Loan sharking in EVE Online is a thing. Various corporations taking out massive loans to purchase a ship, a fleet, or resources is not uncommon. The loan sharks who handle the movement of billions of credits is looked at with about as much legitimacy as real life loan sharks. However, it’s an in-game economy propped up by those in need and those who service those in need. Recently, CCP decided to crack down on a particular money handler and the loan sharks associated with the handler, resulting in collateral that some players aren’t too thrilled with. In their attempts to contact CCP about getting unbanned, the company has been eerily silent about the event.
Back on March 16th, 2019 EVE Online player Nolak Ataru published a lengthy thread explaining how he was falsely banned from the space-faring MMO for real-money trading.
Nolak offers a quick and dirty TL;DR at the very top of the thread, writing…
“I was recently falsely banned by CCP Peligro because of my close relationship with Azathio, another lender in [Goonswarm Federation] who was purged from GSF for [real-money trading].”
For those of you who don’t know, real-money trading involves taking real-money in exchange for in-game goods. Usually this involves someone purchasing illicitly-obtained in-game credits (known as ISK in the realm of EVE Online) and then using those credits to move around product, buy items, or make trades in-game. There’s a detailed article over on Engadget that covers how real-money trading and gray-market ISK can completely alter the economic landscape of a game like EVE.
In Nolak’s case, he explains how he was banned as part of a sweep-through by CCP to crack down on in-game lenders who acquired their ISK from real-money trading, or were using their ISK for real-money trading purposes, and that Azathio was part of that sweep.
So who is Azathio? Nolak explained how the two met after he joined the GSF Incursion Squad, writing…
“I joined the GSF incursion squad, and brought my knowledge and theorycrafting to the table to help out. I joined a few combat squads but was unable to really do much with them because of IRL work, but I still had fun. […]
“During this time, I started lending ISK to people. My very first loan was 10/6/16, to “A C”. Over the period of 2 years and 2 months, I did 165 loans totaling 1.6 trillion ISK in total lent ISK, with roughly 200b worth of interest. Note that this doesn’t mean I have 1.6T ISK; that’s just the total amount of ISK I’ve lent out. I’ve also lost ~27b ISK in scams and people taking a loan and joining PL or NC. […]
“I ran into Azathio on comms one day, and we quickly started talking in private about our services. There were several ISK lending services in GSF, and we agreed that if there was a loan that either of us could not handle, we’d recommend the person to talk to the other. We’d joke about crazy requests, boast about our newest acquisitions (I collected legacy ships), or just talk about the latest shitpost on Reddit. After a while we decided to unofficially partner up, and lend each other ISK to take loans if we were a bit short. I have the Discord logs to prove this, and anyone with my and Azathio’s APIs could confirm this. Things went well for a bit, until 11/06/2018, when he was blacklisted from GSF/Imperium for RMT. On that day, a few hours before he was blacklisted, he lent me 100b ISK that I was going to use to start up a new ISK-making venture. We got the paperwork sorted in the morning, he sent the ISK, and I went to my job. I didn’t know he was blacklisted for a while because I was at work, so all I got were emails of people commenting on the thread going “lol” and such. I didn’t think much of it until someone either said something or I checked his profile, at which point I realized he was gone.”
Things began going south from there.
Nolak was informed that he could keep the ISK that Azathio had traded him, since Azathio had been blacklisted for real-money trading. Nolak e-mailed over chatlogs between him and Azathio, who went by the handle “Mehrain” when they chatted out of the game.
The logs cover some of the deals they made up until Azathio was blacklisted. You can check out a few of them below.
According to Nolak, he began developing a stress disorder over the idea of being pegged for real-money trading. The one player who gathered the evidence and turned in Azathio, going by the handle of Faud, kept Nolak in the loop about what was going on, and consistently assured him that he likely wouldn’t have any problems, but that didn’t entirely turn out to be true.
Nolak explained that he has 12 EVE Online accounts and had no intentions of losing them all over involving real-money trading with his ISK lending services, writing…
“I have 12 accounts that I’ve paid for with RL cash for a year or two at a time (i forget how to check), so the idea that I would try to get back the multiple thousand dollars that I invested into this game by risking my accounts via RMT is laughable. I’m not rich IRL, but I’m reasonably well off while I go back to college and have enough squirreled away for an emergency.”
To back up his statements, Nolak shared his lending sheets, private messages, and even his real-life bank statements with various individuals in an attempt to clear his name. This was corroborated with images Nolak sent over to One Angry Gamer literally showing his deposits and withdrawals from his Bank of America account between October 15th, 2018 and April 12th, 2019, the time of coverage for which CCP had accused him of making real-money trading transactions in relation to EVE Online.
Unless the money is being filtered into a completely separate account, the bank statements consistently show that the only money deposited into Nolak’s account was from his day job, and that he used the money to pay his rent, pay his car insurance, and pay his bills from October, 2018 to April, 2019. There are no discrepancies or deposits related to real-money trading involving gray market services or Paypal deposits related to EVE Online.
