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Band of Developers
February 12, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

A hacker breaks into the forums of the guild Band of Brothers on the MMORPG Eve, where he discovers an Eve devolper, called t20, is not only a high-ranking member of the alliance, but has been feeding BoB expensive and rare in-game items. CCP, the company who runs EVE, denies any wrong doing, before it is revealed that CCP knew about t20's abuses for over six months. Players are not happy.
posted by Snyder (49 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
What in the world are you talking about? Guilds? CCP? Alliance?
posted by trbrts at 3:17 PM on February 12, 2007


I'm outraged, and am going to cancel the EVE Online account that I've never had right away!

Heh.

Back in the day, there was a MechAssault-style gaming center in (I think) Chicago's North Pier. You paid your dollars, and you sat in a giant robot-shell and drove your robot around, blowing up other people who also paid to sit inside giant robot-shells.

They had a wall of monitors near the entrance, so that people could watch the progress of each player from a 1st-person perspective. I was watching one day as an employee sat next to his computer, watching those monitors, and acting as one of the players. He sat behind a big rock, and every time another player came close enough (remember, he was watching their POV on the monitors) he would jump out at a speed much faster than the paid people could achieve, and blow them up with one shot.

Then he would laugh like a psychotic little elf, and wait for the next victim.

So, I guess what I'm saying is: employees of MMORPGs abusing their power? Here is my surprised face!
posted by davejay at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2007


What will be interesting is what happens to devs like t20, once the IRS starts demanding it's cut of online capital gains.

"You duped 10 million ISK's worth of goods for your friends, who resold them within the in-game economy for 500 million ISK's. Also, you failed to pay quartlery estimated payments, so with penalities and interest, your bill comes to 1.3 trillion USD. Yours, IRS"
posted by nomisxid at 3:29 PM on February 12, 2007


I've been waiting for someone to explain this story well. The Escapist jumpgate articles are the best I've seen so far.

I played Eve Online for over a year, let me try to put it in context.

Eve is a complicated online game where players get heavily invested in their space empires. Band of Brothers is the largest and most effective alliance in Eve. They're also quite nasty and feared, since they are the most powerful military alliance in the game and the best at destroying other alliances. Just a month ago they finished a long and bitter war that destroyed ASCN, which until then had been the other biggest alliance with some 5000+ players. BoB is very good at what they do and well hated for it.

Now it turns out that one of the developers of the game has been aiding BoB by giving them valuable items in the game. Ie: an employee of CCP has been cheating at his own game. Not in a significant way, the actual blueprints that t20 was caught stealing are pretty minor stuff. But there have been lots of hints and suggestions that BoB has cheated in other, more significant ways. No concrete evidence yet, but players are worried where there's a little corruption there's more. CCP has not handled the investigation very well.

If you don't play games like this it's hard to explain how seriously the players take it. But if you're into it, the idea that the folks who build the game are cheating against you is very painful. It seems obvious that developers shouldn't play the games they create, only they have to! How else would they know how the game is doing? The problem is when ethics are breached.

It's just a game, it's not the 2000 US presidential election. No one's going to die because of the cheating. But if the scandal goes much further, CCP may very well take a significant blow to their business.
posted by Nelson at 3:35 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quick, someone mention Second Life so I can care even less...
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on February 12, 2007


Oh no DRAMAS ON THE INTERNETS
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:38 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this something you'd need to have your virginity to know about?


I kid, because I love.
posted by papakwanz at 3:38 PM on February 12, 2007


If you don't play games like this it's hard to explain how seriously the players take it.
posted by matthewr at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2007


I've been looking pretty hard at Eve lately but the way the company is handling this situation is making me reconsider getting into the game. Now, if Band of Brothers explodes like the Megapowers during a scripted game event, that would be pretty sweet...
posted by jtron at 3:43 PM on February 12, 2007


For anyone wondering about the depth of this fracas, behold the twisted tale of Steve, an enormous player-crafted starship which was destroyed with the help of Band of Brothers (as well as the incompetence of the vessel's operator) in less time that it took for the Earl of Sandwich to say Royal James, or for the guy in the Charles Atlas ads to shout "Hey! Quit kicking sand in our faces!". For the players who subscribed to CCP's servers, who toiled for months to "construct" the virtual property, outrage would count as an understatement.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2007


oh my, the mechwarrior in north pier. how about the video game arcade across the hall? thats where i mastered the sacred art of mortal kombat.
posted by phaedon at 4:09 PM on February 12, 2007


