OOC Blood in the water

Somer has started a new version of old stuff.

The sharks are circling but not all for the same reason.  Some want to tear it down, others are watching to see if it stands long enough for them to become part of the feeding frenzy that would start if it IS legal.

Of course it starts on a weekend so the response time from CCP will be less than optimal.

Two things from me.

1) Yes, CSM knows and is asking questions as well.

2) Stop, think, listen for what comes next.  Don’t go screaming off into the outer darkness until both sides have had a chance to have their say.

Lots of fins, lots of little teeth.

fly it like you won it and try to stay above the waterline

m

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11 Responses to OOC Blood in the water

  1. Easy Esky says:

    What interested me was following the removal of Somer the first round, was the immediate rise of a couple of bookie/betting organisations to fill that particular void. I find that just a little to coincidental.

  2. Moar Politics says:

    The blame rests solely with CCP Falcon. Completely failed to manage internal and external stakeholders while strutting about in the bully role CC Navigator gifted to him as king of the “rent-a-cop” ISD crowd.

    Somer ship scandal then a billion ISK scandal within weeks.

    Failcon’s response not a year on? Completely take his eye’s off the ball. Have no clue at all about the happenings at the source of one of the biggest PR threats to CCP’s meta gaming / Twitterati reputation in recent times. Now cue mock shock and anger as a response and use the CSM as meat shields.

    Somer Blink is too big to fail and CCP needs every cent it can scrounge. It could have been managed effectively if someone employed in the role was competent. However, your effectiveness now as a CSM has just been torpedoed by an ego.

    • mikeazariah says:

      The phrase that sticks with me is ‘eye off of the ball’

      Do you believe that the community support guy is also the overseer of internal affairs and the one through which all contact with the players must be ok’d through?

      If he is then he needs a bigger office and better pay.

      Me, meat shield. As long as it helps me drop a few pounds . . . ok.

      He said himself (in the forums) NOBODY in Eve is too big to fail.

      m

  3. Blackbird71 says:

    Mike,

    I am currently on break from EVE for various reasons. One of the reasons I decided I could no longer give CCP my money in good conscience was the poor handling of the Somer Blink issue last year. How this resurgence of an old problem is handled will greatly influence whether or not I decide to return.

    In the official forum thread responding to CCP Falcon’s announcement, you posed a question:
    “Out of curiosity.

    For all you folks gathering the pitchforks and torches and learning to tie ropes into nooses. Do you expect a single or mass execution? Just Somer or Somer and staff or Somer staff and anybody who has ever done business with them?”

    Now I realize that you were likely engaging in a bit of hyperbole to try to cow the masses into having a little patience, but I’ll go ahead and give you a direct answer: mass executions are required. I will not consider the matter resolved until the player behind Somerset Mahm has every one of his accounts and IPs banned, and all assets seized. In addition to this individual, there needs to be permanent bans for each and every person who has worked for Somer Blink. Markee Dragon also needs to have any and all accounts banned, and his status as a PLEX retailer needs to be revoked for being complicit in Somer Blink’s activities. Only a complete house cleaning of this operation will resolve the issue.

    The reason that I have taken such a hard stance on this is that for too long, CCP has given the appearance of favoritism to certain individuals and groups of players through an uneven application of the very rules they have laid down. As all of these entities are participants in the same game, the only way for that game to be fair is for the rules to be applied equally to all players. I will not be a customer to a game which is inherently unfair due to the referees’ inability to remain unbiased. If CCP is to ever change that perception, then they must start enforcing the same rules for everyone.

