Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rumor has it

So here's a fun one.  It started as a rumor over the last couple of days and as of this morning, is pretty much confirmed.

Over the weekend, I made a silly mistake in terms of some tech 2 rigs that I manufactured.  Intending to make some medium rigs of a particular type, I screwed up and made some small ones instead.  To protect the guilty (more on him in a second), I'll keep the exact rig name to myself.  After the run of a half dozen of these rigs was completed, I discovered my mistake, then groaned when I realized that it probably would be weeks before they sold.  Only one or two sold per week.  I was amused, however, to discover that I had created enough of this particular rig to be the majority owner of the rig type... in all of New Eden.  But rather than losing my sunk costs by reprocessing the rigs, I went ahead and shipped them to three different markets, listed them at a very nice profit for myself, and then forgot about them.  I figured I'd check in a couple of weeks to see if any sold.

You can imagine my surprise when every single one of them sold out in all three markets in less than 36 hours.

You can imagine my greater surprise when -- curious as to whether I should make more of them -- I found that they had all been re-listed in Jita.  For 20 times the price I had sold them for.

As you may know, the new Unified Inventory screen has a feature wherein it tells you an approximate value of the things in the particular Inventory area you're looking at.  This is a very handy feature on a macro scale: I can throw a hauler full of stuff into my Viator and see at a glance how much I'm risking to a suicide gank.  On a micro level, though, the values that this system reports are all but useless.  For instance, when carrying a small load of Nanite Repair Paste, the system reported its value as 100 million ISK... about double its true value.

It turns out that some prices were being manipulated for a very specific objective.

When the new faction warfare changes were introduced in Inferno, Hans Jagerblitzen of all people asked if I was going to weigh in on them in my blog.  I teased him about it ("You want me to write about this?"), then told him no, I didn't know enough about FW any more to comment intelligently on the changes.  But one change that did intrigue me was the fact that FW participants earn LP based on the value of things that they kill belonging to the opposing faction.  This sounded a bit like getting paid to PvP, something that EVE PvPers have been asking for for... oh... probably about nine-and-a-half years now.

But the kill values and the Unified Inventory values, it turns out, are one and the same.  People were being paid greatly inflated LP for kills based on these numbers.

And EVE players being EVE players, a group of them took this to absurd lengths.

You can read more about this at the relevant post on the EVE-O forums, but I'll summarize.  Upon discovering this, the people involved in this little scam immediately loaded freighters full of high-end minerals, and assigned the characters piloting those freighters to FW on one side.  Then they assigned a second alt to the opposing faction.  They undocked the freighter, single-handedly blew it up with their own alt, and then reaped the benefits of those LP... often tens or hundreds of millions of FW LP.

Once they had those LP in hand, the LP were assigned to FW systems (Minmatar in this case), and upgraded them to their maximum levels.  Unlike sov, there doesn't seem to be a timer for this.  The benefits were immediate.  Among other things, this gives faction members massive discounts on items purchased at the respective faction LP store.  Items like, say, Tempest Fleet Issues.

Due to the still somewhat-inflated value of some minerals, it turns out that you could actually make a profit on this benefit alone!  Kill your own stuff, "converting ISK to LP at the rate of 1390 ISK per LP."  Then immediately sell the items bought with the resulting LP... for about 2000 ISK per LP.

Thankfully, CCP caught this exploit pretty quickly and patched it: cargo would no longer be included in the value of a ship destroyed.  Back to the drawing board.

That brings us... you guessed it... to modules.  The perpetrators of this little scam learned that by manipulating the in-game price of little-used modules and implants, they could increase the value of those items in the Unified Inventory to absolutely absurd levels.  Then all that remained was fitting those modules to a FW ship, plugging those implants in, and then putting the ship and clone to the sword at the hands of one of their alts in the opposing faction.

So many LP were apparently earned by this method that the perpetrators were worried that their alts would crack the 2 billion limit that is the largest number that can be represented by a signed 32-bit integer in the EVE Online code itself.

