CCP Games, the creators of EvE Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), have recently launched a campaign to promote the forthcoming expansion Incarna, under the tagline “Eve is real”The intent of this campaign is to highlight the features of the game that cause your actions in-game to have consequences with other players, the fact that everything you do impacts on the game in some way, whether you be mining with a frigate, or taking control of regions of lawless space known as 0.0 as part of an enormous political alliance with thousands of pilots.
This campaign got me thinking about other instances where Eve could be “real”. We have all read articles claiming that gaming helps reaction times, planning skills and organization, however, I wanted to find out if these skills had ever demonstrably been put to use in the wider world. MMOs are often viewed as a waste of time, compared to other hobbies, and looked on somewhat disdainfully, especially when adults are playing. I believe, that as with other hobbies, everything in moderation is good, and time spent relaxing is never time wasted, and if you can take your skills acquired and apply them in a non- virtual world, so much the better!
Whilst browsing the forums, and hanging out in several in-game chat channels, I became aware of a player who had taken skills learned in Eve, and used them directly to create an income source in the real world, crossing the boundaries between virtual and reality. To many people, the first thing that will come to mind is gold-farming, otherwise known as real money trading (RMT) whereby a player sells the in-game currency they have acquired through channels such as Ebay and various websites.This is against the EULA in every game as far as I am aware, and this is NOT what this player has done.
Vaerah Vahrokha, as the player is known in game, began playing Eve, and became involved in the market aspect of the game, she is one of the few players who perform audits of potential IPOs and bonds, which are a secondary market, where players either sell shares in their corporations, or obtain a loan (usually collateralized) in order to raise liquidity to fund further ventures. This is not so different from what occurs in the real world, however, unlike the real world (or, perhaps quite like, depending on your view of recent events), in Eve, there is no final accountability, so trust, and your reputation as a player, is everything. There have been a number of high profile scams in Eve, ranging from Ponzi schemes (EIB and Cosmoray), through to plain “I am running off with all your investment money”(Titans4U and E-Bank), however, there have been far more successful bonds and IPOs. As happens in the real world though, everyone remembers the failures and scams, and forgets the successes.
I contacted the player, and requested an interview, I was not expecting a positive reply, as Eve players are notoriously tight lipped regarding their MO in game, and even more so about their real life activities. I was surprised and pleased when I received a positive response, and what follows below is the initial part of an interview.
Rhivre: When did you first start playing Eve?
Vaerah Vahrokha: At the beginning of 2009
R: What aspects of Eve did you try out first?
VV: Mining! After all that’s what new players are told to do in the rookie chat!
R: What drew you towards being involved in the markets?
VV: I have always enjoyed reading forums, in every game, so some months after I started to play, I just had to check the Eve forums out. I do not remember why I read the MD (Market Discussion) forums, probably because I read a bit of them all. I had ZERO knowledge about anything even related to economy, markets, accounting.
I started reading about these exotic things, bonds, IPOs…by that time I had learned how harsh Eve could be with players, especially those handing money to others. I wanted to know how that stuff worked.
I read about “auditors”, some magical creatures doing something that made handing money in Eve to another player something different than the usual assumption of “give ISK (Interstellar Kredits, the in-game currency) consider it lost for sure”.
I read about another player, Caleb Ayrania, who had something to do with them, and so I joined his in-game channel, the SCC-Lounge (Secure Commerce Commision, named for the NPC corporation who run the markets), to find him and ask him for more info.
I don’t recall quite how, or when, but I realized I wanted to become an auditor. The turning point was when I stumbled across the BSAC website (Block Ships and Ammunition Corporation, a player run corporation which is also the site for a mineral index and various funds: Corporation Site Mineral Index, Share Exchange and Fund site) This was IDENTICAL to a real corporation even in the finer details. As an old time roleplayer this was like candy to me!
In other MMOs I usually end up having some rare or unusual roles, so I figured why not do this in Eve.
Caleb advised me to speak to another player, Brock Nelson for the basics, and to read an audits website by a player named Kazzac. Once I started learning and became an auditor, it was only a matter of time before I’d start studying markets, especially since most bonds are made by traders.
I then started realizing something like this happened in real life as well, so I started learning about FOREX and other markets.
R: How did you go about familiarizing yourself with the eve market mechanisms? Were there any tools you used, or sites you visited?
