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May 06, 2004



Is attacking other players supported by the game or is it an exploit? I don't play EVE, but if the game supports piracy, well, expect to find pirates. Else stay in the dock. I won't say "it's just a game" but I will say "it's THE game". This is of course the motivation to not recognize in-game assets as real property in a legal sense, else I'll be sued next time I PK someone and damage their precious 90% eff composite armor. Or go to jail if it's a game supporting perma-death.

Your right to play the way you want to play, if existant at all, doesn't include standing at the Albion waygate in Emain Macha or running through Coronet with a TEF up on your $1500 Jedi and complaining that you die.

I don't mean to judge from a position of ignorance, but it's hard not to get angry over whiney crap like that. I recommend a) skill, b) friends, c) a game that you actually enjoy playing the way it's intended to be played.


I have a first hand knowledge of the piracy issues in Eve (As a victim) and I can tell you that it ain't nice at all.

First of all, the figure mentioned 15M ISK is very high, the incidents I have witnessed may have started at 5M ISK but after some negotiations (and begging) came down to 2.4M ISK.

What is really frustrating from the player's perspective is that due to the immense and unforgiving nature of the game's "Thread mill", if you have joined at any point after, say the closed beta, than you are screwed because all those who where there before you will have bigger ships, more money, skills etc.

What it means is that you have no way of fighting the pirates back, nor of recovering your losses. Maybe the creators have intended for power to be more mobile as in groups of "newer" players combining forces against the "old" pirates, but in effect it doesn't work this way.

Personally, I left the game in frustration and went to play something more fun, with better team dynamics and a real chance for people who are willing to learn, like Battlefield Vietnam...


So the summary abstraction of this is:

People are paying to play a game in which they may well become victims of a crime they're normally protected from. In this, the 'criminal' typically has a statistical advantage, which leads to massive monetary benefits at low risk, outside the reach of any law enforcement.

Sounds like every other form of legalized gambling to me.

Sure, from a third party it may seem like participation is a pointless monetary risk to begin with, and the 'odds' certainly don't justify it mathematically.

Yet to the player, it makes sense if one is playing for the enjoyment of playing the game itself. Knowing that not only do they risk 'losing' every shot, but that eventually they will lose, is secondary to the primary enjoyment.

Suffice to say, if the amount of 'worth' being 'risked' is significant -- it's up to the player to 'cash out', or accept responsibility.


I was talking with a writer from Century City, who was doing research for an episode on virtual theft, but unfortunately, this happened before they could film.

The show, I guess, felt a little bit too much like Star Trek meets LA Law -- in a bad way. :-)


> So the summary abstraction of this is:

> People are paying to play a game in which they may
> well become victims of a crime they're normally
> protected from.

Sorry, what? "crime"? Are you implying that it's *illegal*, according to real-world government laws, to take someone hostage in a PvP game? It sounds like a faulty assumption to base the rest of your post on.


I am wondering if there is a larger issue here than:

1.) Game + Ebay = legalized gambling

2.) A referendum on Eve or PvP game design

3.) Emergent new PvP twists: "exploits versus features."

For example, what are the boundaries in circumscribing in-game conflicts. Where are the tricky edges?

Case: running with this piracy / blackmail scenario a bit more, is that there is a deferred aspect to this sort of conflict that is looking for trouble (IMO, it has a transactional quality to it). I wonder if this could expose more opportunities for problems with RW linkages. Problems that may be anticipatable now.

Consider a set of (weak, but the best I can do on-the-fly) hypotheticals:

A.) "give me $ (in-game currency) or i'll shoot ya"

B.) "oh you don't have enough $ (in-game currency), show up tomorrow and bring the dough, or i'll hunt you down and shoot ya"

C.) "oh you don't have enough $ (in-game currency), here is my paypal account."

Not to pick on Eve or PvP in any way (truth and disclosure: i like both), its just these are easy examples for different reasons: PvP gets folks excited (visceral); Eve is well-designed (currency based game, asynchronous trading) for the mentioned blackmail scenario.



Oops, not clear:

(A.) and (B.) above are (IMO) fine. (C.) crosses the line.


Christopher Armstrong: Sorry, what? "crime"?
Blackmail, Ransom, Murder -- any act that is illegal in meatspace but fully legal within the confines of a virtual world.

