Monday, December 22, 2014

Team Security's Final Blog Of 2014

CCP Grimmi from Team Security posted a dev blog on Friday giving out useful information for EVE Online players heading into 2015.  I think a lot of players, especially the space lawyers, aren't really paying attention.  Strange, since Team Security plays a major, if not the lead, role in determining what is and is not a bannable offense.  So let's step through the dev blog and find out what Team Security has in store for players in 2015 and take a quick look back at some statistics from 2014.

First, the change in penalties for purchasing ISK, PLEX, and other items from shady folks engaging in illicit RMT is changing.  From the dev blog:
ISK Buyers - 2 strikes!

As we announced at FanFest 2014, we are tuning our ISK Buyer Policy up a notch. As of January 1st 2015 we will apply a new set of rules when dealing with players who do business with the real money trading (RMT) element in EVE Online. Those new rules are as follows:

  • 1st offense - 7 days ban and ISK removed
  • 2nd offense - permanent ban
Players caught buying ISK/in-game items for real money for the first time after January 1st 2015 will receive a 7 day temporary ban on all their accounts AND the ISK/ISK value of purchased items will be confiscated.  Any players engaging in this type of activity a second time will be permanently banned on all accounts.
Players who have been caught before January 1st 2015 will be considered 1st time offenders and any further infraction will be handled according to the new rule. This means that anyone who has been caught buying ISK or ingame items for real money before January 1st 2015 and has received a warning or temporary ban according to the current rules, will receive a permanent ban on all accounts if they are involved in RMT element after January 1st 2015.
Needless to say, I was disappointed when I found out that this change in policy did not occur back in May.  However, better late than never.  I suspect that all the changes to the EULA and Rules of Conduct were delayed until the beginning of 2015 either for legal reasons or just to have everyone complain at one time instead of spreading the complaints out throughout the year.

The next section, on multiboxing, was short and sweet:
Input broadcasting and multiplexing, which have consequences in the EVE universe, are not allowed and will be policed from January 1st 2015. 
You have all seen the notification on our forums about this from 2014-11-25 and read the resulting feedback and discussions in the 121 pages so far.  There is not much more to say about this matter than is already stated in the post and we trust we'll not have any trouble with this after January 1st 2015.
I expect that the language found in CCP Falcon's forum post will appear in the Suspension and Ban Policy page on 1 January.  The reason for the change appearing in this section of the Rules of Conduct is the imposition of a 30 day ban for those caught performing input broadcasting or input multiplexing for a first offense and a permanent ban for a second offense.  But I am just making a prediction; the dev blog did not specify where the language would eventually appear.

As a reminder of the contents of CCP Falcon's post, and why certain segments of the EVE player base raged so hard, here are the key terms CCP Falcon defined:

Multiboxing refers to playing as multiple separate characters, simultaneously, across a number of accounts, either by using multiple computers to run the game, or by using a number of instances of EVE on a single computer.

Uses for multiboxing range from scouts in PvP to gang boosting, support and ECM alts, as well as extra characters for hauling, mining and many other applications. Based on our EULA and Policies we would like to clarify that multiboxing is allowed.

Input Automation

Input Automation refers to actions that are commonly also referred to as botting or macroing. This term is used to describe, but is not limited to, the automation of actions which have consequences in the EVE universe.

Input Broadcasting & Input Multiplexing

Input Broadcasting and Input Multiplexing refer to the multiplication of inputs, actions and events to multiple instances of the game.
And here are examples of allowed and prohibited actions:
Input Broadcasting and Input Multiplexing of actions with consequences in the EVE universe, are prohibited and will be policed in the same manner as Input Automation.

This includes, but isn’t limited to:

• Activation and control of ships and modules
• Navigation and movement within the EVE universe
• Movement of assets and items within the EVE universe
• Interaction with other characters
Examples of allowed Input Broadcasting and Input Multiplexing are actions taken that do not have an impact on the EVE universe and are carried out for convenience:
• EVE Online client settings
• Window positions and arrangements (of the EVE Online client in your operating system’s desktop environment)
• The login process 
As a further reminder, these rules apply whether a player is using ISBoxer, AutoHotKey, gaming mice and keyboards, or mice taped together with dowel rods.

