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EVE Bans Exploiters; Dropping 2% of Users Cuts Average CPU Usage 30% 261

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-stay-out dept.
Earthquake Retrofit writes "Ars has a story about EVE Online banning thousands of accounts for real-world trading of in-game money for profit. From the article: 'Those who buy and sell ISK, the game's currency, are not only exploiting the game, but unbalancing play. That's why the company decided to go drastic: a program they called "Unholy Rage." For weeks they studied the behavior and effects these real-money traders had on the game, and then they struck. During scheduled maintenance, over 6,000 accounts were banned. [Einar Hreiðarsson, EVE's lead GM,] assures us that the methods were sound, and the bannings went off with surgical precision. ... While the number of accounts banned in the opening phase of the operation constituted around 2 percent of the total active registered accounts, the CPU per user usage was cut by a good 30 percent.' Looks like they got the right 6,000.' Further information and more graphs are available from the EVE dev blog."
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EVE Bans Exploiters; Dropping 2% of Users Cuts Average CPU Usage 30%

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  • About time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stoat (125788)

    They shouldn't pat themselves on the back too hard over this. The playerbase has been pushing for it for years.

    • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:21AM (#29155543) Journal

      They shouldn't pat themselves on the back too hard over this. The playerbase has been pushing for it for years.

      I don't play the game, but these guys just forfeited 2% of their profits. And you're saying "about time"?

      Knowingly cutting that kind of revenue requires more than balls, my friend. That requires the confidence that doing this is going to bring at least that 2% back. That it does not scare away more that are exploiting that haven't been caught. These guys took a chance for ideals of the players. There should be nothing but kudos from the community and an understanding that they have your best interests in mind despite scandals in the past.

      I applaud their efforts and found the analysis of "unholy rage" more extensive than anything I've ever seen an MMO release. It almost makes me want to pick up the game and see what it's about. The only thing holding me back is that I have heard it's quite monotonous at first.

      • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:24AM (#29155553)

        "2% of their profits" isn't something you could possibly know. They are claiming that cutting the players reduced their system load by 20%, so the loss of 2% of their revenues might have been offset by lower per user costs and increased their profits, even if they never make it up new users.

        It's likely that you were just being sloppy, but what does that matter?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Artifakt (700173)

          So maybe people should have specified GROSS profits? Yes, net profitability may go up if this cuts Eve's operating costs, and quarterly gross profit may go back up for separate reasons (i.e. this attracts new players or causes dissatisfied former players to return, or both.). Still, this move directly impacts immediate gross profit, and that's something we can reliably know (those of us who have studied small scale economics).
          Since you didn't make the distinction in your comments eithe

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)

            The whole point is that we don't know anything about the cost of revenues for the accounts that were banned, so we can't talk meaningfully about any sort of profits, we can only speculate. We can assume that the costs are similar to the costs for other accounts, but that gets sloppy quite quickly.

      • by ivucica (1001089)

        They may lose even greater player base (more than just gold farmers). On the other hand, such moves might attract other non-cheating players, or keep the current non-cheating ones playing for longer time.

        MMOs employing banning are counting on long-time effects, not on short-time effects. They probably weighted all the facts and concluded this is beter than losing players observing how many people are gold-mining, and how many people are buying the "illegally"-mined gold.

        • by SL Baur (19540)

          On the other hand, such moves might attract other non-cheating players, or keep the current non-cheating ones playing for longer time.

          That sounds about right and I presume that's what they're counting on.

          There was the same vocal (tiny) minority when Blizzard came down hard on mmo glider.

          Nobody enjoys playing against cheaters.

      • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:29AM (#29155605) Journal

        I don't play the game, but these guys just forfeited 2% of their profits. And you're saying "about time"?

        Knowingly cutting that kind of revenue requires more than balls, my friend. That requires the confidence that doing this is going to bring at least that 2% back. That it does not scare away more that are exploiting that haven't been caught. These guys took a chance for ideals of the players. There should be nothing but kudos from the community and an understanding that they have your best interests in mind despite scandals in the past.

