Ghost Farmers: all of New Eden heard of them lately. Like an intangible threat to the game’s economy, the dark shadow of their ISK-making empires was unveiled to all by a variety of players from all across the cluster. Finally, on June 15, 7 months after the Ascension update (which made Ghost Training a thing), CCP declared it as an exploit. At the same time, scripts were run to stop training queues and force players to log in. This put an end to a lot of the Ghost Training activity. War was declared, and CCP would lead the charge and burn the heretic (or at least their in-game wallets). The problem is: Ghost Training is not fixed yet, just illegal.
The Purge Has Begun
The burning seems to have started nicely. Following this Reddit post by Lanyaie, CCP started hitting the exploiters right in the wallet. They started nicely, removing the small amount of 107,055,000,000.000 ISK from a Ghost Trainer. Yes, that is 107 billion isk. Note that it seems that half of it was due to CONCORD ship sales.
It is generally accepted by all that Ghost Training was indeed an extremely negative practice with regard to the game’s economy. It enabled those using the bug to earn large sums of ISK, limited only by their willingness to extract SP, without any risk or content generation occuring. This lead to some very angry comments on the recent fighter nerfs and un-nerfs. Indeed, CCP Quant declared that people were making 260 million ISK ticks. A hurricane of rage and frustration was unleashed following his imprudent post. This storm finally made CCP review their copy and reduce the initial nerf. Well, the above example alone is equivalent to 411 of those ticks… or 137 hours of farming at this rate. That might explain a part of this rage storm.
Some comments were seen about the fact that these sanctions are too low, but remember: Ghost Training was declared an exploit after 7 months, so CCP cannot realistically apply too restrictive measures. You cannot punish people for faults that are not declared—even if it was an obvious exploit—especially EVE players that always try to fuck their neighbors.
The total amount of ISK produced by these Ghost Farms is, and will probably remain, unknown. It might be interesting to look at next month’s economic report, and in particular to the ISK sinks…
Removal of ISK
The individual in the Reddit post took a break from the game for a few months and had some queues still running. These lapsed, but continued training. He extracted the SP, and sold it, but that only came to around half the value. The rest of the 107B came from CCP confiscating the ISK he had gained through selling 117 Pacifiers at 400-500m each.
A reddit user called oli0202, who claims he was the one that got a chunk of his wallet removed, also replied on the reddit thread.
Stability and beyond
Now that the concern of Ghost Farmers is being addressed, or at least worked on, let us look to the future. The current state of EVE’s economy is, to say the least, unstable. Fast changes in ISK and resources generation, followed by the change to plex and its successive growth, put us in a new situation. The situation is that of many MMO end-game. Old players start piling currency and resources and prices grow as a result. EVE managed to somewhat avoid that by proposing a very expensive end-game experience, a large global market and sinks in the form of content generators.
The very-expensive end-game is not the solution, as it will still impact the general cost of resources. This is partially due to the global market: there is no such thing as tiered market in EVE, all goods are linked in some way. This also helps on another hand, as the buffer for change is huge. This buffer is now not enough. Production is increasing, minerals are over-produced in some regions. Objectives that would have taken months in terms of productions are now done in weeks. The growth is bigger than what the buffer and sinks could handle. Reducing the production is a way to try and stabilize the market, and it will certainly help. Another option is to create sinks. Removing Ghost Training is a sink, an artificial one that will temporarily reduce the total amount of ISK in game. After that, EVE will need another sink, and the best one is content.
War for economic stability
For years, wars throughout New Eden were the motor of the economy, pushing prices back and forth, forcing players to rebuild what got destroyed. During the last year, though, no real major conflict emerged. The Casino War ended up not yielding any of the expected battles, with the Imperium refusing to play the game of their enemies. Instead, there was a period of transitioning, with small fights, and changes of sovereignty. Everyone then settled down, and started watching each other like dogs through a fence. CCP tried removing the fence, adding citadels, promising exciting fights, but it ended up not working.
For now, the meta seems locked. A key has to be found, probably on CCP’s side. The economy will remain unstable until all the current issues are addressed. It will then return to its growing pace, unless something changes. Will it explode? Will CCP find the key? Will someone try to nuke the Imperium again and get a fight this time? No one knows, but there is no doubt that the end of the year and the start of 2018 will probably see major changes to content generation.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Ghost Training generated ISK from nothing. That is incorrect, and has now been changed in the article.