Ghost Orders Explained

2016-07-06

On July 5, a line in the patch notes caught the attention of traders:

Ranged buy orders from non-public Citadels are now shown in the market order list, as they can fulfilled from stations in range.”

This small line in the patch notes is a fix for a “bug” which had been in since citadels were launched, and had been known about since testing on SiSi began. Now, while there are many problems with citadels that involve pewing, and are of greater priority, this particular one perhaps gained less attention because it involved the markets, and, indeed, was only fixed after a less than prudent trader tried to sell access to the bug.

The post which gained CCPs attention was deleted by the original poster, but, Eve-search has saved the original post, and there was further attention brought to this through a reddit post by Abstentious,

The reason this bug arose in the first place is because of the way the citadels calculated whether or not you can see a market order. Originally, the idea was that, if you cannot dock and use the market at a citadel, you cannot see any orders placed in the citadel, whether ranged or not. Additionally, if you are sitting inside a citadel, you cannot sell to any ranged orders placed from outside.

What this should mean in practice is, if person A sits in Jita 4-4 and places a 1 jump buy order, person B sitting in a Fortizar with no public docking access in say, New Caldari is unable to sell to it. This is because the system does not check whether person A has access to the citadel, and you cannot get things sold to you if you cannot dock

(There is an exception to this rule if you had docking access, placed a buy order from the citadel, then had your access revoked….it can still be sold to from inside the citadel).

Conversely, it should also mean that, if person B places a 1 jump ranged buy order from New Caldari, person A cannot sell to it.

However, what actually happened was, person B could place an order, and person A could sell to it without being able to see it.

This might not seem like too much of a big deal, but, say, person B set a buy order for mid-grade Slave omegas, to use the example from the forum post, and set their buy order at 275m, when the current jita price was at 268m.  Person A would come along with their Slave implant to sell, right click, sell item, see the price at 268m and sell.   What should happen is that it would have gone to person C who had the buy order at 268m.  What actually happens is it goes to person Bs buy order, but at person Cs price.

This image, taken from the forum post, shows the scenario, with person A seeing what is on the left-hand screen, and person B seeing what is on the right-hand screen.

So, in order to gain 100% control of a market without anyone being able to see you doing it, a trader needs to:

  • Place a Fortizar (or have friends give you access to theirs).
  • Make sure that there is no public access to the citadel
  • Place buy order for Snake Omegas at a price a fair amount above the Jita buy price
  • Wait for people to sell Snake Omegas in Jita at the Jita price.
  • Relist the Snake Omega in Jita, while the seller is wondering why the buy order did not disappear, and the person with the highest buy order is wondering why no one is selling to them, despite the price history showing Snakes going to buy orders.
  • Place new buy order, and rinse and repeat.

The only way to find these invisible buy orders was to create a buy order yourself, and try to sell to it. If you sold to yourself, there were no invisible buy orders, if you sold to RandomGuy1234, then there was a hidden buy order for that item.

This behaviour was noticed on SiSi when Fortizars were in testing, and was known about on Tranquility from late May. It came to wider attention when there was a sudden glitch in offshoring at the end of June, where orders were not showing as green, but were able to be sold to. This was quickly rectified, but not before people had noticed and seen the potential for it. Other people became aware of it when they placed their own personal Fortizar, and found that they were getting items sold to them when no one had docking access.

This bug was also mostly useful on high volume items, where it was possible to control the entire buy side of the market, leading to frustrations from other traders, but, it was also useful on low volume, higher margin items (such as the Snake Omega), where the daily volume is split almost equally between buys and sells. The price on this second group of items is relatively stable. Placing a buy order 2-3% above the Jita buy would ensure your price was never outbid (Of course, as I write that, mid-grade Snake Omegas are spiking, but, they are usually stable in price), so you did not have to worry about the usual competition on price while the other buyers were left sitting there wondering why nothing was coming into them.

The number of people who took advantage of this is not known but, initially it was 1-2 people, and then a third person found out and began to tell numerous other individuals, until it came to the point where the forum post was made. Of course, it was helped by the fact that citadel orders do not show on CREST, so, even with pulling CREST orders, you were unable to see these hidden buy orders.

Whilst it is not surprising that some bugs often do not get fixed until they receive attention, it is surprising that this one stayed in for so long. It probably would have stayed in much longer if the poster on the forums had not tried to capitalise on it by asking people to pay him a fee to get access to his citadel.

The fix applied in the patch means that you can now sell to ranged buy orders originating from a Citadel, regardless of whether you can dock  in the citadel or not, and that they are fully visible. Whether or not any other market bugs are lurking remains to be seen.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com.

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