EVE Online Goons manipulate war for staggering profit

By Alice O'Connor, Jun 22, 2012 4:00pm PDT

EVE Online's complex and unforgiving nature may put many off the MMO, but it produces some cracking stories for us all to enjoy. The notorious Goonswarm have pulled another astonishing caper, manipulating galactic war and the markets to supposedly earn an absurd amount of money.

"Occasionally you will see the odd forum poster that throws out wild conspiracy theories about shadowy figures controlling parts of the game, or in the case of the especially insane, Goons controlling the game," said one of the Goons behind it. "This has never been true...until now."

EVE's recent Inferno update revamped the Factional Warfare system, with one small change which could perhaps be manipulated and exploited for a big payoff, Goonswarm's 'Aryth' explained on the EVE forums (via PCGamesN).

"A small group of market and game mechanics wizards sat in a channel, put their heads together and designed a theoretical exploit to game the system," Aryth said. "It succeeded beyond their wildest dreams."

With players creating characters on opposing factions in the war, the first ploy was to intentionally destroy their own freighters filled with valuable minerals. Factional Warfare offers rewards for destroying enemy ships, with a fraction of the ship's value as money (ISK) and as faction Loyalty Points (LP). GoonSwarm had been sitting on a huge pile of minerals following its 'Burn Jita' attack on EVE's commercial hub and its latest miner-massacring 'Hulkageddon,' so it cashing them all in for LPs by destroying their own ships.

From there, they'd trade LPs in for valuable items at faction reward stores, and destroy those all over again for more ISK and LP. Then the Goons figured out how to improve the return by massively boosting the value of the items they were destroying.

They deduced that EVE determines an item's value by tracking its average recent sale price, and so drove up the ISK price of never-used items they could acquire cheaply with LPs. Getting loads of the rubbish items, they sold them to themselves at massively inflated prices in places no one would notice.

With cheap items now worth huge amounts of ISK, they'd fill ships with them, blow them up themselves for the rewards, then cash in the LP to get even more and blow those up too, earning loads of money with every lost ship.

They'd also use the masses of LPs to outright buy faction control of systems, "invalidating hours of work spent to capture a system by the most despondent of shitlords in a single stroke of the Enter key." As well as making a sham of the war, this unlocked a 50% discount at faction loyalty stores, making the process even more efficient.

CCP did eventually catch this and close the hole, but not before the Goons supposedly earned trillions of ISK with this cunning manipulation, Aryth boasts. One trillion ISK is worth about $30,000 in real money, judged against the in-game cost for a month's subscription, so they're really sitting on a colossal sum to use as they please.

If they wanted to, Goonswarm could afford to give every member their personal fleet of top-of-the-line ships, to casually throw away in battle without a thought to their cost. Given how truly magnificent some Goon plays have been, I'm hoping it'll be used to bankroll an even larger caper.

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