting's fluff. It all feels like a bunch of game geeks dorking around on a video game. But on the other hand, these seemingly average, real-life people can be anything but. I'm not just talking about the mild-mannered high school mathlete who becomes a griefing dickhead when he gets online, I'm talking about the people who work out the elaborate con jobs. There was one massive screw-job that took over a year to plan and execute. You don't really know anyone.

    I played EVE briefly and am firmly in the carebear camp. If a game is any bit more complicated and involved than an FPS deathmatch, I'd prefer to be playing as a team rather than in competition.

    The time it takes to put into a game like this, to get anywhere, to pull off these virtual coups, it's mental illness in a can. We're talking obsessive behavior, unhealthy commitments of time not seen outside of stalker/murderer ex's and the terminally ambitious.

  • by cratermoon (765155) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:35AM (#28578005) Homepage
    Oddly enough enough, there's a corp in Eve known as the Somali Coastguard Authority.
  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:03AM (#28578345)

    I'm not really sure why this is newsworthy again. There is a massive bank scam or other fraud or corporate infiltration every couple months in EVE-Online going back a number of years, now. It's a part of the game and happens regularly. Space is a cold and hard place.

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:22AM (#28578417)

    The problem is, there IS actually no real consequence. What is the consequence? The account was banned. That is a consequence ... how? Sure, the average gamer would probably be a little shocked, a few years of his life down the drain, but someone whose goal is to con? He doesn't play anyway.

    It's also not a safeguard against never doing it again. He could just hire someone to make an account for him.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:29AM (#28578443)

    "Metagaming" is thicker in EvE than in any other game out there, mostly because your chance to impact the playing experience of other players has never been higher. EvE is a social-economic experiment of sorts, a lot of the experience you have depends on the interaction with other players.

    Of course, if you're not into that, there are few MMOs out there that could be any more boring.

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bogjobber (880402) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:55AM (#28578773)

    Because people are inherently honest. Dishonesty is an abnormality.

    That's true to a certain extent, but I would add a large caveat. People are honest when they know obeying the social norms will be rewarded, and there is a real chance of being caught or punished for their dishonesty. Most people don't steal, but if a situation like the article describes occurred in meatspace, people would be stealing like crazy.

    The trust can't co-exist without strict societal rules that reward cooperation and discourage selfishness. That's why in game theory problems like the prisoner's dilemma [wikipedia.org], people will try to help themselves at the detriment to their partner, even though the optimal solution is to cooperate.

  • by discord5 (798235) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:17AM (#28578827)

    Isn't the idea of a game to escape reality, not have it mimic so flawlessly the errors that exist in reality so heavily?

    That, or the fact that you can be a bastard as much as you like. I no longer play Eve, but it was great fun camping at a gate waiting for a good mark to blackmail. Oh, I could tell you stories of people that came after me with a bigger ship, and how I'd blackmail them again, or how they would bring more friends than I could bring and I'd have to run and wait until they got bored with chasing me around the nearby systems.I could tell you about how I once infiltrated a small corp with an alt and cleaned out their hangars, and the smile on my face as I sold some of it back to them without them realizing. Oh, I escaped reality alright. I got to be that very person you should never trust, and I've had so many insults thrown at me that it still makes me smile whenever I fondly reminisce those days;

    That was the fun in Eve for me. Some like to build large empires to wage war and play politics, others like to spend their time gambling on the markets, and some just like the idea of wearing an eyepatch shouting "ARRRRRRRR".

    Eve is one of the few games where I often reconsider playing it again, but it just wouldn't be the same without the gang of friends I used to annoy people with. That, and the considerable amount of time it would take away from other hobbies I've picked up since.

  • by PleaseFearMe (1549865) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @08:57AM (#28579507)
    In real life, a reputation follows a person. No one will invest in Madoff anymore. In the game, a reputation follows the username. If the game does not allow username changes, then being dishonest would adversely affect the cheater's game play, which means cheating/punishment is _a part of_ the game. People probably were no longer willing to play with Ridic anymore. In games like Counter-Strike, if a person does not cover you in one round, then you remember the name, and no longer trust him to cover you in the next round. It may not seem to be as big of a deal in Counter-Strike because almost everything resets in the next round, but nothing resets in Eve and people lost hard-earned money. So in summary, in Ridic's case, the cheater lost even if he did not get banned, because no one would be willing to play with him again.
  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:47AM (#28580497)

    CCP warns consistently that they track all ISK transfers and once they come down on an ISK-seller, all the money he ever traded is not only gone, but replaced by the same figure with a "minus" in front of it. If you bought a lot of cash it could mean you'd be bankrupt on that character.

    I'm not sure how often CCP exactly does that kind of thing, but in this case they have a pretty good incentive to come down hard on the sellers and buyers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:07PM (#28580649)

    It's this very fact that pisses game theorists off to no end -- agents in the system continue to act completely irrationally (ie, to trust) when the rules clearly indicate every advantage for the "cheater" and next to no consequences.

    I work using game theory to model international relations. This is not at all a problem for game theory; in fact, game theory tends to presuppose that trust is the default choice and treachery is the abnormality. Your hypothesis of some inherent human altruism as being more explicative of human behavior than game theory is bunk.

    Your problem is that you only understand game theory in its most basic form: a single round game with four possible outcomes. In this configuration, it is true that it is best to cheat, but this does not model anything in the real world and game theorists don't use it; this is just the introductory version that we give to students who are unlikely to ever actually use it.

    What is more realistic is to suppose games of many rounds between the same players. In this case, players will not cheat because they know that if they do that, their partner will also cheat in the next round and it costs more in the long run. This conception works out pretty well in empirical testing: experiments show that students playing multi-round versions of the prisoner's dilemma for cash rewards will not cheat until the last round, when they tend to cheat. If they play a single round, whether they cheat seems to vary depending on the environment that the experiment is conducted in. If they don't know how many rounds they will play, they almost never cheat.

    As part of my master's thesis, I ran that last situation: in over 400 rounds of the game between 80 participants, I had exactly one cheater, which was perfectly in line with what the theory predicted.

    Today, game theorists mostly work on how cycles of trust work. For example, as I mentioned above, if one player cheats once, then his partner will cheat the next round. Both players will move into the mindset of minimizing damage and cheat consistently. To break out of this, you need to introduce communication and small stake games to rebuild the trust cycle.

    The problem with game theory is not some inherent human tendency to honesty as you claim, but that it supposes that the players have perfect knowledge, which people don't in the real world. Ambiguity leads to less risk taking, which leads people to avoid cheating, even in single round situations. Another shortcoming is that it is very difficult to build games that are complex enough to model the real world, but again, this has nothing to do with your hypothesis.

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:25PM (#28580757) Homepage

    But they don't appear interested in having real world laws used against the guy.

    That's because he didn't break any real-world laws. He violated the terms of service for the game. All that means is that they won't let him play anymore. There's no law against taking real money in exchange for a minor data modification (setting a variable to 200,000,000) that's utterly inconsequential in real life.

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