I played EVE for a year or so, but it was way too serious for me. That's the reason why people are so upset about this -- unlike most games of this type, EVE is really serious, especially at the top levels of the game. The Band of Brothers alliance controls around 100 star systems in the game, and the total amount of stuff they have is probably worth hundreds of thousands of real-world dollars. For example, the Steve ship that Smart Dalek mentioned cost over 100 billion ISK to make; you can sell 1 billion ISK for about $100 online, meaning that that one ship was worth something like $10,000 in real money. Because what's at stake is so serious, things like corporate espionage, account hacking, guild infiltration, cheating, etc. are rampant, but CCP's policy is essentially "caveat emptor" (unless, it seems, you've used these methods to uncover their own employees' malfeasance, in which case they will ban you). Having the developers themselves add to the problem just shows how little CCP cares about these issues.

My main problem with EVE is that CCP seems to want everyone to join these huge alliances and spend thousands of hours scheming over winning the large-scale war at any cost. If you're not willing to do that, it seems to me that they don't really want you as a customer. I quite enjoyed the solo mission-running and ship-building aspect of the game, but CCP kept screwing with the missions in order to get people to join groups, and the high prices of items mean that you can't really do much ship-building as a solo player, anyway. After a while, I realized that I just wasn't interested in spending a year or two creating some Machiavellian alter-ego, all in order to get to even the middle echelon of the game. It's a shame that CCP isn't interested in making the game fun for casual players as well as the hard-core.
posted by vorfeed at 4:09 PM on February 12, 2007


i am so glad that i missed the "boat" on this phenomena. my life would be a catastrophe if i hadn't.
posted by phaedon at 4:14 PM on February 12, 2007


Whatever this is it sounds super cool. I read some of the links but that didn't help much. So I'm gonna make up my own solutions to the acronyms and buzz words and thus make it even cooler. Wait. Is Jack Bauer involved somehow?
posted by tkchrist at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2007


Panic in Sadville!
posted by athenian at 4:24 PM on February 12, 2007


What will be interesting is what happens to devs like t20, once the IRS starts demanding it's cut of online capital gains.

"You duped 10 million ISK's worth of goods for your friends, who resold them within the in-game economy for 500 million ISK's. Also, you failed to pay quartlery estimated payments, so with penalities and interest, your bill comes to 1.3 trillion USD. Yours, IRS"


This would be a pretty ridiculous letter to receive, considering CCP is based in Iceland.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:30 PM on February 12, 2007


The story of "Steve" the ASCN mothership is a sad story. I'm not sure it helps to think about the loss in dollar terms though; the exchange rates in these games are essentially fiction. 100 billion ISK takes about 5000 hours of casual mining/ratting to make, maybe half that if you're clever. That's what was destryed, thousands of hours of ASCN labour.

The ASCN leader Cyvok spent months getting his alliance to build the mothership. Then he got caught alone by some BoB ships and killed. It was humiliating and expensive and led to Cyvok quitting the game, then the ASCN alliance crumbling without leadership. This is a typical Eve story.

Some people think he lost that ship because of BoB cheating, or a game bug that they should have compensated ASCN for. There's no specific evidence for malfeasance in the destruction of ASCN's mothership. But the idea that developers are colluding with BoB is very sensitive.
posted by Nelson at 5:11 PM on February 12, 2007


All the intrigue going on in EVE makes it sound like a fun game...
posted by delmoi at 5:21 PM on February 12, 2007


i guess it's especially annoying for people in a space- science fictions type game to find out that the world contains capricious gods with poers greater than mortal men who can help or hinder a certain faction.

like the Trojan War
posted by Miles Long at 5:38 PM on February 12, 2007


The intrigue and the seriousness of it does make it a fun game. And unique these days in MMOGs. All the other big games (like WoW) are about playing scripted content, beating the environment the developers created. Eve is much more about playing with/against other people. So it's much more complicated and nefarious.

