If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
I intended for this to only be released with the entirety of the Psychopaths’ Guide to the Galaxy, but, with all the talk that has come up recently about the Bonus Room on Miner Bumping and EN24, I’ve decided to release this now, albeit in more of a LITE version (editors note: It's not LITE.). This article will cover the basics of the bonus room, as well as a basic breakdown of the two primary sides on this matter and the aftermath.
What is the Bonus Room?
The Bonus Room is a player run event put on by Erotica 1. The participant is usually the 100th ISK doubling client to Erotica’s prosperous ISK doubling business in Jita. Participants that choose to show full faith in the Bonus Room, have the chance to win five times their total value.
The Bonus Room as a “scam” is not significantly different than many other pirate activities that happen in New Eden. The big difference is that the Bonus Room takes them all to the end of their natural progression.
As the Bonus Room progresses, it goes through a rather specific set of stages. These stages rarely change significantly. The pacing all depends on the client.
Stage 1: Introduction and Contracts
During this stage, an agent welcomes the possible contestant to the Bonus Room, and explains what the Bonus Room is about. This is also a time when a few agents and the contestant talk about themselves and their time in New Eden. The contestant is invited to Teamspeak. The reason for this is simple: the in-game VOIP is generally poor quality, and does not have a record function. Simply doing the game in text is dull for everyone involved. The contestant also recording the Event is encouraged, so he can be sure there is record of any EULA/TOS violations that take place. All parties are asked for their permission to record.
The rules are simple. Show full faith in the Bonus Room and get all of your assets and ISK multiplied. Naturally, the agents immediately start looking for reasons why someone could be shown to not have “full faith” but there will be more on that later.
The contestant is asked to supply a full API for all accounts. The APIs are put into the Ride the Clown API Auditor and all the agents look through it for signs of undeclared alts, illegal mining equipment, or just some really nice things that they want.
The contestant is then instructed to go through his assets window and begin contracting everything to the various agents who ‘X up’ in the chat channel. While this is done, the agents are sharing Evepraisal pages of what they’ve received and a tally is made.
During this time there is an ongoing dialogue between the agents and the contestant. After contracts are done, an agent goes down a list of other things, like final ISK, LP, Market Orders, and the like to ensure everything is contracted.
Remember, the contestant is competing for upwards of Five Times the value of all of these items. This is, at its core a natural extension of the basic ISK Doubling Scam. While ISK Doubling focuses on a large volume of small unsecured transaction in the hopes of the client coming out richer, the Bonus Room uses the same motivation and asks for more assets.
Stage 2: Educational Component
Once all the assets are handed over, the next stage begins. This almost always begins with a reading of The Code from Miner Bumping. Unbeknownst to the contestant, his personal views on the code are being questioned during this reading. If he does not support the code, it is likely that will be his reason for failing to win. Another common failing point is repeated mispronunciation of Halaima. Often times a contestant will be asked to start over after excessive mispronunciation.
Following The Code, all contestants are asked to read the Wikipedia article about Saint Olga of Kiev. Erotica frames this request under the idea that many consider him to be New Eden’s Saint Olga.
The Educational Component may contain more readings, but that is reserved for those with an exceptional reading voice, as a poor speaker is not particularly interesting to listen to.
Stage 3: Entertainment
At this point, the contestant has been in the Bonus Room for nearly an hour. The time mostly depends on the contestants own performance. During the entire event, the contestant is free to take Bio-breaks, grab water, take a shower, or even order some food. The contestant is unable to leave the Bonus Room if he intends to prove his faith. Regularly this means staying up late, depending on the time the Bonus Room was able to begin.
The Entertainment stage consists entirely of the contestant singing songs picked by the various agents in the channel. Agents are free to suggest any song they wish. Some common songs are Barbie Girl by Aqua and Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.
This is very similar to the common ‘Singing Ransom’, where a target is asked to sing a song for the purpose of having his ship released or assets returned. This does not have an ISK based goal for the ransomer. At the end of the day, the Ransomer can choose to honor the ransom or not, regardless of the fact a song was sung on an out of game voice client.
The singing continues for some time, especially if the contestant chooses to take breaks between songs to rest. The number of songs can vary between 5 and upwards of 15 based on a multitude of factors.
Stage 4: The Social Component
The structure of this stage is slightly blurry as it combines aspects of the last stage with 2 new events.
The first of which is the Pod-killing fleet. The contestant is asked to move to the other Jita 4-4 station in his pod. Erotica 1 asks the contestant to duel an agent on the undock who then pods him. As the contestant has no ISK to upgrade his clone, he is now in an Alpha clone. The podding happens once more. Often times, agents will then offer to add more ISK to the winning pile for each subsequent Alpha clone sacrificed to the game.
