Stick and Rudder: Leader of Elite Dangerous ‘slavery’ racket espouses a ‘cult-like’ guild full of ‘chaos and evil’

    
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Last week we reported on an effort by several players of Elite: Dangerous to dupe new players into a sort of indentured servitude by offering them mining ships, training, and credits, but effectively taking them to an inescapable region of space and forcing them to mine materials to sell at prices that were well below market value.

At the time this story was headlined as “indentured servitude,” but after watching this new interview with one of these racketeers from YouTuber The Pilot, we’re pretty confident in calling a spade a spade: This was essentially slave labor.

The interview was with a CMDR who calls himself LatexRoach, who claimed that the group he’s part of, the 7th Labor Division (7LD, which for all intents and purposes is part of the 7th Space Division group, 7SD), had gotten tired of training new players and sinking time and credits into their development only to see them leave. That frustration led them to figure out how to “take new people and efficiently train them to be useful to [the] group,” according to LatexRoach.

“What we did was, we designed a recruitment/training method that not only benefited the new players but also benefited us. […] Full disclosure; we definitely take most of the profits. I’m not going to lie, we definitely take, like, 80 to 90% of the mining profits. When they hit 200 mil — by that time they have a Python and a Type-9 — that’s when we tell them what’s going on and we give them the option to stay mining or switch over to 7SD and join us doing regular E:D stuff. We’ve actually had quite a few people who are fiercely loyal to us now.”

The interview goes on to outline the group’s recruitment steps: LatexRoach admitted that the group made sure they targeted new players who “don’t know anything” and ensured they were engaged with the group to “keep them away from dumb information” – which presumably includes the information that would engender escape. Furthermore, the LatexRoach claims that the traffic created by the group’s Fleet Carrier meant that any of the players could “hitch a ride back to the Bubble,” though LatexRoach admitted that his crew withheld game info to keep these new arrivals working “as long as possible.”

LatexRoach claims his team’s behavior made the group feel bad, but he also said that he feels that those ensnared by the racket are better off. The Pilot countered, pointing out that the group had previously crowed that it would double down and not feel bad, which led LatexRoach to confess, laughing, that it was he who’d said that.

“I mean, it’s like, I go back and forth like anything. Sometimes, it’s hilarious because we love what we do, then there are some guys right now that are still mining, and that’s all they’re gonna do, and I guess that’s where I start to get like ‘Oh man, this poor guy’s gonna stay here forever.’ Besides that, it’s mostly giggles, we have a good time with it. We’re definitely doubling down, for sure.”

The Pilot then turned to screenshotted accusations that a player attempted to join 7LD’s Discord and was met with a “slew of racist comments and harassment,” which led The Pilot to ask what sort of organization the group is building. LatexRoach’s response? “A cult-like one. Full of chaos and evil. […] We like to play the bad guy.” LatexRoach did say that Discord itself put 7LD on notice such that all instances of racism on the channel were cleaned out and are now supposedly condemned.

So what’s Frontier doing about all this? According to LatexRoach, Frontier reached out to the group to confirm that it is not breaking any of the game’s rules and allow it to demonstrate that 7LD is not based on a Nazi Panzer division. LatexRoach did not provide the name of the Frontier contact, however, and it’s worth noting that Frontier already made a public statement that doesn’t exactly put 7LD in the clear:

“We do not condone the behaviour of these rogue Commanders however we have been delighted by the stalwart efforts of community groups, such as the Fuel Rats and Hull Seals squadrons, to bring those Commanders affected to safety — an effort supported by our own community team.

“We continue to monitor both the situation and in game communications and will not hesitate to act if players are found to have breached our community guidelines in any way.”

Ultimately, LatexRoach tried to describe the racket as “severe capitalism,” which was challenged by The Pilot, who argued that exploiting new players and not giving them the opportunity to leave is the very definition of slavery. At that point, LatexRoach gave up the fight: “If the shoe fits, wear it; they’re slaves, we’re slavers, whatever.” He even admitted that a couple of the group’s fleet carriers are named after historical slaver ships.

