Between writing summit minutes, other CSM stuff, work, and my RL move, I haven't had a whole lot of time until today to keep up with last week's news, so it's time to catch up. One of the "other CSM stuff" I have been keeping an eye on are the TOS changes, so I thought it would be interesting to look at the situation that most believe caused the TOS changes in the first place. Here's the story out on TMDC. Go read it, then I want to talk about it.
OK, the scammer in question was permanently banned from the game. The key question: did CCP do the right thing?
Let's start with the basic basics for those who might not be familiar with them. When you are selling something expensive in real life it is typical to work through an escrow service. In its most simplistic sense, if I sell a house I give the escrow service the deed to my house and the buyer gives the escrow service the agreed-upon price for the house. If the buyer agrees that the house is as advertised when the escrow began, the escrow service makes the trade: they get the deed, I get the money. In EVE, these services are also available -- provided by players -- but are simply called "3rd party" services.
Three of the most-used 3rd party services are run by characters named Chribba, Darknesss, and Grendell. In the article, these are referred to as the "C" name, the "D" name, and the "G" name. So, in part zero, our hero manages to scam 24 billion using traditional methods (i.e., actual work). In part one, though, he inserts a character name into EVE Wiki pages for the three recognized 3rd parties above, listing his own character as their alts.
In terms of ethics, in my opinion, this has already passed the line of "acceptable" EVE behavior to a level of being ethically wrong. To put this in perspective, I could change one of my EVE guides to give new players false or misleading information to benefit myself. I don't because that is ethically wrong. This is the same thing. There's a difference between listing yourself on a Wiki page listing EVE services, and modifying someone else's page to benefit yourself. This action clearly crossed that line.
But is it a ban-worthy offense? CCP seems to think so already at this point, but we'll get back to that presently.
At this level of behavior alone, our hero had scammed 150 billion ISK from six victims. At that point, Chribba discovered the fakery on his wiki page, edited it, and locked it. But apparently, Chribba did nothing else. Had our hero stopped here, he would have been some 175 billion ISK the richer and he probably could have walked away.
This is probably a good time to point out that 175 billion ISK is more money than most EVE players will have in one place their entire career. It's enough ISK to play EVE for 25 character-YEARS.
But it turns out EVE players are greedy. Our hero proceeded to part two: create a false version of the "Shops and Services" page linked above, this time listing Chribba, Darkness, Grendell, and a fourth recognized 3rd party, Wirox Crotikus. Only this time, he added his alt as a fifth option. To this page, he added a little "locked" graphic and this text at the bottom, highlighted in white on blue:
Please note: Contact ISD Rex Apollyon if you have valid proof of handling super capitals in the past, Anyone without proof will not added to this listThis combination of factors created a false impression that all five services were endorsed by ISD, which is a volunteer player group endorsed by CCP.
That word "endorsed" is about to become important. We'll get to that, too.
Now at this point, in my opinion, we're well past "wrong" in terms of ethical behavior in EVE Online. Our hero has this to say on this point:
At this point I am sure I have a fair share of malcontents waiting to denounce my methods, but my intention was never to get banned. Push the limit of what is allowed by trying something no one had done before, yes, but not to lose my accounts in the process.Speaking as one of the malcontents, I do indeed denounce his methods and it's for the reason above: it is ethically wrong to use a site intended for sharing of valid in-game information to display false information intended to mislead players. That alone is ethically wrong. Doing this simply to enrich yourself is even more wrong. But again, the question here is whether it's ban-worthy, because people do things that are ethically wrong in EVE Online every single day and don't get banned for them.
The question becomes one of ethical behavior versus acceptable behavior.
In part two of the saga, our hero makes another 200 billion ISK, enough ISK to play EVE for an additional 28 character-years. But this time, someone complains on the forums about his specific methods. The jig is up and our hero is permanently banned from the game.
Before we examine part three of the saga, let's skip right past the legal shenanigans our hero trots out in his own defense. EVE is not a court of law in any country in the world and EVE players have few or no legal rights to anything in the game. As has been established many times both on this blog and elsewhere, nothing in the virtual world of EVE Online belongs to you. You are just borrowing your ISK, ships, characters, corporations, and alliances. Likewise, any claims of the application of ex post facto law are also groundless: EVE is not a court of law so these concepts do not apply.
The simple fact here is that EVE players are often smarter than EVE developers when it comes to unethical behavior in the game and CCP can declare such behavior ban-worthy at any point after the actions occur. Your recourse if you disagree is to vote with your wallet and play another game. If a large enough base of players all disagree at once, perhaps CCP will reconsider their positions and that's where we are with the TOS changes. But even if those TOS changes are rolled back, that is not going to mean that our hero gets his accounts back. That ain't gonna happen.
So let's consider: I think our hero's behavior was ethically wrong. But again, EVE players do things that are ethically wrong every single day. Was this ethically wrong in an acceptable way? CCP can spin reasons out of the TOS for the ban and sure, I might agree with those reasons but I am results-driven. Let's look at the results here.
And in my opinion, what was done here was unacceptable player behavior, for a relatively simple to understand reason: our hero took hold of something that was created by CCP and subverted it to his own ends. If one player scams another player, that is destroying trust that exists in the virtual world and eroding a construct created by a player, not by CCP. But when you cross the line and destroy trust and confidence in a structure that CCP has built, you've crossed the line and you deserve to get banned. Had our hero subverted the EVE University wiki, for instance, I wouldn't have anything to say on the matter of it being ban-worthy. Subverting the E-UNI wiki is ethically wrong, but is not ban-worthy.
But in this case, again in my opinion, our hero did something that is not all that different from modifying the EVE client, real money trading, hacking the EVE Online forums, or passing himself off as a CCP employee. He took hold of something built by CCP and subverted it to his own ends, for nothing more than fiscal gain. And he did it twice over, passing himself off as a member of the ISD and modifying the official EVE Online wiki. That these actions are ethically wrong, I have no doubt. But I also believe they were unacceptable behavior and CCP did the right thing here: this person should never be allowed to play EVE Online again.