Are you implying that it's *illegal*, according to real-world government laws, to take someone hostage in a PvP game?

Absolutely not. My point was exactly yours: while it is illegal to take some hostage in real life, and ransom them back to their friends/family, it is certainly legal to do so to an avatar within a virtual world.

This was intended to summarize what I read as the implicated concern in the original post: 'What if virtual 'crimes' (that is, acts illegal in meatspace & legal in cyberspace) results in meatspace profit'?

My point is that regardless of whether virtual items of meatspace worth might be lost during play - the player is assuming that risk by playing in the first place.

I apologize if that wasn't clear.


It's a very clear risk vs. reward system, here's how it works (I've played for enough time to get a good handle on the system):

-You don't HAVE to go into the systems where pirates ply their trade, however, the rewards are high, since higher level NPC "rats" (pirates) tend to spawn in the lower security level zones (rating system .0 to 1.0, 1.0 being most secure increments of .1, so its .1, .2, .3 etc).

-Higher level pirates will drop a LOT of really expensive loot sometimes, so it's well worth risking your 700 million ship to travel there if your insured.

-Being a pirate in the game is endorsed and is one of the many "high end" content areas the game freely provides. Others include mining, running missions or running a guild.

-IF YOU ENTER A SYSTEM WITH LOWER THAN .5 YOU KNOWINGLY PUT YOURSELF AT RISK. If you are a complete newbie, you really have nothing to worry about anyway, hence there being no specific pop in your face warning (unless you manually check which is very easy).

-You can play through the entire game and NEVER even SEE a player pirate or encounter the danger of them, since in higher security areas they will be immediately destroyed on sight by the sector police, even if they aren't a pirate and attempt to just pot shot you.

So in my analysis, the pirating is a well integrated part of the game, what the players do with the 5-50 mil they blackmail the players for is just another part of doing business in the game and is inconsequential to the game since skills require flat out time to develop, not money (cost of skills is extremely low IMHO).


Nathan> C.) "oh you don't have enough $ (in-game currency), here is my paypal account."

How does this cross the line? If I have enought ISK to pay you I might have purchased that money on eBay, so why not cut out the middleman? In fact, why not offer a cheaper buy out with US$ compared to eBay conversion?


Trying to better address Nathan's question, I think the only heuristic is determining if the action is within the scope of the game. Sure there are grey areas with players doing creative things that developers never intended, but grey areas are an inherant problem anytime you try to say what is right and wrong.

I would say that all three of the scenario's you gave are fine. Sure (c) is fairly low, but as the "victim" I still have the right to say no and lose my ship - all they've done is blown up my ship, which is part of the game. You say it crosses the line - would it have been ok to just blow it up without asking for a donation to their get-out-of-parent's-basement fund?

Now, saying "wire me cash else I'll hack your account and delete your character" is crossing the line, because that's not part of the game.


How does this cross the line? If I have enought ISK to pay you I might have purchased that money on eBay, so why not cut out the middleman? In fact, why not offer a cheaper buy out with US$ compared to eBay conversion?

I would say that all three of the scenario's you gave are fine. Sure (c) is fairly low, but as the "victim" I still have the right to say no and lose my ship - all they've done is blown up my ship, which is part of the game.

Fascinating. Intellectually, I nod. But somehow I feel like this crosses a line somewhere... Perhaps I'm just squeamish. Middleman = necessary fig-leaf?


Regarding your hypothetical (c), Nate, you should feel squeamish. The salient point is that the "demand" and the "threat" in blackmail can both be licit actions. This has been a general basis for criticism of the legal theory of blackmail.

See this for more detail:


The ultimatum does seem to be a psychological weapon. Instead of just saying "oh well, I got beat, that's the game" you have to essentially choose to have your ship destroyed. But still, if it's fine to blow it up, it's fine to offer not to for some reason. It's within the scope of the game take their 15 mil then blow it up anyhow, although then you've really crossed a line to being a prick, and I wouldn't recommend it just for the sake of the "look in a mirror" test.


But (c) takes it outside the game directly from inside the game, that's what distinguishes it from (a) and (b), and puts it in the same space as "wire me cash else I'll hack your account and delete your character."

