Retribution launched on Tuesday, which means that Eve Online's bot developers are working overtime getting their bots in working order. For example, the developer of the Eve Pilot family of bots stated on Tuesday that his bots become broken with every patch and he requires 1-3 days to make them fully functional again. Some of the obvious challenges facing the bot devs in Retribution include the images for targets ships changing from squares to circles, changes in Crimewatch that will prevent bots from immediately logging off when neutral or hostile pilots enter a system and NPCs developing a fondness for destroying drones. Bots are also affected by bugs, such as the local chat issue, initially deployed by CCP until said issues are fixed. Of course, expansion releases are also a time when complaints seem to increase about botters getting banned. I'm not sure if the reason is botters using software not fully optimized for the new expansion, CCP's Team Security deploying new tools a couple of days early or a combination of the two.
So what are botters writing on their forums? First, some are worried about what the changes mean for mission bots:
22 November 2012: Clevik (H-Bot) - "Here are some significant changes...
"1. rats will give a 15 minute aggression timer. so HBOT will need to add a 15min delay when it is time to log off between when the bot warps to safe spot and cloaks and when it logs off eve.
"2. AI for NPCs will now change targets and will target drones more often. This will cause a lot of trouble for carrers and supercarriers.
"3. HML nerf will affect tengus and drakes a little bit. It is at most a 10% dps nerf to tengus with the fits I use. The biggest nerf is to heavy missiles effectiveness vs small ships like frigates. If you do forsaken hubs, it won't bother you too much.
"4. The images for targeted ships is changing, so hbot will need to update the ocr to the new images."
4 December 2012: Gray (Questor) -
"1) Heavy missiles are pretty much nerfed. About -1/4 effective range, -1/10 damage. Drakes and tengus are going to have some hard times; OTOH, ships themselves weren't nerfed. The main philosophical question stands as follows, IMHO: does it mean nerf to death (= necessity to switch to some other botting ship type), or it's still gonna be the most useful for newbie toons anyway? I mean, heavy missiles are like the only way to a) ignore traversal; b) kill elite frigates (tacklers) without using drones. As every NPC ship now has Sleeper AI - I'd say drone using becomes way, WAY higher pain in da arse than before... Or?...
"2) Afterburners were nerfed a bit as well. Ones who have perfect AB skill would see no difference: before it was just 10% bonus to duration per level, or 150% duration when perfect, or 0.(6) of base cap usage; now it's going to be -5% duration and 10% less cap usage per level, or 0.75 duration and 0.5 cap usage when perfect, which means total 1/0.75*0.5 = 0.(6) as well. Though, with skill at IV, it was 1/1.4 = ~0.71, now it's going to be just 1/0.8*0.6 = 0.75 of base cap usage. So some capstable fits become non-capstable :(
"3) The worst part. Tried a few missions. Looks like you get full aggro in every pocket, no matter of triggers. Not sure if that's bug or feature. In case of the latter... looks like this is the end of RMT botting. Just because it simply kills possibility to run L4 missions using newly created chars flying crap ships. You just won't have enough tank to get out alive. Also it was funny when I get 5 tacklers on me, one of them turns on scrambler, I start to kill it, in like 10 secs it turns off scrambler and webs me instead, while 2 others start to scram me. I predict bad bad times..."
Back when CCP Arrow first introduced the new Unified Inventory system not only did players complain but a lot of bots broke. Bot devs must cringe whenever they hear that CCP Arrow is making improvements.
4 December 2012: Eve Pilot
secart - "Mine stopped running after the new expansion. I think it has an issue with the new inventory settings. I didn't get a chance to mess around with it since I had to leave for work."
titidelavrancea - "loges in, opens orehold and after a few seconds it closes eve."
silvertide1979 - "same happens to me, he trys to rearrange the orehold, but it seems he cannot locate em."
Slav2 (Eve Pilot dev) - "Bot does not work with new inventory and I am working on it. Please wait for update."
4 December 2012: Questor
evelover - "Questor working for this patch?"
Gray - "No idea as I'm using my own fork... but broken autologin makes the whole bot pretty much broken as well"
bbday - "Problem is not questor but DE [DirectEVE] that need a patch."
DirectEVE is the engine that runs all the various versions of the Questor mission/ratting bot. That needs to be updated and then the various programmers need to incorporate the new engine into their versions, delaying bot users further.
