Players suspect that the election results for EVE Online's thirteenth Council of Stellar Management may have been tainted by dirty tricks, including out-and-out vote buying. Of course, this being EVE, dirty tricks are perfectly legal.
Players from all over the world recently cast their votes to elect representatives from amongst their ranks to sit on the CSM, a body of players that directly interfaces with EVE's publisher CCP Games. The votes that put them there came from 29,417 active paid player accounts, although there are accusations that some of these votes we bought and paid for with in-universe credits.
Further inflaming those player's reactions, this blatant buying of votes is well within the game's rules.
Close to 50 players ran campaigns to sit on the council, engaging the player base in any way they could: Twitter, podcasts, Reddit, forums, or even live EVE talk shows. One candidate, who was successful, was actually a real-life Washington lobbyist.
At the forefront of some of some part of this controversy was a candidate known as The Judge, an incumbent running for reelection. The Judge was already a very controversial figure in EVE, due to his recent, catastrophic public betrayal of an in-game alliance he belonged to and helped to guide.
During the first week of June, the day after voting had opened, screenshots began appearing on Twitter depicting what seemed to be The Judge offering to pay players in-game currency in exchange for their vote in the upcoming election.
Screenshot posted by @Orion_Kerensky
The screenshot posted to Twitter shows a character by the name of The Judge Vote4CSM that had obviously been designed to look very similar to The Judge's in-game avatar, offering the nominal sum of 50 million Isk for every confirmed vote..
Players on both sides argued back and forth for a few days on social media, alternating between offering support for The Judge, and damning him as a cheater. However, there is no official rule against a player using their in-game wallet in such a direct way to garner support.
In fact, according to a forum post from CCP Guard, EVE's developer liaison in charge of the CSM: "As it stands, it's not a strong tool to get a seat compared to being on alliance ballots for example, and it can also backfire by driving away potential votes who dislike the practice."
After the votes were totaled and algorithms were run to determine the victors, all of the voting data was released to the public.
EVE's spreadsheet enthusiasts could now pore over the details of how many votes each candidate received, and in what order candidates were elected — everything except who the votes came from EVE blogger HughCaswakk posted his findings based on this voting data, and according to him it shows with a high degree of confidence that somewhere around 500 votes did appear to have been purchased on behalf of The Judge.
But votes bought and paid for with in-game cash were not the only controversial anomaly to affect The Judge's victory in the election. On June 8, four days after the voting period for CSM 13 began, CCP Guard announced on the official EVE forums that one of the candidates had been using racial slurs in in-game chat prior to the election and was therefore being disqualified.
"As you know, the CSM is chosen by the players of EVE Online, which is what makes it interesting and so naturally CCP tries to have as little impact on their choice as possible," said a CCP Games representative via email.
"That being said, CCP has the discretion to remove candidates during any stage of the process." While CCP had performed a background check on all the candidates prior to the election, it said, the chat logs with the candidate were only shared with it after voting had begun.
As with the vote-purchasing controversy, the player base was split on this action. Some players believed that the logs found were too far in the past (they dated back to January 2016), and that the candidate should have been given the chance to prove that they had changed. Others thought that the 'punishment' fit the 'crime,' applauding CCP's quick action to insure morale integrity among the game's lead representatives.
A third reaction, more sinister in nature than the others, were that the logs were specifically forwarded to CCP as a way to target and prevent the disqualified player from attaining a seat on the council.
Kotaku asked Sort Dragon, a current CSM member who won reelection, for his comments on the matter. "I think it was a character assassination," he said. "I think it was tactical. I don't know by who though."
"I think they may have set a very dangerous precedent that could affect the meta surrounding CSM elections in the future," he said.
After the candidate's ejection, the voting period was not restarted, because the CSM election runs as a single transferable vote process. When an EVE player selects a candidate to support for CSM, they are able to select up to ten different candidates, in the order they wish to see them elected.
Because of this, any votes that had already been cast for the disqualified candidate would transfer down to the next candidate in line.
Once the dust settled, a member of the EVE subreddit named General_Alpha posted his conclusion that had the other player's disqualification not occurred, The Judge would have come in 11th place.
Since only the top 10 players make it to the Council, that would mean that The Judge would have lost his bid for reelection by 191 votes.
Whether The Judge's votes were purchased, or merely coincidental patterns, or if he only arrived to his council spot because of someone else's mistakes, it doesn't really change anything. The Judge made it into the 13th Council of Stellar Management, along with 9 other players, who will work to bring (hopefully) beneficial changes to EVE Online.