    For a moment, set aside all questions of any technicalities associated with whatever variety of potentially-qualifying-as-RMT scheme that Somer Blink may or may not have engaged in. The question of whether or not Somer Blink as an entity is in violation of CCP’s rules can be clearly answered without ever having to decide which of these activities qualify as RMT. All that has to be done is to compare Somer Blink to a single paragraph from EVE’s EULA:

    “Accounts may not be used for business purposes. Access to the System and playing EVE is intended for your personal entertainment, enjoyment and recreation, and not for corporate, business, commercial or income-seeking activities. Business entities and anyone who is acting for or on behalf of a business or for business purposes may not establish an Account, access the System or play EVE. Accessing the System or using the Game for commercial, business or income-seeking purposes is strictly prohibited.”

    Is Somer Blink operating a business? Are they engaging in “income-seeking activities”? Somer Blink’s affiliate partner prior to Markee Dragon disclosed that during the 2-3 years they had worked together, Somer Blink had received something in the neighborhood of $130,000. Based on Somer Blink’s own metrics, it can be presumed that during their time with Markee Dragon, they have made at least as much again. This is clearly far above the funds needed to maintain web servers, as CCP has previously stated is allowable. This kind of revenue falls well within the category of a small business, and should be treated as such. To top it off, in dealing with certain events, CCP itself has even referred to Somer Blink as a “business partner.” Can there be any question as to their status as a business or “income-seeking” entity?

    Next part of the equation: is Somer Blink using EVE accounts for business purposes? Somer Blink generates a large portion of its PLEX sales through its in-game lotteries. Somer Blink cannot receive ISK from other players or distribute prizes without the use of in-game accounts. Somer Blink affiliated EVE accounts are also used to advertise their services and events, both in game and in the official forums. Therefore it is clear that the Somer Blink business is facilitated by EVE accounts.

    I don’t think there can be a more clear violation of the EULA than that presented by this situation. And yet, CCP has never acknowledged or responded to any questions regarding Somer Blink’s relation to this particular rule. I personally petitioned CCP with a question regarding this issue, but was answered with the usual canned response that basically stated, “we’ll look into it, but can’t tell you what we decide.” As Somer Blink has continued to operate for nearly a year after that, it is pretty obvious that nothing ever happened.

    CCP has granted Somer Blink a favorable exception to the rules, one which has not been given to the remainder of the playerbase. This oversteps their role as “impartial referee” (CCP’s own phrasing of their role in the game), and creates an uneven and unfair environment. It is blatant and inexcusable favoritism. The only way that CCP can begin to redeem themselves is to start enforcing the rules for organizations like Somer Blink the same way that they would enforce them for any other individual player or player organization. Per CCP’s policies, enforcement of this rule requires the permanent banning of all players associated with the business. Anything less is CCP granting further favoritism.

    • mikeazariah says:

      Let me know what you think in the next couple of days, if you could

      m

      • Blackbird71 says:

        Didn’t get a big enough piece of my mind the first time? 😉 Well, since you asked:

        I’ll assume you’re looking for my opinion in regards to Somer Blink closing its doors and CCP Falcon’s latest announcement regarding CCP’s decided course of action in this case. In short, I’ll say that it’s a good start, but it’s not quite there yet.

        When I first heard that Somer Blink was voluntarily shutting down, I was concerned that Somerset Mahm would be allowed to quietly disappear into the night with accounts in tact, and the matter would again be dropped without further communication. As I read my way through Falcon’s announcement, I was pleased to see that this was not the case.

        However, I do have to take issue with some of the statements in Falcon’s post:

        “For those of you not familiar with SOMER Blink, they are a player-run EVE Online site that is not a business affiliate of CCP and that is managed independently outside of the EVE client.”

        This statement is false on two counts. First, at least one CCP representative in authority to do so has referred to Somer Blink as a “business partner” in communications regarding community event sponsorship. Ergo, Somer Blink has definitely been a business affiliate in the past, even if they may not be considered as such now. Second, Somer Blink trades in ISK and in-game items, which can only be done by the use of EVE online characters and accounts, and most definitely relies upon the EVE client to carry out its activities. Claiming that Somer Blink has no business relationship with CCP and operates outside the client appears as an attempt to portray Somer Blink as something other than an income-seeking entity facilitated by EVE accounts in direct violation of the EULA. The only reason I can see for doing so is to make excuses for why nothing had been done about Somer Blink prior to this incident. Why else try to obfuscate these facts with clearly misleading characterizations of the organization and its relationship with CCP?

