Reading a piece like Eve News 24's recent botting exposé, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition," is a mind numbing experience. At 7,300 words, of which 6,100 words consist of chat logs, I sometimes felt my eyes would bleed. My attempt to understand what Eve News 24 published led to a series of five posts totaling 7,200 words. For those who have read everything, I salute you. For those who haven't I am writing this sixth and final post to summarize my finding plus add in a few facts that emerged during the almost two weeks I've spent writing the posts.
Sources: First, the sources used in the article. The two main sources were Horus (aka Krall Amarr aka A PUPPETMASTER), a notorious botter who regularly engages in RMT activites, and a player who probably is the CEO of a corporation that was unceremoniously kicked from Tribal Band for, according to a pastebin, talked the PvP talk but didn't walk the PvP walk. Horus has supplied Eve News 24 with information for stories since 2010 while the former Tribal Band member is a recently obtained source.
Montolio: The first allegation in the article surrounded Test Alliance Please Ignore leader Montolio. The allegation was simple. Horus accused Montolio of attempting to extort up to 250 billion ISK from him to allow The Jagged Alliance to remain in the Honey Badger Coalition. Among the contents of the chat logs was Montolio telling Horus that he needed the ISK in order to wage war against the CFC.
Montolio's response was interesting. He claimed that he was never contacted by EN24 in regards to the story but EN24 published chat logs showing that is not true. He claimed that the logs were doctored but neglected to state which parts were untrue. Montolio also claimed that he was attempting to scam Horus and that he intended to contact CCP when the scam was complete.
EN24 made two editing mistakes that lent credence to Montolio's story. The first was when editing the chat logs to make them more readable that for one block of text a colon was missing from the end of Montolio's name. The second was that when copying and pasting the conversation from Gmail chat into the article EN24 head riverini mislabeled a block of conversation he had written in the chat as something Montolio wrote. As that block contained wording that Montolio would never use the story was dismissed by many as a fake. The error was later corrected in a stealth edit, a practice popular among many in the mainstream media.
In the end the veracity of Horus doesn't really matter as Montolio admitted to trying to get billions of botted ISK from Horus. Since the first post in this series was published the HBC and CFC almost went to war only Shadoo's intervention kept Montolio from waging the next great war in Eve. I believe that the recent drama makes the claim that Montolio would go to CCP and turn in the ISK instead of going to fuel his war machine rather dubious with the perspective of 20/20 hindsight.
The last issue concerning Montolio over this episode concerns punishment. EN24 clearly wants CCP to levy some sort of sanction against Montolio over the incident. The only problem with that position is that Montolio didn't actually succeed. While attempted robbery is a crime in the real world, in New Eden only the competent are punished, at least by CCP. However, when contacted, CCP Sreegs stated that Team Security does not confine itself to the charges sent to the security mailbox so other lines of investigation, such as financial transactions between The Jagged Alliance and Montolio/TEST may have occurred.
Tribal Band - Tribal Band executor Triget, through information provided by both of the sources listed above, allegedly funds Tribal Band through widespread botting operations. Unlike the allegation against Montolio, no chat logs of Triget making incriminating statements were published in the article. Tribal Band counters the charge by providing their books which indicates that most of the alliance's income (over 92%) comes from the production of nanotransitors. The Google doc also shows that the alliance is operating comfortably in the black although the figures for the Tribal Band capital ship program are not included. When contacted, Triget denied all charges of wrongdoing.
Blood and Sand - Blood and Sand is a mainly Italian corporation that contains many pilots from two of Horus' old corporations. The first corporation was named in another botting exposé published in March 2012 when Horus was operating under the tag A PUPPETMASTER. The others are refugees from the corporation Horus headed when he attempted a coup to take control of Tribal Band. This corporation claims in its corp info panel to offer 99% PvP but does not take part in alliance/coalition level operations. While Horus and the unnamed source claim this is due to their role in bankrolling the alliance through botting, the counter argument is that integrating the Italian-speaking pilots into fleets is too hard.
In terms of the charges that Blood and Sand is bankrolling the alliance through botting, Horus points to the presence of members of his old corporation that he had identified as major botters in March in Blood and Sand. He also claimed that one of Blood and Sand's directors, Gummi Worm, is actually a developer for the Eve mission/ratting bot Questor.
The charge that Gummi Worm is the Questor bot developer bbday relies on two chat conversations held between EN24's unnamed source and Gummi Worm. Gummi Worm confirms the first chat took place but that the second chat was completely made up, although whoever did the fakery was smart enough to use his IP address. I have a hard time believing that Gummi Worm is bbday just because the Questor developer's written English is a lot better than Gummi Worm's, but that out-of-game chat could have taken place with a Questor bot user.
