Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 13, 2010
 
Thought for the day: Scams

Why am I the only one who thinks that having $45,000 scams possible in your game is NOT an awesome feature?
Comments:
It's a $0.00 scam.
It's not worth a penny, Eve lets you buy ingame currency for real money, but not the other way around.
To quote a comment from the original site:
"To clarify: converting it to real money is against the game rules and will get you banned."
And yes, it's an awesome feature, you're just looking at it the wrong way.
 
Having it possible in your game? Maybe not an awesome feature.

Having it possible in someone else's game, where you can read about it without experiencing it yourself? Absolutely awesome!
 
I don't think that scams are a feature per se. Confidence tricks are possible in any game which allows the transfer of virtual wealth between players. It is partially a byproduct of a free economy where wealth scales quite well. You could scam your way to gold cap in WoW, but soulbound items negate the point of doing so.

IMHO, it's more about the culture around the game. There's a saying that you can't cheat an honest man. The "investors", driven by their greed, ignore the ample warning signs because they want to "beat the system" and take a shortcut to success. Of course, CCP has recognized that in Eve, the successful scammer is the hero and promotes said viewpoint even in official videos.

It would be interesting to interview some of the players in Eve's Serenity cluster to see whether their culture differs from Tranquility's culture.
 
"To clarify: converting it to real money is against the game rules and will get you banned."

I definitely remember a previous scam where the scammer was interviewed and said he did it to pay back a loan. You might get banned for it, but that is AFTER you got those $45,000 on the bank. Not much of a deterrent, I'd say.
 
I think it's absolutely awesome, yes. I think Hirvox makes the salient point here: this guy ripped off people who willingly got involved with him. This happens all the time, all over the world. It's usually against the law, but most of the time nobody gets sentenced for it, even out here.

As was pointed out in both the article and above, this kind of scam is even highlighted in CCP's official marketing material – it's a part of the lawless world of EVE. It seems to me that this is a universal rule in EVE: if you can't afford to lose it, don't use it. Just as true for your money as for your ships.
 
Ian, it is a scam worth $45000. He can sell the currency "illegally" on ebay or buy PLEX for gametime and sell those cheaper but for real US$.

What I am always surprised at is that CCP manages to sell events happening in their universe as "See how special Eve Online is" as a feature, but most of them are only possible due to their bad game design.
 
The player spent years building up to end executing a brilliant scam. How is that NOT awesome?
 
Awesome to read about since I don't play the game.

Every time I read one of these "interesting" stories, it reminds me why I don't play Eve.
 
I agree with you Tobold. I don't even read EVE stories any more. It's just tedious criminality. It's no more interesting because it involves imaginary spaceships than it would be if it was "financial instruments".
 
The older I get the less amusing all the EVE stories about terrible people doing terrible things become and the more horrifying they become.
 
He spent several years to get $45,000 worth of in-game currency. He could have done much better running scams IRL.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Ok my forehead just stopped repeatingly hitting the palm of my hand.

Tobold, you still don't get it, do you? This is what the RP in MMORPG is all about. This guy played a role for YEARS to get this scam done. This is not real life, this as roleplaying as it can get. But i guess this is too RP for casual WoW gamers.

"EVE is a dark and harsh world, you're supposed to feel a bit worried and slightly angry when you log in,
you're not supposed to feel like you're logging in to a happy, happy, fluffy, fluffy lala land filled
with fun and adventures, that's what hello kitty online is for."
-CCP Wrangler
 
The scary part is not that it happens in EVE. There at least, the suspicious and paranoid know that it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. The intelligent investors would have been diversified enough to withstand the scam (for those crazy enough to invest in EVE ventures). The idiots will have been taught a valuable life lesson in game instead of having to learn it in the real world.

The scary part is how frequently this happens in real life and trashes entire economies - see the most recent economic downturn with people (the banking community in this case) investing in similar too good to be true investment schemes.

The scary part is how most current games teach one to barrel on blindly never questioning one's pre-conceptions. EVE does not pander to willful blindness. It is what it is, not what you want it to be. It owes more to Farscape than to Star Trek. This is a good thing. Not all games need to shoot for some utopian ideal.
 
This is why I can't play EVE. I loved the skill progression, loved the mining and industry, loved playing the market, even loved the missions the first dozen times I did them.

But I stopped because I realized that I was always afraid when other players showed up. In most games I see another player and my response is generally neutral or positive. Curiosity 'hey, I wonder what they're up to?' or friendly 'Hi person! I'm doing this quest too, want to team up?' In EVE I was always afraid 'Is this person going to try to hurt me? Is he mad to see me? Am I about to get attacked? Should I run?'