        Getting rid of the 2% that ruins the game for everyone else does a lot better for the game than trying to keep them in just because they offer extra 2% profit. Maybe someone has left the game because of that and now wants to go back to try it again. Maybe more players will join (they did get article to slashdot again, and probably to lots of other sites). As you see from the analysis, you also see that this 2% used a lot more cpu etc resources than normal players and affected stability of systems aswell, so they save extra there.

        I've been wondering long time if I should try EVE and last time I read that you could quite nicely do mining on background while doing work and other stuff on internet. Now that they got rid of these people, maybe it would be even nicer experience for me.

        • by ari_j (90255)
          I'm really wondering this. What is the relationship between real-world trading of in-game resources and CPU usage?
          • by Sancho (17056)

            The fact that in order to maintain sales, you have to be on pretty much all of the time.
            Look at it this way--if these people were playing the game 12 hours per day, and the average non-exploiter plays the game 2 hours per day, then when you ban the exploiters, you get back a massive amount of per-user CPU time.

            • by WNight (23683)

              So charge by the hour...

              Seriously, this is just like ISPs who advertise unlimited usage and then ban users who take them literally. And in every post about something like that people like you come along - people who don't game much, or use much bandwidth, and they act like reneging on your contracts is okay as long as you have some token justification.

              Hey, at that, I've looked at my finances and this Visa company is sucking up 80% of the resources... I just need to say that while demanding some money is oka

              • by tsm_sf (545316)
                Hey, at that, I've looked at my finances and this Visa company is sucking up 80% of the resources... I just need to say that while demanding some money is okay, demanding as much as they do is excessive and cut them off.

                Yes, that is in fact what you should do when your borrowing gets out of hand. That you were speaking sarcastically really highlights the credit crisis in this country.
              • by Sancho (17056)

                You assume too much. "People like you?" Really?

                Go work on your reading comprehension. ÂThe poster to whom I replied asked how culling 2% of their users could have such a dramatic change on CPU load. ÂI explained how without passing judgement.

                I didn't read the article carefully, but it doesn't look like they were even aiming for CPU load reduction. They were trying to get rid of real-life sale of virtual goods. ÂYou can argue about whether they should do this, but it's clearly spelled out as a


          • I'm really wondering this. What is the relationship between real-world trading of in-game resources and CPU usage?

            The farming of those ingame resources cost CPU ... especially if done with bots that mindlessly spam combat commands.

            Note: in huge MMOs usually only the parts of the world where actually players are running around are activated and loaded into memory and are executed/simulated by the CPUs. So if less parts of the universe are active you have less CPU demand etc.

            angel'o'sphere

      • by Ilgaz (86384)

        Such games require a lot of time, possibly spared from your real life and if those 3% idiots were gaming the game, their harm were way more than 30% of CPU time.

        I was interested in Eve Online and now have access to Intel Mac, I would have trialed it. If I have seen some rich idiot getting same kind of virtual goods (they speak about trillions) just because he paid to some lifeless idiot, I would cancel my trial immediately.

        In fact, if I did know such things are possible, I wouldn't trial at all. Why bother?

        • by WNight (23683)

          In fact, if I did know such things are possible, I wouldn't trial at all. Why bother?

          Why not? If EVE is your cup of tea you'll need to adjust to the fact that most of the other players have more skills, stuff, and money than you. They've just been playing longer and are ahead. At that, who cares if some idiot payed for his ship? If anything, it's ideal because they won't be very good and you'll get expensive toys for killing them.

          But really, if flying a ship around is fun, it's fun, do it because you like it not to compete.

          At that, EVE is kind of fun. The skill system rewards length of time

      • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stoat (125788) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:34AM (#29155635)

        So cutting 2% of their income vs freeing up 30% of server resources equates to a loss of profit now huh? I wonder what happens when all those farmers just make new accounts.

        I guess you weren't around when they were spending tons of money on new hardware/pissing off the playerbase removing bookmarks/anchored containers to reduce database load.

      • Re:About time (Score:5, Informative)

        by c_forq (924234) <forquerc+slash@gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:38AM (#29155651)
        Actually if you read the article they claim most of these accounts are started using credit fraud. Last I looked, you don't make money when you are a victim of fraud.
        • by mpe (36238)
          Actually if you read the article they claim most of these accounts are started using credit fraud. Last I looked, you don't make money when you are a victim of fraud.