It’s an hour’s worth of MMO assholery and The Pilot’s face twitching in disbelief, and it’s embedded below.

Update: According to leadership in the Fuel Rats Discord channel, Frontier has deemed 7LD’s activities a breach of the game’s code of conduct, specifically the “deceiving and exploiting other players” part. “As such, the players involved in this activity have been excluded from Open play, and the assets which have been acquired through these means, including the fleet carriers, are being removed from the game,” the Fuel Rats say, noting that the “slaver” guild asked them to communicate that they are appealing Frontier’s ruling. Frontier itself has not made a new formal public statement, so we stress that this is communication from players right now, but we’ll update when we know more.
It’s a big wide universe out there, and the MMO industry is busy filling up the space between the stars – with sci-fi MMORPGs! Join the MOP team here in Stick and Rudder for intermittent voyages into all the big space-trucking, dog-fighting, star-flighting MMOs of the moment.
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Adam Russell

Not slavery, but it is taking advantage of the ignorance of others.

jimthomasUS
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jimthomasUS

Using the expression “calling a spade a spade” in a sentence referring to slavery is especially awkward.

Turing fail
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Turing fail
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Morgan Freeman

I don’t condone it – but the slavers don’t violate any TOS. They trained players to play for in game currency. Li Yong-Rui still has ship discounts from his child labor and sex ring. The Nazi stuff is strange and off putting – as well as the abusive behavior. I’ve only seen slurs and name calling from Smiling Dog Crew discords over the years – – – It’s not the trail they wanted blazed.

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Ironwu

The slavers prevent people from free passage in the system. That IS a violation of TOS & EULA.

They have every right to blow them up, but not imprison them using game mechanics never designed for that purpose.

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PhoenixDfire

Apparently it wasn’t the use of game mechanic that has caused the shadow-ban. It was the abuse and deception over the in-game chat and their discord that caused that.

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Aurelius Tratos

this is crazy. after reading the article i wanted to install Elite to join them, but than i saw the box. thats a bummer. elite will stay of my radar for the next 10 years.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

If that’s what you look for in a game, then all I have to say is that I hope every game I’m ever interested in is equally disappointing to you.

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Ironwu

What has really stunned me is that FD has spent time and resources to research if the guild name is associated with Nazi fascism.

While actually allowing, and condoning, the real action of creating and maintaining slave labor concentration camps.

This is not something I can support. Game uninstalled. Expansion purchase canceled.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I’m confused. I thought the most recent update was the scammers complaining (by begging the Fuel Rats to pass notes for them) that they had been restricted from Open mode and possibly that Frontier had confiscated their fleet carriers. Where did “Frontier allow and condone gathering up real people by military force and threat of death” come from? Do they have some hiring practices that I haven’t seen an article about yet?

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Schmidt.Capela

There’s some hearsay that the punishment was doled for being toxic in chat (and the nazi references in their naming) and not for actually trying to implement in-game slavery.

I’m not so sure that was the case, though; to date Frontier said nothing in public about this, and the hearsay I’ve seen lately, including screenshots of an email that the perpetrators supposedly received, is that everyone involved received a ban from both Open and Private (i.e., they can only play in Solo), coupled with a shadow ban (i.e., none of their actions in solo will affect the background simulation or otherwise cause any effect for other players), and that the reason given was scamming (i.e., their attempted slavery by conning the newbies).

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Ironwu

All FD did was post a warning in its News Bulletin regarding taking offers from other players near a certain system.

The core of the issue is a guild enticing new players away to work as miners (guild takes 90% of the sales). The new players are unable to escape because the only ships they have access to in the area cannot make the necessary jump to get out of the area.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I’m still confused. Frontier didn’t issue a massive public press release about it… which is perfectly normal, games devs normally don’t discuss disciplinary actions unless there’s *outstanding* circumstances. But the evidence mentioned above by Schmidt.Capela is that Frontier *did* functionally ban the players behind this. They lost their fleet carriers, they can only play in solo mode, and they’ve been flagged so that their actions won’t affect the background simulation or NPC factions.