I want games that are fun and that I can enjoy, that make me happier and more relaxed at the end of the session than at the beginning. EVE online is just tense and unpleasant.
 
It. Is. Only. A. Game.

Remember that.

And as was pointed out earlier: its not $45000 at all.

It can't be legally changed into real money, and CCP will be watching what is done with it very very carefully.

Yes he can buy PLEX, but again, those legally cannot be traded for real money, only game time. The best he's done is given himself a free subscription for the next few years.

EVE is not a bad game, its just that you don't like it. Thats fine, that's your opinion. You don't like it, we get that. Why get so riled about it if you don't play the game? Why should you care?

Personally I don't like WoW, but you don't see me using my blog to put it down and act as some sort of anti-marketing outlet against it, so why do you?
 
If you could do this in WoW, someone would. But WoW (and on this scale, basically every other MMO) is too limited to allow it. There is simply no reason to build up an image over YEARS to pull something like this off, when spending $25 on a reskin is the 'pinnacle' of success and everything else comes much easier.

And as others have pointed out, this is exactly why EVE is an MMORPG and not just a solo-hero pixel-fest. The universe CCP has created allows you to play almost any number of 'roles', including top-end stuff like this guy. The best you can do in most other MMOs is 'collect them all' and join the other thousands before you.

(And as someone pointed out over at Massively, just like RL news, it's usually only the scams or 'negative' stuff that gets reported. Lots of 'good' things on a large scale also happen, but no one wants to really read about that)
 
It may not really be a $45k scam as you cannot cash out the isk but it is still a crappy thing to do. And no, I don't buy that it is ok because it is realistic. This guy would probably be dead in a cement block at the bottom of the Hudson by now if he did this for real to the wrong set of investors.
 
The "investors", driven by their greed, ignore the ample warning signs because they want to "beat the system" and take a shortcut to success.

As I understand it, the core of the venture was to buy and profit of blueprints for spaceships. To acquire such a blueprint needs a lot more funds than a single person can accumulate. So only big corporations or investment ventures can afford to buy blueprints.

It was a nice investment and the guy running it invested years building a positive reputation. He tricked the other 4 trustees of the scheme into adding more shares to the venture, then got hold of more than half the shares in a day, kicked the other four and cashed out.

Trading in EVE is hardcore pvp I guess :-)

It's only a 45k$ scam in the way that you would have to buy that many timecards to exchange into ingame currency to buy the blueprints. He can't get real cash out of it (legally) but has a hell of a headstart in ingame resources for his next adventure.
 
I think it's interesting because it's so much more rich and socially complex than most MMOs. You don't see things like this happening in Warcraft because it's just not possible: at worst, someone raids a guild bank for some crafting materials. This guy set up a long con for several years involving the unwitting collusion of the very trustees who were supposed to keep investors safe. It's fascinating.

What's a bit tedious is this is the same kind of scam that's been played in Eve for several years now. The game needs to evolve some higher level structures that protect investors better. As it stands there's no law enforcement, no lifelong reputation, and precious little in the way of contract insurance. I think Eve would be more interesting if CCP could implement a regulatory framework that made scams more complex. --Flyv
 
actually I love the fact that eve let those who become complacent pay a heavy price.
 
Good point there, Nelson. This thing here is really no different than some guy bleeding the guild bank dry after having been with the guild for a few years, is it?

I know Blizzard restores items after someone's been hacked. Do they do the same thing for a raided guild bank?
 
It. Is. Only. A. Game.

No, it isn't.

*Some* (not all, but definitely some) of those ISK scammed have been bought with real money. Thus the people scammed like that have been scammed out of real money. And as the scammer can transform the scammed ISK into real money, even if his account is banned afterwards, we have here a real world scammer pulling off a criminal act to rob people of real money.

I'd agree with you if we'd be talking about a game in which there was only ingame currency with no way whatsoever to exchange it to and from real world money.

Explain me this: How exactly is this guy different from somebody who hacks your WoW account with the weak password and sells all your gold for cash? I'd say he isn't.
 
This hack is different from a password thief because what he's doing is explicitly allowed by CCP. CCP's game, CCP's rules, and one of their rules is this kind of con is OK. Also as mentioned above it's unlikely that Bad Bobby is going to be able to launder his ISK back into real dollars. By contrast, WoW thieves resell the gold they steal for dollars very quickly.