          It could even wind up costing you money, due to transaction costs.
      • Re:About time (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShecoDu (447850) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:49AM (#29155733) Homepage

        In EVE you can buy In-Game cards to extend your subscription, if you have enough ISK, which the farmers most definitely have.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Planesdragon (210349)

        The only thing holding me back is that I have heard it's quite monotonous at first.

        Find friends in-game ASAP. Eve does not get any less monotonous as you progress -- you just eventually find friends, and it becomes worth it.

        If you want to play Eve as PvE, you're essentially playing "how big can my wallet get." It's mindless boredom, and was why I quit when all my RL friends did. I picked it up only when they did, and if I didn't have friends in-game I wouldn't play.

        OTOH... if you want to go for PvP, (which you CAN do on day 1) then there's no better game than Eve.

      • Think of it this way. The stuido CCP has its own Real World Transfer system. You can buy Game Time Codes and sell them to other players for in game money. This has the basic effect of "buying gold" except that 100% of the money goes to the stuido.

        The effect of this was not to reduce their revenue, but likley to increase it, this wont stop people from buying, it will just cause them to buy from the studio itself. Effectively they banned their competitors in the gold buying market.

        However I will theorize that

      • Well, in such a game, long-term balance is the absolute king. Because it is literally equal to the fun that players will have. Which then is equal to the number of active players, positive word-of-mouth and test accounts being made into real accounts.

        If there's one rule for such projects, it's that you must maintain a good game balance at all cost, all the time.

        CCP did it in a pretty proper way. Which is really hard work. I would have done it a bit earlier if in any way possible, and I have a feeling, that

      • by B3ryllium (571199)

        Actually, having played it, I found that it wasn't monotonous "at first" - there were enough missions and such that I was able to have a lot of fun right off the bat with it.

        It got monotonous, for me, when instead of working up the alliances and resources to conduct missions in 0-Sec, I chose to go into the mining profession hardcore. I had thought that with my dual-monitor setup, I would be able to program on one monitor and play the game on the other monitor - and that would have worked fine, if my comput

      • Yes, but they also eliminated the costs to them of that 30% of CPU time. It actually might have boosted their bottom line. I do not have the means to do a cost analysis but loosing 2% of their users might be outweigh the costs of keeping those 2%.

      • by naasking (94116)

        Cut 2% of their income for 30% of their operating costs and increased customer satisfaction? It may not balance out exactly like that, but I'm sure it made sense as a business decision.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        1. Since the accounts had higher than average resource usage they have possibly reduced their expenses.

        2. Such players can make the game less fun for others, farmers can cause inflation and other players buying their way to in game riches can cause resentment. Hence removing those players may result in less loss of other players.

        3. Payment fraud is likely higher amongst farmers than the rest of the player base. They aren't playing for fun and hence more likely to increase their profits by using stolen credi

        • by Plekto (1018050)

          The real issue is that the farmers were using loads of resources and constantly hammering the system every second for 20 hours a day with input updates as opposed to the typical guy who sets it and ignores it for a minute at a time, plays an hour, and gets off. Or who is talking in a chat window in a station.

          Also, the estimate of people in Korea, China, and India that are involved in this is in the millions. And it's not some guy in a basement at his PC, either. It's warehouses with 100+ computers and ne

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        CCP also noted that the accounts they dumped were also responsible for a lot of credit-card fraud which CCP had to foot the bill for. So they didn't forfeit 2% of their profits, they forfeited 2% of their profits minus the costs of the credit-card fraud associated with those accounts. The penalties (both in direct costs for those transactions and in higher processing fees for all transactions) are steep, so it's entirely possible that the fraud costs exceeded the revenue from those accounts. In that case, C

      • A 2% reduction in revenue doesn't reduce profits by 2% when it leads to 30% reduction of the system resources costs.

        The exploiters have cost Eve a lot of players over the years. I played Eve for 3 years and had 4 accounts and along with half a dozen rl mates all with multiple accounts quit because we got fed up with exploiters, gold miners and their ilk.

      • The problem is that those 2% in lost profit could mean the survival of the game. Allow me to let you in on the inner workings of the EvE economy.

