The unique universe of EVE Online has taken another turn for the crazy with news that a player named Xabier, the former Investments Manager at the in-game Dynasty Banking operation, has absconded with over 80 billion ISK.
One of the most interesting features of EVE Online is its player-driven economy, which is almost entirely unregulated by EVE developer and publisher CCP Games. Players control virtually everything, meaning the economic side of the game, handled via the game's corporations, banks and other entities, represents a more complex and vital component of play than the tightly-controlled "buy-and-sell" economies of most MMOGs. But human nature is what it is, and just like in the real world, players are vulnerable to the risks of bad behavior among those in positions of authority.
So it was when last week, according to Massively, Xabier walked away from Dynasty Banking with a tidy 86 billion ISK, the EVE Online currency, an amount which he says is now worth over 106 billion ISK thanks to investments. Manalapan, the chairman of Dynasty Banking, pegged the embezzled amount at the slightly lower mark of 82.5 billion ISK, but the difference is academic. A huge sum of money is gone.
Manalapan issued a statement claiming that it is not yet even confirmed that Xabier has in fact run off with the money, although he admitted that a dividend payment on a bond has been missed and that Xabier's bio now reads, "Thanks for all the fish." He also urged customers not to jump to conclusions at this point, assuring them that should the worst turn out to be true, the bank has enough in reserve to cover the loss. "All withdrawal requests are being dealt with this very moment but as I am sure you are aware there is an above average amount, and so we ask for patience with this matter," he said. "Dynasty Banking will get over these times and we will continue to strive to earn the public's faith as one of the leading banks of Eve Online."
EBANK, the largest player-run bank in New Eden, has also pledged its support to Dynasty Banking if the run on the bank, which at last report was up to 30 billion ISK, reaches the point where the bank itself is threatened. "From what I have seen after talking to Manalapan it's quite likely EBANK won't need to assist at all, but it can't hurt to have that extra backup just in case," EBANK Managing Director Ricdic said.
A lot of players will no doubt frown upon these shenanigans but I think it's a great example of what makes EVE stand out from the MMOG crowd. The insertion of the human element into the most basic aspects of gameplay, for both good and bad, results in the sort of emergent gaming that most designers can only dream of. Some people have questioned whether or not a real crime has taken place, since ISK does have a real world value: Based on rates at SwagVault.com, the amount embezzled by Xabier is worth around $2500.00. But the crime took place within the context of the game, so while EVE law may apply - such as it is - I find it hard to imagine that real law would.
And this is far from the only example of high-profile malfeasance in EVE. As far back as mid-2005, the Guiding Hand Social Club staged a devastating attack on the Ubiqua Seraph corporation that inflicted 30 billion ISK of damage and remains infamous to this day, while in 2006 the player at the head of the EVE Investment Bank disappeared with a reported 700 billion ISK. It takes balls to let this kind of thing go on, but the success of EVE Online is proof that this is exactly the action some players are looking for.