Any line we draw is arbitrary, as with any game. But for a game to maintain its integrity, the lines drawn must be observed. (c) forces another player to cross that line. eBaying Isk may also cross the line, but it's doing it yourself, not coercing another player to do so. I think (c) does cross into real world legal turf since it involves coercing a payment from another person with threats. The threats would probably appear silly in court, but that doesn't mean they aren't real threats. The difficulty would be in placing a value on the harm, but that's already the case with lots of civil actions involving "psychological harm," pain and suffering, and all of that.

I managed to dodge pirates just fine my whole time in EVE. A few times narrowly. It was part luck, a lot of situational awareness, and common sense. It's a big universe; pirates like choke points. Don't get choked.


Hi everyone. In the first place, if I had known Nate was going to be quoting me I would have tried to make my comment a little more co-herent...as it is I've been working Nightshift for so many days I'm at the stage where I'm having conversations with walls and other inanimate objects.
second...I didn't think I was whining...just making an observation on another Eve-orientated thread. I knew before I entered the game some of the possibilities that might occur. If they become too objectionable, I will simple quit (as I have done at least one other MMORPG)
As far as the issue of extortion goes, it can be a factor in a Player-vrs-player type game. (PvP). Obviously, if I am cruising along in my battleship and run across Nate2 in his Newbie frigate, I can have my way with him as I see fit. (in a Non-PvP game ---no player vrs player combat---I can't attack Nate, so I can't have my way with him...)
But my thought along the issue of pirates extortion went along the lines..."wow, someone can make money off this game"...lets say the extortion rate for a battleship worth 100 Mil is 15% or 15 million credits. Those 15 million credits can then (Illegal according to the EULA) be sold on e-bay for ~$15. Since the fee to play a MMORPG can run anywhere from $10 - $20 a good pirate or pirate guild could play the game and maybe even make money at it.
Leaving the issues of Legality, morality, ethics, philosophy, and theology aside, I thought that this was 1) and interesting observation and 2) how prevalent it might be in this game or in others.
Thnaks for commenting on this issue through, Night all


In the vast majority of cases, there is no exploit involved. EVE is PVP-enabled throughout - although the consequences can be dire in protected ('high-security') space.

It annoyed the hell out of me when I was suckered into an ambush that cost me 100M ISK worth of battleship, a bunch of equally expensive equipment and a full set of (also very costly) implants. But I knew the adrenaline rush was what I paid for. I also had recourse to in-game relief, both legally (by placing an unfortunately exploitable bounty on the con-artist's head), and extra-legally, (by taking out a hit on him later). I paid for the satisfaction of having the offender's corpsicle decorating my hangar. And I knew damn well that there was no exploiting going on (although there was some questionable RP - hence the 'sucker' (me) and 'con-artist' (adorning my walls)).

The threat is real to the victim when they have a personal investment in the veneer that eBay traders use in auctions: "this currency all belongs to CCP (the publisher), you're paying for the time invested to accrue said resources."

Rationally, if the victim understands the way the EVE universe in general, and low-security space in particular works at all, then piracy and in-game extortion are part of why EVE is the subscription of choice, not SW:G. EVE is most entertaining because the possiblity of blackmail exists - both as victim and aggressor. That doesn't mean it's pleasant, though, and the thought of being caught by pirates when you know your clone's too old, or you've got hundreds of millions of ISK on the line (read: days or weeks of game time) lays a player with average resources open to genuine coercion.

Given that there's a concrete ability to extort, the question devolves to when can one consider the extorted resources to be 'real', and by extension the crime to be actionable. (C) is clear-cut. It's a direct threat of detrimental action (regardless of the realm of action, the threat is what counts) with a promise not to take that action on delivery of real-life currency.

The fuzziness comes with (A) (B is an equivalent scenario, and highly unlikely anyway). If both pirate and victim are eBay currency traders, they're both attributing real-world cost to the exchange of in-game currency. If only the pirate does, the extortion is only in the mind of the extorter... so action's unlikely. If only the victim trades currency, and the though never crossed the pirate's mind - does that argue extortion? Then again, are they both attributing real-world value? By their own statements, they're saying that the ISK is only really time What's the actual threat? Give me in-game resources which translate to time spent, or I will cost you more time. How valuable is my time as a gamer?

I'm not sure what points (if any) I'm making now... anyone who sues for EVE piracy needs a big slap.

Oh... one more thing... I suspect there may be three interesting legal arenas:
1. In-game. (Criminal flagging coming Soon™)
2. Meta-game. (EULA enforcement, permabanning, GM censure).
3. Meatspace.