VV: I was immediately attracted by the graphs, as I am a very visual person, I have strong visual memory, and good eyes etc. The tools I used? I knew nothing, but on MD, a person said to buy when the moving averages crossed upwards and vice versa. That’s all my beginning in the financial world, both in EvE and RL. The rest came later.
R: What aspects of the markets were you initally involved in?
VV: The very first experience was trying something new…With mining I made a whole 50m over many weeks…I read on MD to just search for II (Indicating tech 2, or better quality items) in the market window, and buy, then resell the stuff. You know by now how I take things literally? Well, in 1 month I now had 1.2 billion!
R: When and how did you become involved in the secondary markets and the meta-game aspects of player created IPOs and bond?
VV: I got involved after becoming an auditor. Doing things like this puts you in a position to know and understand better, and possibly to become interested and like doing it.
I especially loved the analogic, against-the-current approach of auditing, trading, investing. No fixed rules, it’s the MAN who counts, not some dumbed down, easily played mechanism. That’s the RP part in MMORPG, that’s what makes it worth playing.
R: Did you have your own IPO at any point, and then move into auditing?
VV: No, I never had an IPO or bond, for 3 reasons:
- I love exploring human mechanisms, making Fiat money in a game does not give me any stimulus.
- I never needed money enough. I am actually investing billions everywhere since I don’t know what to do with them.
- I can’t be audited till the new API comes out. (Eve is in the process of implementing an API key where certain information can be hidden) It’d be hypocritical to want audits on other people and refuse them on myself. I can’t share the amount of private information though, anyone auditing me today could read dozen of players full API keys (Thereby enabling them to see players wallet balances, character details, details of assets held, and allowing for them to see others trade strategies as well as alternate characters), dozens of detailed strategies by investees who disclosed them to me for me to check and much more.
R: How did you gain trust of other players to grant you their API key and access to their financial information? Have you encountered any problems related to these trust issues?
VV: That’s a good question. The answer might sound odd, but I am odd to begin with. I started by auditing super small investments for free, I did my best to present good and detailed reports. As the months passed, more people began asking for my services. As I keep saying, reputation is not something you can grind, just *do* and it will come
I have never had any problems related to trust, in fact nowadays I held collateral for so many people I lost records, I held the 91B for the charity at PLEX for Japan, I am holding several investments collateral and at the same time I am doing multiple 3rd party capital BPOs research with my alts and no one tells a thing. Just check Key Darker’s reply to my disclosure: http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1515873&page=1#15
R: What made you consider taking your Eve market knowledge into the real world markets?
VV: I said myself: I like it, why shouldn’t I also do in in RL? After all they say EvE economy is realistic, I will just copy and paste what I do in EvE into RL!
Seems naive, doesn’t it? Well I am open to all sorts of experiments, trying and learning does not hurt, does it?
Result: I discovered how RL markets are 1000 times more complex than EvE, yet they are as simple to understand. Prices are just a result of human psychology and it’s happily applying both in EvE and in RL.
R: What real world markets do you operate in?
VV: There’s a before and after.
Before I traded intraday on Forex and Futures. Now I am switching to multi-day and swing trading on Forex and (in the future) stocks and ETFs. It’s safer and less stressing, by far.
R: How successful has this been?
VV: Before, it was a hobby slowly turning in profession. Gains varied, sometimes they were $350 a month, sometimes it was more, others it was less. The worst part was that high frequency trading would net me those $350 out of $550. Yes, the brokers got THAT much of my income.
Then there has been a transition time when my RL employer tanked (we all got unemployed) and had to actually survive on such “hobby” and stop making my brokers fat. To make things worse, all I was left when I lost my job was about 700 euros.
I switched to the very system I published on my technical analysis thread http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1375714
That system is decent, easy to learn, has a positive win:loss ratio of 2:1 or better. It’s still intraday and thus it’s hard to execute and very stressful, expecially with such limited pockets.
No, I did not make the trillions out of 700 euros, ( it’s so little that I have to extract all the monthly gains to buy a lunch and a bed). While surviving on that I was learning a much improved method based on pure price action.
R: Are you self-employed or employed within the financial sector?
VV: Let’s say I am self-employed, in the sense I am not a self- owned company, I just trade for myself and in the future for a couple other people who are tired of letting banks chip in their accounts with low interests, endless expenses, awful contracts, terrible bonds tainted by poisoned securities (yes they slip in CDOs in an end user *bond*).
Vaerahs website, where results of the audits, as well as tools used, can be found at http://www.vahrokh.com/eve-online/ .
This interview originally published on http://scc-lounge.net/wordpress/