A Dual Universe "Marketplace Heist" took place in the last few days, owing to incorrectly-set building permissions by the developers. The actions of several players have resulted in permabans, causing controversy within the game's community.
Dual Universe is an open-world space MMO that was one of the biggest games on Kickstarter in 2016. Since the completion of its Kickstarter campaign (where it raised €565,983, which kicked off various funding rounds that have raised over $25m), the developers have spent the last several years building out the world, refining its player policies, and making progress on realizing their vision for the game.
As part of these policy changes, the game's developer NovaQuark recently clarified its stance on bug exploits and griefing following reported confusion on the issue from players. These new policies were put to the test less than two weeks later with the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist.
What Was the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist?
The Dual Universe Marketplace Heist was detailed in a submission to the game's official subreddit. In Dual Universe, players are able to build (and dismantle) structures in the game. Naturally, NPC structures like the in-game marketplaces cannot be dismantled by players.
However, the perpetrators of the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist (and several other users uninvolved with the incident) reported that they made NovaQuark aware of the issue but did not receive a response. One Redditor shared a screenshot of an e-mail with me which showed him filing a report and receiving an acknowledgment from the developers earlier this week, several days later, and a day after the Heist.
Some of these players left the misprogrammed marketplaces alone. A handful of others, however, decided to steal the Marketplace. No, they did not steal the items from the Marketplace. They stole the actual building.
NovaQuark Responses to Marketplace Heist by Permabanning Players
Following the heist, NovaQuark released a public statement on its forums where it explained that it "will not tolerate this kind of behavior" during the game's development and that it had permabanned the players involved with the incident.
Several players on both Reddit and the game's official forums pointed to the recent RDMS (Rights & Duties Management System) rules clarification posted by the developers less than two weeks prior:
- Theft Via RDMS: RDMS permissions and settings are the sole discretion of each player. We advise you take the time to get to know and understand the system and be cautious when making a construct or element usable by unknown players, including the use of your friends list. Not every player has your best interest at heart. We can not get involved with [permission-based] theft, whether as an individual or an organization. We encourage you to review your friends list each time you add or remove someone and ensure your construct permissions are set accordingly. The context menu options that set public access currently do not have a confirmation prompt, be careful as setting public access to said construct will allow every player in Dual Universe to go into build mode and remove/place elements and voxels. [Allowed]
As the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist was apparently the result of incorrectly-set permissions, some players feel that the instigators of the heist should not have received any punishment.
However, the very next section explains that "[blocking] access to market places" is not permitted. Removing the entire marketplace building can be interpreted as "blocking access."
- Environmental Walls/Creations: Use of the environmental and voxel tools allows the manipulation of terrain on owned and unowned tiles. You may build walls or other structures up to the allowed height, however, said constructions must not:
- Block access to market places or tutorials
Further on in the same post, the developers clarify that there will be harsh penalties for making use of exploits; I think it's fair to say that being able to dismantle a marketplace is not intended behavior and that doing so could be considered an exploit.
We realize this is not an exhaustive list, and we will expand upon it as time goes on. We also understand some members of our community feel that using a bug or exploit prior to acknowledgement by Novaquark is considered okay. We’d like to state that any intentional use of a known bug or exploit will be treated harshly going forward. This is the one and only warning we will issue on this topic. Please just don’t DU it!
The involved players, for their part, state that they attempted to reach out to the developers via Discord PMs to no avail. Aside from the theft of the items, they also left messages at the affected marketplace using in-game items. As noted before, several other players claim to have reported this issue to the developers, some of whom reached out several days in advance of the Heist, and didn't receive a reply until after it.
'Staggering' to Get Permabanned, Player Says
One of the involved players responded to our inquiry about the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist. According to /u/ooberjuice, he randomly discovered the ability to affect the Marketplace's construction when attempted to enter build mode to work on his ship. He later called his friend over to see if they could verify it.
Following /u/ooberjuice's discovery, he says that he attempted to report the issue to the developers on the game's Discord. He also echoed the claim that several other players were threatened for a ban due to breaking the community's rules by pinging moderators. After waiting approximately 15 minutes, he proceeded to dismantle the marketplace with his friend — and he certainly did not expect to be permabanned.
