back to article Gamer embezzles virtual cash to settle real debts

As if high-profile investment scandals and the economic downturn weren't bad enough here on Earth, now folks have to deal with it outside our galaxy. Virtually, at least. Impoverished from real-world debts, the CEO of the largest player-run financial institution in the sci-fi MMO Eve Online stole thousands of dollars worth of …

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  1. Dave 52

    Eve Online ruled!

    Where you could steal, bully and beg to your hearts content. My first million was made begging. My first 100 million was made running a mouse macro to pick off the poor fools that put there name in the description box for their escrow transfer and left the "transfer to" box empty, meaning anyone who looked could take their stuff for free.

  2. Steve Roper
    Thumb Down

    Once a thief, always a thief

    What he did might not have been illegal, but considering the many hours of game time it takes for a play to amass a reasonable amount of gold it was certainly unethical. And with a mentality like that, I certainly wouldn't hire him. If he's prepared to rip people off in the virtual world he'd certainly not balk at ripping my company off in reality.

    I think the best punishment for this kind of behaviour is for all employers to note this cretin and refuse to employ him. Ruining his future job prospects is adequate punishment for the selfish and criminal mentality he exhibits.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Run on the bank?

    They were worried about a run on the bank? It's virtual currency - the bank (game admins) could have simply created some more money! It's not as if it's like a real bank.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant

    He actually made something from nothing.

    He deserves credit (excuse the pun)

    I hope his Son is better as well

  5. Glen 9
    Pirate

    title?

    I doubt he would be too popular if he ever played again. Well it is a recession and all and it's only virtual money.

    Skull because EVE is basicly one big space pirate game (with corporations obviously)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laissez-faire or double standards?

    CCP banned the guy for selling the in-game currency for real currency, citing that the guys actions "unbalances the game" (source: Reuters).

    Now, CCP themselves sell game time cards (codes you can use to extend your subscription time in the game) both on their website and through third-party suppliers. These GTCs are bought with real currency and can be sold inside the game for in-game currency. The only limit to the number of GTCs you can buy is your real life wallet, so if you are rich enough you can buy as many as you or your in-game friends need to get an advantage.

    What's the difference here? In one instance CCP get your real-life currency, in the other someone else unaffiliated with CCP does. That's it. The net effect on the game is the same with both systems, one person can destabilise the game through leveraging off the size of his/her real-life wallet.

  7. Feef Lovecraft
    FAIL

    I thought

    The whole point of EVE was that you could do exactly things like this, i've never liked the fact that there's so little control and security involved in some aspects of the game mechanics.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I miss eve a little

    Its a great game but there are no comeback. You can steal 200 bil ISK and just transfer it to a new character.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Iceland!

    How very appropriate that it's an Icelandic company, taking a laissez-faire attitude to banking regulation....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Run on the bank

    It's a player-run corporation offering interest-bearing accounts, so yes currency is finite.

  11. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Run on a bank. Iceland based corporation.

    Nope, rings no bells at all.

  12. The Original Ash
    Pirate

    @Richard Drysdall

    This wasn't a CCP run banking institution, this was a corporation run by players who offered returns on investments in exchange for letting them use other peoples' money for coroprate activities.

    CCP wasn't involved; These were just game players, not admins.

  13. pctechxp

    Well capitalised

    The virtual incarnation of HBOS?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Steve Roper

    "If he's prepared to rip people off in the virtual world he'd certainly not balk at ripping my company off in reality."

    By that logic, if you're prepared to kill someone in a game, you're a potential real life killer and should be taken out of society for the safety of everyone else...

    It's a game! You do things you'd never dream of doing in real life... that's what it's for!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @Run on the bank?

    The fact that is virtual does not alter the fact that a run on the bank can happen. Its essentially a simulation of an economy.

  16. Corrine

    @Richard Drysdall

    Its not run by the admins, its run by the players.

    @Laissez-faire or double standards?

    If you flood the ingame time card market the price of time cards will drop dramatically, preventing it from being leveraged as heavily as you describe.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awesome game

    This sort of thing has happened before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_Online#Virtual_crime

  18. H 5
    Pirate

    EVE's Economy

    @ Richard Drysdall: Eve has a 'real' economy, the "Banks" are player-run. Admins can't just create more money.

    This is only shadey because he sold the ISK for real money - e.g. a real theft rather than EVE shenanigans.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @Laissez-faire or double standards?

    "What's the difference here?"

