What is right and what is wrong? These terms are analyzed far differently in New Eden than in the real world, or even other video games. One of the interesting facets of Eve Online is the idea that no one is totally safe at any given time and, within reason, anything goes. If you can think it up within the limits of the sandbox, no one is stopping you. Let’s look at some of the so called scams and controversies which have shaped New Eden into what it is today.
The EIB Scam of 2006
One of the earliest large scale examples of fraud occurred in 2006. A player named Cally started the Eve Investment Bank (EIB), which was supposed to be like any other investment bank. Cally was trusted with using the deposits to turn a profit and then pay interest to the player clients. With no regulation, Cally strung players along for months before cleaning out the bank and posting a cheeky video of how he had scammed wealthy investors out of almost 800 billion ISK (at that time the equivalent of $170,000 USD). This event marks a key point in EVE history. As would be the case in any other MMO of 2006, CCP devs were asked to a) punish Cally, or b) reimburse the scammed money, or c) force Cally to return the money. The development team concluded that Cally hadn’t done anything that violated the game rules (EULA). Therefore, not only did Cally not incur any consequences, but his actions set a precedent for those who would follow him.
The Ebank Scandal of 2009
In 2009 Ricdic, one of the staff members of Ebank, also absconded with player funds. Ebank was probably the most serious attempt to run a genuine, in-game bank that ever happened in EVE Online. It had a prominent board of directors, trusted members of the community with industrial expertise. It also had a fully functional website, just like any other bank site, where players could deposit ISK and track the interest it was making. For a while, it worked. It didn’t fail all at once like EIB, but Ricdic’s actions were the nail in the coffin.
The bank had made a series of bad loans and people were taking advantage. No one director of Ebank had access to all the funds, but Ricdic was able to withdraw 200 billion ISK. He then traded it for real world money to pay debts related to his son’s medical bills. In an article in Reuters, he stated that he received a spam email from a site that traded ISK for real money, that he didn’t preplan the theft, and it was just a means to an end. Since he had already violated the EULA, he was consequently banned from the game. This was not punishment for the theft from Ebank, but for engaging in real world currency trading.
Suddenly, there was a run on the bank. All investors’ Ebank accounts were temporarily frozen, as the Directors tried to look at avenues to return the bank to profitability. When it was determined that there was simply no way to make up for the lost funds, the bank was ultimately shut down. It wasn’t a cascade failure, and investors/players received at least some of their funds back.
Ricdic, one of the few trusted players in game, had betrayed that trust, further perpetuating the idea in EVE one can’t afford the luxury of trust. It also emboldened other players to launch more complex and profitable scams.
Titans4U in 2010
In 2010 a player known as Bad Bobby had managed a series of investment projects for the community and earned a good reputation for earning people ISK. His latest and greatest project was the Titans4U fund. Like Ebank before him, Bad Bobby offered something that seemed like a safe bet. Trustees from the game’s investment community oversaw the purchase of titan blueprints, using investor ISK. The blueprints were locked down and only used to make blueprint copies, which were then sold at a profit. If Bobby, or one of the other trustees somehow pulled off an EBank-like scam on everyone, the other trustees could sell the Titan blueprint originals and still return everyone’s money. It worked and everyone profited – for a year.
Bobby suggested that the fund increase the number of shares offered, to bring in more investors. This is usually a red flag for something shady going on, but the trustees agreed. In the background, Bobby was acquiring the majority of the shares for himself. One day, he kicked the trustees out of the corp, cleaned it out, and disbanded Titans4U. Bad Bobby had made off with 850 billion ISK. He had betrayed the trust of those who depended on him, all to earn infamy and “glory.”
Scammers Gonna Scam
In the real world theft, embezzlement, Ponzi schemes, and bank fraud are all felonies. People can end up going to jail for a very very long time. In New Eden these days, scamming is at best expected and, at worst, rewarded. Players are challenged to think up new and interesting ways to screw each other over. Heck Cally appeared in Newswire, IGN, and TenTonHammer. RicDic was interviewed by Reuters. Bad Bobby made Engagget. These people become celebrities, legends. Honestly, I decided to come back to EVE after I had quit because I read an article in PC magazine about Cally. In New Eden everything is grey – and apparently we like it that way.