Unfortunately, what vorfeed said about the solo game not being much fun is true. And I'd extend that to say the actual gameplay mechanics aren't much fun. You spend hours of interesting politics and manouevering to arrange a 20 on 20 fleet battle, then the fight is over in 120 seconds of lag. It's deeply flawed, but still impressive.
posted by Nelson at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2007


I played this game briefly. It is a gigantic collection of psychopaths. It is the absolute worst of the Internet and human nature made manifest.

This is a game for people to play at being petty little tyrants, for teenagers with little power in real life to exult in causing pain and distress with no chance of being punished. Some of these people are very, very good at it; I suspect Machiavelli would have been a third-rate loser at Eve.

I'd make a gesture to show how surprised I am by finding it out that it's not just psychopathic, but corrupt, but I don't think I can reliably use my fingers to measure a distance that small.
posted by Malor at 6:08 PM on February 12, 2007


According to Wikipedia the average player spends 2.5 hours a day playing this!
posted by matthewr at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2007


so....


its a video game eh?

the guy who develeoped it is playing it and cheating at it.

and there are actually people who are so personally invested in this game that they actually care about this great scandal??

Man.....I am so glad I am not them
posted by timsteil at 6:27 PM on February 12, 2007


Malor: I played this game briefly. It is a gigantic collection of psychopaths. It is the absolute worst of the Internet and human nature made manifest.

This is a game for people to play at being petty little tyrants... to exult in causing pain and distress with no chance of being punished. Some of these people are very, very good at it; I suspect Machiavelli would have been a third-rate loser at Eve.


I have neither the time nor the inclination to get into a MMORPG, but damn if that didn't make me want to play it.
posted by spaltavian at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


matthewr writes "According to Wikipedia the average player spends 2.5 hours a day playing this!"

So half the time MeFis spend here, slackers.
posted by Mitheral at 6:48 PM on February 12, 2007


Machiavellian, psychopathic, tyrannic - yep: for more back-stabbing insanity see this post from ~1 year ago. It's interesting to read, but nothing I'd like to play.
posted by Zack_Replica at 6:56 PM on February 12, 2007


omg, this is so beneath me! let me chime in to tell everyone how lame I think they're love of a videogame is!

seriously, though. what attracts people to this game is what has been mentioned above: this is a game where you can be the emperor. You can run, if you're fucking dedicated and evil enough, a corrupt empire of wanton destruction and corporate gain at any cost. The fact that there's a dev cheating at the game to help the equivalent of EVE online's republican party doesn't surprise me in the least. The entire game is structured to encourage the kind of ruthless aquisition that results in a sitution just like this one within the game. What's obviously gotten people so upset is that it's now happening outside of the game, the corruption has reached that sort of meta level where it's intruded into the real world in a way that shocks and upsets people.

What they don't understand is that when you play a game where you use tools (external voice chat, for instance) outside the game, along with out of game personal interaction over the phone and email to coordinate and supplement your in game activities to the extent that this happens in Eve, this is just the next logical step. It's over the line, but it's like that character in the sting says "What will i accuse him of? Being a better cheater than me?!" These people met Sauron, and he's not fuckin around with rings and hobbits this time.

personally, it makes the game sound kind of badass to me, but I don't have the time to invest in it.
posted by shmegegge at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2007


And I'd extend that to say the actual gameplay mechanics aren't much fun.

You're not kidding. On a mission of reasonable difficulty, I used to spend as much time reading a novel as I did actually playing. Fly to such-and-such a place two jumps away (i.e. read novel for 5 minutes), fight enemy ships for 10 minutes until shields and armor are gone, warp out, recharge and repair (i.e. read novel for 10 minutes), warp back in, rinse & repeat until victory. And when I was killed in a fight, it was almost invariably due to lag (come on dammit warp out warp out WARP OUT FUCK!) And fighting is the exciting part of the game -- trading and mining are even slower.

I really wish someone would make a game like this with a Wing Commander style flight/combat engine, rather than the usual point-and-click MMORPG interface. But, alas, incorporating more than a slight amount of tactical skill seems to be anathema to the MMORPG model.
posted by vorfeed at 7:30 PM on February 12, 2007


I am Jack's utter contempt for timsteil.
posted by Justinian at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2007


Malor: I played this game briefly. It is a gigantic collection of psychopaths. It is the absolute worst of the Internet and human nature made manifest.

This is a game for people to play at being petty little tyrants... to exult in causing pain and distress with no chance of being punished. Some of these people are very, very good at it; I suspect Machiavelli would have been a third-rate loser at Eve.