        Most MMOs have a fairly steady economy due to it being highly normalized, i.e. dependent on fixed prices due to core equipment being available either from NPC stores or from encounter drops. So, in other words, the economy isn't so terribly important. If anything, a gallopping inflation helps new players because their goods might be bought at inflated prices by hig

    • loss of money? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:22AM (#29155547)

      I'm sure their user agreement spells out that they can ban you for any reason at any time and owe you nothing. But that was before they started selling imaginary property outside the game. THis legitimizes the ingame value of the stuff they just "took" from you without compensation. I bet there are a few in that 6000 that will sue. Might set an interesting precedent if it's not all settled out of court.

      • by Lulfas (1140109)
        You know, I forgot all about that. They can't pretend stuff has no in-game value now in their TOS if they are selling stuff for real money. That might be a really easy lawsuit.
        • If everything fails, they declare everything you have in-game property of CCP and you only have the right to use it for as long as you may have it. You can't sell what you don't own.

  • How ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:54AM (#29155755)

    Ads by Google:

    EVE ISK 500000M in Storck
    $0.02/M in all EVE ISK service , Share the Warefare, 5mins Delivery
    www.THSale.com/Fast-EVE-ISK

    Slashdot promoting exploiting..

  • by Anonymous Coward

    EVE themselves allow players to buy gold with real money. You can buy 60-day GTCs (game time codes) which allow you to purchase 2 months of game time. EVEs own website allows you to exchange these GTCs for in-game currency. So if you want, you can buy as many GTCs as you like, sell them via EVE, and buy yourself the ship of your dreams.

    With a large percentage of the gold farmers killed off, anybody wanting to buy gold will have to do it through EVE. The net result is that many more GTCs are sold, generating

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jedi Alec (258881)

      EVE themselves allow players to buy gold with real money. You can buy 60-day GTCs (game time codes) which allow you to purchase 2 months of game time. EVEs own website allows you to exchange these GTCs for in-game currency. So if you want, you can buy as many GTCs as you like, sell them via EVE, and buy yourself the ship of your dreams.

      With a large percentage of the gold farmers killed off, anybody wanting to buy gold will have to do it through EVE. The net result is that many more GTCs are sold, generating

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jeff4747 (256583)

      EVEs own website allows you to exchange these GTCs for in-game currency.

      Actually, it doesn't.

      A GTC can be used to create an in-game item (one or more PLEXes) which is good for 30 days game time when used by a player in game. PLEXes can be sold to other players for ISK using the normal in-game market.

      As a result, there's a lot of EvE players who "pay" for the game using in-game currency.

      So, CCP still gets paid, established players can play "for free", and people who just can't wait to buy a new shiny get th

  • gaming the system? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isd.bz (1260658) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:59AM (#29155787)
    I find it kind of funny (ironic, Alanis?) that using software to 'game the system' and create money out of thin air is dealt with swiftly and with 'surgical precision', and when Goldman Sachs does the same thing with the stock markets, they are dealt with by being provided protection from the SEC and FBI.
    • by ari_j (90255) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @01:01PM (#29156163)
      Alanis* says it's ironic that people fear using the word to refer to actual irony. In this case, you're good. It fits the definition stated by Merriam-Webster as 'incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.'

      * - Not really, but I am being ironic by using an appeal to authority when the authority in question is the canonical example of a counter-authority. This footnote dropped for the benefit of the moderators who didn't get that. By insulting them to their faces, I am doing them a favor because they now won't have to waste valuable time considering whether what I said is wrong or just unfunny, and can go straight for Flamebait.
    • ...so no, they don't get protected and bailed out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by btellier (126120)

        What evidence do you have that Goldman owns or exerts any influence over the US government? This kind of wild, un-sourced speculation is so rampant and accepted on /. that virtually any comment about corporate conspiracy gets at least a +1, Informative.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by radish (98371)

        Fact: Goldman were forced to take $10bn in TARP aid, against their wishes. Not a bailout, they didn't need or want the money.
        Fact: Goldman paid back said money at the earliest possible opportunity, plus interest.
        Fact: The taxpayer made a 23% profit on the money invested in Goldman. That's $2.3bn for those keeping count at home.