        “The Concerns”

        Nowhere in the concerns does it even allude to the question of Somer Blink being a business operating in direct violation of the EULA, despite this being a subject brought up by several players in the official thread, as well as during the previous “Somergate” incident. This issue remains unaddressed and ignored by CCP, and the fact that they have avoided discussing it entirely speaks volumes about their intent.

        “After careful consideration and consultation with CSM9, who have displayed an outstanding level of support in assisting with this issue, CCP has taken the decision to permanently ban the founder of SOMER Blink from EVE Online across all accounts, with immediate effect.”

        This is a very good start, and I admit that I had been afraid CCP would not even have the guts to go this far. I also appreciated CCP breaking their standard policy of not discussing player bans in order share this decision; frankly though, the matter had become such a public issue that I don’t think anything less than a public announcement of this would have been accepted.

        However, this statement on Somerset Mahm’s banning appears to be in contradiction to this statement which follows a little later:

        “…it’s good to see that SOMER Blink is shutting down in a controlled and stable manner, and that players will be able to withdraw their ISK and / or assets.”

        Wait a minute, I thought that Somerset Mahm and all his accounts had been banned “with immediate effect”? If this is true, then how is he able to distribute ISK and assets to other players? If all associated accounts had truly been banned, he should not be able to log in to transfer any assets. So which is it? Has Somerset Mahm been banned, or is he still in the game giving out refunds? Both statements cannot be true, unless CCP has done an incredibly poor job of identifying Somer Blink accounts.

        Call me cynical, but my other concern regarding these “refunds” is that it looks like a perfect opportunity to launder ISK out to friends or alts that CCP may not be aware are connected to Somerset Mahm. If done correctly, it may be easy to hide significant funds amid the flurry of transactions that will take place as part of a general reimbursement program. I would have preferred to see these accounts frozen until the assets could be adequately investigated and tracked, and then if deemed appropriate, the accounts could be released (and closely monitored) in order to proceed with such reimbursements. Although to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded too much if the assets were seized as part of the banning and no refund possible. It wouldn’t have been great for those playing Somer Blink, but it’s called gambling for a reason, and in this case they would have risked and lost. As far as I’m concerned, the funds are tainted with the stink of RMT, and should have been treated in the same manner CCP does all RMT-related ISK. The fact that they did not again casts serious doubt on their ability to apply rules equally.

        “What will happen to the people who worked for SOMER Blink?

        We have no intention of issuing any reprimand against those people who chose to volunteer and assist the operations of SOMER Blink in good faith.”

        This is wholly unacceptable. Whether compensated through in-game funds or items, or real-world monies, or event tickets, or anything else, there were Somer Blink employees who were complicit and necessary to the operation of the real-world business that was Somer Blink. This is not a case of one person breaking a rule, but rather an entire organization that existed and operated in violation of the EULA. Every one of those employees had access to that EULA, and knew what they were getting themselves into. All must be held accountable for such actions, and to let them off is giving preferential treatment.

        Also still in question is Markee Dragon’s status – no mention is made of this known RMTer or its involvement in this and other related activities. Somer Blink could not have operated as it did without being facilitated by MD which has abused its position as a PLEX retailer affiliate. Markee Dragon was Somer Blink’s partner in the RMT process, and needs to be held just as culpable. If MD possesses any EVE accounts, they need to be banned as well, and its status as a PLEX affiliate must be revoked.

        “Why did you not take action regarding this in 2013?

        The issues that occurred last year were different and unconnected with the more recent problems. In 2013, CCP took appropriate action and SOMER Blink complied with our requests.”

