EVE Online may not be the biggest MMO in the gaming world, but it's one of the most interesting ones to examine, whether as a player or an outside observer.
More so than in almost any other persistent-universe online game, tensions and rivalries flare up, daring raids take place and space battles can often be described in terms of their real-world worth. But also, it's a place where friendships and alliances have been forged, and a game that has attracted one of the most passionate, dedicated fanbases in all of gaming.
Developer CCP knows this very well, and it was with this in mind that it unveiled the "Worlds Within a World" monument in Iceland's Reykjavik harbor last week. Sporting some 500,000 names, the monument aims to celebrate the players who make the experience of playing EVE so distinctive; the names on the monument apparently reflect all active main characters as of March 1 this year. Beneath the monument is a time capsule containing a laptop with videos and messages from developers and players.
Unfortunately, it only took about a week for the monument to be defaced by players attending the annual EVE FanFest event. The central pillar of the monument found itself adorned with a removable sticker of the in-game alliance Goonswarm, but more seriously, one of the player names on the monument -- one "Xenuria" -- was scratched out. One player, calling themselves Gaius Homerson on Twitter, claimed responsibility for the defacement and seemingly tried to position the vandalism as having done a service to the EVE community. CCP did not see it this way.
"It's an insult to the entire community and is clearly the work a person who believes that behavior in a virtual world is valid reason to make a real-life personal attack on someone, and deface public property," wrote community manager CCP Falcon on the official forums. "We will not tolerate this. Thankfully we've already had a number of players come forward to assist us and provide information. Including, we believe, members of the person's own alliance."
Sure enough, it was announced this morning that CCP has found the people responsible and punished them. In total, four individuals were involved; three of them have been permanently removed from the EVE community and their EVE Online and Dust 514 accounts permanently banned. The fourth has received a six-month ban on their sole registered account as they were more indirectly involved. All four have also been blacklisted permanently from attending future FanFest events.
CCP is refusing to release the in-game identities of those responsible, as this would contravene their own privacy policies. The incident is now considered resolved within the EVE universe, but it sounds as if CCP intends to take further action in collaboration with the authorities with regard to criminal damage charges and recovery of costs for repairs.
It's a story that highlights aptly the damage that can be done if in-game (or simply online) rivalries and spats are allowed to carry over into the real world.