Eve Online: CCP & BOB allegations
Feb 11, 2007 16:44:50

(Submitted by an anonymous listener of the podcast.)

The Background

Band of Brothers (BOB) has been the largest and most powerful Alliance in EVE for a long time. They have ruled the south of the map for nearly 3 years now and have never shown any signs of loosing their grip on power. They are very rich, very powerful and they have won virtually every war they have been involved with.

With such success comes rumors that they were cheating, using hacks but most importantly, that BOB was run and populated by Devs who were spawning items and generally cheating to give them that position of power. Like all conspiracy theories, they were held up as truth by a small segment of the community and the rest of us didn't believe a word of it.

Previous cases of CCP staff cheating

In the summer of 2006 a ship, being piloted by a noob, was destroyed at a gate camp and it was found to be fitted with some ultra rare and valuable cosmos items. The items were so rare and valuable that it's rather hard to put a price on them, a conservative estimate would be 20 billion ISK. As it was being piloted by a noob, in every sense (given the ship and the fittings, he should have won that battle easily) it was initially suspected to be fitted with Ebayed items and was reported as such. An investigation was started and it was soon established that the items had in fact been spawned by a new GM who had just started and wanted to give his mates some presents. He was instantly sacked and the items were removed from the game. I should point out that this incident had nothing to do with BOB.

BOB forums hacked

Enter Kugutsumen stage left. Depending on your point of view, he is either the star or the villain of the piece. What is certainly true is without his efforts, none of the following scandal could have happened. Kugutsumen spends his time infiltrating EVE corporation's private forums using tools such as bribery, social engineering and, most often, hacking. He had already gained a reputation in EVE when he was able to access the goonswarm forums repeatedly over a 4 month period despite all efforts to stop him. He found very little of interest on the goonswarm forums (except for the "shocking revelation" that the goons are incredibly disorganized) so in late January he moved on to Reikoku, one of the largest and most important corporations in BOB. Inside their forums he found all manner of incriminating discussion including some which seemed to imply that a Dev was in the corp. With a bit more digging he got access to the database and was able to prove that several people were accessing the forums from an IP address registered to CCP.

In addition, one of the threads on the forum regarding an in-game event was apparently leaked before hand which provided them an unfair advantage in getting their hands on a mothership, an extremely valuable piece of equipment. There was also talk of CCP employees proving Reikoku with blueprints which are used for crafting in-game items. Kugutsumen no doubt realized that he had hit the jackpot with these revelations and set about using the information to his advantage.

Publicity

Kugutsumen posted his findings on his website and in forums along with further allegations of misconduct (which are at this stage unproven). The community picked up on these allegations and Kieron the CCP community manager launched a post saying they were being investigated. The scandal spread far beyond the Eve community with articles showing up on important internet websites such as Slashdot.

The investigation was conducted by an internal team at CCP which had been set up to audit the in-game actions of all staff and volunteers. The process took around a week while the community was getting more and more restless. Kugutsumen continued to post more lurid details of CCP's in involvement with Reikoku including "outing" several of the developer's main characters.

CCP scored a spectacular goal as the only official word regarding the scandal was another post from Kieron which basically said nothing. This lead many in the community to claim that CCP was attempting to sweep it under the carpet. This impression was reinforced when all of Kugutsumen's accounts were banned.

Finally on Friday the 9th, A Dev blog was posted by long time developer t20, admitting to using his dev powers to create and provide Reikoku with a number of Blue Prints and apologizing for his actions.

The Blueprints have been taken off Reikoku and will be reintroduced via the usual BP lottery at a later date.

Some members EVE community were extremely angry with this revelation, as people who had supported and defended CCP throughout the incident felt incredibly let down. A huge and angry thread has appeared on the forums and other websites have taken up the story ensuring more negative publicity. We will have to see what the future holds in the coming days. t20's character in Reikoku has been removed from the game, although he is (at the time of writing) still employed by CCP.

Analysis

The Blueprints he spawned were really nothing special, In fact with the possible exception of the Sabre (an interceptor ship), they would be easily within the means of any established player to buy. All the BPOs put together would not have provided much income for an established corporation, let alone an alliance. They simply could not have given BOB or Reikoku a decisive advantage in any way, shape or form.

Kugutsumen's accounts will no doubt stay banned, but he will have little trouble getting back into the game if he wishes to. He will no doubt carry on his hacking, I just wonder will this be in EVE or some other game.

In my opinion, BOB will sail serenely on without their Devs. Even without CCP involvement, they are still very very good at the game. Perhaps they will be a little less smacky on the forums which can only be a good thing. Despite the views of some people, this will do little to damage them as their reputation for honesty was already poor and in fact the more lurid accusations against them were proven untrue.

A lot of corps are now looking at updating the security on their websites and forums. The simple fact is the free PHP forums which most corps use are easy to break into and the MYSQL database is extremely vulnerable. Due too the real world expense, I still think it will be a long time before most corps will have adequate security.

The real problem is that it has now been proved that CCP Devs have abused their power, which is leading many people to wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of Eve players will have trouble trusting CCP after this scandal. For a company which has always prided itself on its excellent community relations, this is a bad situation.

Beyond the EVE community, until now the vast majority of publicity involving EVE and CCP has been universally positive, suddenly that is shattered. This must be hugely embarrassing not to mention very bad PR.

