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, March 10, 2011

Hit 'em where it hurts

While I've been focused on Incarna the last couple of days, there have been a couple of interesting dramas in the meta-game, both courtesy of EVE News 24.

First, Pandemic Legion had its entire forum made public.  What appears to have happened is that Kugutsumen guessed Shamis's password, and then downloaded the entire forum.  He intended to post it on his own forums; the only problem is, many Kugu forum moderators are PL members.  As a precaution, these PL moderators lost their moderation rights on Kugu.  He then posted the forums.  Once this was accepted as a "done deal," the PL moderators received their access back (and amusingly, are said to be helping to find "the good stuff" on the forum mirror).  The mirror is on a pay-to-play portion of the Kugu site, but Test Alliance Please Ignore apparently downloaded and hosted the entire forum for free.

The net result is that all of PL's dirty laundry has been aired.  Soon after, someone went to a lot of trouble to find and correlate what appears to be the vast bulk of PL's spy network in other corps and alliances, and link them to specific PL members... and all of their IP addresses.  So a lot of alliance and corp leaders spent the early part of the week purging PL spies.

Meanwhile, the forums are also of great interest for its list of cyno alts, combat tactics, fittings, and recruiting.  There's also apparently a PL guide on how to spy on another corp or alliance that will be of interest.  Finally and most interesting of all (to me), the covers have been pulled away from what your average PL member thinks about other EVE players and how they regard the rest of the EVE player base.  I'm not going to explain this any further; those who have read the mirror know what I mean here.  PL morale is said to be extremely low.

What's going to be the impact of this leak?  Certainly, PL is going to lose a vast portion of their massive spy network.  The timing on this could not possibly be worse for them, either.  The meta-game is a major factor behind PL's success in the annual EVE Online Alliance Tournament.  Teams for this are forming and devising their tactics for this tournament now, and without access to this inside intel, how PL will do in this tourney is going to be very closely watched.  And without this meta-game advantage, will PL continue their successes in 0.0?  I guess we'll find out.

How Pandemic Legion responds to this is going to be very interesting to watch.

The second drama, also courtesy of EN24, is that they anonymously received the customer and order database for a major real-money trading (RMT) website.  The database contains the names of more than 2300 toons that spent more than $290,000 U.S. buying ISK on the RMT market over an eleven month period from April 2010 through last week.  There is a Russian counter-part for this website, and rumor has it that this database has also been compromised, though it has not yet become public.

An interpid soul on SHC, Icy One, then went to the trouble to correlate this data into a Google spreadsheet that you can look at if you're interested (or if you want to search it for your own corp).

Of the 2300 toons involved, there seems to be a pretty good spread across both Empire and 0.0.  More than 75% of the toons are either currently invalid, or are not currently associated with a corp or alliance.  The remaining 24% are scattered across both well-known alliances -- virtually every major NC alliance is represented by at least a few toons, for instance -- and less well-known ones.  There are only a few Russian alliances represented; not surprising since this database does not include the data from the Russian language site.

EN24 then attempted to interview some of the toons involved and could only find four people to talk to them about their reasons for buying ISK on the black market.  The information that they gained from these interviews is trivial to say the least, unfortunately.  This is a major scoop, and so far, it strikes me as a missed opportunity for EN24.  They could have and should have researched this story more deeply before going public with it.  However, EN24 is not staffed with professional journalists, so this is probably a forgivable lapse.

One interesting thing that's been uncovered: one of the largest ISK buyers was a toon named Icarantus, with more than $6675 spent on ISK.  This very same toon also happens to be the winningnest toon at somer.blink, with more than one trillion ISK in winnings.  This points to the rather obvious fact that this individual was using the popular auction site to launder his black market ISK.  By paying that ISK into his somer.blink account and then winning easily sellable assets like PLEXes and Dramiels with it, he was obviously successful in laundering the dirty ISK.

What will CCP do with this information?  Right now, they're being quite coy.  I suspect that the response is going to be fairly minimal.  A lot of toons will have their ISK balances reduced to large negative numbers, I expect.  There might even be a few bans out of this, though that seems somewhat more unlikely to me given the anonymous nature of this data dump.  Only about 1200 toons spent more than $40 (the price of a PLEX in the U.S.) on this site, and I suspect the bulk of those are inactive toons used only as mules to transfer the ISK to active toons.  Even for those toons on this list that are still active, there are so many obvious defenses that the people implicated in this can claim that dramatic action seems unlikely.  Several someones in CCP are going to be spending long hours looking over a lot of toon transaction backlogs trying to follow the money.

Speaking as a CSM candidate, I think that's the right approach, particularly reducing ISK balances to negative numbers rather than outright bans.  I've known a person in that situation who was reduced to a negative ISK balance for RMT, and I think he was ten times more miserable over that punishment than a ban would have made him.  Hit 'em where it hurts.

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