A closer analogy would be someone using out-of-game hacks to break into an Eve corporation's website, find a password, then log in and steal stuff that way. That kind of skulduggery also goes on and CCP does have some rules about it, but I don't know what they are.
 
Also as mentioned above it's unlikely that Bad Bobby is going to be able to launder his ISK back into real dollars.

Why wouldn't he be able? Just because it is against the CCP Eula and he risks getting his account banned if he does? I don't see how that would stop him from cashing in on $45,000. Last time I checked the illegal ISK trade in EVE was alive and well.
 
I find myself a bit conflicted.

On the one hand, you could argue that the appeal here is that such scams resemble real life and the predatory nature of real people. And the fact that such scames exist is just another layer of the free-form design of a game like EVE.

On the other hand, I find that it DOES NOT resemble real life at all. Because in real life we have severe consequences for people who get caught doing the wrong things.

What's the consequence in EVE? A player enforced one at best and that's relatively insignificant.

So we what we have is severe consequences for victims and NO consequences for the criminal.

Does that mirror reality? Not really.
 
So only big corporations or investment ventures can afford to buy blueprints.
Indeed. Most Titan blueprints and the ships built from them are managed and secured by large alliances. This "investment" opportunity offered a chance to profit from Titan blueprints without the drudgery, politicking and warfare involved in actually managing a large alliance. And all you needed to get a cut was some money up front and a lot of trust.
 
It. Is. Only. A. Game.

No, it isn't.


Yes it is. The moment you buy a PLEX with your real money, your real money is gone, consumed, part of the game, pixels. So nobody has been scammed out of any money, nobody will have any trouble buying food or paying off their mortgage because of it.
And because nobody has been scammed out of any real money, it's a $0.00 scam, an ingame scam, known by all to be a risk in the EVE anarchy/sandbox/warzone universe. People lost some pixels, that's it. It's by the rules. It's allowed. You are not safe in EVE, your ship isn't safe, your isk isn't safe. That's how EVE works.
What happens with the isk afterwards is completely irrelevant, that's a different topic.
 
You are wilfully ignoring the possibility of the scammer illegally turning those ISK into $45,000 in real money. Basically you are ASSUMING that the player did his scam only for fun and giggles in game, and doesn't plan on profiting from it. Given that his character in game is now known to be a mega-scammer, and nobody will trust him with anything any more, I find that assumption hard to believe. Why steal $45,000 and NOT cash them in?
 
Basically you are ASSUMING that the player did his scam only for fun and giggles in game, and doesn't plan on profiting from it. Given that his character in game is now known to be a mega-scammer, and nobody will trust him with anything any more, I find that assumption hard to believe.
Is that such a stretch to believe when there's corporations like Guiding Hand Social Club who are dedicated to scams? Also, Haargoth Agamar took a liking to the Goons even when he was being scammed by them, and he was hailed as a hero when he delivered the proverbial keys to Delve. Sure, the Goons didn't trust him with anything important, but pirates, thieves and scammers do have their own social circles.
 
I'm not sure how far you read in the Eve Thread, but it has some very interesting and frank posts by Bad Bobby on his motivations.

"I have been a pirate for most of my eve life. I hunt the weak and the foolish, I blow up their ships, pop their pods and take their stuff. That reputation is not harmed in the least by this scam. ... The most valuable thing to me is the continued comradeship of those I fly with. That is something that I would never part with and would never consider currency. My recent actions have not harmed that in the least bit."

"But with the isk... I'm giving some to my friends, I'm keeping more than enough to keep me well supplied for as many years of EVE as the servers have left to give, I'm buying some nice toys for myself and others and I'm helping out with HYDRA RELOADED & Genos Occidere's comittments to pay those responsible for our alliance tournament victory. I should still have some change left over from all that which should help us with the next alliance tournament, which we intend to win."

Of course it could all be an elaborate ruse hiding his real world profits. It reads pretty true to me.
 
You are wilfully ignoring the possibility of the scammer illegally turning those ISK into $45,000 in real money.

I'm not ignoring it, I'm calling it irrelevant. Whatever he does with the isk has nothing to do with the scam as such: if he decides to take those isk and convert them to real money, that's just isk selling.
Just because he CAN make 45k from an ingame scam, doesn't make it a 45k scam. It remains an ingame scam. It's two completely different things.
I do understand why you think it's a 45k scam, I'm just trying to explain why it's not.
 
Ian, you're being willfully ignorant here. (If I had $45,000) I could buy €34,978 at the current exchange rate. Those little pieces of paper are just as worthless and just as full of worth as Isk. No more, no less.