I passed on your description to some fellow players, and here's what they had to say:

Bacchanalian > hah, that's awesome
Acacallis > good discription
Graelyn > That's really accurate....
Atandros > Absolutely
Atandros > +1
Naphtalia > yeh, works
Naphtalia > +111
Naphtalia > Hmmm... probably the first noob to review eve and "just get it right"
Graelyn > He was probably trying to bash it.
Graelyn > Critical hit.
posted by Slothrup at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh, and "Machiavelli had no forum skillz"
posted by Slothrup at 7:36 PM on February 12, 2007


The whole "amorality is fun" meme is so very pervasive these days. Perhaps this will get the horrible thing out of their systems and they'll grow up to be compassionate human beings...

On the other hand, psychopathic killers almost always start from torturing dolls and toys, then torturing and killing animals. I guess these days they'd start on Eve.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 PM on February 12, 2007


Maybe the next Enron could recruit their executives out of Eve Online.
posted by Justinian at 8:52 PM on February 12, 2007


"According to Wikipedia the average player spends 2.5 hours a day playing this!"

Hell, I spent twice that long writing a single MetaFilter comment today...


...oh, and this being an Icelandic company, it's inevitable that I know some people that work for CCP. Though I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who I could just e-mail out of the blue. I'll try to see whether I track someone down.
posted by Kattullus at 9:59 PM on February 12, 2007


This makes me think of Earth 2025...I wish I had time for it.
posted by hototogisu at 10:59 PM on February 12, 2007


Whoa. For the sake of my GPA, I seriously hope no one does make a Wing Commander style MMORPG. I think I would get dropped from all of my classes for not attending.

I know they tried with Freelancer, kinda sorta, but it was pretty meh.
posted by Talanvor at 11:09 PM on February 12, 2007


On the other hand, psychopathic killers almost always start from torturing dolls and toys, then torturing and killing animals. I guess these days they'd start on Eve.

I had no idea Bill O'Reilly was a mefite. Or are you Jack Thompson?
posted by shmegegge at 11:10 PM on February 12, 2007


Whoa. For the sake of my GPA, I seriously hope no one does make a Wing Commander style MMORPG. I think I would get dropped from all of my classes for not attending.

I know they tried with Freelancer, kinda sorta, but it was pretty meh.


I watched a student film one time, where this guy dies and wakes up in a white room, it's a raquetball court. There's nothing in it but a raquetball court. He starts yelling out "Hello!" and a disembodied pleasant female voice says "Welcome to heaven."

Him: this is heaven?
her: yes.
him: it's a raquetball court.
her: it is heaven.
him: so what can I do here?
her: anything you want.
him: can I leave through this door here?
her: you want to leave heaven?
him: oh. no, I guess not.
her: okay.
him: so what can I do?
her: anything you want. this is heaven.
him: can I play raquetball?
her: did you bring a raquet?

and that's what playing freelancer online was like. There was this pervasive feeling of "I'm completely free to fly around galaxies doing whatever I want, but what the fuck is there to do?"

single player, though, that game was the shiznit.
posted by shmegegge at 11:14 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh my, the mechwarrior in north pier...

Ah, so it was called that -- I couldn't remember with certainty.

him: can I play raquetball?
her: did you bring a raquet?


Now that is my kind of student film. Hilarious.
posted by davejay at 11:50 PM on February 12, 2007


The whole "amorality is fun" meme is so very pervasive these days. Perhaps this will get the horrible thing out of their systems and they'll grow up to be compassionate human beings ...

On the other hand, psychopathic killers almost always start from torturing dolls and toys, then torturing and killing animals. I guess these days they'd start on Eve.
The military uses first-person shooters and flight sims for training and recruiting.

Justinian is right, except that these are the kind of people that will be founding the next Enrons and screwing the public over if they can ever get themselves out of their virtual worlds.
posted by moonbiter at 11:57 PM on February 12, 2007


Well, my limited experience, both good and bad, seems to mirror others' here. Poor solo content overall -- I cannot imagine what an Eve retooled for even more group emphasis might be like. Mining had its moments -- sitting there in my slowly spinning craft with music on and a dog in my lap (IRL), chatting with a nearby miner acquaintance, occasionally about mineral finds but mostly about other things, while the lasers toil, slowly filling the cargo bay. It felt like a moment of authenticity; what such a job might actually be like. Of course, any job is interesting for five minutes. What made that moment seem authentic was, in the end, how stultifyingly boring the job was, how it could have been done by robots, how we spent the time doing things at best tangential to the activity to pass the time.

