"We actively hunt down and ban ISK [in-game currency] sellers whenever and wherever we find them, with a dedicated effort from our game master team. The main reason for that is those accounts are more often than not associated with credit card fraud, account hacking and using macros. All of this affects the game experience for our regular players in a negative way, and hence we do all that we can do in order to minimise these illegal activities within the game."
For those relatively new to Eve Online, CCP's War on Bots and the illicit RMT trade did not always consist of a long relentless grind more comparable to the shooting of structures and attempts to cause failure cascades associated with null sec warfare. Today marks the third anniversary of an attempt to shock and awe RMTers and their associated botting suppliers into submission with a campaign now known as Unholy Rage.
Unlike a lot of game companies that do massive ban waves in an attempt to keep botting, gold farming and other illicit RMT activities under control, CCP attempted to do a layered approach designed to not only knock out the botters but take away their customers as well. The first part of the plan involved competing directly with the isk sellers. In November 2008 CCP created the 30-day Pilot's License Extension (PLEX) and began the process of allowing players to not only trade isk for game time codes (GTCs) but beginning in February 2009 CCP began selling game time directly. The purpose of PLEX was to make the process of trading isk for game time a lot easier and hopefully lure players away from illicit isk sellers.
With the demand side addressed, CCP began identifying methods to identify and ban those in the illicit RMT trade, including botters. In an early test in early March 2009 CCP identified and banned approximately 3,000 accounts associated with illicit RMT activities. Processes were tweaked and metrics to measure success were identified leading up to the beginning of the offensive, code named "Unholy Rage".
During downtime on 22 June 2009, CCP banned a total of 6,200 accounts. While the associated dev blog documented things like server CPU usage, player populations in popular systems and effects on the markets, the one thing lacking was the effect on how many accounts were actually logged onto Tranquility. According to data downloaded from Eve-Offline, the seven-day rolling average of concurrent users dropped from 31,707 accounts on 21 June 2009 down to 27,333 players on 30 June 2009, a 13.8% drop. Put another way, in June 2009 almost 1 in 7 pilots logged in at any one time were bots.
Unholy Rage was not just a one day effort. Over the course of the anti-RMT/anti-bot operation CCP issued over 30,000 bans, many to repeat offenders, for violations of the EULA for illicit RMT and botting. But if the goal of the operation was to eliminate these activities, Unholy Rage was a failure. By the end of 2010 players were once more complaining about bots and CCP had hired a new security chief who had a different philosophy of how to deal with botters and the RMT trade.
While the operation itself wasn't a lasting success, the first day demonstrated how big of an impact botting had on server performance and that the Eve economy was now large and robust enough to handle the impact of banning that many bots. For that and the fact that 6,200 botters were banned, the anniversary of the start of Unholy Rage deserves to be remembered. So happy Rage Against The Bots Day everyone!