So in conclusion, is this as bad as the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies? No, it's not even in the same league. I don't think this will have a major effort on subscription numbers or people online, and the majority of the community, while not happy, are not totally furious.

However CCP, as a small independent developer, values their reputation above all. That reputation has now taken a bit of a battering. Since the release of EVE Online, they have scaled great heights, which is why this fall is such a sudden shock to everyone. How unfortunate that they chose to call their latest patch "Revelations".

Submitted by Brent on Feb 11, 2007 16:44:50 CST (comments: 8)


Comments:


'Over-reaction... on the intarwebs?! - 1' by tdous
Submitted on 2007-02-11 23:28:41 CST
Over the last week I've rejoined the world of Eve. It's been a while. A friend of mine was telling me about the "scandal" and "all the free stuff" BoB had been receiving from "devs" and it certainly sounded terrible. I didn't have time until now to look into any of the details and I'm glad I didn't bother since everything I've heard, other than most of this post has clearly been a gross over-reaction.

Initially this post was the sort of calm and rational analysis that we are rarely treated to on the bumpy surface of the information superhighway (been a while since I've heard that phrase). But the "conclusion" of the analysis seems to suffer somewhat from the knee-jerk reactionitis that has spread like a Windows trojan across the intarwub at large. The facts seem to be that, according to this post, scandal hit, dev finally admits small-scale, non-influential (in the grand scheme) cheating.. the end. If this had a real and measureable affect on the fortunes of BoB and the power structures and economy of Eve as a whole I would expect and agree with such statements as "The real problem is that it has now been proved that CCP Devs have abused their power", "publicity involving EVE and CCP has been universally positive, suddenly that is shattered" or "unfortunate that they chose to call their latest patch 'Revelations.'"



'Over-reaction... on the intarwebs?! - 2' by tdous
Submitted on 2007-02-11 23:28:59 CST
It was good to have a calm and rational summary of the facts to save us time sifting through all the second guessing, but the conclusion is a little over the top and, I feel, only plays into the hands of the scandal writers, exaggerators and the all-too-reactionary internet community as a whole. To me this is a "Oh, that's it? Well, it's bad - he shouldn't have done it - but not as bad as I'd heard. Back to the game." situation. Certainly no reflection on the most player-focussed MMO company out there, in my opinion.

To the bloggers who thrive on controversy over than content (not referring to Virginworlds of course) and the Slashdots of this world, however, this is something else to shout about and for their readers, something else to moan about. People like that need a good famine to really teach them what life's about. But that's heading a little off-topic.

As of the the poor hacker who was so unjustly banned, screw him. People like that are the dregs. The scum. I have no more sympathy for punished hackers than that I do for the guy with the broken jaw who tried to break into my house.

What we need is, for 1 week, ICANN to redirect all domains to a holding page that, in light pastel text in front of a soothing ocean view, says "It's ok. Really. Everything is ok. Breathe in, hold, breathe out. Just stay calm."



'you ignorant slut' by Burro
Submitted on 2007-02-11 23:50:08 CST
how come VOTF was unable to move their dreads when dreads first came out but the other guys could? maybe the dev being in charge of the other guys capital ship fleet ship had something to do with it? can it be proven? the bpo's are tip of the iceberg, the rest can't be proven. Also CCP's response of screw you we need to play the game is pretty lame.


'Tin Foyle Hat' by EVEMichael
Submitted on 2007-02-12 10:49:17 CST
I highly doubt that these cases are meerly the 'tip of the iceberg'. To believe that CCP are manipulating the player politics in EVE to their own grand design, through illegal game mechanics such as the acquisition of blueprints seems a bit over the top to me.


'a bit strong' by Brent
Submitted on 2007-02-12 11:07:49 CST
EveMichael: I think "grand design" might be taking it a bit far. This is more of a "few bad apples" scenario than a den full of thieves and bandits pulling the strings of the community.


'My previous comment' by EVEMichael
Submitted on 2007-02-12 11:11:43 CST
I agree , my response was directed at Burro and his accusations against CCP of devs stopping VOTF capitals from moving. Im saving the podcast for work tonight , looking forward to it.


'eve is a pvp propaganda game' by Burro
Submitted on 2007-02-12 11:12:11 CST
the tinfoil hat propaganda campaign was concocted to avoid this conflict altogether, that failed, confessions resulted. Do you still believe iraq has WMD?


'Bah....' by Joel
Submitted on 2007-02-13 10:03:16 CST
We have seen stuff like this over and over. Warcraft leaps to mind with the whole GFraizer (Shlonglor/Nebuchadnezzar) incident where his friends in the KaliCompton crew (of warcraft 2 & 3 fame) were getting GMs to spawn and kill ragnaros over and over for them so they could speed through the MC farming stage and get to BWL. There were likewise rumors of stuff like this in everquest and FFXI, the specifics of which I was never able to sort out. But ultimately I find all this silly. We are talking about virtual worlds here. It doesnt requre the Scoobie Doo crew and their mystery machine to track down cheaters. All of this stuff should be logged and I would imagine that bots could programs could do much of the search work to watch out for cheaters or track them down after the fact. It also strains credulity that the exploits we knew about before the official investigation are the only ones that were found by the investigation.



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