The reason I don't believe that the space lawyers have read the dev blog is the next section on macro use.  I really thought we'd see more than four pages of forum comments based on this section alone:
Refresher Course - Macro Use
During discussions about the input multiplexing and broadcasting issue on forums and in tickets, we have noticed a frequent misunderstanding we would like to take this opportunity to address.  Any use of macros to interact with the game world is prohibited by EULA now, and has always been. The EULA clearly stipulates:
A. Specifically Restricted Conduct

3. You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play. You may not rewrite or modify the user interface or otherwise manipulate data in any way to acquire items, currency, objects, character attributes or beneficial actions not actually acquired or achieved in the Game. [emphasis mine]
CCP Grimmi is referencing the part of the EULA I've found myself quoting lately, Section 6A3.  But I want to follow up on CCP Grimmi's rather remarkable sentence, "Any use of macros to interact with the game world is prohibited by EULA now, and has always been."  His statement corresponds with my understanding of the EULA, but one that I don't think CCP always shared, judging by some forum posts that CCP devs and GMs have made throughout the years.  So I tried to get some clarification and got some answers from Team Security member CCP Random via Twitter.  CSM 9 delegate Steve Ronuken joined me in asking questions.
The Twitter conversion immediately threw up red flags.  Using a single hot key on a gaming mouse/keyboard to turn on all of a ship's hardeners simultaneously is now a EULA violation?  Sure, that's how the EULA reads, but GMs had stated on the forums in the past that such a practice is allowed.  Did I just misunderstand due to the 140 character limitation of Twitter?  Apparently not.  On the GRN Show on EVE Radio Sunday, CSM delegate Mike Azariah appeared to verify I wasn't misinterpreting CCP Random's tweet.  Mike stated that the changes to macros would affect him since he used one to turn on all of his hardeners.  The change wouldn't break the game for him, but he would have to begin turning on his hardeners manually in the future.

The other red flag was about old posts on the forums answering EULA questions.  Personally, I think CCP should have a single place with a FAQ to answer commonly asked questions.  Pointing to forum posts is a very bad practice, but one that CCP has done for years.  Apparently, that ends on 1 January.  Or was I reading too much into the dev blog and CCP Random's tweets?

The responses to a post in the General Discussion section of the official forums seems to back up my thought of CCP abandoning putting answers on the forums.  In a post on Friday, a player asked questions on what he was allowed to do with his new Razor gaming mouse.  CCP Logibro answered, "If you want clarification for anything like this, the best thing to do is to file a support ticket and ask the GMs. Any other answer will be non-authoritative."  ISD LackofFaith did provide an answer, but with the caveat, "What he said. Anything we can tell you here will not 'hold up in court'". It is just our best understanding of the rules."  He also concluded his post with, "Again, though, these answers are non-authoritative, and based on my best understanding of the rules. Please file a support ticket for an official answer."  So, in my judgement, starting in 2015, don't try to use a post from the forums in an appeal of a ban.  As CCP Random tweeted, "nice try, but no :)"

I want to add one more observation based on that one sentence.  At one point, I thought that CCP would need to make a material change to the EULA to implement the language about the definitions of input broadcasting and input multiplexing as they apply to Section 6A3 of the EULA.  But between CCP Falcon's statement on 25 November and CCP Grimmi's definitive statement about the EULA always banning macros that interact with the game world, I now no longer believe a change is coming.