I can't use euros to pay any debts I have here in the US. They are, while still euros, useless in their current form and in this current place. But they still hold real value because they can be traded in for USD again if I choose. the stack of cash CERTAINLY can't be considered $0 USD even if, effectively for the moment that is technically true.

What the "rules" say is completely irrelevant to the fact that this is real wealth. Screw it, the EU could pass legislation (for some reason) that expressly forbids people to sell euros for dollars and it still wouldn't mean that they are worth $0 USD. It's just a bit harder to do perhaps.
 
@Nelson- "Of course it could all be an elaborate ruse hiding his real world profits. It reads pretty true to me."

I too am perfectly comfortables takin' everythings this bugger sez at face value. Not like he has any incentives fer ta mislead folks about his intentions or anythings....
 
Well, if one makes a scam and in effect ends up with $45k, then it is a $45k scam.

And I do not agree that it is an ingame scam and then ISK selling. The ISK selling IS an obvious part of the whole idea.

And this type of feature in a game? Well, this depends on the game. EVE I play for the sandboxy feel of anything can be done and a ISK scam like that certainly makes the feel more real.

But the problem is that this in fact was more than an ISK scam - it was a scam easily changed to $$ and that makes the game to close to RL. What I like in games is that they can teach people who they want to be by showing them who they could be. Some of the games are better at thi and some worse and EVE teaches most of the players that one needs to be a real MF to succeed. And that is not exactly what I'd like to learn from a game, or what I'd like my kids to learn from it.

Fallout and Fallout2, totally awesome single player games from way back even though the story they told was gritty and dark tought that it is always better to be the good guy.

And sure, I really like the idea of players making the decisions on their own and going a path they choose but EVE just lets them make bad choices that affect their RL without creating that RL consequence which would let them learn that stealing money from others is generally not considered a good thing. And I do not apreciate a game that allows that.
 
So, by saying this EVE scam is a $45k scam, a WOW guild leader who clears out the guild bank, leaves the guild, and ends up with, let's say, 250.000 gold, would you call that a $250 scam?
 
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a WOW guild leader who clears out the guild bank, leaves the guild, and ends up with, let's say, 250.000 gold, would you call that a $250 scam?

Yes, absolutely.

And don't get me wrong, in sheer quantity there are certainly more scams and criminal acts like hacks happening in WoW than in EVE. But in WoW in would be nearly impossible to amass $45,000 worth of gold, even in a guild bank. And WoW isn't making advertising videos in which the ability to scam others is used as a selling point.
 
And WoW isn't making advertising videos in which the ability to scam others is used as a selling point.

WoW is basically a heavily scripted PvE game, where there are a lot of rules and few possibilities, while EvE is a sandbox PvP game, with few rules and lots of possibilities. The world of EvE is maybe best compared with the 'Wild West' at its worst. A big scam like this is just part of the game. It's just PvP on a huge scale, using the economy instead of weapons.

No, you're not the only one who thinks it's not an 'awesome feature', but there are plenty of people who think it is, because it proves just how powerful a single player can become in EvE, a lot more than ever possible in a heavily scripted game like WoW.
This guy spent years building a trusted and reputable investment corporation, he could have continued it, but one day he just decided to 'take the money and run'. And boy, what a heist it was! He even made your blog!

Call it a scam then, if you will, I'll call it gameplay. And call it a $45.000 scam, he made that 'equivalent' by playing the game, in one of the ways you can play it.

CCP is absolutely right to use similar things in their advertisements because it is a great example of what is possible in the EvE universe, just as Blizzard uses... erm... Mr. T Grenades, because WoW's sometimes just plain silly :-)
 
If eve really wanted to emulate the real world then they would set all scammers to -5 security status.

Even in the old west if you scammed enough people or big enough people the word got out and the law would take action against you.
 
I do not understand the its not $45k argument.

A casino chip or an American Express gift certificate or an Amazon gift certificate are all clearly by law not currency and may have legal disclaimers about no cash value printed on them. They are not quite as valuable as cash but I would be nearly $100 sad if I lost, including theft, a $100 gift certificate for a place I shopped at frequently. Do you think a thief who steals a $100 no cash value Amazon gift certificate I got from my grandmother would get any less jail time than someone who stole a $100 bill? Do you think the taxing authority would say I did not owe any tax if I did a consulting contract from CCP and received $45,000 of ISK for payment instead of a check for $45000?

