Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CCP's War On Bots: AFK Cloakers

The lore of Eve Online tells players that they are capsuleers, immortals who are among the most powerful beings in the universe.  Even players who do not role play come to exhibit that type of mentality in one measure or another.  Indeed, without that mentality, the player created empires in null security space that draw players into the sandbox we call New Eden would not exist.

So when a matter reaches importance to individual pilots, they often don't rely on CCP to fix the problem; they attempt to handle it themselves.  Players currently are taking matters into their own hands where botting is concerned.  But these pilots are not confined to the large alliances with leaders looking at bots as an enemy's strategic asset.  Oh no.  CCP has given pilots in even the smallest corporations a tool that can ruin a botter's day: the cloaking device.

The AFK Cloaker, as the pilots who engage in the practice are known, lie in wait in a cloaked ship for hours at a time.  All they have to do is turn on the cloak and they disappear from the universe, but not the local chat channel.  Most people use the local chat channel as an intelligence tool.  In null sec, if a neutral ship appears, all the mission runners and miners in their PvE fit ships tend to dock up until the threat goes away.  But the purpose of the AFK Cloaker is to not go away.  Instead, he just hangs around until the locals no longer consider the pilot a threat.  At that point, the PvE mission running ships emerge from hiding and the AFK Cloaker has plenty of nice juicy targets to pad his killboard with once his real life obligations are taken care of.

How does this affect the War On Bots™?  Many AFK Cloakers are turning their attention to area denial, just sitting in systems with no intention to attack.  Mission and ratting bots are set to dock up at the first appearance of a neutral pilot, so an AFK Cloaker can deny a good ratting system to botters.  And the AFK Cloaker can perform the mission for hours at a time.  Given that bots can operate at any time for long periods of time without human operators, AFK cloaking is one of the few effective alternatives an individual pilot has to combat botting.  If the botter turns off the neutral pilot detection, then the botter's ship just becomes a piñata for the first roving gang that comes along.  If he leaves it on, no isk.

AFK cloaking, when combined with suicide ganking, also provide a way to combat macro miners in high security space.  Many bots will allow a botter to place certain pilots on a blacklist so that when that pilot appears in local the bot immediately logs off.  A really good way to get on that list is to successfully suicide the botters Hulk or Mackinaw.  Then all a pilot has to do is show up in system and the bot no longer engages in its mindless activity.  Many pilots report success with this method, although they are disappointed in that they don't get to gank the bots anymore.

So how does this affect CCP's War on Bots™?  Well, it is pretty tough to ban someone from botting when players are either keeping the bots cowering in stations or logged off.  Then again, I keep reading reports on the forums that large-scale botting operations are continuing.  So if there are fewer active reports, then maybe CCP can respond to the reports of the larger scale operations that really get the player base upset.  Well, we can hope.

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