Additional clones are not required as part of the event and are essentially “side quests” for more potential winnings. Normally the contestant will still be performing songs during the first of these.
The second task in this stage is to send an EVEmail to the contestants friends, the agents that help run the game, and some other EVE notables. This EVEmail is meant to talk about the events of that contestants time in EVE and the events of the Bonus Room itself.
Stage 5: The Payout
Often times, contestants simply never make it this far. Many contestants’ resolve breaks and they leave the bonus room. Whether it be simply out of exhaustion, anger, or sadness. Most often, when a contestant does quit they simply say “I am done.” and leave the voice server. An agent will normally attempt to reestablish communication with a contestant that has left to confirm they intended to leave, and didn’t simply disconnect.
Some contestants make it through. Now, during the entire event, agents have been looking for reasons to fault and praise a contestant. This can be as simple as having no mining permit but way too much mining equipment and ore in highsec, or as large as blatant account sharing. If a contestant hasn’t shown signs of lacking faith, they are rewarded, although this is very rare.
Naturally the game is set up to give maximum time for the contestant to quit or for faults to show through.
That is the basic framework of the Bonus Room. Pretty simple, right?
Is it a Scam?
Yes. Absolutely. But you CAN win! The one unpublicized rule is that to be a winner two conditions must be met. The first is that your winnings are easily manageable. If the amount that your payout should be is only 2 or 3 billion ISK, your chances of winning are high. The second condition is that the Bonus Room is LOOKING for a winner.
As scams go in EVE, the ability to disassociate your activity from a scam, the better it’s going to work. In ISK doubling you see this with people getting small amounts of ISK doubled, but lose larger amounts.
Winners are guaranteed in nearly all EVE scams, because winners bring in contestants.
Now, many would still be wondering what is the goal of everything AFTER the asset transaction. Is it pure sadism? Is it just sick individuals getting their jollies off on others misfortune?
While sometimes entertaining for multiple parties involved, that is not the goal. To maintain the illusion of legitimacy, there has to be a reason for someone to lose. So long as there can be made the case that the contestant simply lost by not following the rules, it becomes easy to keep a scam going.
You can see how effective this is, because in the entire chat about the Bonus Room, it has constantly been debated as to whether it IS a scam or ISN’T a scam.
Go watch people try to get their ISK doubled. Any good ISK doubler will have rules and anyone complaining of being scammed will be told that they simply needed to follow the rules. This brings people into the game thinking, “These rules are simple! How could anyone mess this up?”
The entirely of stages 2-4 is to get the contestant to admit defeat for business reasons. Most contestants that quit don’t “blow up” on comms or break down in any significant way. Some are having plenty of fun until they hit a point when they just don’t want to go on anymore. This is necessary for the business to prosper. The more contestants that choose to “lose” before they are told they “lost” the more future contestants may still attempt even AFTER being informed.
The Life of an Escrow Agent
Before we move into a discussion on the ethics and morals of the Bonus Room, I’d like to present a bit about myself so that whatever prejudices I show can be properly identified, and I can be kept in check.
I had spent quite a lot of time as a highsec carebear in EVE. As the CEO of a corporation, this was fairly exciting, but once a tiny bit of real combat was tasted, I realized how wrong I had been.
With PvP, pilots will often run into very empty wallets. As it turns out, a life of crime in New Eden really does pay. Taking advantage of pilots’ kindness and naivety can net a large payout for minimal real work. Anybody can easily get accepted into a highsec corp and ransom the friendly freighter that comes to help them move their stuff.
Naturally, spending a bit of time in pirate circles gets you deeper and deeper, and one day I was invited to the Escrow Lounge and got to see my first Bonus Room. For a while I was somewhat conflicted in my feelings about the Bonus Room. I certainly couldn’t find any serious reason why the Bonus Room was worse than any other scam or even non-consensual pvp. In the end they all are taking something from someone else.
Escrow Agents assist operation of the Bonus Room by receiving contracts from contestants and assisting Erotica with a contestant in the infrequent event he needs to grab a smoke. These contracts are kept by the respective agent that receives them, and they are almost always just an assorted amount of scrap and worthless items. Occasionally the contestant has an incursion-fit Nightmare or the Providence they use on their Red Frog alt that they hand to an Escrow Agent. The average contestant is worth roughly 3-6b ISK.
While most agents tend to leave after the contract stage, I tend to stick around to see how far some people are willing to go.
The Intelligent Debate
People that find serious fault with the Bonus Room on moral grounds have some simple questions that need to be answered.
What makes an event like the Bonus Room worse than the various scams in EVE?
Where is the line drawn that makes one scam fine and another a serious offense?