        This is complete and utter BS. At the core, the issues were not different at all. In both instances, there was a player organization operating and facilitating a real-world business and engaging in RMT. If anything, the previous incident was worse, as the scope was larger, and there were questions of CCP favoritism and impropriety in the giving of free items and increasing traffic to their site over their competitors by enabling them to offer unique raffle items. CCP most definitely not take “appropriate action” in 2013, and CCP has as much admitted that several times in his posts in the previous thread, where he commented that he was unsatisfied with how the situation had been handled (or rather, not handled) the last time. But now that he is relaying the “official” message, he is forced to state that “CCP took appropriate action.” That’s just CCP trying to cover themselves and refusing to admit that they ever did anything wrong, which tells me that they have learned nothing and is one more major hit against their credibility.

        I do have to say that I really appreciate the way that the CSM as a whole, CCP Falcon, and anyone else involved in the community team, has responded to this issue. Really, the effort shown here has been amazing; I never in my life expected such a quick decision and public statement of such a decision from a company known for dragging its feet on even the littlest of things. I cannot fault CCP Falcon for the complaints I have with his announcement of CCP’s position, as I can only presume that it was heavily influenced by (if not completely drafted by) CCP’s legal team or others with oversight in this matter. To all of you on the CSM and CCP’s community team: well done in driving the lumbering giant into action, and not accepting anything less than the swiftest of responses. It’s a shame that a similar response last year didn’t render the effort of the past few days unnecessary.

        From all of this, it does appear that CCP as a company is beginning to learn how to take feedback from their customers and respond in a timely and public manner, something which previously they have had serious trouble even getting close to accomplishing. Unfortunately, the self-contradictions in their official statement, the half-done measures which have excused many of the guilty parties involved, and the unwillingness to admit their own mistakes have done little to restore my trust in CCP as a company that deals fairly and equitably with all their customers. Unless I see evidence of this changing, I will continue to remain unsubbed. CCP’s actions so far, while encouraging, have been insufficient to convince me that a significant change has been made. But I will be watching, and it looks like there may be hope, though there is still a ways for CCP to go. They have burned through a lot of good will in the past, and it will take time and effort to rebuild any level of trust. As I said at the beginning though, this is a start; it’s just an incomplete start, and a worse start than it could have been.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        P.S.

        I’m still waiting for both the CSM and CCP promised surveys on what constitutes appropriate 3rd-party rewards.

  4. mikeazariah says:

    wow, bigger piece of your mind, this time.

    When a business tycoon embezzles one does not hunt down each employee in his empire. And there are two Somer Blinks, the empire and Somerset the player (and alts). The man (and alts) is banned but the assets that are within the corp are still there. If he trusted anyone to access them then they can continue the shutdown/payout. As they have been doin, by all reports.

    Now IF there was proof that others in his empire were also profiting from this in terms of real world money then they might be another case. But hel;ping ship stuff and payout bets? no

    Business associate . . . no, Somer got his MONEY from Markee Dragon who is in a business arrangement with CCP and Somer got his from Markee. There are folks asking for Markees head on a platter as well but this is like asking for the bullet makers to be responsible for shootings, it doesn’t track. (ok, not the best analogy but it has been a long day)

    I’ll see what I can do about nudging Falcon and Leeloo about the surveys although they were conceived during the ‘previous administration’.

    I am happy with the results, over all but your opinion is allowed to differ from mine.

    m

    • Blackbird71 says:

      Yes, there are two Somer Blinks – Somer Blink the out of game website and business, and Somer Blink the in-game corporation. The problem is that the in-game corporation was used to facilitate the out-of-game business, and all the tainted assets flowed through the members of that corporation. The ISK trail has to be pretty convoluted at this point, and CCP practice in the past has always been to freeze assets until they could sort it out. Instead, Somer Blink is being allowed to distribute assets to persons outside of the corporation, which is a perfect cover for laundering said assets in case of a further crack down on Somer Blink. There is too much room here for shady operations to let it just go unchecked and unwatched.

