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Eve Online’s executive producer speaks out on gambling bans

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“Unassailable wealth” breaks the game

Eve Online Executive producer Andie Nordgren
CCP Games

One month ago CCP Games issued a statement that it would change its end user license agreement for the massively multiplayer game Eve Online. That change was designed to pave the way for the game’s transition to a free-to-play revenue model. In that same statement, at the same time, CCP also added a line to its EULA which made in-game gambling a bannable offense.

That decision, executive producer Andie Nordgren told Polygon, was as much about the health of the game world as it was the legal foundation of the game itself.

“We have taken this decision from an overall game health perspective,” Nordgren told Polygon late last week, “both in terms of legal environment and also the design of the game. There were many many factors that came together, and some of these issues had to do with wealth concentration, with certain players that is difficult to touch inside the game.”

Eve Online has recently seen one of the largest player-led confrontations in its 13-year history. One alliance of players, known as the Money Badger Coalition, drove another alliance of players, known as The Imperium, from the northern section of the map. What made this conflict unique was that the Money Badgers were a mercenary group being funded almost entirely by the proceeds of I Want ISK, a player-run in-game casino.

The players behind I Want ISK and another casino were later accused by CCP of real-money trading, or converting in-game currency into real-world cash. It’s a practice that has been against that game’s terms of service since its launch in 2003. Sources tell Polygon that up to $620,000 worth of in-game currency was also seized.

“We just thought it was time to make this move,” Nordgren said. “It's a complicated situation because there are some people who have a lot at stake in a lot of this.”

Issues related to gambling have been circulating since this summer, when it was discovered that resources earned inside multiplayer shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were being used to gamble online. That controversy eventually led to the Washington State Gambling Commission bringing formal charges against developer, Valve Corporation.

Nordgren was quick to note that the CS:GO scandal was very different from Eve’s because, in the case of so-called “skin gambling” real-world money was flowing much more freely.

“The big difference between their situation and ours,” Nordgren said, “is that in our situation there is no way to get real money out of Eve Online, so we don't have the same legal situation as they do. So, while some legal aspects played into it, our decisions were not exactly the same for Counter-Strike.

“We see ourselves as janitors of the universe and our job is to create an environment where people can have amazing experiences and tell interesting stories and if that environment is broken somehow or is at risk for some reason, we step in and fix it.”

Nordgren also stressed that by removing in-game casinos, CCP was attempting to restore balance to the game. That’s because at the end of the day Eve is as much about economic war machines as is about supercapital starships.

Simply put, casinos broke the game.

“There were other aspects to our decision,” Nordgren said. “If it's meaningless for somebody else to fight a battle in Eve because there's someone out there who has unassailable wealth then that becomes a problem for the whole game. If it's not meaningful to fight over the resources inside the game, where we have designed control and can balance that to be a fun experience, then it causes design problems.”

Eve’s new EULA takes effect today.