    The difference is that you can purchase time cards out of game, but they do not have any guaranteed resale value in game, and are subject to the whims of the eve economy and the laws of supply and demand. Although time card buying and selling does provide a way to convert real world money into in game cash, they do not provide any way to turn ISK*, the in-game currency, into real world money, which is what the individual did.

    Had he done this heist then used the ISK to purchase enough timecards to play for free for years, I wonder how CCP would have reacted?

    Pirate cos, well, its Eve :)

    *ISK = Interstellar Kredits, but also Islandic Kronor. Funny guys those icelandics :)

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. JimC

    @Richard Drysdale

    > the bank (game admins) could have simply created some more money!

    > It's not as if it's like a real bank

    A better analogy for the game admins might be the government... And in that case it seems exactly like a real bank to me... What is it they call it - qualitative easing or something?

  22. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Unhappy

    This is why I didn't play EO.

    Sure, other MMPORPGs have their nasty aspects, but Eve just seemed designed to encourage the nasty side of people. It was almost a glorification of bullying and scamming, and all to make money for the game owners. All in all, a very polished product but aimed squarely at schoolyard bullies.

  23. Matthew Glubb
    Pirate

    @Richard Drysdall

    Haven't you heard of quantitative easing? Real banks print money too...

  24. serviceWithASmile
    Pint

    @ Anon Coward 3rd July 2009 06:45 GMT

    I think the difference here is that this guy actually made money from the game.

    CCP don't mind you paying THEM, and if you get a GTC and sell it in game for ISK then woo, you have some isk. But its all still contained in the game, its ISK that other players have made through (normally) the usual means. But, if you reverse that, and actually sell the ISK for real money, its a different matter., as you are making some kind of income from the game.

    I do take your point though, I do think it's double standards too and IMHO no trading isk for $$ or vice versa should be allowed in any way.

    It just devalues the whole game.

    Its a great game though :)

  25. OSBob

    @Run on the bank?

    "They were worried about a run on the bank? It's virtual currency - the bank (game admins) could have simply created some more money! It's not as if it's like a real bank"

    Sounds much the same, isn't that called quantitative easing when banks do it?

    And online games tend to be much less willing to do stuff like that, because everything is geared to taking out as much money as it going in to the game. Massive price fluctuations tend piss people off.

    I mean, wouldn't you be pissed off if you spent years saving up for some new in game item like a house, then the economy took a nosedive and it became worthless because the admins were giving out money to people who didn't deserve it? Oh wait....

  26. Paul Kinsler

    Re: Run on the bank?

    > It's virtual currency

    Even the money in your wallet is virtual.

  27. Simon Ball
    Black Helicopters

    @Richard Drysdall

    Ebank is a PLAYER-run institution. It isn't run by CCP, and it's losses, however they occur, are not covered by CCP.

    If not for the sale of the stolen ISK in the real world, this would be a textbook black-bag job - infiltrate, steal/assassinate and make good your escape. Happens all the time in EVE. Major corporations and even whole alliances have been brought low by similar operations, some of which are immensely impressive in their scope and execution. Intelligence, counter-intelligence and subversion are full-time jobs in the major alliances.

    EVE is a very harsh place; abusing the mechanics of the game is forbidden, abusing other player's trust is almost encouraged.

  28. Thomas 4

    Wolves from sheep

    You can certainly tell who plays Warcraft and who plays Eve in these comments. Most of the Eve player base shrug this off as a day in the life, after all, its chicken feed compared to the notorious days of the Guiding Hand Social Club - their heist claimed about $17,000 in various assets and they were hired to do it!

    Warcraft players see this as some kind of grevious sin because the game takes numerous steps to protect you from scamming, fraud and variously screwing over your guildmates. And to the attention of the poster suggesting that CCP would just replace the cash, no sir, they wouldn't. Its one of the chief things that separates Eve from other MMOs - once its gone, it stays gone.

    Anyway, I'm ranting like a fanboy. Virtual currency, after all, is serious business.

  29. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Coat

    Well done that man

    And well done CCP.

    Far better a virtual world where players face realistic life issues than one which molly-coddles users ( and most often so the owners can keep taking their money ) IMO. If user's want a 'resurrect' button for everytime they screw-up or artificial limitations on getting screwed, find some other world.

    Presumably the money stolen is still in-game so no reason the Virtual Police, Courts and Vigilantes cannot go after those who now have it. That's the joy of a virtual world - Try turning up at your bank manager's house with a burning torch, a double-plus-bastard sword and a set of D6 :-)

    As to the real-world punishment, I'm in two minds about that; I can certainly see advantages of putting him back in the game and seeing how the aforesaid deal with him.

