Friday, 21 October 2016

Effects of the Gambling Ban on the EVE Community

Originally I wasn't planning to write a second post on this subject. I covered it briefly in my previous posts and I was planning on leaving in there. But I've been catching up on podcasts and seeing what other bloggers, forum posters, Reddit posters and tweets have been saying and I've decided there still some points that I'd like to make.

Oh, that Gevlon!
Before I jump into the topic though I just want to take a quick moment to reflect and laugh at one of the more comical sides of the gambling ban. Over on the Greedy Goblin, when this was announced it seem Gevlon decided that since he posted a ticket 5 days prior to the announcement, the gambling ban was his doing. In his comments, he clarifies his position claiming he made CCP act now, rather than in several years time. I mean he may have a point if it weren't that it would likely take considerably longer than 5 days to rewrite the portions of the EULA and get them checked over by legal, or that this discussion over the legality of EVE gambling has been going on on the forums and Reddit for weeks. It's even been covered by The Nosy Gamer back in September. The truth is, he's still a bit mad that Lenny swooped in and stole the victory over the goons from him, so taking the credit for this make him feel like he took down his new enemy. Anyway, on with the real content.

The gambling ban and the community
So a lot of the comments around the gambling ban are focused on the ISK that used to be used for community projects and websites no longer being available. Some players have even gone so far as to suggest CCP should intervene and start paying out to streamers, news sites and events to replace the lost funding. Notably, the people being most vocal about how bad it tends to be the same people that write articles for organisations that were sponsored by gambling sites. Personally I don;t see it as a problem, In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is a positive change for EVE community websites.

To get an idea of why I think it's a positive change, it's important for you to understand what I believe makes up the community. There's a lot of different people with different views, some who think only players with the most positive opinions of EVE are the community, or for some, it's only groups of people who drive conflict and the other arbitrarily labelled "content creators". For me, it's pretty simple. Do you play EVE? Yes? Then you're part of the community. It doesn't matter if you love creating thousand man space battles, or if you want to play it like it's a single player game and just do your own thing. Everyone playing EVE is a part of the community.

This is where I feel the gambling sites had a negative impact. The problem with those sites is that they pooled money into a very limited number of wallets, then the owners of those wallets got to pick and choose which parts of the community they wanted to promote and which parts they wanted to ignore. This creates an imbalance, as if a site, event or player doesn't receive the funding they are automatically at a disadvantage and will find it difficult to compete. Now sure, there are other sources of income that create a similar effect, notably Imperium News (formerly TMC) where the ISK is sourced from Goonswarm, but those tend to be much more limited in effect.

On the subject of EVE media, Ashterothi made a point on the Talking In Stations podcast that while people will still write, the payments brought writers closer together, and that without that funding writers might split up and become harder to find. I would tend to disagree here. Sure, writers may split up so there won't be as many writers pooled into the big sites, but people will still want to read EVE articles and people will find them. If anything this will simply help ensure that smaller writers who are currently left out of the big sites will get even more focus (except me because I write like a *insert derogatory term here*). Media aggregators like Eve Bloggers by Steve Ronuken and hell, even the disaster that is r/eve will become more important, but the articles will be found.

Additionally, as noted in my previous post, I tend to think the players that really want to deliver content for EVE will do so out of their passion for EVE and not a paycheck from a shady gambling site. Those that do feel the need to generate income can still do so by asking for donations from players or working out private deals with wider arrays of in-game groups. Nobody can claim to know what the true overall effect to community media and events will be until it's seen first hand but I absolutely believe that we'll see a better and more diverse selection of websites and projects come out of this and I believe the community will be vastly improved by taking this journey.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

You want ISK? Well you can't have it!

It's an exciting day indeed for EVE online,exciting enough for me to actually come back and put up a blog post after nearly a year of moving to a more casual approach to EVE. Apologies in advance that this is a bit rough and rambly. That's it, I'm not excusing it, just apologising.

Now on to the exciting news! CCP have announced that along with the Ascension update in November, a pretty significant EULA change will be going ahead. Specifically in the "Selling Items and Objects" section of the EULA they are adding the following line:
"You may not use, transfer or assign any game assets for games of chance operated by third parties."
That's right folks, EVE gambling sites are done!

At this point, we can only assume CCPs reasons for doing this, but anyone with an eye on the current state of gambling in the online gaming sector could have guessed this was coming. Recently there have been charges raised against the operators of a Fifa coin gambling site and there's been trouble around CS:GO skins too. The law is catching up with in-game assets being used to run unregulated gambling sites, and I think it would be a fair assumption that CCP is trying to get ahead of this.

There is, however, another part of this that may have helped force their hand. Within the same announcement CCP have stated that gambling sites have until the 8th November to sort themselves out and shut down, with the exception of two. IWantISK and EVE Casino (the two sites associated with 1ronbank) have been shut down with immediate effect. Unsurprisingly IWantISK has been shut down for... wait for it... RMT. Like there was anyone that didn't see that one coming.

Many of us have been against EVE gambling sites for a long time and so this announcement is being met with a healthy mix of excitement and smugness which will last for a while. From the side of the gambling site operators, feelings are mixed. EVE-bet, for example, has announced that they will continue operations throughout the alliance tournament and ensure everyone is paid out, and while obviously disappointed they are taking it in their stride. The IWantISK guys, on the other hand, are crying about how CCP Peligro does not care, and vowing to work around the EULA to continue gambling operations.
"I will develop IWI 1.0 into a P2P website with no central bank or central hub which means CCP will not be able to ban our system and you, the players, will receive YOUR ISK from other players using a mass pay and honor system.(P2P). We will get you your ISK."
As you can imagine, this will likely not work as from the EULA wording given by CCP the transferring of ISK for the purposes of gambling is banned, so even in a P2P system, players transferring the ISK would be vulnerable and certainly, any site encouraging the breaking of the EULA would find itself in trouble. I have a feeling though this is part of a knee-jerk response to the sudden change in policy.

As can be expected, some of the Imperium (and ex-imperium like me) are erupting in celebratory with showers of smug all round, and that's going to annoy a lot of people, but too bad. The reality is that IWI being involved in systemic RMT was claimed by the Imperium and evidence was handed over, but due to CCPs level of secrecy around these matters and the apparent lack of action, it was widely declared that it was being made up. And now here we are with CCP stating quite clearly that RMT was why they were shut down.
"The third party service IWANTISK has been shut down in game, and all ISK and assets have been confiscated after extensive and exhaustive investigation has brought forward compelling evidence of large-scale Real Money Trading. Permanent account suspensions have been issued against those involved."
Now there is a downside to these sites being shut down. Other areas of EVE media were sponsored by some of these sites, and so them being shut down cuts off revenue streams for sites like CrossingZebras and EVENews24. This does potentially mean that there could be a loss of some of these sites. To me though this should be a minimal problem. If a site is big enough to require a solid ISK revenue stream it should be able to get that from players, and if it can't survive without ISK injections from large gambling organisations, we're probably better off without it. Personally, I hope to see an increase in the smaller independent media which doesn't need funding, as I've always preferred reading blogs like The Nosy Gamer, TAGN and even Greedy Goblin (back when he posted about EVE) rather than the monolithic news sites like TMC and EN24.

How it will really affect the landscape though is anyone's guess.