      Somerset Mahm is not Somer Blink. One is an individual, the other is an organization. The illegal actions of the organization were not the work of a single individual; they were carried out by members of the organization as a whole. Allowing that organization to continue to stand in the face of all the violations it has committed is an insult to the idea of a fair application of the rules to all players. One player was punished where several are guilty. At the very least, there needs to be a thorough investigation into the involvement of Somerset Mahm’s cohorts, and considering how swiftly all this came to a head, and that Somer Blink’s assets were never even temporarily frozen, I seriously doubt that any such investigation has taken place. Can you claim otherwise?

      I realize that the cash flow for RMT was from Markee Dragon to Somer Blink. However, at least one CCP representative had referred to Somer Blink as a “business partner” when speaking of events such as last year’s EVE Vegas, etc. That was part of the uproar – Somer Blink was being treated as a business partner, even publicly acknowledged as such, but never held accountable to the EULA rules regarding players and businesses. So yes, I will continue to refer to Somer Blink as CCP’s business associate, because that is how CCP treated their relationship.

      The fact is that last year CCP screwed up royally by clearly and publicly favoring a single player organization over others, giving favors and improving their business through increased traffic, exclusive raffle items, and public endorsements. To this day, CCP has done very little to actually absolve themselves of that mess. The fact that they still have not taken their standard action towards an entity which has violated the EULA both in terms of using EVE accounts for business activities and through engaging in RMT shows that they are still giving favorable treatment to this player organization. They have removed the figurehead, but the body remains. The fact is that CCP has not shut down Somer Blink, Somerset Mahm did that himself. But since CCP has taken no action against the organization itself, and all of it’s assets are intact, and there has been no ruling given regarding the website as a business, there is absolutely nothing preventing the remaining members of Somer Blink from picking up right where Somerset Mahm left off. The whole situation is like taking down a crime boss on tax evasion charges, while doing nothing to stop his lieutenants from enjoying the spoils of his crimes, or even continuing their activities just as they had before the boss was hauled off.

      As for Markee Dragon, he is a known and proven RMTer who has caused problems in many other MMOs. Somer Blink was his way into EVE, and he facilitated and profited from Somer Blink’s RMT activities. After the first debacle, this should have been put to a sudden stop. There should not have been any grace period for Somer Blink to ramp up their earning. Both Somer Blink and their accomplice Markee Dragon should have been immediately banned, as CCP would have done with any other RMTer caught in the act. Markee Dragon is a cancer of online gaming, and there is no reason that he and Somer Blink should not have been cleaned up the first time, other than CCP’s favoritism and/or incompetence in the matter. Revoking Markee Dragon’s status as a reseller would just be a matter of finishing the job that should have been taken care of last year. The fact that he is still in business with CCP just goes to prove that CCP is still unwilling to enforce the rules to the same extent for everyone.

      • Druur Monakh says:

        “Revoking Markee Dragon’s status as a reseller would just be a matter of finishing the job that should have been taken care of last year.”

        Careful. Did Markee Dragon break the letter of the reseller agreement he is bound to? If not, CCP can’t revoke his status. Somer is not the only purchaser of PLEX from Markee; and if I set up a little RMT operation with his PLEX without telling him, would he be responsible for that as well?

        I think it was a TMC article which floated the idea that Somer didn’t announce this scheme sooner because of MD waiting for Somer to confirm that CCP approved of the scheme.

        Markee the Business Man may or may not have few morals, but he doesn’t strike me as dumb enough to risk his business agreement with CCP.

  5. Druur Monakh says:

    Catching up on a month’s worth of blogs, so for now just this:

    “Lots of fins, lots of little teeth.”

    Are you sure you are thinking of sharks, and not piranhas?

    (No, Dinsdale, I didn’t talk of you – /down/!)

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