    Mine's the chainmail with the empty wallet.

  30. Robert Hill
    Pirate

    Not the first Eve rip-off or double cross...

    Really, in the sheme of Eve, this is hardly the most notable double-cross. The Band of Brothers director that closed the alliance minutes before their rivals The Goons invaded their entire space with everything they had probably cost more in terms of real-life currency losses and consternation. And The Goons themselves lost their entire Titan fund when their leader went walking with it. The Guiding Hand Social Club corp EXISTS merely to infiltrate and pillage alliances from within for example...they have stricken some rather large alliances over the years, once they get someone up the the level of director within the alliance. Etc, etc, etc...

    The important thing is the Eve/CCP does not ban you for those types of offences, as long as the money stayes within their closed system. Now taking it OUT of their wallets, er, "closed economy" apparently will get you banned...although you can put IN as much as you want by buying Game Time Cards and selling them in-game (they even provide a secure transaction mechanism for their purchase and selling between players!).

    Now I remember why I stopped playing Eve...

  31. Adam 52 Silver badge

    @Steve Roper

    You seem to forget it's a game. Would you also refuse to hire anyone who's ever played monopoly on the grounds that they're likely to spend company money recklessly and go bankrupt?

  32. Avalanche

    @Run on the bank?

    EBank is not run by CCP (the creators of EVE Online), but by other players. So no, they cannot create ISK out of thin air.

    Eve is great (although I stopped some time ago due to time constraints), and yes the cutthroat environment can be hard at times, but still it is a great games and the lack of rules is exactly why it is so great.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Not everybody "gets" eve.

    There are absolutely mechanics which you can use to protect yourself from theft. They are, however, things that you have to do yourself. Compare this to the notorious Guiding Hand Social Club incident where lax corporate organisation was exploited to take 100% of the assets of one of the most successful corps in the game. An 8% loss can almost be written off as one bad investment here.

    People attacking haulers in high security space? Take a moment to look at how your hauler is set up, design it to last until the npc police arrive rather than to hold that extra five crates of beer and two cows.

    The fact that this is a game where a trip to the market involves tactics rather than right-clicking on a flightmaster and going afk for fifteen minutes is what hooks some people and drives off others.

  34. Dave Murray
    Pirate

    Old News

    This happened weeks ago, took your time reporting it. He has no plans to return because he can't. After being banned for breach of EULA if he tries to start a new account CCP will ban that too.

    CCP don't have a laissez-faire attitiude to the darker side of the game, they actively encourage it. This is the big selling point of EVE over every other game on the market. New Eden isn't Hello Kitty Island, it's a dystopian view of the future for adult gamers.

  35. Snetty
    FAIL

    @everyone that doesn't "get" gtc trading

    Everyone here seems to completely miss the point with GTC's. CCP don't make a penny from people "buying" isk. What you're really doing is selling your game time (which you've purchased via a GTC) to someone who doesn't want to pay RL money for it. You're never selling the GTC to CCP for isk, it's always a trade with another player. This is why the isk price for GTC's fluctuates based on the amount of demand for isk vs game time.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Federal Reserve!

    He ran a private bank in an MMO world. If it was a real bank, he would magic money out of thin air, seven times the amount of the deposits and sold that instead!

    So if anything the guy's bank was LESS crooked than the US Federal Reserve, because he actually SOLD the deposits, whereas a private bank like the Federal Reserve does not actually lend out it's deposits at all...

    Instead they magic out of thin air the money they lend, up to 7 times the amount of the deposits. And if the depositors want their money, the bank gives it to them (those deposits are never actually lent out, they are deposited with the central bank), whilst still having zero assets it has lent out 7 times the amount of money it once had deposited.

    So this guy is 7 times less crooked than the Federal Reserve at least.

  37. Jacob Reid
    Paris Hilton

    This happened last month.

    Admittedly an impressive one, but thefts are not rare in EVE.

    @Richard - the bank is 100% player run and owned. There is no official bank service in the game. Money most definitely is finite, even though they have a lot of it.

    @Anon "Laissez-faire or double standards" - buying ISK via time codes is a lot more expensive than via 3rd parties. It is also well controlled so there is no chance of scamming while all the chinese gold farmers will just take your money and never send you the cash, or infect you with a keylogger then clear your cash out.

