Monday, October 15, 2012

CCP Sreegs Unleashed 2.0: In His Own Words

At the end of February this year CCP Sreegs and Team Security launched an offensive against botters and those engaged in the illicit RMT trade.  They even busted the illicit RMT operation of the creator of the Questor mission bot.

At Eve Vegas on 6 October CCP Stillman announced the next phase of Team Security's anti-RMT strategy; making the practice of botting and ISK selling socially unacceptable amongst the player base.  For those who have not yet seen or heard CCP Stillman's presentation, I have transcribed the section following the video of CCP blowing up the POSes of corporations caught engaging in the illicit RMT trade.
"The point of this video is that the social acceptance of botting/RMT botting RMT is going to come to a stop.  We said at Fanfest this year that we were going to eventually look into it and we feel that we are at a point where we've dealt with the low-hanging fruit we can do in terms of detection of botting. 

"The next big issue is really the alliance acceptance of this kind of bad behavior.  So this was the first that we took a bunch of corporations we banned; we're going to wipe the POSes and everything they have.  And what we are going to end up doing coming up is that we're going to make sure that if an alliance is hosting botting/RMT botting RMT they're not going to continue doing that. We're going to make sure that they feel the pain.  But we don't want this going on.  We don't want it to be an alliance (unintelligable). It's crazy what's going to happen. And we're not going to do anything drastic or anything, really, like an Unholy Rage against alliances. 

"We're going to adopt the same philosophy as we do with our botting/anti-botting work is that we are going to go for a slow burn.  We're going to measure every step we take.  We're going to see what impact it has.  We're not going to kill the whole alliance overnight, like, 'Hey guys, bad luck,' at least not initially.  We're going to make sure that everybody understands what's going on. 

"If you're doing this it is not going to be a fun time for you.  And we're going to see where it takes us because its one of the big elephants in the room right now.  We're going to address that and its going to happen over the next couple of months.  So, questions?" [emphasis mine]

Despite CCP Stillman's use of the term "botting/RMT", CCP Sreegs does not plan on holding alliances responsible for the activities of those who do not engage in ISK selling.  I spent last week exchanging emails with CCP Sreegs asking questions about what Team Security intends to do as he was concerned that the coverage of Eve Vegas did not accurately portray his strategy.  What resulted was a rather lengthy interview. 

UPDATE 27 January 2013 - The phrase "botting/RMT" was transcribed incorrectly.  The phase was "botting RMT" to distinguish botting that is sold for real-life cash vs. botting that is just done for in-game advantage.  Most of the confusion surrounded the use of this phrase and people, including myself, not interpreting the phrase correctly.

CCP Sreegs:  "I believe there are some items being blogged about and coming out of EVE Vegas which are being severely misunderstood and I’d like to provide some clarification. In essence the alliance action system as discussed is being billed as making alliances responsible for botters and this is far from the mark I wanted us to be at. My first question in that when we discussed it internally was 'What tools would we give people to police actions against bots from an alliance level?' and the answer was clearly that we couldn’t so we weren’t going to go in that direction merely for botting. This is coincidentally one of the questions Stillman was asked in Vegas lest anyone feel our thoughts are out of sync with the players. That is not to say that we will never focus on bot-friendly alliances but that it’s not the scope of where we’re focusing today.

"Our efforts and actions we’re talking about here are purely related to RMT, which can take the form of botting but which takes other forms as well. We’ve seen alliances which have RMT as a part and parcel of their leadership structure. They use various methods to attempt to shield that from us but we’re seeing it anyway. We’re not naming names YET (though we may well do so) but those alliances should feel on notice that they can end their RMT related activities whether that be in the form of using 'Rental' agreements or private forums on their own alliance websites or any other methods they’re currently using to violate the EULA or we will end it for them.

"Forming an alliance and having a bunch of people join it or taking over an established alliance and twisting it into a personal business for the leadership does nothing to change people’s obligations under the EULA and we want to send a very clear message that if they think somehow it does they’re incorrect. Players who see this behavior should both report it to us and inform their alliance leadership that it’s unacceptable, or move on to other alliances because to be honest with you that alliance does not have a future given its current path.

"At this point in time, as Stillman stated later, we’re only referring to a very small number of alliances and the VAST majority of alliances need not be concerned. In this case we’re talking less than 10."  