Example

person A spends $45,000 to buy 650 game time cards.

person B has 650 GTCs given to him as a gift.

Do you think if a thief broke in and stole the codes of A and B they could tell the judge and police that it is not a crime since the Terms of Service say you can be banned for selling them?

The stolen ISK would cost $45,000 to replace and could be sold for something idk if it is $10k or $8k or $30k. It costs to buy, has benefits to sell.

@Mandril: he stole enough to play for two centuries, not a few years. ISK, like WoW gold, can certainly be sold for money; happens all the time. While it is against the terms of service, it is not at all clear it is "illegal" everywhere.

@Ian - so your argument is that if someone steals a piece of art that cost $45000 to buy, could be sold for $30000 but instead they burned it, then it was a $0 crime? Or that if there was a keylogger on your machine that appropriated your PLEX, no crime occurred because the thing you will have to spend $35 to replace has no monetary value? If someone steals something I spent $45000 for and would take me $45000 to replace, it is a $45000 theft, even if they drop it and destroy it on the way out the door. How successful or competent the thief is at monetizing their theft, if any, doesn't enter into it.

@Sine - there are anonymous alts - I doubt anything is left on the toon "Bad Bobby"

A WoW difference is that Blizzard prohibits the buying of gold while CCP sells you things you can convert into ISK so the cost to replace ISK is quite public. Also CCP does not have BoP; you can buy essentially any gear; you can even buy toons.

@rashtag - I hope you were being sarcastic - I don't see any reason to believe someone who just did a major con; he may not always tell the truth.

--------

These sort of things being allowed in EVE is what makes EVE EVE. It is just increasingly striking me as bad game design. Designing a game with so many negative consequences for dealing with fellow players but then occasionally dropping the "it's a MMO; you are supposed to work together." homily seems schizophrenic at best.
 
Hagu,

I think you may have hit the nail on the head. It seems to me that many of our friends below who are contesting that this thing that Bad Bobby did is a monetary fraud, or a real-world crime even, all share a deep-seated concern that this is the kind of thinking that will lead the tax authorities to start taxing you for your in-game efforts.

I don't know how many of his investors used dollar-bought credits or how many used in-game generated wealth to invest in his scheme, but do consider those that have generated wealth through mining and manufacturing. Take a seriously rich EVE miner, Good Gordon. He makes billions of credits every month from his operations. Now, by this "Bad Bobby stole $45,000" line of argument, Good Gordon would ultimately be liable to pay income tax on the credits he generates in-game. Traders would be liable for capital-gains tax. It would get messy fast.

It's like you say: I can't evade tax by having my salary paid in Amazon gift certificates.

So, possibly, this is at the very core of why some people say that ISK are just ISK. The credits are an in-game function that correlates in a relatively complicated manner to time. Just like skills, talents, levels, etc.

Ultimately, this is not uncomplicated. The very clear relationship between real-world currencies and ISK does make this a hard call. But I feel deep sympathy with those that want to keep their in-game time and wealth separate from their corresponding outside situation.

(Tobold, I think you have a topic for a new post here. I'm sure you've talked about it in the past, but thinking about the difference between single-player games' currencies and multiplayer games' currencies points to some really interesting conclusions)
 
If eve really wanted to emulate the real world then they would set all scammers to -5 security status.
As far as game mechanics go, there was no crime committed. People gave money and the recipient was under no obligation to give it back. Granted, the game mechanics don't really cover the complicated deals players make. But even those cases that the mechanics do cover can be seen as scamming.

One example is the classic Carbon scam. There's a ship called Charon, a Caldari freighter that costs 600-800 million isk. Freighters are the only ships that can carry huge freight containers, and a freighter and some containers are frequently sold as a bundle. The scammer makes a contract which contains one Carbon and three freight containers and sets the price a bit lower than a normal Charon and three freight containers contract. More often than not, the victim doesn't bother to read the contract (which is completely unambiguous) and pays a lot of isk for a lump of coal and some containers. As far as game mechanics are concerned, it's simply a very bad deal that the customer can inspect and reject at his leisure. It's simply ultra-free capitalism. But the victim will most certainly see it as a scam.
 
@Ian - so your argument is that if someone steals a piece of art that cost $45000 to buy, could be sold for $30000 but instead they burned it, then it was a $0 crime?

Nope. That's not my argument. I'm not comparing real world items with virtual ingame currency for which you pay the right to use them on your character(s). The isk isn't even yours, it's CCP's.