This was further corroborated by another EVE Online player, Commander A9, who also took a look at the statements and evidence, and believed that Nolak’s ban was unjustified. A9 stated via e-mail…
“I submitted all of this evidence directly to CCP Falcon, as he has been a contact and a strong supporter of my in-game activities over the years. I received no response (although I was not surprised). I opened up a support ticket declaring I had evidence to exonerate Nolak. I received no response and my ticket was marked Solved without input from CCP. I asked for a follow-up. I received nothing. […]”
“[…] I tried and seemingly failed to convince CCP to read the evidence which Nolak shared with me. I did this of my own free will, believing in Nolak, as he is a longtime friend, and especially given the gravity of how much the ban affected him.”
Commander A9 noted that they tried all sorts of methods to get CCP to look at the data, but the company would not even respond or acknowledge the evidence they presented.
I, too, also reached out to CCP asking about Nolak’s ban, and whether CCP had a statement to share about the incident, but they responded with the following…
“CCP does not discuss any action taken against a pilot’s account with third parties, unless the situation and context warrants doing so. For privacy reasons we can’t offer any further information relating to any action taken against this pilot’s account.”
This is a typical company measure when it comes to player security and the protection of personal information. Nevertheless, I responded to the PR contact at the company asking if there were any other methods, avenues, or ways for Nolak to contact the company about his ban to at least get them to look at the information and re-review the case? I never received a response.
This is the opposite of how Blizzard handled some of the bans involving Diablo 3 players, where the PR contact was gracious enough to take the names of affected players and forward them to a tech support specialist for them to re-review their cases. It didn’t change the outcome but there was some effort to investigate if false-positive bans had taken place. In this case, however, CCP has been eerily silent.
Sadly, this has been the general modus operandi by CCP regarding this situation, and according to Commander A9 the situation has negatively impacted Nolak’s life.
“I decided to take up his case when I discovered that Mr. Ataru attempted to harm himself as a direct result of his ban. I learned of this when I reached out to him, and discovered his mother responding from the hospital to inform me that her son had attempted suicide. Now, of course, to take one’s own life over a mere videogame might suggest deeper matters of troubling concern, but I am convinced the ban was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Some of the EVE Online community has been attempting to get Nolak unbanned using the #FreeNolak hashtag, but to no avail.
CCP Games security analyst Peligro has upheld the ban, regardless of what people have said or what information has been submitted.
Commander A9 believes this may be similar to what happened to Brisc Rubin, who was also falsely accused of insider trading and was permanently banned from EVE Online, but was later exonerated, writing…
“What surprises me is that CCP Peligro [may be misspelling his name], the man who banned Nolak, also banned Brisc Rubin, the American lobbyist who once served on the player-elected Council of Stellar Management and was falsely banned for what amounted to insider trading. Brisc was later exonerated, but was so humiliated that he resigned. Furthermore, CCP Peligro seems to frequently report (proudly) on his Twitter the number of bans he has issued, and yet in forum posts has insisted that a thorough investigation must be carried out before handing down such drastic permanent irreversible punishments. I can no longer believe in good faith that this is being done on the part of CCP Peligro in the name of protecting the integrity of the game, especially considering that Brisc had the means to threaten significant legal action against CCP over his ban, but Nolak, without any access to nearly as much resources as an American political figure, does not have such resources.”
CCP Peligro does regularly tout on Twitter about how many people, bots, and nefarious minded players he has banned, but has avoided delving into the reasoning behind Nolak’s dismissal.
— CCP Peligro (@CCP_Peligro) May 7, 2019
But the mods have been very opaque when it comes to enforcements, rules, and regulations regarding EVE Online’s end-user license agreement. For instance, there was a thread from back in 2015 where users were asking about the prohibition of third-party software used for EVE, and one person rightly pointed out that Logitch’s Gx line of peripherals comes with third-party software for key-remapping, and if that meant it was prohibited from being used in the game. The thread doesn’t really go anywhere other than the moderators, including Peligro, noting that third-party software was prohibited.
The main issue is that in this case Nolak was banned based on someone else’s real-money trading schemes, and anytime someone tries to raise this issue with CCP, they’re stonewalled.
A certain Elizabeth Norn, who expedites RMT ban cases, did finally address Nolak’s tweets back on March 1st, 2019 asking about his case, and he responded on June 7th, 2019 acknowledging her tweet and the providing a brief overview of the evidence he has available regarding his case.
I’m curious how you’re proving your innocence, would you mind sharing it with me? I’ve got a good track record for getting false positive RMT ban victims unbanned (1/1) ;-).
— Elizabeth Norn (@ElizabethNorn) March 1, 2019
Didn’t see this until now. I have my bank records, Paypal records, chat logs with my RMT-banned partner, and statements from GSF Internal Affairs who state they did not find that I committed RMT.
— Nolak Ataru (@bugme143) June 8, 2019
Nolak retrieved all of his data, information, and transaction history through a GDPR request, so any information that CCP requires to investigate Nolak’s claims are all backed up and cataloged.
We’ll have to see if Elizabeth Norn will take up Nolak’s case and eventually get him back into the game, or if CCP will continue to ignore all requests and attempts put forward by players and the press when it comes to getting answers about this particular ban.
As mentioned, Brisc Rubal had the power of litigation on his side and threatened legal means against CCP for wrongfully being banned, which they later re-investigate and overturned. But in this scenario, Nolak Ataru has basically been left to the wolves without much recourse.