The Nosy Gamer: "When penalizing an alliance, does that mean punishing the alliance leadership directly or are you considering treating an alliance as a person and making the alliance itself subject to fines and/or asset confiscation?"

CCP Sreegs:  "The alliance is a person kind of. It’s hard to explain with examples only in my head but they  will be treated as an alliance not as a group of thousands of individuals, just as much as they would buy a titan as an alliance not a group of a thousand individuals. We’re not looking at individual activity here but rather individual benefit cloaked in mass activity."

The Nosy Gamer:  "You stated that you do not want to make alliances responsible for policing botters but botting is an RMT related activity.  If you detect someone botting, but that player is not involved in RMT, then will any action be taken against the alliance? If not, will the alliance be notified that one of its members is doing something wrong?"

CCP Sreegs:  "No on both counts."

The Nosy Gamer:  "Have you determined what the procedure will be if you catch an alliance member engaged in RMT but the money trail does not lead to an alliance director?  In the past I would assume that the individual would just be permanently banned.  According to what CCP Stillman said at Eve Vegas, I get the impression you will try to work with the alliance leadership to end bad behavior before more bans are necessary.  Is it possible that if enough people are banned for RMT that the alliance would pay a penalty?"

CCP Sreegs:  "No. Best answer I can give right now. The question is broad and our response will not be. This isn’t a one size fits all issue. There are hundreds to thousands of alliances in eve and there are less than 10 alliances we care about in this regard."

The Nosy Gamer:  "If you have direct proof that alliance leadership is engaged in illicit RMT, will you just institute permanent bans like you would to a regular line grunt?"

CCP Sreegs:  "We will decide on the response when we act. It will hurt."

The Nosy Gamer:  "At Eve Vegas, multiple speakers claimed that the leadership of at least one alliance is involved in the RMT trade.  I think you've basically confirmed this.  With CCP Stillman's announcement in his presentation and with your statement are you giving the leadership in the offending alliances a grace period to clean up their acts before wielding the banhammer?"

CCP Sreegs:  "I think that what we’re doing is stating that particular activity is unacceptable. What people choose to do with that information is their own thing but that doesn’t change what we do from a day to day basis. Them or their alliance member’s willingness to reach out and try to clean up the situation would of course contribute to how we dealt with the penalty."

The Nosy Gamer:  "Currently the penalty for those purchasing illicit ISK is to have all of the ISK deducted from their wallets.  Is that going to change?"

CCP Sreegs:  "No. We work on negating the benefit and we see this as effective at this point."

The Nosy Gamer:  "Has there been consideration of adding a flag in the API indicating that a player can no longer can transfer characters off the account?  This would tell CEOs and recruitment officers that the player had been caught botting.  And if so, would you consider putting a date in the API so a player could possibly get into a corporation if he kept his record clean for a long enough time?"

CCP Sreegs:  "We have no intention at this point of publicizing private account information such as the tags we place on accounts."

The Nosy Gamer:  "Besides botting, are there any other RMT related activities a player could be banned for that would not result in a permanent ban?"

CCP Sreegs:  "There is no RMT related activity including botting which would not result in an immediate permanent ban."

The Nosy Gamer:  "At Eve Vegas, CCP Stillman showed a video (which I did not get to see) of POS that were involved in the RMT trade being destroyed.  Is the plan to blow up assets that are being confiscated instead of just making them vanish off of Tranquility?  If so, is a CCP fleet going to do a POS bash or are you going to push a destruct button?"

CCP Sreegs:  "We won’t waste time with fleets. We blow up assets because hilariously enough technologically that’s the cleanest way to get rid of them not because it gives us jollies."

I should add three points I took away from CCP Sreegs' answers.  The first is that CCP Stillman's presentation was a statement of a strategic goal in Team Security's campaign to enforce the EULA, not a roadmap of specific actions.  I think many players took the presentation as actions that would occur before the attendees of Eve Vegas returned home.

The next is that when Team Security refers to RMT activity, they include both the source of the money and the actual act of selling as one act.  So those who bot for personal use are treated differently than those who turn their botted gains into real world currency (14-day vs permanent ban for a first offense).  That will now go for alliances as well as individual pilots since alliances are people too.

Finally, even though allegations were made against one alliance at Eve Vegas, CCP Sreegs did not name any names, just that less than 10 alliances merit close investigation for possible links to the illicit RMT trade.

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