An exploit in EVE Online has come to light that may have some major repercussions for the game. Massively does not have solid confirmation on the details (and allegations as the case may be), as this has just come to light. The exploit was publicized on a third party EVE forum called Scrapheap Challenge, on Wednesday, December 10th. If this isn't a hoax or an exaggerated account of events, how serious an exploit might this be? Very serious, if the details listed prove to be accurate... The exploit was really a bug related to a network of player owned stations (POS) paired with a moon mining operation, which yielded far too much valuable material far too quickly. Four years and an estimated 2.5 to 3 trillion ISK later, the exploit was found and patched, and the offender(s) banned. Given the claimed amount of ISK involved, it's serious enough to potentially have an impact on the game's economy.
The individual who posted the details of this exploit remains anonymous, and has only identified him or herself as "anotherone", but tells a story of how the exploit came to be: "I would like to tell you a short EVE story. Today all of my EVE Online accounts were banned. I was sure this day would come. What surprises me is that it took CCP this long to catch up with me. Even though they knew about it." It's that last sentence that is sparking so much response from the playerbase -- anotherone asserts that this issue was actually petitioned to CCP Games back in 2004, and subsequently ignored.
Read on for more details on this economic drama.
We'd like to make it clear to our readers that, at this point, anotherone's claims remain unsubstantiated, however CCP Games did address a starbase exploit on Wednesday, December 10th as well. EVE Online's Community Manager, CCP Wrangler, issued the following statement:
"We have discovered an exploit involving starbases that made it possible for some players to gain an unfair advantage over others. We have taken measures to address this by removing the starbases used in the exploit. Additionally, assets gained from its use have been seized and bans levied against the players involved. We will continue to monitor the game for issues such as this one. We encourage players to create a petition if [they] become aware of any activities which may permit others to gain an unfair advantage in the game."
Response from the playerbase -- as evidenced in both the official thread on the EVE forums and the two unofficial threads on the Scrapheap Challenge forums -- runs the gamut of reactions from surprise to anger. Some feel it's a hoax, others see grand conspiracies, but most players vocal on the matter are simply calling for accountability and transparency in this matter. While some of these requests may seem outlandish (such as requesting that CCP publicly exposes the individuals in question), the general consensus is that the playerbase wants some answers.
And perhaps the main question that remains unanswered is, "How many individuals or alliances knowingly benefited from an exploit on this scale... and what will happen to them?"
It's still important to keep in mind that the main source of all of this information is an (as yet) unnamed individual posting on a 3rd party EVE forum. At this point, Massively is treating the exploit details as rumor, albeit one with some credence given that CCP Games has, in fact, acknowledged a starbase exploit. We'll keep you posted on this as more information becomes available.
Update -- GM Grimmi has provided some more information in the following announcement:
"On December 7th 2008, a date which will live in infamy, a petition from a concerned player alerted us to a serious problem with Starbase reactors. The petition had been filed five days earlier, a far longer waiting time than we can accept with our current queue status and we have now taken measures to fix that. We immediately started investigating the issue and found that there was indeed a problem and that it was being exploited to gain unfair advantages.
We discovered seven corporations with multiple Starbases set up for the express purpose of exploiting the issue. Three of those corporations were members of two alliances. We took immediate action against the offenders and banned over 70 accounts and destroyed all the Starbases run by the corporations in question. All the offending corporations are new effectively inactive as a result of our actions.
The corporations were producing high end materials for T2 production. Working with the Research & Statistics team we have established that the effects on the markets have been considerable and far reaching. The effects of our actions against the exploiters will also be felt on the market as the production of the materials has been cut substantially. However, supply should increase again once players have mastered the alchemy process.
We are still conducting operations to deal with this matter and we will keep you posted on the progress and results as things develop."