The significance of CCP not needing to change the EULA is that those who wish to quit over the banning of input broadcasting/multiplexing will not have the opportunity to receive a refund for any time remaining on their subscriptions if they unsubscribe.  Section 5C3 of the EULA reads:
(3) For a Change in the EULA

If an amendment alters a material term of the EULA that is unacceptable to you, you may, as your sole and exclusive remedy, terminate the EULA and close your Accounts by: (a) clicking the "DECLINE" button when you are prompted to review and agree to the amended EULA; or (b) notifying CCP via electronic mail within thirty (30) days after the amended EULA was communicated to you, provided that you have not clicked the "ACCEPT" button, accessed the System or played the Game during that period. Your notice must state: (i) that you do not agree to the amended EULA, specifically describing the amendment(s) with which you disagree, and request CCP to close all of your Accounts; (ii) your player name and (iii) your login name. You may receive a refund of any prepaid subscription fees, prorated as of the effective date of your termination, by sending CCP a request via electronic mail within thirty (30) days of your termination notice. If you click "ACCEPT" or otherwise continue to access the System or play the Game, you shall be deemed to have accepted the amended EULA and waive your rights to terminate under this section.
That's right, the EULA provides a procedure to get part of a subscription back if CCP makes a material change to the EULA.  But I no longer believe that after downtime on 1 January players will have to reaccept the EULA.  Thus, CCP will not have to disperse any refunds due to the introduction of the terms input broadcasting and input multiplexing and their status as bannable offenses.  These are clarifications, not changes.

Finally, CCP Grimmi concluded the dev blog with the customary display of graph and chart porn.  While the charts themselves didn't provide numbers directly, a little investigation allowed for a reasonable estimation.

According to the information provided, with less than two weeks to go in the year, CCP banned somewhere between 4,800 and 5,000 accounts in 2014.  How did I arrive at this range?  First, I took the second chart in the dev blog.

From the December Security Dev Blog

I then compared the graph to one presented at Fanfest 2014.

From The Security Presentation At Fanfest 2014
According to the graph from Fanfest, the number of botting bans in January and March 2014 were about the same, but in the dev blog Friday, the number of bans in March was twice as high as in January.  I made the decision that the January and February numbers in the Fanfest graph were correct, so I made the assumption that the horizontal lines in the bar chart in the dev blog represented increments of 50.  If I'm wrong, then halve the number of bans.

From The December Security Dev Blog
Assuming I have the first bar graph correct, then CCP banned approximately 2,600-2,800 accounts for botting and other types of macro'ing in 2014 and 850-900 accounts for selling ISK.  Incredibly, 240-250 accounts received bans for ISK buying, which means CCP caught those accounts buying ISK more than once.

The final chart was a fun one.  How much ISK in cash and assets did Team Security seize during the year.

From The December Security Dev Blog
For the year, CCP seized approximately 84 trillion ISK in cash and assets, with half of that amount seized in August.  What happened in August?  The final SOMERblink scandal.  Somerset Mahm was known to own a lot of rare items, which probably inflated the total.  So how much did CCP seize in that one event?  Taking the range of 2 trillion to 9 trillion ISK seized in the rest of the months, CCP seized between 33-41 trillion ISK.  Using the average sale price in Jita at the time of the ban, that equates to a value of between 20,950-26,000 PLEX or $730,000 USD - $910,000 USD 41,000 -54,400 PLEX or $720,000 USD - $900,000 USD.  In comparison, the Battle of B-R5RB, the largest battle in the history of Tranquility, resulted in 11 trillion ISK in ships destroyed at a conversion cost at the time of $300,000 - $330,000 USD.  Internet spaceship gambling, like internet spaceships themselves, is serious business.  Also very profitable.

I realize that this look at Friday's security dev blog is a little longer than the original.  I believe, however, that the contents of the dev blog are a bit more important than a lot of people realize.  Perhaps when people read the dev blog today the serious discussion about the implications will begin.  One thing I am pretty sure of is that the tears are going to flow come 2015 for those who haven't paid attention.


  1. Wow.

    Excellent post.

  2. So if I read this properly, CCP confiscated between $700,000 and 900,000 US worth of CCP assets from Somerset Mahm? If that is so, I can understand the delay that was involved. I can imagine that lawyers in at least 2 countries were consulted before that happened, to make sure that they were indeed CCP assets.

    Guess goons got what they wanted. If you can't compete, get CCP to shut down the competition. (But to be clear, I believe Somerset was using a sophisticated RMT setup and deserved what happened)

  3. And that is just what they confiscated from him. Imagine how much isk was actually flowing through his site every day, now imagine if even 1% of that was being converted into cash...every day. Not bad for internet spaceships.