Friday, November 29, 2019

Quick Thoughts On The Hypernet Relay, Gambling's Return To EVE Online

On Wednesday, CCP published a news article announcing the Hypernet Relay, part of the Free Market release coming to the live servers on 10 December. Despite the name of the release, the feature has nothing to do with trade. Instead, gambling in the form of micro-raffles has returned to EVE Online. From the article:
Entrepreneurial capsuleers,

Today there is great excitement in introducing an entertaining new trade network coming to EVE Online called the HyperNet Relay, available for you to try out on the Singularity test server right now. As with Shareable Bookmarks – a highly requested feature that has now been delivered – the HyperNet Relay aims to answer frequent requests for the return of raffle activities that were once hugely popular in the EVE community.

The HyperNet Relay is an enjoyable new method of selling items where almost anything can be traded at any time, from anywhere, and by anyone.
I have to admit I'm a bit irritated at the whole thing. Especially the use of the term "trade" when "raffle" is more appropriate. But I will try to put aside any ill-will caused by the news dropping the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and publish some answers to questions that keep popping up. Plus some thoughts. First, mechanics.

How will the raffles, er HyperNet Offers work? The raffles will work like the item raffles that used to run on Somerblink or I Want ISK. From the news article:
The process begins by buying HyperCores from the New Eden Store or from the regional market, and the amount required is based on the total value of what the player wants to offer on the HyperNet Relay. The item being offered for trade must be a single item (no stacks) and be located in a normal station (not a structure).

Any item being sold will be represented as a HyperNet Offer. These offers contain a series of HyperNodes that can be purchased individually or in bulk. The player will then set the number of corresponding HyperNodes that will be made available to interested parties and a price per HyperNode.

Once all the HyperNodes have been sold for any given offer, everyone will see which single HyperNode is selected at random and who subsequently receives the item. Even the purchase of HyperNodes will be visible to those viewing the HyperNet Relay, creating a social experience that occurs in real time. Any item that a player claims will be placed in their item hangar in the location where the offer was created, to be picked up at any time.

How much will the HyperCores cost? We currently do not know. Just that PLEX is required since the item is in the New Eden Store.

How many tickets can be sold for a raffle? Currently, the version on Singularity shows 8, 16, 48, and 512.

How long will a raffle last before expiring? Three days.

What happens if a raffle expires without all tickets, er, HyperNodes, purchased? The ISK used to purchase the tickets is refunded and CCP keeps the HyperCores used to pay for the raffle.

Can players who create raffles purchase tickets in their own raffles? Yes.

Can players create private raffles? Yes.

Next some general questions and statements that make me want to slam my head into my desk. But as that might ruin the recent surgery I endured, I'll just post my thoughts here instead.

Why did CCP ban gambling in 2016? I wrote a 2700 word post back in October 2016 with a detailed explanation for those interested in a lot of the juicy details. Looking back, I would point to 3 reasons:

  1. Involvement in real money trading. The casinos were always watched closely for RMT activity. The organization which saw the most public involvement was I WANT ISK. In the first half of 2015, CCP blacklisted the site from EVE's in-game browser due to RMT activity. In January 2016, 12 IWI bankers were banned for RMT activity. And at the end, major figures involved with IWI were banned and trillions of ISK seized from individual bankers.
  2. The power of the casinos. Most of the casinos settled for staying relatively low-key. I WANT ISK, on the other hand, showed what someone willing to use the power that comes from an income of trillions of ISK per month could do to the sandbox. In addition to funding the start of The Casino War (aka World War Bee) and paying most of the combatants, IWI, or bankers working independently, are rumored to have purchased enough votes to put a representative on the CSM. The fact that an organization believed by CCP's security team to be involved in RMT could pay to put someone on the CSM must have shook up some people in Reykjavik.
  3. The launch the free-to-play alpha option. The ban occurred right before the introduction of  Alpha clones. Combining the RMT/cheating headaches associated with a F2P  launch with the RMT headaches involved with monitoring the casinos was probably a bit much.

CCP really banned player-run gambling so they could take over all gambling. This one makes me wonder if people follow the news. The people who made the decision to ban gambling in 2016 no longer work at CCP. In addition, CCP was purchased by Pearl Abyss in 2018, with the acquisition finalized in October 2018.

Somerblink was shut down for RMT. False, mostly. When Somerblink's ISK laundering scheme (one shared by nearly all the casinos operating at the time) in November 2013, Somerset Mahm was not banned. He was banned in August 2014 for other violations.
The Concerns

Our investigation uncovered a number of concerns. For privacy and other reasons, we will not discuss them all. However, we want to comment on three key issues.

First, the promotion could be applied to facilitate the exchange of real-world money for ISK (it’s indirect, but such transactions usually are). If the promotion were used in this manner, it would be a violation of EVE Online’s EULA and Terms of Service. We will not comment on whether any such violation actually occurred. However, this potential did raise a red flag.

Second, SOMER Blink advertised the promotion as being “approved by CCP.” But SOMER Blink never had permission from CCP to make such a statement, which misled our players, and is no different than someone pretending to be an authorized representative of CCP (look at paragraph 8 of our Terms of Service). This is a serious violation because it undermines the safety and security of EVE.

CCP was involved in discussions with SOMER Blink to address our concerns about their products, which included several different ideas for promotions, but none of them had been fully authorized by a CCP representative (notably the legal department). The promotion in question was similar to one SOMER Blink had suggested (the “PLEX Buyer’s Club”), but the promotion had been altered before enacted. SOMER Blink certainly had no basis to assert the live promotion was “approved by CCP.”

Finally, following our investigation, CCP tried to resolve our concerns directly with SOMER Blink’s founder. In response, the founder published private communications from CCP without authorization. This violates our EULA and Terms of Service (see paragraph 18 of our Terms of Service).

Our Response

We cherish and protect the freedom of our players and the creative ways people interact in EVE. But we also have an obligation to make the game environment safe and secure for everyone.

We believe the actions of SOMER Blink overstepped the bounds of fair play.

After careful consideration and consultation with CSM9, who have displayed an outstanding level of support in assisting with this issue, CCP has taken the decision to permanently ban the founder of SOMER Blink from EVE Online across all accounts, with immediate effect. This is due to multiple violations of our EULA and Terms of Service.

Following the promotion, CCP no longer regards SOMER Blink as a fair or legitimate service within the EVE Community. We are unable to provide reimbursements as per section 1.3 of our reimbursement policy, so it’s good to see that SOMER Blink is shutting down in a controlled and stable manner, and that players will be able to withdraw their ISK and / or assets.

While we will be monitoring this closely, we have no intention of interfering with the process, as we feel that allowing players to be able to have their assets and/or ISK returned by SOMER Blink will is an important part of bringing this situation to a solid resolution.
Does the new feature violate gambling laws in some countries? Yes. My understanding is that players from some countries will not have access to the new feature. I expect CCP to post a final dev blog before the feature goes live on 10 December that will include this information.

Will CCP have to change the rating of EVE Online due to the addition of gambling? No. According to information on the PEGI site, games with gambling can be rated PEGI 12, 16, or 18. EVE Online is currently rated PEGI 12 and T for Teen by the ESRB.

Will the addition of gambling lead to more activity on the black market? Probably yes. The biggest boost to ISK sellers in the last few years was the introduction of skill injectors. I don't expect the new gambling system to have quite the impact, but I do expect increased sales of ISK on the black market as gamblers look for cheap ISK to gamble with.

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