    @Feef - scamming, metagaming, etc is all within the rules, he only got b& for selling ISK for IRL money, which is not allowed.

  38. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge
    WTF?

    @Robert Hil

    You stopepd playing eve, because CCP make a profit from running it, and don't allow others to? They are running a business you know.

  39. Monty Burns
    Thumb Up

    6 years on and still loving it....

    Yeap, count me as an Eve Fanboy and yes, this is my in game name as well.

    6 years on and i'm still loving the game and things like this do nothing but make me appreciate it and CCP more. CCP have tried to create a chaotic universe, with the few rules that would probably exist in such an evironment where war is everywhere and very little control exists. Yeah there are ripoffs and death around every corner but so are the rewards and the fun.

    I wonder how many people have (or will have) played WoW or any other mmorpg for six years? I know a LOT of people in Eve have ......

  40. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    @Richard Drysdall

    Sounds allot like the U.S. Federal Reserve then....

  41. alan 39
    WTF?

    re Steve Roper

    ITS A COMPUTER GAME FFS

    Its a make believe world were you can do stuff which you wouldnt do in the real world. I for one play counter strike, where as a terrorist I take hostages and blow stuff up. Maybe I should be detained as a potential terrorist becuase obviously some people struggle to tell the difference between the real world and fantasy worlds.

    IDIOT

    Alan

  42. Glyph

    Halting State

    by Charles Stross is an excellent near-future sci-fi novel with a similar event depicted, and then the real-world ramifications are explored as well. The money is real enough to upset the people who lost it, real enough for people to trade government backed notes for it, and real enough to help treat a child's medical problems. That seems real enough.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Meh

    I have a higher opinion of him than of the people who sell game credits on eBay (however they acquired them... I don't really care)

    If you're going to capitalise on virtual money then you're a bit of a dullard to begin with. At least this guy did it with some class.

    Also, @ Steve Roper:

    "Ruining his future job prospects is adequate punishment"

    No, ruining his future career prospects is unbelievably harsh and draconian punishment and would probably force him to turn to crime where it wouldn't have been necessary before.

    Paris, because she can plunder my resources.

  44. jai

    excellent

    this is exactly the kind of reason why i started playing EvE

    you'd never ever get anything as interesting as this happening in WoW

    i can't beleive it made it onto BBC News as well

  45. Robert Hill
    FAIL

    @Ed Blackshaw

    Nope, I have no problem with that, and was paying for two accounts and frequently buying GTCs to fund major ship purchases (I can make more money in the real world than in game).

    No, I really didn't like their attitude towards allowing scamming - there are very simple mechanisms they could put in place that would easily stop it, and yet they don't. The constant begging and scamming in Jita (the main trade system) is enough to turn many off, and it would be very easy to prevent or crack down on - but CCP does nothing for that, even when it is THEIR brokerage system that makes it so easy to scam other players by mis-listing merchandise. Or the problem that BoB had with a single director being able to wipe-out the largest alliance in Eve all by himself, because ANY alliance executive can dis-band the alliance in 2 minutes work - again, easy to prevent by making it a majority directorship vote, or by making the CEO required to do it. And the list goes on...

    So my issue isn't about CCP making money (which they deserve for a such an impressive experience), but about their being quite happy with scamming - as long as they are not the ones being scammed!

  46. fajensen Silver badge
    Flame

    Promote the man!

    That guy sounds like the perfect candidate for running a modern investment bank; like Northern Rock or perhaps AIG - maybe the treasury even. Looting and pillaging is the norm there!

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've never played it but ...

    ... the admins are "notorious" for not meddling in the universe? I don't understand.

  48. jai

    @alan 39

    >ITS A COMPUTER GAME FFS

    you, sir, have obviously never played EvE

    or if you did, you omgragequit after a few days of being scammed and blown up

    it's not just a computer game, it is a way of life and a state of mind

  49. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    CCP...sorry we see no errors on checking the logs...

    Thank you for playing EvE-Online

    If you would like to buy ISK legally, please buy PLEX game time certificates via CCP and sell them for ISK ingame.

    Buy ISK out of game via Chinese/Vietnamese Gold famers then buyer beware, if caught then all buyers and transactions in recoreded in the logs will be traced, banned or billed for the Illegal ISK transacted.