So… how is Frontier the bad guys here? Because they didn’t put a giant Star Wars crawl on login detailing the exact situation followed by the notice “This is bad, the players who did this are bad, and if anyone else does this we will personally come to your house and shoot you in the junk with a taser and then ban you from the Internet FOREVER.”

Because… the only time I can think of when a company issued a public statement about banning someone, the *banning* was what was bad. IE, Blizzard nuking a player for commiting the apparently unforgivable crime of being from a Chinese controlled area and shouting “Free Hong Kong!” in Chinese.

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Ironwu

The difficulty here is that if FD actually did disband the guild, ban the players, confiscate there stuff? There would be NO need to put a specific warning for new players to beware the offer to join the fleet carrier scam.

I also think that they DID announce they were investigating the guild regarding name violations. Why announce that and not anything else.

I think until I hear from FD that they have actually acted (no need to name & shame) by disbanding the guild, banning the players, taking their stuff? I don’t think I will believe someone’s 3rd party speculation.

We shall see.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

They might have put up the notice to “beware this system” in case there was anyone else picking over the same area to run the same scam. I assume there’s a reason that they were able to snag 50 inexperienced goldfish to drop in their pond.

Like I said, my limited experience is that devs rarely discuss disciplinary actions. Especially when there’s a scam or exploit involved. They don’t want to explain exactly how they stamped on it. Because A) they don’t want anyone they missed figuring out what the edges of the counter are and easily going around them and B) they don’t want to give anyone else ideas.

If most of the senior members of this group quietly and permanently vanish from Open play… that’s probably as much as you’re going to get. If you think that’s not good enough, that’s entirely your call to make. I’d still be really surprised if Frontier makes any public announcement about this at all.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

*Edit* And they were willing to announce investigating naming violations because that usually refers back to something that’s explicitly written down. They can point to something in writing and say yay/nay, “This clearly relates to this specific rule.”

Banning them for “deceiving and abusive language in chat” is not so clear cut, and would probably just be an invitation for massive forum arguments.

Arguments started by the kind of sociopath who wishes they’d been part of this to jump in and say “Well, they technically didn’t violate the TOS because…” and then proceed to whip out the extensive legal expertise imparted to them by looking up the definition of the word “Law” on Urban Dictionary.

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Commietsar

THE EMPEROR PROTECTS <3

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styopa

I guess I’m (still) astonished how gullible and easily manipulated people are. What part of the fundamental “just because someone says something, doesn’t mean you have to do it” lesson was missed?

This is a game where your ship dies and *bloop* you respawn at home. They can literally walk away at any second and continue to play the game.

One point: to call this slavery or indentured servitude is a ridiculous devaluing of those terms. Those things irl are gruelling, cruel, merciless, pitiable circumstances to which people are condemned against their will and from which people have no escape often but death. THIS is stupid gullible people being tricked, but who can literally walk away any moment. Even hinting that this is slavery is deeply, deeply dishonoring those who actually suffered it, or who suffer it today.

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Bruno Brito

TIL being new in ED is being stupid.

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PhoenixDfire

As Bree has already updated, FDev have taken action against the so called ‘Slaver’ players. Although, it does seem that it wasn’t really the in game mechanics of the scam that bother them. It was the reported use of threat and abusive language used ‘control’ their captured workers (on both the discord server and the in-game chat) that has led to the group being ‘Shaowbanned’. i.e. you’re only allowed to play in single player mode.

The discord has been investigated and discord have issued a warning to this player group, which the player group claim to have complied with. There was only a small amount of victims to the scam, less than 50. However, one of the reasons that Fdev have moved so fast on this is because in the past they’ve been accused of letting cheaters off the hook for too long. i.e People using an exploit to gain engineered modules, the ongoing issue with suspected automated accounts corrupting the Galactic Background Simulation and Powerplay results.

