Last week, Massively explained a bit about the war on real money trading (RMT) in EVE Online. The game's developer, CCP Games, has approached the problem from a few different angles. Central to their strategy of combating sellers of the game's currency called ISK (Interstellar Kredits) is to offer another way for players to exchange real world currency for the virtual in EVE Online -- "PLEX", or the 30 Day Pilot License Extension. PLEX is an in-game item that represents gameplay time and can be bought, sold, or traded on the open market in-game. PLEX has been integral in combating the numerous shady ISK selling websites in operation and CCP's dev blog last week showed how the playerbase is starting to embrace this system.
After all, if this practice of outright buying in-game assets with real world cash is going to happen in EVE, as with most MMOs (and regardless of what the developers try to do to curb this) it might as well be via a system the devs can regulate. It's a slippery slope, and CCP's approach to the problem does have some critics, but thus far it's been successful. PLEX has only been one facet of their battle against the ISK spammers, sellers, and the virtual armies of macro-using operations, though. CCP's operation "Unholy Rage" is a major offensive against the RMT operations exploiting the game, and is the subject of a dev blog from EVE Online's GM Grimmi.
CCP Games spent weeks monitoring the activity of ISK sellers and how deep the operations ran. They watched how the ISK moved between macro-miners and macro-ratters (these ISK farmers use programs that fully automate the collection of bounties on NPC pirates), as well as mission farmers. They also looked at market activity and server performance during their information gathering. Then it was time to act. GM Grimmi writes, "During scheduled downtime on June 22nd a little over 6200 paying accounts were banned in one go."
Grimmi explains how the mass purge of these accounts drastically freed up CPU resources for the game's legitimate players, and uses the example of the Ingunn solar system. Ingunn was a hive of macro activity until June 22nd, and now this and many other systems in the game have dramatically reduced macro activity. Also another upside, mineral resources that were previously being hoovered up by macro miners around the clock are now available to regular players to gather and sell, or use to manufacture.
The problem is still far from stamped out, in truth it will never really end, but GM Grimmi's dev blog "Unholy Rage" documents the company's most ambitious strike against large-scale RMT operations to date.