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CCP Speaks Out on the EIB Scam

Updated Mon, May 26, 2008 by Ralphedelominius

The EVE Intergalactic Bank (EIB) – noble idea come to ruin, or a scam from the get-go?  Either way, many players lost billions in what has been revealed as the largest in-game heist of ISK ever seen in the virtual world of EVE Online.

In the beginning, things were good.  Deposits were made, interest was paid out, and the shareholders were happy.  There were equal amounts of players on the forums, some screaming ‘Scam!’, others defending the EIB as a good thing, and all around both parties, countless players screaming, “Rabble!  Rabblerabblerabblerabble!” for good measure.

The nay-sayers were proven right one ominous day, when owner ‘Cally’ posted details in the official EVE Online message boards showing how he had just made off with 790 Billion ISK (no, that’s not a typo or misprint) in EIB assets.  Public outcry since that day has been understandably vocal!  In the wake of this event, CCP decided to hold a small online press conference to discuss some of the details, as they know them, of… ISKGate?  I need a catchier name here…

Dev-side attendees of the press conference included:

Magnus Bergsson, CCP Chief Marketing Officer;
Valerie “Pann” Massey, CCP Communications Manager; and
Monty Sharma, Vivox;

After a brief set up and intro from Pann, Magnus opened with some background from CCP’s perspective concerning… ISKGate.  (Still not happy with that name, dammit).  Here’s the synopsis:

  • CCP does not believe the amount lifted is as high as 790B; they won’t speculate as to the exact amount, or even ballpark it, but it was less than 790B while still being significant enough on its own.
  • The screenshot of the large transfer amount that has been floating around is inaccurate – CCP says that no transfer in that amount took place.  Doctored image?  I’m not sure exactly what that means, but suffice to say some doubts remain as to the exact amounts as well as what went where, and when.
  • To make this perfectly clear, the EVE Intergalactic Bank was NOT an in-game mechanic.  It was purely player-organized and –driven, and thus open to exploitation within the confines of the game mechanic.
  • CCP is against scams and scam artists of this nature in-general, but so long as people abide by the EULA, funds or assets acquired through what one would term fraud and/or embezzlement in RL are within the context of the game at-large, and thus not actionable by CCP.
  • They realize that the game economy is very real, and represents countless hours of  effort in EVE Online to amass these sums of ISK.  Fraud exists in this virtual world we have all created just as it does in RL; “Buyer Beware” would seem to apply.
  • What CCP does NOT want to do is introduce boundaries or restrictions with respect to these issues, up until the point where something would affect the overall game mechanic.  In that respect, they are very much a “hands-off” company.

According to Magnus Bergsson, CCP’s Chief Marketing Officer, the company became aware of the EIB Scandal at the same time as the rest of us, though the revelation from the perpetrator made in the official forums. In fact, Magnus hadn’t even heard of the EIB before then, it was just one of any number of player-run enterprises that were in or still are in operation.

I asked Magnus about what precautions, if any, is CCP taking to ensure that this ISK does not make it’s way onto the secondary market?  The value of 790B ISK, depending on where you check, could be worth upwards of $170,000 USD if one was able to liquidate it all at once.  He replied confidently that CCP is watching the account(s) in question VERY closely.  I dare say I’d be safe to assume that someone is alerted whenever they log in, to see what transactions occur.  That being said, a concerted effort could potentially launder significant amounts if done right – it would require a massive effort to pull off, but it could be done.  That’s something that CCP will be doing all they can to prevent.

In the days when EVE Online had fewer than 30,000 active subscribers, a scam of this magnitude would indeed have been a significant event on the galactic economy.  These days, however, while 790B is a huge figure on its own, against the size of the general economy it no longer factors in as a significant amount in comparison.  In short, the economy is well-situated to deal with this event.

Word of the EIB scam has made it onto some mainstream online news outlets; a short post was made on news.com that seemed to indicate that those affected may want to consider legal action against the perpetrators as a Real Life case of fraud.  CCP is aware of the articles out there like that, and had hoped that the journalists involved would have done a bit more homework before commenting.  Short of showing them the game and how it operates, there’s not much that can be done as developers.  On the bright side, no MMO has yet to be blamed for a school shooting, to my knowledge…

The question was asked as to what ramifications exist beyond account banning for people caught selling to the Secondary Market -  Is there any legal recourse?  In cases like these, the most CCP can do is ban accounts in accordance with the EULA that everyone agrees to when playing the game.

Much of what made the EIB possible involved a lot of behind-the-scenes ‘Social Engineering’ – contact was made with the people behind the characters, outside the game, on a regular basis.  Player-created enterprises such as this are arising due to the current gap in capabilities that exists with EVE’s in-game Contract system, to be sure.  “Good news, everyone!” as Prof. Farnsworth says – Magnus tells us that it is indeed CCP’s plan to improve and build upon the current economic system.  They were extremely short on details, but Magnus says, “Something is in the works that, we hope, will make the business of ISK selling obsolete!”

Awesome news, Magnus!

A big thanks to Val Massey for setting up the conference, and to Monty Sharma for getting us all up and running on Vivox. What's Vivox, you say? It's the online telephony application that CCP is integrating into EVE Online with the Kali build.  We were using a demo build of the software, but I can report that it worked quite well.  The audio quality was better than some landline telephone conversations I’ve been in, and lag/latency was well within tolerable limits. When you see it implemented, you'll be able to use integrated voice chat while playing EVE Online - more good news, to see that front proceeding well.

For TenTonHammer, this is Ralph, signing off!

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