        Rolling Stone didn't mention that, huh? Maybe you should stop getting your financial news from a washed up "culture" mag.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I find it kind of funny that, despite things like this, there are still people who think more government is the answer.

      • by Ironchew (1069966) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @04:00PM (#29157255)

        Less government certainly exacerbates the problem. The answer would depend on your political view. More of the status-quo government with deep private financial connections and an oppressive world military? Or a reformed government with more direct citizen action and more severe representative accountability to their constituents? The people who want more government regulation want more of a public say, since the public almost always gets saddled with the losses of financial irresponsibility.

        Nobody likes the current corporatist system, except the few who benefit.

    • by Pecisk (688001)

      Because rules of stock market are practically just nothing but the air? In theory, there are checks and there are balances, but they are so ridiculously impotent, that it is not even worth to talk about.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Please, this is a huge misunderstanding of what makes markets work. You can't create money out of thin air by trading on stock markets. After all, it takes two *consenting* parties to make a trade. You can create money by taking on risks that other people aren't willing to-- that is, you get paid for bearing risk. This comes in many forms.

      It could be holding on to a bankrupt company's stock, which might be worth $0 when the bankruptcy is over, but it might be worth $1. The expected value might be $.50,

      • by fredmosby (545378)
        So you are saying the money they made was legitimate because they are assuming risk. But when a company takes too many risks and then gets bailed out by the government they didn't actually assume all the risk they were getting money for. It seems like they just tricked the government into giving them my hard earned money.

        Also the fact that this housing market collapse could even happen seems to indicate that these wall street people don't know anything about the risks they are taking.
    • The ISKsellers didn't pay kickbacks to CCP. Duh.

  • The people banned in the unholy rage were ISK (in game currency) framers. They farmed ISK and sold it for real money. One of the reasons for CCP kicked them out without a second thought was because they expect a lot of that currency purchase to shift to their PLEX (Pilot License Extension) system. They allow you to buy PLEXs for real money and either use them to extend your game time by 30 days or more likely sell them, in game to players who have more ISK then they know what to do with. In this way players

    • by AndrewNeo (979708)

      Even worse is that you could spend real world money for farmed ISK, then buy PLEXes, which means that none of your money was going to CCP for an extension of your gametime.

      • by Yaur (1069446)
        Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there is a way to bring the PLEX into existence without sending CCP money.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't tell me most account ids were variants of 'Goldman Sachs'

    • by ari_j (90255)

      Don't tell me most account ids were variants of 'Goldman Sachs'

      Don't be silly. About half of them were registered by the Department of the Treasury. We have to pay back that debt somehow.

  • Whenever I've left an MMO or even uninstalled certain software, I've been presented with a short survey asking me why I left. Let's say my answer was "rampant cheating" or "inability to get ahead because of gold farmers and buyers." If the survey data show that people are leaving at rate r for that reason, CCP has a basis for knowing when those 2% become more trouble than they are worth.
  • So the CEO says that the merthods were sound and the purge went with "surgical precision".

    Just how precise is surgery, anyway? An oncologist tries to be precise, but they know that they will be cutting away good tissue in order to make sure they get the entire tumor.

    EVE clearly succeeded in getting rid of their most CPU intensive players. Given the change in implant prices, they may be right in assuming that this directly correlates to the people engaged in real money trading (RMT). But even so, what dis

    • by Fumus (1258966)
      CCP can log pretty much everything. I'm sure they checked for things like if the person ever spoke to someone they sent millions of ISK. If those ISK were going only to other people, or was that just occasional, etc. There are certain things that can be a dead giveaway.
  • I assume users who engaged in anti-social or rule-breaking rules had enough warning (by the publication of the rules forbidding ISK trading) and plenty of opportunity to defend themselves.

    As we move more and more of our social interaction into virtual spaces (and not only immersive environments, but places like Slashdot or Hacker News) the need to pay attention to the institution of justice increases.

    I have no sympathy for transgressors who live off transgression, but I have no sympathy either with this not

    • IIRC the usual CCP policy in such cases is to issue a temp ban and the offer to explain yourself, with the information that you'll be under the microscope now.

      At least that explains the recent price dip in Trit. It seems the goldsellers tried to squeeze as much money out of their harvested goods as possible before the permban...

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