Both the unnamed source and Gummi Worm agree that Blood and Sand was paying the alliance 10 billion ISK per month, which goes to the charge that Blood and Sand was financing Tribal Band. However, having seen Tribal Band's books I'm not sure one could say that Blood and Sand was carrying the full load. Also Gummi Worm claimed that the payments ended after 3 months, which would put the ending of the payments after time time that Horus and the unnamed source would reasonably have knowledge that the payments had stopped.
Horus also pointed to the possession of stations by Blood and Sand as further evidence, claiming that no other corporation in Tribal Band owns stations. Investigation into this charge proved Horus wrong, as 1/3 of the stations are held by member corporations and not the alliance holding corp. But Tribal Band claims that Blood and Sand owns the stations because they dropped the eggs to create the stations also proved incorrect. This could indicate other payments made to the alliance early in Tribal Band's history when its moon operations were not set up.
The EN24 article made a big deal of the existence of botters named in the March exposé were not only in Blood and Sand but were still in the game. For EN24, botters will always bot so Blood and Sand must be botting and CCP just isn't taking care of business in this case because the HBC is a protected group. But according to CCP's penalties, as long as the players are not caught botting three times and do not engage in 3rd party RMT operations they are allowed to play the game. The charges leveled against Blood and Sand are possibly influenced by a disagreement about CCP's botting policies.
Infinite Covenant - In one of the chat logs published Horus named Infinite Covenant as another botting corporation. Horus claimed that a major German botter was a member of the corp. Given that Horus has never hesitated to name names in the past, his reluctance to name this mysterious German pilot leads me to believe this is just a throwaway charge with little to no credibility.
Fallen Nova - Fallen Nova is a 16 man ANZAC corporation that, like Blood and Sands, does not usually partake in coalition level operations. According to Triget, the answer for the lack of participation is simple: the HBC doesn't hold a lot of operations in that time zone. The corporation does engage in PvP but its high average security status (4.0 at the time of publication) suggests corporation members do a lot of ratting/mission running.
The allegations is that Fallen Nova is a sleeper Pandemic Legion botting corp. However, even the EN24 article seemed dubious of the allegations made by its sources and used the phrase "allegedly a 16 member Pandemic Legion sleeping cell corp within Tribal Band." This was the only time a word as wishy-washy as allegedly was used in the article, so take the charges with a huge grain of salt.
Pandemic Legion Infrastructure Used For RMT - The allegation is that a Pandemic Legion member is using one of PL's Jabber channels to sell ISK in violation of the EULA. EN24's unnamed source did not actually contact the alleged ISK seller or join the Jabber channel, just reported what he was told by others.
CCP Sreegs - EN24 decided to ignore all of the work that CCP Sreegs and his team have done this year in order to insinuate that CCP is possibly looking the other way when cracking down on botting and RMT operations. The effectiveness and speed with which CCP can combat these EULA violators I believe is really at issue here. I think the problem is hard. If the problem were easy to solve then we wouldn't read about so many companies having difficulties. From watching the 3rd party RMT sellers I think that Team Security is going after suppliers but I really can't wait for CCP Sreegs' next dev blog.
Personally, I do not believe that riverini understands CCP Sreegs' strategy or even cares to attempt to understand that strategy. If so he probably would have quoted from the interview with CCP Sreegs that ran in on EN24 in October. Instead, the article misstated CCP Sreegs' position (and even linked CCP Stillman's Eve Vegas
presentation claiming them as CCP Sreegs words) on going after RMT
operations in which alliance leadership is involved. Of course, correctly stating that position would have contradicted some of the article's conclusions. Riverini has his opinions of how to fight the war and if CCP Sreegs does not agree then riverini will try to make him see the light. At least, that's my take on the conclusion of the article. I really hope he writes an editorial stating what his position actually is.
Conclusion - When I first read the exposé I emailed riverini to congratulate him on the article. After rereading the article 5 or 6 times and doing extensive research, including contacting Triget and the Tribal Band diplomatic corp as well as CCP Sreegs, I don't think the article is the tour de force I thought after the first reading. The article had a lot of errors, both in editing and in judgement, that I think greatly subtracted from its effectiveness. But considering the sources they had to work with I think the EN24 did a fairly good job on the portion concerning Montolio. Blood and Sand I think they brought to light some legitimate issues although I think the article probably went overboard in thowing everything rumor they could find hoping something would stick. The parts that stuck concern Gummi Worm's knowledge of the Questor bot and the station situation although Tribal Band leadership could eventually explain the stations adequately in the future. The other allegations? I think those detracted from the story as I think EN24 tried to use the credibility of the strong portions of the story to make readers accept the weaker parts.