If someone shoots down a Titan in EvE, which you would say is worth around $4.000, would you compare it to someone carjacking and crashing your car? They can sell your car's stereo, and they can sell the fittings they looted from the Titan and sell the isk of cash... So is PvP combat in EvE also stealing?

To put the $45.000 a bit in perspective by the way, in the 4 years AAA (Against ALL Authorities, a big 0.0 alliance) have existed, they have shot down over $700.000 worth of other player's ships. That's a lot of burned paintings...
 
@Hagu-

Sarcasm is fer the weak.

;)
 
It isn't a "scam" in that what happen isn't against the rules of the game. People lost, but what happened (at least from the descriptions I read) wasn't against the rules of the game. It would be illegal IRL, but what happened isn't against the rules in EVE. However I am glad he doesn't have to pay taxes on the money. Mostly because it would cause the player to be identified and likely have IRL issues from his/her gameplay.
 
Tobold, I generally enjoy your posts regarding WoW and gaming in general, but a single-sentence post like this is basically the equivalent of a monkey throwing poo.

I agree that Eve has the harshest game mechanics of any MMO, allowing players to literally lose years of accumulated game wealth. But like Letrange said, those players know what they are getting into. By the time you've made your first few billion isk, you've been burned a few times and learned how to manage your risk.

Saying a guild bank scam is better because WoW limits the amount of gold a player can max out at is a cheap shot. I would argue that just because a game is different, doesn't make it wrong. Players who like a safety net can play themeparks.

Finally, part of the reason I play videogames is for the level playing field. Anyone can become a powerful warlord in Eve if you have the skill, leadership, and will to do so.

Not so in real life. In real life people get crushed all the time without a respawn. After witnessing firsthand the runaway greed cartel of Wall Street, Congress, and the Federal Reserve, I'm grateful for sandbox games that allow for harsh mechanics.

To quote Takeshi Kovacs, "You're going to be involved, you might as well have the big guns."
 
Had one additional thought, which might be worth a future discussion.

I can understand the frustration of themepark players who want to play internet spaceships, since right now the only game in town is Eve.

We have two themepark spaceship games coming with Jumpgate Evolution and Black Prophecy. It will be interesting to see how these affect Eve when they are released.
 
single-sentence post like this

It is a single-sentence post, and you managed to not read all of it, or to not comprehend it. Maybe you should try again to read it completely: Do you see the question mark at the end? Do you see the part where I foresee that I'm the only one thinking like that, and wonder why?

I think what is happening here is what always happens when somebody writes something not glowingly positive about EVE: A horde of fans who never visit my blog on other occasions decends to accuse me of blasphemy, and that for things I never even said. The single biggest factor scaring normal people away from EVE are its current players, how they behave in game and out.
 
Actually, I read both you and Syncaine about twice a week. I just don't comment on WoW related posts because we haven't played WoW in almost 2 years. My girlfriend and I loved vanilla and TBC, but WLK failed to innovate in ways that would have kept us hooked.

And EVE's playerbase is just fine. It's the horrible UI, the terrible PvE, the insanely obtuse crafting system, and the absolutely retarded scanning and probing mechanics that make people quit before they can rivet their bleeding eyes on the amazing PvP.

But it's all we got until someone else does a space game better.
 
"More often than not, the victim doesn't bother to read the contract (which is completely unambiguous) and pays a lot of isk for a lump of coal and some containers."

And whose fault is that?

The seller for placing some incredibly expensive coal and containers on the market? Or the buyer for getting exactly what he paid for with that contract?

The buyer made an incredibly foolish (in my eyes at least) decision to 'blindly' pay for a contract without bothering to actually read what it is he was buying.

I think Defconquell said it best:

"By the time you've made your first few billion isk, you've been burned a few times and learned how to manage your risk."

Either wise up with the risks that you take with your hard earned isk/cash/etc, or lose it real fast, just like in real life.
 
Hello, thread necromancer.

And whose fault is that?
Both.

The seller for placing some incredibly expensive coal and containers on the market?
The seller would not have tried to sell that vastly overpriced piece of carbon unless he was expecting someone to just skim through the contract.

Or the buyer for getting exactly what he paid for with that contract?
As I said, the transaction was perfectly legitimate as far as game mechanics and the developer are concerned. The scam is in the eye of the beholder. The developer cannot protect against that. And unless they have the will and the manpower to mediate every form of contact between players, they shouldn't even try to.
 
On the subject of thread necromancy: As older threads are preferred targets for comment spam, threads older than 2 weeks have comment moderation on, thus your comment does not appear immediately, but only once I approve it.
 
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