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Was CCP right to ban this Eve Online player?

Scammer Erotica 1 has an audience divided.

Erotica 1 is the most notorious and talked about character in Eve Online since The Mittani.

He led a scam on an unwitting player that involved public humiliation via a recorded group voice chat, in which the player was asked to read nonsense and sing songs, before eventually snapping and launching into a tirade of abuse - all for the amusement of the listeners.

The victim, a character called Sohkar, did so because Erotica 1 had all of his in-game Eve Online assets held hostage. He handed those over because Erotica 1 had convinced him he could quadruple them if successful on the Bonus Round.

Erotica 1's 'wanted' picture can still be seen in-game.

This happened a month ago, but it became a controversy when influential Eve Online character Ripard Teg - a member of the player-elected Council of Stellar Management - wrote a strongly worded blog post about the incident, a week ago, which labelled Erotica 1 "a despicable, vile, evil human being".

Not long after, Erotica 1 was banned. Read his post and listen to the recording of the Bonus Round and you'll likely agree CCP did the right thing. But did it?

Eve Radio assembled the key players to find out. Host Funkybacon heard how there were upwards of 100 Bonus Rounds recorded since it started a year ago, and how it was a kind of Punkd-style prank scam that people have profited from taking part in.

"It was never meant to be something to torture someone," said Kalorned, one of the characters involved, "it was meant to be something that was fun. We understand that internet spaceships is not something serious. Internet spaceships is just internet spaceships."

Erotica 1 joined the chat 51 minutes from the end.

"A lot of people said it was the best experience they'd had in Eve Online, or online, ever," he said. "Some people say 'it's enough, I don't want to do it any more' and they leave, and it's all respectful. We have a handful of blow-ups.

"There have been a handful of other cases where there have been clear signs that it's really bothering the person, and behind the scenes we smooth things over, or I do, but I didn't want to change the branding of Erotica 1, if that makes sense."

In other words, he's got a character and he plays a role - the same explanation The Mittani gave when he suggested, at Eve FanFest, a player should consider suicide.

"You try to do the best you can to put on a good show, put on a good scam. But when you see someone is going to get hurt, you do everything you can to cushion that and be responsible," Erotica 1 said.

"Now I don't broadcast that, I don't go out of my way to say, 'Hey guys, this is a scam!' We play the game."

And in every Bonus Round he says the participant is warned it will be recorded so as not to break any End User License Agreement. "We always get their permission, we always tell them what's going on."

"You try to do the best you can to put on a good show, put on a good scam. But when you see someone is going to get hurt..."

Erotica 1
Erotica 1 discovers he's banned from Eve Online.

Victim Sohkar then joined the Eve Radio chat.

"It was a month ago, and [recently] 'what's his name' wrote an article... Until then, I wasn't getting any emails - I got a couple here and there but nothing major. But afterwards I log into the game and I get in-game mails non-stop," he said.

Erotica 1 - who had talked to him separately a day or so before the Eve Radio show - asked him how long it took to get over what had happened. "I fell asleep that night, I woke up, and I didn't even think about it again," Sohkar answered.

Did he agree with Ripard Teg's analogy that he had been tortured? "I do not agree with that," he said. "I got scammed, I got mad, I got over it - everybody else should be able to get over it, too."

CCP wrote "an announcement regarding real-life harassment" in the EVE forum, referring to the Bonus Rounds, which take place out of in-game chat, in TeamSpeak.

"While the content of online interactions between players cannot realistically be gated within our game worlds, CCP strongly disapproves of clear and extraordinary levels of real life harassment against our players in the outside world. CCP, in collaboration with the CSM, have agreed and would like to state in the strongest possible terms and in accordance with our existing Terms of Service and End User License Agreement, that real life harassment is morally reprehensible, and verifiable examples of such behavior will be met with disciplinary action against game accounts in accordance with our Terms of Service.

"Harassment poses a potential problem in any virtual world, and CCP has dealt with cases of this nature for more than a decade. We will continue to monitor and evaluate claims of harassment based on our policies and acceptable standards of behavior."

CCP refused to discuss any personal bans further when pressed by Eurogamer.

The other side to this story is Ripard Teg, the only notable absentee from the Eve Radio talk. The allegation is that he used his influence to bring about a ban of Erotica 1.

UPDATE: We've removed a claim that Ripard Teg refused to appear on the Eve Radio show, which he denies, as well as a quote attributed to him, which he says was part of a private conversation. Apologies to Ripard Teg for the error.

A former CSM member called Aleks had a poignant comment to make on the Eve Radio show.

"I'm not a big fan of scamming or scammers," he began, "however I would defend to the death the right to do that in Eve Online. Regardless of what CCP's ruling is, that standard that they're employing should be applied fairly to all parties, and it's a bit strange to me that Erotica 1 is being targeted for real-life harassment as the basis for his being banned, but Ripard Teg's use of a blog to essentially force CCP into a position to be banned is not being addressed. I find that especially troubling given Ripard's position - being in a Skype channel with GMs [game moderators] and such."

Aleks was asked if he would have targeted a specific player while a member of the CSM. "Targeting a specific player? No. That was fairly inappropriate. It's bad form for [CCP] to play favourites in this case, given the optics of it."

Erotica 1 followed his Eve Radio appearance with a post on Reddit.

"If Bonus Rounds were a problem, CCP should have let me know," he concluded. "Instead, they accepted biased opinions as fact and made a decision based on poor perceptions of what the media might think.

"Contrary to popular belief, I'm a decent guy. You just have to open yourselves up to the possibility of civil discussion and debate.

"If I'm banned, then there are thousands of players, with clear evidence on the internet and within logs that should be as well for more egregious activities."

But should he remain banned, he said on Eve Radio, he's considering running the whole operation as a Mafia boss would from prison.

In its statement, CCP referenced Eve Online's unparalleled player freedom, both mechanically and politically - but insisted scamming and other potentially troublesome actions should remain strictly in-game.

"Eve is a virtual world whose inhabitants have more freedom to play the villain and experiment with various backhanded tactics than in any other MMO," the company said.

"The freedom to scam and commit piracy, espionage, and extortion are all fundamental to the Eve Online experience, and CCP will never change that. However, it is important to remember that the Eve universe is a virtual world, and behavior of this nature should remain firmly within that virtual world."