Finally, the actual extortion isn't what really pays, as I understand EVE piracy. 5-50M ISK is peanuts to the potential value of cracking open an industrial ship packed to the vents with a high-value mineral, or phat lewt.

(Full disclosure: never paid in-game extortion, never extorted, eBay-ed ISK once out of curiosity).


Certainly there are some interesting legal points to be mulled here, but I think Nathan's query was an ethical one.

Going off of something Mike said:

"Since the fee to play a MMORPG can run anywhere from $10 - $20 a good pirate or pirate guild could play the game and maybe even make money at it."

I think we're past the point where we wonder if making RW $ off of VW items (or currency, or characters) is ethical. The legal question is far from answered but ethically, it seems to be OK.

The new question is, is it OK to make RL profit directly off of other players, instead of NPCs and monsters. This isn't exactly new since PK'ing and eBay have both been on the table for a while, but Nathan's (C) example makes it more explicit.

So here's my RL metaphor. A lot of people participate in recreational sports. They invest time in practice and play, and money in equipment (and may pay a central "content provider" for organized leagues, enforecment of game rules, etc).

A lot of people play sports. Some people invest quite a lot of time and manage not only to play for free, but actually make money at it. We call them professionals. In a sense, we pay RL cash to participate with them in the game (which includes the players, the fans in the stadium, the hot dog vendors). Everyone knows what they're in for, and everyone gets something they want, but only some participants walk away with extra RL cash. Sometimes you sustain injuries from fair play. I'll burden that particular metaphor no further, but it may be instructional.

So long as the game rules are known and followed, I see no benefit from the "fig leaf". The players certainly don't need it, non-gaming society doesn't need it. The lawyers may want it but we should generally ignore them. The dynamics are different than in RL, but having professionals in the game world would likely be to everyone's net benefit in the long run (and wouldn't it be cool to know a girl who actually is a space pirate for a living?)

In the past I've tended to protect the magic circle, but I don't think this violates game immersivity. On the contrary, it could be viewed as a heretofore rare complement to the magic circle: instead of bringing the player into the game, it extrudes the game into RL.


I don't think we are passed Ethics on this issue. There is still much discussion on the boundaries of acceptable behavior and even the boundaries of the magic circle.

In EVE-Online piracy is designed into the game, so playing the game means you may encounter piracy. However, introducing RL component in this case is an intrusion rather than a complement.

My example of the intrusion is the community basketball court. The term of use are specified by the city government. Let’s say that the term allow each group to play only one pick-up game or a maximum of 1 hour. A group of players come around and stake claim on the court demanding one sum to play with them at the court and another sum to give up the court completely. To me these players are basketball hustlers. To others they are professional players trying to make a living.

So is community basketball professional hustling ethical? I don’t think so. I think in this and in EVE-Online’s cases extortion is still extortion. In-game piracy is part of the game, but introducing RL component is just an intrusion instead of a complement.

Wondering out loud: are there laws that prevent coercion, blackmail, etc. which by nature of the law extends to all domains? Like bribery laws that regulate the max. value of gifts to government officials.




I'm going to take a stab in the dark here abnd say that I don't think that on-line piracy was designed into EVE, so much as a facet that can naturally occur in any PvP type game (Player vrs player). Many MMRPG's are designed around PVP (or at least allow it as part of the game) but the "extortion" aspect of piracy had never occurred to me until I encountered it in EVE.
Granted through, there are more ways to make money in EVE than just trying to "extort" it from passing spaceships. Someways that are more profitable that ambushing the occassional spaceship passing by.
I guess it is a natural occurrance, as in real life, that perhaps a circle of MMRPG "Hustlers" are emerging, It will be interesting to see if this Extortion-piracy occurs in other/upcoming MMRPG's


The games Eula most likly considers that all items in the game are thier intellectual property including any ISK you as an individual hold within the game.

Piracy is part of the game, however when you sell the ISK on ebay, you are actually something that belongs to the Developer, not to you.

However, the ISK you sell never actually leaves the developer, it is simply passed on to another player. Therefore the game producer cannot claim that you stole thier property, as at any point, they can take down thier servers and reclaim all of the virtual items contained therein. This particular interest could never pass in court.

However Second life is a different scenario, because items in that game are player owned, and often cost actual U.S. dollars.

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