Bot devs are not the only ones upset with CCP Arrow. This particular cry of rage occurred because the default size of the windows changed:
Gray (Questor) - "P.S. Window positions are broken AGAIN. Each player has to resize ship cargo window, primary inventory window and station items window to his preferred sizes again. For every account. When I think about botters who own dozens of accounts, it makes me mad. I wish every developer who has participated in this change, and was too lazy to save former window positions and sizes: next time they go to WC, do it SLOOOWLY, FOR A HOUR, DROP BY DROP! So might be they feel the pain of manual resizing of 72 windows after a patch for a hour..."
I wrote earlier that Team Security may have slipped in some new bot detection software in ahead of the expansion. Or maybe the bot reporting system that feeds into the automatic bot detection system works. Here is an amusing exchange:
13 November 2012: Eve Pilot
shdwknght - "Banned after 1 week botting, about 12 hours a day with a disconnection break in the middle for about 45 minutes.
"Account was created in 2006. It was reactivated 5 times each times for a period of 30 days. This is the only account I use and I only use it on my vmware, i dont even connect to it from my PC and i dont run multiple accounts. I chat every 2 or 3 hours in my Corp. I do not have friends who are aware of my doings, I do not talk to anyone in local, I do not brag about my ISK, nobody knows me..."
"Maybe you need to provide a set of settings to newcomers on this that have been working for you for supposedly so long without being banned ever....... because despite me being new to this bot, I have a long history of monitoring avoidance in multiple other MMORPGS. I have been through the options I could have improved a hundred times, and I really dont see anything I could make better. Nothing at all. Now my account is gonna be on watchlist for life, and Im not about to pay for a second ISP or vpn service that will cost me more than the game subscription......"
Okay, this botter is an idiot, if only for not realizing that CCP Sreegs is not like guys at other companies in charge of going after botters. He was asking for a ban. But he continued.
shdwknght - "How could I be detected after being in it just 2 or 3 hours? I dont know what i was supposed to do to bot safely aside from all the advice I read on this forum and applying my own over-paranoid precautions to my habits.
"CCP doesnt even realize that the only way to compete with the top players of the Eve universe is to bot as much as they do to afford the best pvp setups. All they do is ban the guys who are new at it and let the old elites roam freely with their armadas of 10 bot accounts and long-term experience/skill."
Kami Kaze - "Tunttaras system. Good chois for botting. Sistem with active bot hunters"
Turning away from a new botter who is not as smart as he thinks he is, the focus goes back to Questor, whose users are usually well-schooled in detection avoidance. But something happened right before Retribution launched that caught my eye.
3-4 December 2012 - Questor
Ritticus - "Banned this morning on 18-accounts for 2weeks. first time I've been banned on anything for this game - I wouldn't run your bots today if I was you. 9 of the accoutns that were banned did not bot a day of their life. had been botting for about 12-18hr /day 6days a week previously for atleast 3months straight. redguard didnt seem to hide the accoutns from a ban either."
Redguard is a botting/RMT related software designed to protect the non-botting accounts of botters by masking a computer's digital fingerprint from CCP.
bbday - "What questor version did you used? Somebody ganked your ship in the past days?"
Ritticus - "no ganks, no one random even covo'd me in the passed few months either, I try to keep my operations pretty low-profile and was running L4 missions in systems with less than 10 pilots, other than myself. my guess is b/c the 9 accounts that were just sitting in a station is they banned my IP. but i had also been resetting that every 1-3days. I was using the latest version of Iseededpeople's branch Experimental."
yomon598 - "I haven't posted this when it happened, because I was a bit upset about it, but I got banned about a week ago too.
"I ran 5 accounts on Iseededpeople's branch, for ONLY 3 days, around 9 hours a day and then got banned.The GM told me that I was reported, it felt weirdly fast to get a ban after 3 days of botting...I have previously botted on those accounts for many month on my own python bot, but, after a couple of month break from any EVE, I felt like trying Questor, because I was too lazy to have a serious go at trying to avoid the modcheck python detection."
So has CCP Stillman come up with some new detection methods? Or are some bot coders becoming sloppy and don't have as big of a margin for error as they believed?
I will conclude with a couple of comments that indicate that the effort to convince null sec alliances to turn away from botting and RMT.
16 November 2012: cippy (Eve Pilot) - "No one in my alliance knows about the bots, but IMO they would want more of them if they knew. They need the minerals to build their PVP fleets and titans."
28 November 2012: Slav2 (Eve Pilot dev) - "If you affraid to get banned while using mining bot in empire, rent a system in zeroes and go here. Bot 6h on + 6h off intervals (12h day), dont make direct isk/ore transfers and you will bot for years w/o any ban. Getting banned for mining in empire is just a matter of time."
Perhaps null sec is not a safe haven for botters, but from what I see the botters believe they can safely operate outside the bounds of empire space.