" We did not think it would result in a permanent ban as it is somewhat unprecedented, especially in a testing environment," /u/ooberjuice explained. "We've been in early access games many times before. We expected that we would get a fair warning and see a fix of the issues with the market after posting it on [Reddit]. Initial developer attitude (seen in comments) was positive however, not sure what made NovaQuark make the decisions they did later on."
"[..]it was staggering to get hit with a permanent ban as there are no rules outlying that this can be the case when signing for the games [...]" - Ooberjuice, Marketplace Heister
"I believe they should have taken it with good humor as they wrote in their response, probably [by making]market 15 a monument and [adding in-game] lore of sorts as [suggested] by many others and just own the human error that occurred since we didn't stumble upon a coding error (bug) nor did we do anything out of our way to try to partially dismantle the market," he continued. "Even though we've never experienced bans in early state games for actions of similar or larger proportions when testing, just giving us and players affected (some just store lamps from post and blocks for their solo bases) a temporary ban as a warning to make their stance clear instead of making us [lose] our progress and money (in my case it was a $120 version of a game)[.]"
"As someone who had only less than a week of playtime in this game, it was staggering to get hit with a permanent ban as there are no rules outlying that this can be the case when signing for the games which I believe it is a big topic of discussion among the community (which is passionate and fantastic by the way)."
In a subsequent response, he highlighted how he believes the "Theft Via RDMS" rules mentioned in NovaQuark's recent policy clarification should have applied here.
"[Theft] through permission management system is allowed by their rules and this is exactly what happened to their market and why we had access to it [—] RDMS were not set properly by developer team, and this is why it was their human error, not an exploit despite what [NovaQuark] states," /u/ooberjuice added.
NovaQuark Publicly Responds to the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist
Update (Oct 23 2:55PM) NovaQuark has issued a public response to the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist, a portion of which we've reproduced below. The company explains its reasons for the ban and affirms that it will be standing by the ban. One key highlight is a clarification on the RDMS (Rights & Duties Management) rules clarification and how that doesn't apply to developer-created structures.
"We did, indeed, state to players that if RDMS is not properly set on a construct, and it results in theft, it’s part of the game and we won’t act upon it. This is to acknowledge that treason can happen in an organization, for instance, and is part of the emergent gameplay we’re trying to promote."
"Now, this does obviously not apply to NQ-built constructs, which are designed to serve a specific purpose in the game. It is obvious that these constructs, owned by NQ accounts or Aphelia, are not meant to be interacted with in the same manner as player constructs. Besides, they may contain some highly overpowered and unbalanced elements which were never meant to fall in the hands of players. So the situation with the market is clearly covered by section 5.2 of the EULA: “You must refrain from engaging in any behaviour that could harm NOVAQUARK’s image and/or reputation, that could harm one or more other Users or have a negative impact on their gaming experience, or that is detrimental to the proper functioning of the Game."
"Finally, and for the record, the issue with the market did not result in a wrongly-set RDMS, but rather in a duplication bug. Part of what we use is the same tools as players to build constructs. We create one district, then duplicate it. Something went wrong in the duplication process of one of the markets, which resulted in players being able to edit it."
NovaQuark concedes that its response to the event was "harsh," but it also notes the reasoning behind it. The involved players did not report the issue via the correct channels and they later took advantage of the exploit by clearing out the marketplace.
"Communicating an exploit to the NQ staff doesn’t serve as a way to absolve the players, it’s only meant to ensure that we fix the issue - it’s not a free pass to use an exploit," NovaQuark explained.
The statement on the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist concludes by reiterating the fact that the game is in beta and noting that it took "hours of manpower across multiple departments" to repair the damage. The discussion thread on the game's community forums has been subsequently locked by a moderator.
We are continuing to monitor this story and will update it as necessary going forward. If you'd like to jump into the world of Dual Universe for yourself, you can play the Dual Universe beta starting at $20.97.
What do you think of the Dual Universe Marketplace Heist? Do you think NovaQuark was right to ban the players? Let us know in the comments below!