When EVE Online’s Chinese version relaunches in Q4 of 2018, rulebreakers may find themselves facing a type of punitive action that goes way beyond banning—they might end up in a virtual prison labor camp.
Data miners from Hoboleaks, a site dedicated to discovering changes pushed to the EVE Online test server, recently uncovered new in-game dialogue strings hinting at forced labor style activities being required to regain your freedom to play the game. These changes first appeared on Singularity, the game’s test server, after an announcement by CCP Games that the it would be staging changes for both the International and Chinese versions of the game there.
Other data-mined strings have suggested that players will be forced to complete in-game tasks, “menial labor,” associated with these sentences, in order to restore their characters freedom. Data miners have reported seeing a new type of ore mentioned that has no use in the game other than being mined. If this is all true, EVE players will be receiving the infamous punishment of “making large rocks into smaller rocks” to reduce their penalty time and earn their way back into the game, rather than being outright banned.
EVE Online players were quick to point out these changes, both on Reddit and on other social media platforms. CCP_Falcon, EVE’s senior community manager, was equally quick to respond to the player concerns—both officially, by publishing the developer blog, and unofficially by interacting with players on Reddit via memes.
Reached for comment, CCP Games told Kotaku that the changes were intended only for the Chinese market. NetEase, the company partnered with CCP to publish the game in China, told Kotaku that, “after the new EVE Online China beta is launched later this year, it will be synchronized with NetEase’s Guardhouse System. This system draws on the punishment mechanism of other titles by NetEase Games.”
Cheating, whether through botting, illicit real-money transactions, or script injection and code manipulation, has been a problem since the dawn of the MMORPG. Traditional punishments have been levied against players who choose this path since the beginning, and it has resulted in an war of escalation between the two sides. Could the new method being introduced to EVE Online finally tip the scales? Perhaps digital prison will cause players to rethink their actions in a different way than before.