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rk70534

Online version of a labourer ending in endless indenture on a Southeast Asian trawler fleet comes to mind. People can play semantics, but this inching towards a type of modern slavery.

And buying into a game and ending up in this situation? Lot of people pay to get a job – and end up indentured in real life. Perhaps soon online too – assuming that is not already the case.

Sure, these people can walk away from the game, and it’s not on same level of exploitation as being stuck on a trawler doing hard work 16 hours a day and being threatened with death if you try to contact your relatives, but…

If people doing this to other players online could, for example, get a chance to invest to a trawler fleet like that, or in a company using labour camp prisoners to farm gold online, would they say no?

I rather doubt they all would.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

This is a probably a “light” version of indentured servitude. Yes, it’s just a game and they can always just quit. (Which isn’t an ideal outcome for the game, but it’s an option.) The thing is, a player inexperienced enough to get pulled in by a scam like this probably isn’t going to know about any other options beyond “shut up and deal” or “quit forever.” After all, if they realized they could just self-destruct and restart on a friendly NPC station, they’d have done that already.

So no, it’s not the same degree of evil as real slavery or real worker exploitation. But the people running it are definitely sprinting in that direction.

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Adam Russell

They dont have to quit. Why not just reroll if their current character is stuck in a place they cant get out of? Does this game not allow you to start a new character??

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I never made it past the tutorials, so I can’t really say. The fact that this scam functioned at all seems to indicate that A) if it is possible, it’s not immediately obvious, and B) the players had been given a “really expensive mining ship” and assured that starting out without the help of the cultists would be really hard. The people getting trapped didn’t want to risk their character or their only ship, which is how the cultists were able to hold onto them.

If it was super obvious that you could just save up enough to cover the insurance and then Afterburner into an asteroid to respawn with a copy of your ship at a friendly NPC station, this scam wouldn’t work.

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rk70534

They don’t have that latter way out, because if they fly their ship against an asteroid, they will just, at that location, spawn on the slavers’ fleet carrier.

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lolzzer

Then that’s their way out – once the carrier has left that location. Right?

The original report says “Once the fleet carrier left, the new players were unable to travel outside the system due to the configuration of their ships” but I think this Massivelyop writer Ben doesn’t know about the insta-travel on ship destruction.

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rk70534

They would have appeared on the slavers’ Fleet Carrier, because that was their last docking before their ship was destroyed.

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styopa

You can always re set your game of ed, putting you back at start.
What was keeping them “enslaved” was their own greed.

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CommanderZoom

Or ignorance. (Which, again, was cultivated by those taking advantage of them.)

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Or the fact that the scammers deliberately targeted people unfamiliar with the game, and then deliberately convinced them that sources of information *other* than the scammers were untrustworthy.

It’s a good thing that this only happens in games, and that there are no real world examples of people accumulating followers and then maliciously and blatantly lying to them for their own gain. And of those followers accepting the lies because they’re gullible, or inexperienced, or because the lies “feel” better than the facts.

Because it would be pretty scary if there were examples of real political and religious figures who control major world powers doing that, over and over, to millions of people. It’s lucky that only gamers are that easily fooled.

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PhoenixDfire

The best way to do escape this situation would be to ‘Suicide’ your ship and you’ll appear in the nearest station. Problem was, as LatexRoach admitted, the player group tried to “keep” that kind of information away from their captured players.

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styopa

It’s too bad there’s not like a vast online repository of information freely available from the simplest usage of ubiquitous (also free) software. We could call it Schmoogle or something. Maybe it would allow natural language queries like “how can i restart in elite dangerous?” …I imagine it would take like 0.8 seconds to get 2.14 MILLION answers.

I imagine that would really clear this stuff up. That would be cool!

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PhoenixDfire

The reports we’ve had were that they were simply lied to. The first place victims asked was the discord and they were told that they would just respawn on the carrier (back to square one). However, one of them did use Google and found the Fuel Rats. They asked the Rats for help and then the whole sorry story came out.

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Emiliano Lozada

Elite going to be a new Column?! Let’s gooooooooooo!