Anyway, CCP Guard posted this in the in-game news section this morning:
reported by: CCP Guard | 2012-06-21 T11:16:05Z

Dearest Market-Interested Space Tycoons,

At downtime today we made an adjustment to the average price of some items in order to curb a situation whereby the average price of an item could be manipulated in order to create a disparity between the value of an item in Isk and its value in Loyalty Point payouts. There will be additional changes in how this system works in the future. We will be monitoring for attempted manipulation of the LP market and will reverse any proceeds deemed to have been obtained through manipulative means. We are watching you. Don't be That Guy.
Or, alternately, you can Be That Guy and make tens of billions of ISK, I guess.  It'll be interesting to see if the actual ISK gained through this little exploit will be reversed, or just the LP.  What of the items?  Will they disappear into the ether?

I think I'm getting a pretty good idea why Inferno 1.1 was delayed...

12 comments:

  1. LP store sales were meant to be a ISK sink. At FW Tier 5 the ISK sink is VASTLY reduced especially with the flooding of reduced ISK learning implants(+3 to +5) we'll be seeing. This is actually contributing to the ISK fountain/sink imbalance in the game.
    Looks like the DEV's once again are going against Dr E's suggestions of increasing sinks and are actually reducing them.

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  2. Hmm. Almost certain EVE uses at least 8 bytes for ISK values, since it's not hard to break 2^31-1 for an individual, not to mention corps and allies; plus, they track 2 decimals of fractional currency, which would put the max value for 4 bytes significantly lower than the usual 2-bil-and-some-change for 4 bytes.

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    Replies
    1. This was referring to lp balance, not isk wallet balance :-)

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    2. Interesting then that the goons knew the lp variable was different then the ISK variable

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    3. I am sure they were just guessing and being careful.

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    4. Anonymous troll is anonymous.

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  3. Paul and I were not involved in the blow-up-people part of this, but we managed to make a good bit of ISK on it.

    http://www.mylootyourtears.com/?p=1589

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  4. First of all, if you buy an item in LP store you "use" the isk sink. your money is gone. If you sell the imp for more money than you have payed to the sink it only moves. So it is not a faucet.

    I'm very interested about the result of the investigation. If it is jugged as an exploit the abusers might not only find there wallets negative but also get bans.
    No matter what the result will bring some of the damage is done already. That the average prices could be tricked isn't anything new. But abusing it in such an extend to harm the games economy shows (IMO) that at least some of this goons aren't healthy for the game.
    It's really sad that this guys seem to enjoy the destruction of games just for there own pleasure.

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    Replies
    1. If the item is bought for less than its true value and sold on for a profit compared to its true value, it is an indirect ISK faucet, as the item which did not exist before it was cashed out of the LP store is now introduced to the market, at a larger-than-estimated gain to the person cashing it out. The net effect is unnatural inflation of supply of implants and other LP items, at the least, which will probably have a ring effect.

      'Goons aren't healthy for the game'? You know what's not healthy for the game? CCP releasing broken features without considering the consequences or consulting with their economists.

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    2. It was an income source for the people doing the exploit, but it was NOT an isk faucet. "ISK faucet" means "something that makes isk that didn't exist before". It very specifically does _not_ mean something that transfers isk from one person to another, which is where all of the isk these folks gained came from.

      It was a faction-war item faucet, but not an isk faucet.

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    3. They could have hurt the economy because FW Tier 5 the ISK sink is reduced by 75% so if they could sell all these items they would have effectively reduced the second largest ISK sink in EVE.
      The ISK reduction part of the FW tiers 4&5 should be thrown out of the game!

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  5. Slight correction - it was only *dropped* cargo that was removed - the fact that dropped cargo counted let them effectively cash in on those items twice.

    Destroyed items in cargo still count, and those which drop can be lost again until they're detroyed.

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