It reminded me of a certain Air Traffic Control game I picked up at a garage sale a number of years ago. That's a job that I left behind (IFR, to be specific), so I was curious how close the game might come to reality. Pretty close, as it turned out (enough to provoke a slight feeling of nausea handing the flight strip holders). And it made me wonder: who wants to do something this stressful for fun? May as well make a tidy sum and do it for real. Likewise mining. If you really want to live the industrial life, I can introduce you to a few drilling outfits in Alberta. And you can move North, if you want that isolated moon-base atmosphere.

A couple of hundred years from now, somebody should open up an Ender's Mining Co. and just have bored teens do all our asteroid mining by remote. Cheap labour. Hell, charge them for accounts like they do now.
posted by dreamsign at 12:43 AM on February 13, 2007


its a video game eh?
the guy who develeoped it is playing it and cheating at it.
and there are actually people who are so personally invested in this game that they actually care about this great scandal??
Man.....I am so glad I am not them
posted by timsteil at 2:27 AM GMT on February 13


Tell that to any sports fan. I bet you wouldn't get invested in any doping scandals at the Olympics or a corrupt referee at the Super Bowl or any other sports related cheating? Or lip-synching at a concert? And hell, you don't even get to participate in those events. You're a passive observer. In a video game you are actively involved in the achievements and, virtual or not, having months of work destroyed through systematic abuse by the people who run it hurts like hell...

Though I do find people who don't 'get' videogames quite endearing.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:43 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hate myself for doing this, but here goes -
MetaFilter: ... a gigantic collection of psychopaths. It is the absolute worst of the Internet and human nature made manifest.
posted by Optamystic at 2:48 AM on February 13, 2007


I've been led to believe that, with reference to the internets, there is some serious business going on over there.

that's just what I heard.
posted by Jofus at 5:10 AM on February 13, 2007


and that's what playing freelancer online was like. There was this pervasive feeling of "I'm completely free to fly around galaxies doing whatever I want, but what the fuck is there to do?"

single player, though, that game was the shiznit.


I think you may hae just found the wrong server. A few friends put up a persistant server that they'd "reset" once a week. We'd start out on a Sunday night, and have it reset (i.e. wipe out all player accounts, etc) on Sunday morning. We'd steal time during the weekdays and push through the nights ramping up for Saturday, trying to get the biggest, baddest ships.

Saturday night, then, was a supremely fun battle. A few weeks in a row, we managed to get the maximum amount of players online at one time, mounting offensives, hiding in asteroid fields, etc.

I've played Eve on and off since it came out, and I've never had that sort of experience. Of course, I'm mostly a solo/casual player, so like my complete and utter lack of end-game content experience in WoW, I never saw any of the real politiking in Eve.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2007


For some sick reason, I just love the occasional article on some new MMORPG drama. Its always some funny, lame, interesting, boring, pathetic, cutting-edge, post-modern shit!
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


EVE Online strikes me as the kind of game that is incredibly fascinating to read about, but not that much fun to play. I mean, every six months or so some big scandal happens within the game that, from my vantage point, is awesome.

Inside the game I'd probably be pissed.
posted by graventy at 11:31 AM on February 13, 2007


Saturday night, then, was a supremely fun battle. A few weeks in a row, we managed to get the maximum amount of players online at one time, mounting offensives, hiding in asteroid fields, etc.

I've been playing Eve for a month and a half and this pretty much describes every night for me when I bother to play. I've played chicken with Titans, tackled dreadnoughts, and flown in 300 man fleet battles.

I started playing as a member of one of the largest alliances in the game, and it's been a crazy fucking blast. The whole EVE world is at war, and I'm on the front lines.

The standard player experience is very different from that of an alliance member- it's almost a completely different game at that level. But it is fucking awesome and it's the first MMO I've given a shit about since UO was in beta.
posted by perianwyr at 9:15 PM on February 13, 2007


Something about that game that attacts such scandal.

I say Quelle scandal, euh.
posted by oxford blue at 2:24 AM on February 14, 2007


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