    Huge transactions of ISK are checked for Illegal activity, so spending $1,000+ on ISK is simply asking for trouble, and no you cannot have your illegally bought TiTan back ;)

    Have a Nice Day

  50. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    'Eve' ∩ 'The Register'

    Clearly some overlap between readers of this robust online publication and the upstanding players of Eve Online. Perhaps we need an Eve icon....? :)

  51. ChunkyMonk
    Thumb Up

    What makes Eve interesting

    This kind of thing is what makes Eve interesting (to me), when you lose something its gone - the game doesn't cuddle you, help you on your way and give you your stuff back to stop you crying.

    Most Eve players are grown ups and understand this, this is probably why they are generally not the ones going OMG!

    And yes, I am an Eve fanboi

  52. Niall Mac Caughey
    Coat

    @ Steve Roper +(Adam52 + Alan 39)

    I think Steve's analysis of the man's charcter is pretty good, however fajensen is correct. Where have you been for the past year Steve?

    By displaying a complete absence of any ethics or moral compass he has demonstrated that he is perfectly qualified to work at a high level in a financial institution. His only motivations are pragmatism & self-interest.

    The scary part of the above is that every word is true.

    Mine's that rather nicely tailored crombie being brushed down by the lackey - sorry, bank porter.

  53. Gilbert Wham

    Gopod on him

    Nowhere does it say he has actually been prosecuted - just banned from Eve (would a new IP/Bank Account be enough to get round that - IDK from MMORPGS). Perfect crime? He's six grand up with no real comebacks I can see...

  54. Chris C

    @Steve Roper

    "What he did might not have been illegal, but considering the many hours of game time it takes for a play to amass a reasonable amount of gold it was certainly unethical."

    Let me translate. "Wah! His fictional character stole fictional money from my fictional character in this fictional environment!" If any action taken in a GAME affects your REAL life to any significant degree, then you have a serious problem.

    "If he's prepared to rip people off in the virtual world he'd certainly not balk at ripping my company off in reality."

    Oh, you're right! I mean, it's not like we were doing this at least 17 years ago in such games as Solar Realms Elite (and later, Barren Realms Elite), Trade Wars 2002, or Operation Overkill II. Man, I hope he never played Mortal Kombat. If he dead, then "he'd certainly not balk at ripping my" body to shreds. After all, if he did it in a fictional environment, he'll most certainly do it in real life if given the opportunity.

    As for his comment "I'm not proud of it at all, that's why I didn't brag about it. But you know, if I had to do it again, I probably would've chosen the same path based on the same situation.", at least he's honest about it (and also takes responsibility for it). That puts him above 99.999% of the population.

  55. Disco
    FAIL

    @Richard Drysdall

    "They were worried about a run on the bank? It's virtual currency - the bank (game admins) could have simply created some more money! It's not as if it's like a real bank"

    Unfortunately that's exactly like a real bank and we're very much in the process of creating some more as we speak (QE)...

  56. ratfox Silver badge

    pocket change

    These $6000 are relatively pocket change compared to what gold farmers make...

    The interesting thing is that he apparently was not bothered by the law for that. There are interesting discussions to have and is/should be legal with relation to virtual worlds...

  57. Trevor 3
    Pirate

    @Virtual Cash

    Ok, so let me get this straight. He managed to sell virtual money, in the real world for real money.

    That must mean that there is some kind of exchange rate.

    And obviously a black market for ISK vs real money.

    I wonder what the exchange rate is between pounds, dollars and ISK?

  58. Steve Roper
    Stop

    To all those who said it's just a game

    Yes, it is. And if what he did was done in context of the game I'd fully agree with you. If he'd ripped off his partners and used the money to buy a new mega-battlecruiser or something I wouldn't have said anything - that's what gaming is about. I also used to play Barren Realms Elite and I've also ganked my share of newbies. But what he did here was to win the trust of other players with the intent of defrauding them *to make REAL money*. He let the mentality of the game spill over into real life. To further the "if you kill someone in a game does that make you a murderer" analogy - if you practice assaults and make friends in the game for the purpose of recruiting people to really go out and kill a dozen class/workmates - yes, it does.

    That is why I stand by what I said. He's prepared to defraud people for real-world gains. I wouldn't want someone like that in my company. End of story.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    School Playground

    I don't understand why anyone would play a game where you get picked on all the time.

    I mean, it's not fair that you get shot at without them REQUESTING permission to fight.

    Also it's so stupid that if someone con's you, then your screwed, I have heard that CCP don't deal with in game scammers.

    Where is the fun in getting scammed? losing all you have worked for to some stupid buillies who want to kill you for no reason.

    Sigh. I think we should all plays Sims 3!!!

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