Before we get to trying to answer those, I’m going to summarize both sides of the debate. I’ll start with the side that believes the Bonus Room is simply too far.
It’s clear the Bonus Room is different than other scams. It is designed to take everything from it’s target. It doesn’t stop at just 100m ISK, or a freighter, or a single song. It shoots the moon. Pilots can often come out of it in duress. Some pilots have lost 40m SP in the Bonus Room and quit the game. This clearly breaches a line of common decency in that the agents don’t get anything out of continueing the scam.
Targets are deliberately manipulated with psychological tactics (see: Sunk Cost Fallacy) to ensure they continue with the scam. The agents attempt to connect with the target on a personal level to get them into the game, and then dangle a golden carrot in front of him and ensure that he recognizes his sunken cost and continues in the hopes of recouping his losses.
Is that about right? I’ve scoured Reddit and EN24 looking for more arguments against this and that’s where I’m left off. Also, let’s be clear that none of the statements there are exaggerations or outright lies. Those would all be very reasonable arguments to make against the Bonus Room.
On the other side of the coin is the group that simply thinks this is no different than any other scam, aside from maybe more elaborate.
At it’s core, the Bonus Room is an ISK Doubling Scam and a Singing Ransom put together and with higher stakes. A contestant has to opt into the event in the first place, by handing over all his ISK and all his assets. This is entirely voluntary. Nothing has coerced him into this that could be considered any more aggressive than a used car salesman. This simply works because the pilots in question have more greed than sense. As do all scams in New Eden.
As it continues, every stage is mostly just a ransom process. The Bonus Room has all your stuff, and if you do what it asks, you might get it back, plus a whole lot more! Ransoms occur every day in EVE, from simple ISK ransoms, to singing ransoms. ISK ransoms have the obvious benefit of the ransomer having a clear ISK incentive. Singing ransoms are more vague. What makes the normal Singing ransom different from the Bonus Rooms later stages? CCP clearly supports singing ransoms, as a CCP employee was recently made to perform Barbie Girl on an out of game voice server for the security of his fleet. Realistically speaking, those involved could have continued to kill him and the community wouldn’t have even cared, outside of a few snide remarks.
Some argue the line is at the point when the goal becomes to illicit a reaction.. Now, assuming the goal is to get a reaction, how does the Bonus Room compare to simply egging on a miner after you’ve ganked him? Or sticking around a corporation after you’ve awoxed them just to tell them how bad they are in corp chat? I can’t seem to find the difference. “Tear-farming” is already a major thing in EVE, and nobody seems to have a problem with that, except in this case.
In the end the Bonus Room is the natural progression of all scams. It isn’t objectively worse than any scam, as it just combined clearly recognizable parts of other scams.
Naturally, I’m inclined towards the latter argument. If the Bonus Room is horrible, then all scams must be horrible. If all scams are fine, then the Bonus Room is fine. Now, admittedly, I had some issues with the Bonus Room when I first discovered it. I made me a little uneasy that something like it was happening in EVE. I chose not to let emotions rule me and began to apply logic to my feelings. I was unable to find any reason why it was worse than the multitude of scams out there. I couldn’t find a reason to be okay with other scams and not okay with the Bonus Room.
CCP has made an official statement (after I originally wrote this article) and it’s very much in agreement with the second argument above. There is no way to that they could effectively seperate this instance from nearly all instances of meta-piracy in New Eden.
I can’t know how CCP will handle situations like this one in the future, or what, in the long run, is better for EVE, but intelligent discussion is what needs to happen instead of sensationalist accusations. Stop treating the agents like vile scum, and stop treating the contestants like defenseless victims.
Where do you feel the line is, and has it been crossed?
Can you specifically identify what makes some things okay and others not?
Now, many of you may be wondering: what about Sohkar?
Well, Sohkar decided to get into Teamspeak with Erotica 1 to discuss everything that has happened while knowingly being livestreamed on Twitch. His biggest complaint about the whole thing was that Ripard Teg should have talked to him before making the blog post. The blog post and ensuing controversy led to Sohkar being kicked from his corporation and getting barraged with chat invites regularly.
Sohkar had no ill will towards Erotica 1 and the other agents and acknowledged he gets angry easily and is responsible for his own actions. He still thinks Erotica 1 is, in general, an asshole but that isn’t a big deal.
Also, for those concerned, Mrs. Sohkar is fine and was simply standing up for her husband like a good wife should.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
For reference, here are links to both Ripard Teg’s article on Sohkar’s attempt at the Bonus Room, and James 315’s article on the exact same attempt. Both of these feature the same soundcloud of the event in question.
The following links cover a Bonus Room Participant that DID win.
The following link is to CCP's statement.