Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author, and do not represent TMC as a whole.
Hi, I'm James 315, and I was permabanned from EVE.
Before you start uncorking the champagne, there's a catch: I said I WAS permabanned, not that I currently am. You see, I was also un-permabanned. We'll talk about that in a moment.
Today we'll be covering a range of topics related to the banning of EVE players. This article was prompted by some significant changes recently made to the way CCP enforces the EULA/ToS. A number of players were permabanned for what CCP suspected they were doing on TeamSpeak. Formerly, CCP shied away from regulating EVE players' behavior on third-party programs like TeamSpeak, Jabber, Mumble, and the like. Now that certain activities have been reclassified as "real-life harassment", a player's conduct on out-of-game comms can be punished more severely than in-game conduct. Thus, the policy toward TeamSpeak and other VOIP programs has been completely inverted. But that was only the beginning.
Players were permabanned for "involvement with a group" that broke a rule, rather than breaking the rule themselves. The bar for "involvement" could have been as low as idling in an in-game channel hosted by the guilty players. Additionally, permabans were issued for potential offenses, rather than actual, specific offenses with identifiable victims.
Somewhere between 50-100 accounts were permabanned under the new policy. (The number of individual players banned was less, since many owned multiple accounts.) You're probably curious to hear more details about these bans and whether your own TeamSpeak activities may fall under the new policy. Those topics will be covered at great length. But since this is a James 315 article and not a cable TV news show, you're going to get your veggies--history and context--along with your news analysis and commentary.
Before we get started, I'd like to address those who carry a particular attitude when it comes to rule enforcement. They're the people who make comments like, "It's CCP's game, they can do whatever they want. If you don't like it, you can leave." This authoritarian-friendly mindset, I've found, is most common among the very young, the very old, and the very dull. I answer them this way: Yes, CCP has the right to do anything. They can ban every player in the game and change all the spaceships into marshmallows, if they choose. CCP also has the right to be rational and enforce the rules in a way that benefits their customers. I think they should exercise that right, don't you?
Mistakes Were Made
My perspective on the GMs and the way they enforce the rules was colored by an experience I had early on in my EVE career. Six months into the game, I found myself permanently banned from EVE. The pop-up that appears when a banned player tries to log into the game read "permabanned" and listed the reason "trial abuse". I was puzzled by this, since I had never used a trial account before--not even during my first two weeks of playing the game. I had paid my subscription fee right from the beginning--a decision I was beginning to re-evaluate.
If an EVE player protests his innocence and tells you he doesn't know why he was banned, you're probably going to be a bit skeptical. Yet that was the situation I had found myself in: permabanned for something I knew I didn't do. I considered the length of the ban to be excessive. If they were going to ban me for no reason, I felt they ought to make it a 30-day ban instead of a permanent one. At least then I could learn my lesson and return to the game a reformed man.
I used the web-based petition system to appeal my permaban. I argued that since I'd never used a trial account, I must be innocent of trial abuse. Today this would be called "rules lawyering". It's considered a very dangerous thing, because a customer might turn out to be right.
After a few days, I received an e-mail from a GM telling me that the ban was lifted and a week had been added to my subscription. Being six months into the game, I would have preferred a week's worth of skillpoints instead. (I always forget to set a long skill to train before I'm banned.) Nevertheless, I was grateful for a second chance at EVE. I haven't been banned again since.
One thing about the experience that left a vivid impression on me was how blasé the GM was about unbanning me. It was done with a short, simple form e-mail. There was no explanation or comment from the GM. In other words, he didn't say, "Wow, no one has ever been accidentally permabanned before. I can't believe this happened. You won't believe the extraordinary series of coincidences that led to this unprecedented failure in our otherwise perfect system!"
Occasionally I'll hear an EVE player remark about how thoroughly and professionally the GMs investigate things before they ban someone. Or that there's never been a case of an erroneous ban. Those kinds of comments make me smile. The GM's form e-mail left me with a different impression, that banning players by mistake and unbanning them is a routine matter. Just another petition to answer.
I have also encountered excellent GMs who worked very hard to get their job done right. Some GMs undoubtedly are very good at what they do. Some prefer to use warnings instead of reaching for the banhammer at every available opportunity. There are GMs who investigate potential offenses very carefully to ensure they don't make a mistake.
On the other hand, I played the game for half a year before some GM randomly permabanned me for no reason whatsoever. I concluded that the GM staff is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.